Mejbrat - Orientation

Identification. The Mejbrat are swidden cultivators of the Bird's Head Peninsula of Irian Jaya.

Location. Mejbrat territory is located in the inland of the Bird's Head Peninsula, in a mixed riverine and lacustrine Region some distance from the coast. There are four minor lakes in the region, each surrounded by a marshy grassland zone which is itself encircled by a hilly, secondary-forest zone. Beyond this forest belt there is mountainous high country, densely covered with primary-growth, tropical rain forest vegetation. The inhabited portions of Mejbrat territory are criss-crossed with paths that link settlements and dotted with swidden gardens.

Demography. Recent population figures for the Mejbrat are difficult to come by, but there were 16,000 Mejbrat speakers estimated in 1956.

Linguistic Affiliation. Brat, with seven dialects, is a Member of the Central Bird's Head Family of Non-Austronesian languages. The language appears to have been much influenced by Malay, introduced through Moluccan traders in the region as early as the 1600s.

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