Rikbaktsa - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Hunting, fishing, gathering, and agriculture are the Rikbaktsa's means of subsistence; they derive revenue from the extraction and commercialization of rubber and the sale of feather ornaments, with which they acquire now-indispensible consumer goods like clothes, salt, coffee, sugar, weapons, and tools. They grow maize, manioc, sweet potatoes, inhame and cará (both yams), beans, cotton, urucú, bananas, pumpkins, squash, peanuts, rice, sugarcane, and other crops, using the slash-and-burn system. Fields are rotated every three or four years. The Rikbaktsa collect Brazil nuts (a very important source of food), honey from various kinds of bees, numerous wild fruits, roots, larvae, and a large variety of plants used for medicine and handicrafts. Hunting is the activity most highly valued by men and a major source of protein and raw materials for ritual ornaments (animal feathers, teeth, bones, and hides). The Rikbaktsa eat almost all terrestrial animals as well as birds, but there are food prohibitions, and some animals must not be killed or eaten. From the rivers they extract a wide variety of fish, two kinds of turtles and their eggs, and fish eggs.

Division of Labor. There is a sex-based division of labor. Men hunt, catch the large fish, clear land, and make arrows and bows, clubs, flutes, and featherwork items. Women catch small fish, gather and prepare food, take care of the children, spin cotton, weave hammocks, sew, and make pottery, seed necklaces, and bracelets from armadillo tails and nut burrs. Planting and harvesting is done by men and women. The sale of market products and the use of money is an almost exclusively male prerogative.

Land Tenure. Land belongs to the entire community. The choice of where to plant, live, and hunt is based on kinship. There is no permanent division of the land. The shifting-cultivation system and the depletion of animals and other resources around the villages results in a constant repositioning of kin groups within the territory.

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