Toba - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Toba were hunters and gatherers. Through Western influence they adopted agriculture, raising, for example, manioc, sweet potatoes, pigeon peas, watermelons, and cotton. The most desirable game animals were rheas, wild boars, and deer, among others. The Toba collected honey and berries and the fruit of various trees, especially the carob and the jujube. Once introduced between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the horse became a prized commodity both for use and trade. Contemporary economic activities combine farming with hunting and gathering, rural manual labor, and jobs related to the provincial bureaucracies. In periurban zones Toba work in handicrafts or occasionally as porters.

Industrial Arts. The Toba traditionally made baskets, bags, leather objects, and pottery. Nowadays they make items of unfired clay that they decorate with artificial dyes. Such pieces include representations of animals, objects of Western domestic use, and masks. The decorations include motifs that are reminiscent of the archaeological art of northwestern Argentina. In some areas such as El Colchón (Chaco), the wood of the carob tree is utilized for carpentry and the furniture is sold in large cities. Handicrafts are traded either directly or indirectly in towns of the Chaco or in tourist shops in Resistencia, Formosa, and Buenos Aires; cooperatives have been set up for this purpose. Rhea feathers are usually sold directly to non-Indian neighbors, although the Toba also use them to make fans.


Trade. In pre-Hispanic times there was trade with tribes from the Amazon and the Chaco. Today the sale of iguana, alligator, and armadillo skins is a source of income for many natives in rural areas.

Division of Labor. Formerly, men hunted, fished, warred, and built houses. Women gathered wild fruit, searched for firewood, prepared the food, and took care of the children. They also did work in basketry and pottery. Medicinal practices were generally, but not exclusively, carried out by men. Beginning with the latter part of the nineteenth century, women were incorporated into the rural manual labor force. Leaders of the indigenous churches are usually men even though there are women pastors. Positions in the provincial bureaucracy are mostly monopolized by men.

Land Tenure. Each band used to have the right of occupation and usufruct of the entire territory through which it roamed. With the rise of sedentary communties, land rights were modified. Each extended family owns land that is prorated on the basis of a communal agreement. When new members are born into the band and later need a plot of land, the old terrain is subdivided. Laws regarding indigenous affairs voted on by the legislatures of Formosa (Law 426 in 1985) and Chaco (Law 3,258 in 1987) established the legal right of native claims on lands that they had occupied from time immemorial. However, this process of legal recognition has not yet been satisfactorily completed.


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