Sambia - Orientation

Identification. The Sambia, a congeries of historically and socially integrated phratries that speak the Sambia language, live in the fringe areas of the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. They are tribal, animistic, and primarily pagan. The name Sambia derives from the Sambia clan, an original pioneer people that settled the central Sambia region in the Puruya River Valley, and is mainly used by Westerners. The term "Kukukuku" (derogatory) was generically applied to Sambia and their neighbors until the 1970s; "Anga" (which means "house") is now more frequently used as an ethnic term to embrace Sambia and related societies.

Location. The Sambia are located in the rugged Kratke Mountains bounded by the Lamari River, the alluvial Papuan lowlands, and adjacent river valleys of the Eastern Highland Province, Marawaka District. Virgin rain forest covers approximately two-thirds of their territory. Settlements and Gardens are located at elevations of 1,000 to 2,000 meters, and hunting territories extend up to elevations of 3,000 meters.

Demography. In 1989 the population of Sambia was estimated at 2,700, including absentee coastal workers. The Population density averages 1.5 persons per square kilometer, though settlement areas are much higher. The population growth rate is about 5 percent per year. Sambia-speaking People constitute 95 percent of its resident population. Scattered, in-marrying speakers of the Fore and Baruya languages are present, and about 3 percent Tok Pisin speakers of other New Guinea languages reside there, mainly in government or mission jobs.

Linguistic Affiliation. Sambia is considered one of several languages belonging to the Non-Austronesian Angan Language Family of the Papuan Gulf. Sambia and the neighboring Baruya tribe share 60 percent of their cognate terms, for example, although a majority of speakers from both groups cannot speak the other group's language. There are at least two dialects of Sambia, represented in the northern and southern parts of central Sambia. They are mutually intelligible, with minor lexical and vocabulary variations and tonal differences.

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