Orokaiva - Orientation



Identification. "Orokaiva" is the name for a number of culturally similar tribes in Papua New Guinea who speak mutually intelligible dialects. Although the tribes did not have an inclusive name for themselves until "Orokaiva" was introduced by Westerners, they generally distinguished among themselves as the river people ( umo-ke ), saltwater people ( eva'embo ), and inland people (periho).

Location. The Orokaiva reside in the Oro Province of Papua New Guinea and are concentrated in the Popondetta district in an area reaching from the coast at Buna Island to the northern slopes of Mount Lamington and in the regions to the north of this general line. This area is a humid tropical lowland, and uniformly high temperatures and rainfall provide a year-round growing season. The wet season, from December to March, is characterized by northeasterly or Northwesterly winds, high temperatures and humidity, and late-afternoon thunderstorms, while the dry season, from May to October, produces northeasterly winds, lower temperatures, less cloud cover, and less-predictable rainfall.

Demography. The indigenous population of the Popondetta district totals some 36,500, of whom 26,500 are Orokaiva in the central lowland area. The number of Orokaiva at the time of Western contact is not known.

Linguistic Affiliation. Orokaiva is classified in the Binandere (or Binandele) Family of eight languages spoken in most of the more densely populated parts of Oro Province. Orokaiva is spoken by about half of the population in the Orokaiva-Binandere area. Dialect divisions within the Orokaiva language area are minor; the boundaries of the area coincide with those of the region administered by the Higaturu Local Government Council, which covers the Saiho and most of the Sohe-Popondetta census divisions. While there are considerable vocabulary differences between the Binandere Languages, there is a close resemblance in grammar and enough similarity in vocabulary to make a limited degree of communication possible.

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