Tatuyo - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities . The Tatuyo practice swidden agriculture, bitter manioc ( Manihot utilisima ) being the principal cultigen. The acquisition of the first manioc plant and the establishment of the first swidden are considered by the Tatuyo as the fundamental transformation from savage life to civilization. The manioc is principally used to produce a large, flat bread (cassava), which is the main staple of the Tatuyo diet. Manioc is also used to produce a flour ( fariña ), which can be preserved and sold, and a fermented drink ( chicha ), which is of great importance in religious ceremonies. The Tatuyo cultivate a number of other plants common to the societies of the northwestern Amazon region. The men are expert fishermen and, to a lesser degree, hunters (today guns have almost completely replaced the bow and arrow and the blowgun with curare-tipped darts). Both sexes gather wild products, which contribute significantly to the diet. Forest products in particular play an important role in ritual, in addition to their dietary value. During the rubber boom and sporadically into the 1970s, many Tatuyo worked as rubber tappers. More recently (in the 1980s), they have begun to increase the size of their coca ( Erythroxylum coca ) gardens, to sell the leaves, dried or made into a paste, to cocaine traffickers. Occasionally the Tatuyo sell Whites manioc flour, smoked or salted meat, and items of material culture such as baskets, pots, and blowguns.

Industrial Arts. Tatuyo women make pottery; men make baskets, dugout canoes, blowguns, bows and arrows, and magnificent feather headdresses.

Trade. Certain products and artifacts are the object of a series of exchanges with the other Tukano tribes: curare, manioc graters, river-snail shells, and ibis feathers (these feathers are considered the principal form of wealth and function as money among the tribes). Since the 1950s various items have been bought from Whites: salt, axes, machetes, knives, guns, fishhooks, flashlights, aluminum and plastic containers, hammocks, clothing, radios, and most recently, outboard motors.

Division of Labor. The division of labor is quite pronounced, both between men and women, and among men, the latter mainly concerning ritual and political tasks. Men build the malocas; make most wooden objects; weave baskets; prepare the chagra (swiddens); cultivate coca, tobacco, and chili; hunt; and fish. In addition, they have a monopoly on religious, ritual, and political work, all of which is highly specialized according to lineage and clan. Women tend the gardens, cook, and take care of the young children.

Land Tenure. Each Tatuyo clan occupies a territory, the "possession" of which is legitimated by the origin myth.


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