Miyanmin - Settlements

The Miyanmin are organized in local parish groups ranging in size from 40 to 200 members that claim large territories. At any given time, a parish or a cooperating group consisting of members of two parishes might occupy only a small portion of a group territory. Except when pioneering a new area, people live in dispersed hamlets that range in size from two women's houses and a men's house to as many as fifteen women's houses and several men's houses. Nuclear and polygynous families maintain houses in hamlets identified with each spouse's kin group and move between them seasonally. These houses are built on posts with bark floors and walls and treeleaf or palm thatch roofs. Polygynous cowives share the same roof but have separate doors and hearths in an unpartitioned house. Women's houses are of similar size and design, but they vary in small details reflecting their builders' personal styles. Men's houses are raised above women's houses and command approaches to hamlets, which are typically located on scalped ridges, mountain spurs, or riverbanks. In addition to residential structures, every parish has three kinds of specialized buildings: a large dance house that also serves as a longhouse during the initial phase of settlement; a men's cult house in which ancestral bones and other ritual objects are kept from the sight of women and children; and a dormitory and ritual site for boys undergoing initiation. The overall settlement pattern is dynamic with hamlets built and abandoned constantly in response to game abundance and the availability of garden land. Modernization has changed settlement patterns and house styles. Settlements around airstrips, such as Mianmin in the Hak Valley, Yapsiei on the Upper August River, and Hotmin at the junction of the May and Right May rivers, have grown to unusual size due to the services and amenities they provide, which include schools and health care. Modern houses are highly idiosyncratic in style, floor plan, and materials. Family houses have replaced Women's houses, and men's houses now shelter bachelors alone. The Hak Valley settlement now has as many as 400 persons with more than sixty family houses, leading to many social and environmental problems.

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