Identification. The term "Murik" is generally used to refer to people living in five villages (Kaup, Big Murik, Darapap, Karau, Mendam) along the north coast of Papua New Guinea, west of the mouth of the Sepik River. Local differentiations designate three clusters of related villages from west to east: Kaup, Mayet (Big Murik), and Karau (Darapap, Karau, and Mendam) Originally "Murik" was used by coastal peoples to the west to refer to the Mayet. The Murik are culturally similar to other peoples of the region, but language and subsistence bases differ widely. The Murik, with the Exception of Kaup, are generally "landless," and they trade throughout the region.
Location. The Murik reside along the north coast of Papua New Guinea in the East Sepik Province in the Sepik estuary, an area of mangrove lakes, swamps, and sandy beaches. The Murik Lakes region is humid and flat. The villages are located on narrow sandbanks that separate the lakes from the open ocean. During the wet season, November to May, a Northwesterly wind prevails, bringing blustery late-afternoon winds, thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, and somewhat cooler temperatures. The transition from wet to dry season is marked by extreme high "spring" tides and by periods of complete stillness. Despite high humidity during the dry season, approximately June to October, there are droughts of several weeks' duration that cause severe shortages of fresh water. The northeasterly onshore breezes of this season, combined with longer periods of clear weather and calm seas, lead the Murik to refer to this as the good season for travel to town markets and visits to trade partners throughout the region.
Demography. The indigenous population of the villages is approximately 1,500 people. Village size varies from 80 to 450 people. Several hundred Murik live in the provincial capital, Wewak, and other towns. The postcontact population of the villages remains fairly constant due to out-migration.
Linguistic Affiliation. Murik is a Non-Austronesian or Papuan language of the Nor Family, which includes Chambri, Karawari, Yimas, Angoram, and Kopar. These groups are scattered throughout the Sepik Basin, suggesting a history of extensive migration. Many Murik know several languages of the region. Formerly communication with trade partners was ensured by sending children to live in a trade partner's village for a year. Most Murik now speak the vernacular and Melanesian Pidgin.