Yap Island - Labor, Kinship & Land Tenure

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Division of Labor

In Yap’s subsistence economy, Yapese women tend the swamp taro patches and yam gardens. Men help their wives and sisters in clearing fields and with the heavy agricultural work, but men’s primary subsistence role is fishing.

Reef fish, caught with spear guns, nets, and fish traps, are the main source of protein for Yapese families. Men who engage in regular wage labor buy canned fish and canned meats to provide their share of the subsistence diet for the family.

Yap Island, Dieter Kudler

Land Tenure

The patrilineal estate group holds joint rights to land, lagoon, and other fishing and agricultural resources. The group also maintain village authority. Heads of estates, in consultation with their junior members, exercise authority over these rights on behalf of the members. Male members have usage rights to estate resources with which they may support a wife and children. Succession to headship is based on generation and seniority.

Yap Island, Dieter KudlerKinship

The concept of Tabinaw governs Yapese thinking about family, kinship, and social organization. In its primary sense, Tabinaw refers to the household, or nuclear family. However, each nuclear family is part of an estate group, comprised of adult men and women who hold common rights to land, and who share resources and labor in terms of exploiting this land. An estate group may include three or four generations of men with their wives and children. Each married couple will have a separate household located on estate land. Yapese practice a variation of double descent. Every individual has a matrilineal kinship affiliation, called Genung, which plays a dominant role in defining sibling relationships and identifying kin ties for mutual support and assistance. In Yapese thought, one obtains one's blood relationship through one's mother. In addition to this matrilineal principle, the Yapese trace their spiritual and subsistence relationships to the land through their fathers. Each Yapese receives a name from one of his or her patrilineal ancestors who have occupied the land estate upon which he or she is born and nurtured. The ancestral line of land and nurture comes through the patrilineal estate. The matrilineal principle does not define significant descent groups on Yap, but only an affiliation of kin to whom one relates to in order to promote important individual interests. The estate group is formed more appropriately in terms of relationship to land than in terms of patrilineal descent. With these characteristics, we may speak of double descent on Yap.

Yap Island, Dieter Kudler

Last modified onWednesday, 04 March 2015 01:02
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