Marind-anim - Orientation

Identification. Marind (anim means "people") is the name by which some forty territorial groups (subtribes) in New Guinea identify themselves vis-à-vis foreigners. The traditional culture, especially the religious system, has been dramatically changed through Western contact, although many Western material goods are avoided and the Marind prefer to associate with one another. The description which follows focuses on the traditional culture.

Location. Marind occupy the southeastern coastal area of Irian Jaya (the western half of New Guinea) from the Southern entrance of the Muli Strait southeastward to about 30 kilometers beyond Merauke, with, at some distance from the international border, the enclave of Kondo. Farther inland, they occupy the upper Bulaka River region and all the land east of it to the Eli and Bian rivers, an area usually called the Okaba Hinterland. Marind territory also includes the Bian and Kumbe river valleys and part of the lower Maro with all the land between. The land is lowland, mainly savanna alternating with swamps; in the upper river areas, it is mostly low hills and swamps. Resources include coconuts on sandy ground, sago in the swamps, eucalyptus trees on the savanna, wallabies in the grasslands, and fish in the rivers and sea. The monsoon climate provides heavy rains during the northwest monsoon (end of December until April) and relative cool when the trade winds pass through from June to early October. The transition periods are hot and sticky.

Demography. In 1902 when the area was brought under control, the Marind numbered some 8,000 on the coast and up to 6,000 inland. By 1950 the population had decreased by more than 50 percent due largely to imported diseases. An additional factor was the pacification itself, which ended the kidnapping of children from other groups who were the targets of Marind head-hunting raids. As the Marind were decreasing in numbers long before pacification, the adoption of these stolen children was an important source of new tribal members.

Linguistic Affiliation. Marind is one of the three Languages that together constitute the Marind Family of the Trans-New Guinea Phylum of Papuan languages. Marind has eastern and western dialects along the coast and at least three inland. The upper Bian people speak a special dialect that is classified as a separate language, closely related to Marind.

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