National Geographic : 1953 Jan
135 A Flour Sack Clothes a Farmer Planting Cassava in Irrigated Fields Bitter cassava provides the tapioca made by food processors. Groote islanders grow a sweet variety, which they cook entire and eat as they would a sweet potato. Water turned this dry, sandy land into a productive farm. The planter inserts year-old cuttings, which will develop swollen edible roots. women, who had to line up outside for flour, sugar, and tea to supplement their native diet. Through an open door they could see husbands, sons, and daughters at table with heaping plates of beef and onions, wheat meal porridge, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and cab bage. Yet not a woman looked underfed. Menial Jobs for Women According to ageless laws of aboriginal society, women took a back seat. To them were delegated the menial, but nevertheless important, responsibilities. They gathered firewood; dug wild yams in jungle scrub; pulled edible lily roots in marshy billabongs; collected crabs and oysters on rocky shores; and looked after children until the tots were old enough to feed themselves. The men were the "big shots"; they made laws and carried spears. Wherever or when- ever they camped, it behooved the whole family so to do. Men hunted, grunted, fought, and thought; hacked heavy canoes out of big trees; harpooned turtles and du gongs; speared fish; sang and danced; painted ceremonial objects in colorful patterns, or sketched tribal omens on cave walls. In short, men brought in the meat, drove out the enemy, and had most of the fun. Women could be . . . well, just useful. A woman had no choice in marriage mat ters. While still an infant, the first daughter of a family was promised to her mother's brother, whose wife she became, like it or not. Without any ceremony, he simply claimed her when marriageable. And, as her husband, he could automatically claim any sisters she might have. In this old order of aboriginal life Fred Gray had some say at the native settlement.