Ticuna - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities . The Ticuna are horticulturists, fishermen, hunters, gatherers, and traders. Which activities are more important for their diet depends in great measure on the location of their settlements. The subsistence of those who live in the middle of the forest is based on horticulture, fishing, and gathering, whereas the others depend more on horticulture, fishing, and trade. Shifting horticulture is practiced by the slash-and-burn method. The main products are sweet and bitter manioc, maize, various kinds of bananas and plantains, and fruit trees. For hunting, firearms and, to a lesser degree, blowguns are used. Mammals are more important sources of food than birds or reptiles because of the amount of meat they supply. Fishing is the main source of animal protein, and surplus fish are sold to the non-Indian population. Most of the fruit gathered is consumed by the children. The Ticuna also collect beetle larvae and ants. The main goal of trade is to obtain money to buy clothes, school supplies, salt, sugar, ammunition, batteries, petroleum, and kitchen utensils. The Ticuna sell bananas, fish, manioc flour, and fruit. Tourists, who visit the Ticuna periodically, buy various handicraft items, especially bark cloth, which is ornately painted.

Industrial Arts . The Ticuna are considered excellent artisans. Their arts include woodworking, cordage making, basketry, and pottery, and they make numerous decorated objects from plant materials such as bark, husks, and seeds. Cotton weaving disappeared with the introduction of commercial clothes. The art of featherwork is being lost, in part because there are fewer birds. Traditional instruments for hunting—blowguns and darts—are also being manufactured less often.

Trade. Formerly, the Ticuna were famous for their 3-meter-long blowguns as well as for their most effective dart poison for hunting. Other Indians visited them to acquire their poison. Nowadays local groups generally exchange manioc or bananas for fish when floods damage their crops.

Division of Labor. Men are in charge of getting animal protein (fish and game) and clearing the forest for cultivation. Women gather wild fruit, plant, and prepare the food and drink. Construction of houses and the production of hunting and fishing gear and musical instruments are male activities. Men also make wooden sculptures and ritual masks, whereas women make cordage, baskets, and pots. Some young men work as lumberjacks and ranch hands, and some women work as domestic servants.

Land Tenure. Formerly, the Ticuna had control over their land and occupied it according to alliances they made with each other. In the eighteenth and part of the nineteenth centuries, they extended their territory to the right bank of the Amazon. Nowadays ownership over land is based on work done to acquire it. This custom is strongly observed; even after the land has been abandoned, people recognize that it has an owner. During the 1980s the governments of Brazil and Colombia demarcated and gave title of some areas to the Ticuna.


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