Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Orokaiva refers to a number of culturally similar ethnic groups concentrated in the Popondetta district of Oro Province, Papua New Guinea. The most representative language, Orokaiva, is classified in the Binanderean (or Binandere) family in the Non-Austronesian Trans-New Guinea phylum and is spoken in most of the heavily populated parts of Oro Province. The economy is based primarily on agriculture supplemented by gathering, and limited hunting. Villages are small and leadership in the hands of "big men" and elders.


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Oceania --Melanesia


Papua New Guinea

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collections and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Orokaiva collection consists of 31 documents, 30 in English, and one, a translation from French (Schwimmer, 1984, no. 32). The major time focus of the collection ranges from the late nineteenth century to the 1980s, and centers on the northern district of Papua, New Guinea. Probably the most comprehensive document for a general understanding of Orokaiva ethnography is that found in Williams (1930, no. 1), which provides a general overview of daily life, subsistence patterns, social organization, and religion. Supplementing this overview and focusing on more specific aspects of Orokaiva life are Williams (1928, no. 2) with its emphasis on magic and religion, and Reay (1953-1954, no. 3) that deals in large part with the norms and ideals of the society, child rearing practices, and social sanctions. In 1951 the eruption of Mount Lamington had a profound effect on the Orokaiva, their social organization and beliefs. This information is covered in great detail in Rimoldi (1966, no. 7), Schwimmer (1969, 1977, nos. 22 and 24), and Keesing (1952, no. 23). Erik Schwimmer has also contributed a number of other documents to this collection which include: trade cycles and trade relationships (Schwimmer, 1973, 1979, nos. 5 and 19); theories of paternity (Schwimmer, 1969, no. 20); friendships and personal relations (Schwimmer, 1975, no. 25); the role of coconut, areca, and taro in their mythological, ritual, and social contexts (Schwimmer, 1974, no. 26); and concepts of work (Schwimmer, 1979, no. 27). Dakeyne's work with the Yega Orokaiva centers on cash crop, and cooperative agricultural production, and acculturation (Dakeyne, 1966, 1966, 1968, nos. 10, 11, and 18). Crocombe (1966, no. 12) also discusses the effects of acculturation on feasting behavior among the Orokaiva. Bride price and the economic implications of bride price on the autonomy of women in marriage are described in Hogbin (1966, no. 13), and Newton (1989, no. 31).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article "Orokaiva" by Christopher S. Latham, in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 2, 1991. Terence E. Hays, ed. Boston, Mass: G. K. Hall & Co. Slight changes in the linguistic affiliation section were made based on personal communication with Terence Hays. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in February 2003.

ARARA -- rest shelters -- category 343

BANDE -- the family house -- category 342

oil palm scheme -- general information on -- category 179

ORO -- single men's house -- category 345

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