The Orokaiva People

As it is our policy to hire crew equally from villages located all along the Track, it is possible that some of your trekking crew may be Orokaiva people.  They mainly live in areas between Kokoda and the beach heads at Buna and Gona where the Japanese forces landed and from where they launched their offensive over the Kokda Track.  It was the villages of the Orokaiva people that were destroyed in the final phase of the Kokoda campaign when thew Japanese forces were all but totally annihilated on the beaches where they had landed  7 months earlier.

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 Inland 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.