Siane



ETHNONYMS: None

Siane refers to a number of ethnic groups located in the highlands of Eastern Highlands Province, Goroka SubProvince, Papua New Guinea. In 1975 the Siane numbered some 18,000. Siane is a Papuan language with five dialects in the East-Central Family of the East New Guinea Highlands Stock. Settlements are situated along minor ridges of Mountains, at an elevation of about 2,000 meters. A central path runs the length of each village, with the large, oval men's houses and women's and children's dwellings built at intervals along the path. A typical village has 200 to 250 inhabitants.

Swidden gardens are planted with several crops, including sweet potatoes, taro, yams, maize, green vegetables, bananas and sugarcane. Men are responsible for clearing garden sites, and building fences and support poles for various cultigens. Women plant, weed, harvest, and cook the crops. Women also tend the pigs and collect straw, firewood, and water. Men build houses and beat out bark for women's clothing. Big-men stage competitive dance feasts, contributed to by their followers, thereby gaining prestige. Items contributed include pork, various shells, bird of paradise feathers, and bark strips with small shells attached. The big-man represents his entire clan in these events.

Important kin groups are phratries, localized patrilineal clans, patrilineages, and nuclear and extended families. Clans and phratries are exogamous. Residence is nearly always patrilocal. Polygyny is the ideal marriage form. The members of a domestic unit are not coresident; a husband and his older sons live in the men's house (often comprising a descent group of related males), while their immediate female relatives live in a separate dwelling. The basic economic unit, however, is a man with his wives and children.

The Siane consist of sixteen "tribes" which are culturally and linguistically similar but not politically integrated. The primary social unit is the clan village, several of which comprise a phratry. The clan is the most inclusive politically integrated unit, and, formerly, it was also the military unit. The patrilineage is the landholding unit. There is a keen sense of competitiveness between nonrelated clans, which is manifested in affinal relations, competitive feasts, alliances, and, formerly, warfare.

The Siane have animatistic beliefs about "spirit," which is a nonmaterial, nondiscrete supernatural essence associated with living things. An individual has a uniquely constituted spirit ( oinya ) throughout his or her lifetime. At death the oinya becomes a ghost ( korova ), which is eventually reabsorbed into the undifferentiated "pool" of spirit, from which subsequent oinya are constituted. Persons can be possessed by korova, which must then be exorcised from the individual. Birth and initiation ceremonies are the occasions of large pig feasts, during which many swine are slaughtered and the ancestors appeased. A major god, Oma Rumufa or "Black Way," is recognized to have existed before the creation of humans but is not worshiped or revered. The ghosts of the ancestors are the object of worship and propitiation, as they are thought to be interested and influential in the affairs of humans.

See also Chimbu , Gahuku-Gama , Gururumba

Bibliography

Dwyer, Peter D. (1974). "The Price of Protein: 500 Hours of Hunting in the New Guinea Highlands." Oceania 44:278-293.

Salisbury, Richard F. (1962). From Stone to Steel: Economic Consequences of a Technological Change in New Guinea. London: Cambridge University Press.

Salisbury, Richard F. (1965). "The Siane of the Eastern Highlands." In Gods, Ghosts, and Men in Melanesia, edited by Peter Lawrence and Mervyn J. Meggitt, 50-77. New York: Oxford University Press.

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