Terena - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Terena continue to be an agricultural people. Traditional crops (maize, cassava, rice, potatoes, beans, and sugarcane) are now joined by soybeans, vegetables, fruit, and the raising of poultry. Cattle and horses, which were also raised traditionally, are bred solely for use by the Terena themselves, rather than for sale. Food gathering continues on a regular basis, particularly of hearts of palm and citrus fruits, which along with mangoes are either consumed or sold at the regional market. Excess food is sold in the major municipalities of Mato Grosso do Sul, to which the Terena travel by train almost daily. A large number of young Terena men are hired to work on the region's farms and in sugarcane and alcohol mills for periods of up to ninety days, during which they are absent from the village.

Industrial Arts. The traditional crafts of the Terena were pottery, basket weaving, and the spinning of cotton to make hammocks, belts, and so forth. At present pottery is still the main activity among the Terena who make, both for sale and for their own use, generally zoomorphic kitchen utensils and decorative objects. In some villages there are artisans who work with natural fibers, making hats and fans; others fashion factory-made threads into armbands, scarves, belts, and necklaces of natural seeds. There are some goldsmiths who work metals into decorative objects.

Trade. Although the Terena at one time bartered their excess foodstuffs and their handicrafts with the MbayáGuaikuru, they started selling them after their move to Brazilian territory, turning them into important components of the regional city dwellers' supply. At present the Terena sell many of their excess farm products, especially beans and citrus fruit. Consumption of orchard, vegetablegarden, and poultry products is small; they are produced almost exclusively for sale. Mangoes are picked and sold while still green, for processing purposes.

Division of Labor. Raising crops, hunting, fishing, and making baskets were men's jobs; women took care of spinning, pottery, and household work. Both men and women were food gatherers. This has remained relatively unchanged, except that women share the agricultural work and there are some men engaging in spinning and weaving.

Land Tenure. Land is used among the Terena in three different ways: for individual or family work; for collective farming; and for collective farming in agricultural projects under the guidance and coordination of the Fundação Nacional do Indio (Brazilian National Indian Foundation, FUNAI). These projects tend to be exclusively of the cashfarming variety, as opposed to the first two, which are oriented toward subsistence farming plus sale of crop surpluses. In some indigenous areas where the population density is high (about 5.5 inhabitants per square kilometer as in Pilade Rebuá), farming is difficult, a fact that prevents the inhabitants from subsisting solely from their own land.

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