Dani - Orientation

Identification. Dani is a general term used by outsiders for peoples speaking closely related Papuan (Non-Austronesian) languages in the central highlands of Irian Java, Indonesia (formerly Netherlands New Guinea, West New Guinea, Irian Barat).

Location. The various Dani groups live in and around the Balim River, approximately 4° S, 138° to 139° E. The greatest concentration of Dani is in the Grand Valley of the Balim. To the north and west of the Grand Valley, in the upper Balim and adjacent drainage areas, live the Western Dani. This is generally a rugged, mountainous country, with a temperate climate. Because of the high altitude and the sheltering ranges, the Dani area is temperate and unaffected by monsoon cycles. In the Grand Valley, the mean range of temperature is from 26° C to 15° C. Rainfall in the Grand Valley is about 208 centimeters per year, but wet and dry periods occur irregularly. For all practical purposes, the Grand Valley Dani do not recognize any yearly seasonal cycles, nor do they shape their behavior around them.

Demography. The broad floor of the Grand Valley, at 1,500 meters, has about 50,000 people, or about half of the entire estimated Dani population. It is densely populated, one of several such broad valleys found across the central ranges of the island. The other Dani are scattered across the rough mountain terrain from about 900 meters to about 1,800 meters above sea level. The major concentration of non-Dani in the area is in Wamena, the Indonesian administrative center, a town of some 5,000 people at the southern end of the Grand Valley.

Linguistic Affiliation. The half-dozen languages and dialects of the Great Dani Family are related to other Non-Austronesian language families of the Irian Jaya Highlands Stock, which belongs to the Trans-New Guinea Phylum.

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