Garia - Orientation

Identification. The Garia live in southern Madang Province of Papua New Guinea. "Garia" is their own name for the language they speak, which is called "Sumau" by linguists after a prominent mountain peak in the area.

Location. Garia territory includes 80-110 square kilometers of land between the coastal plain of Madang and the Ramu River Valley, with central coordinates of 145° 2′ E, 5° 28′ S. The region consists of rugged, low mountain ranges, with the highest peaks reaching about 920 meters. The most important of these is Mount Somau, the mythological origin place of the Garia. Three principal rivers arise in these Mountains and provide the routes of a major regional transportation and communication system. Most of the land is covered with dense jungle, broken up by occasional patches of savannah and secondary vegetation. The dry season (February-October) is one of high humidity and intense social and Religious activity. During the rest of the year there is regular afternoon rain and people spend much of their time making and repairing implements and tools.

Demography. In 1950 the population consisted of about 2,500 people; by 1975 the resident population included slightly over this number, but another 700 or so Garia were away for employment elsewhere in Papua New Guinea.

Linguistic Affiliation. Sumau is classified with its nearest neighbor, Usino, in the Peka Family of Non-Austronesian languages. There is a high degree of multilingualism in the population, and since 1949 most Garia have been fluent in Tok Pisin and many also in English.

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