Suruí - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . The Suruí are farmers. A variety of subsistence crops including maize, cassava, potatoes, yams, cotton, tobacco, kidney beans, rice, bananas, peanuts, and papayas is grown on family plots by sibling groups. They use the slash-and-burn system of tillage and abandon a plot after two years. Each man usually farms 2 hectares. The Suruí are also good hunters and fishers. They have eating taboos: there are animals that must not be hunted or eaten. The Suruí are also gatherers of fruit, honey, larvae, hearts of palm, and other foods. After they seized the evicted peasants' coffee plantations in 1981, they began marketing coffee. They also market latex extracted in the dry season (May to October). The income from these products is spent on goods that have become indispensable, such as clothing, tools, and food. In 1987 the Suruí were induced by the Brazilian government and by lumber merchants to sell lumber on highly disadvantageous terms. They then purchased cattle and some vehicles. In 1988 they decided to stop felling trees and selling lumber.

Division of Labor. Whereas the Suruí men hunt, clear forest for planting, and make arrows, the women spin, make pots and baskets, cook, gather, harvest, and take care of the children. Both men and women fish and sow crops. Money is managed almost exclusively by the men. There are no rituals or activities that are secret or prohibited to women. In the past there were female shamans.

Land Tenure. For the Suruí, land belongs to the entire community and any relative arriving from a distant place has the right to farm it. Kinship ties govern the way in which land is divided out for farming, hunting, and dwelling purposes. The main basis for cooperation is the sibling group.

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