Keraki - Orientation

Identification. The term "Keraki" generally refers to one of several small transhumant cultural groups living near the Morehead River in the Trans-Fly region of Papua New Guinea, applying principally to Nambu speakers but also Including some of their immediate neighbors. The name also refers to one of the roughly nine small "tribes" into which the Keraki are divided.

Location. Keraki territory lies in the southwestern part of Papua New Guinea, just to the east of the Morehead River, at about 9° S by 142° E. The area is characterized by extremes of climate. During a considerable part of the rainy season, especially between January and March, much of the land is under water, and the Keraki are obliged to take up residence in semipermanent villages in one of a few locations along high ground. The rains abate in May or June, the country dries up, the land becomes parched, and the Keraki move to locations along one of the lagoons or larger streams, within reach of water. At the height of the dry season, the people often live in small clearings in the forest to escape the considerable heat.

Demography. In 1931, the ethnographic present for this report, F. E. Williams estimated the entire Keraki population at about 700-800. Recent estimates indicated 700 Nambu speakers and another 800 speakers of the Tonda and Lower Morehead languages.

Linguistic Affiliation. Nambu, Tonda, and Lower Morehead are three of the seven small Non-Austronesian Languages that make up the Morehead and Upper Maro Rivers Family.

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