Orokolo - Orientation

Identification. The term "Orokolo" generally refers to all of the Western Elema people living around Orokolo Bay in Papua New Guinea, although the name also refers to one of the five languages in the Eleman Language Family, to the major dialect of this language, and also to one of the five major Orokolo villages (Arihava, Yogu, Orokolo, Auma, and Vailala). The Orokolo are similar to the Eastern Elema People (sometimes called Toaripi) in both language and culture.

Location. The Orokolo live in the Gulf Province of Papua New Guinea, between the mouths of the Vailala River (to the east) and the Aivei River (to the west) at 8° S and 145° E. Their villages are located along the beaches of the 20-milewide Orokolo Bay in the Gulf of Papua. Orokolo territory consists of a wide coastal strip, fringed by coconut palms, behind which lie the sago swamps that provide much of the People's food. The area is tropical, but, due to an unusual local pattern, the monsoon rainfall patterns are the reverse of those generally prevalent in New Guinea. Hence the northwest monsoon, from October to April, brings a comparatively pleasant, drier season of relative calm, whereas the normally mild southeast trade winds blow directly into the gulf, bringing heavy rains and restless surf for the balance of the year.

Demography. In 1937, the ethnographic present for this report (when F. E. Williams concluded his major monograph on the Orokolo), the population was 4,500. Today it is in excess of 7,500.

linguistic Affiliation. Orokolo is a member of the Eleman Language Family, a group of about five closely related, mutually intelligible Non-Austronesian languages generally placed within the Purari-Eleman Stock. The Eleman Family has about eight different dialects. The major Eleman linguistic distinction, like the major cultural division, is between the Eastern Eleman and Western Eleman groups of languages, which are bisected by an only distantly related language called Raepa Tati, spoken near the provincial headquarters at Kerema.

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