The Koiaria People

The Koiari people inhabit the area between the foothills of the Owen Stanley Ranges east of Port Moresby, and Kokoda on the northern side of the range. To the west, their territory extends into the valleys of the Agura and Dala rivers, both tributaries of the upper Canapé. To the east, their territorial border is roughly the top of the range as it forms the border with the Oro Province. The cultural groups whose territory borders the Koiaris are the Orokaiva to the north-east, the Fuyuge to the north-west, and the Koita and Motu who live along the coast near Port Moresby.

The Koiari people once built their houses in the tree tops and at the time of their first contact with Europeans in the 1880s were renowned for their ferocity. However, today the people all wear western clothes, many live in timber and galvanised iron constructed houses, and all belong to the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church. As a result of their association with the faith of the SDA they no longer eat or raise pigs, chew betel nut or smoke tobacco.

Gardening is an important activity and Kaukau (sweet potato) is the staple food. Taros (starch laden root plant), bananas, yams, vegetables and greens are also commonly grown. Coffee also has been introduced as a cash crop along with oranges and okari nuts, which taste like an Indian chestnut. Many of the gardens have been irrigated with the materials being flown in from Port Moresby and assembled by ingenuity and cleverness.

As you trek you will meet the Koiari people in their villages and out along the Track. They are very friendly, although not as spontaneous as others. Introduce yourself and discuss the village and its surrounds. Young women are particularly shy and reserved and you should respect this trait, if they do not wish to speak to you. Male bushwalkers should give way to women when trekking and should step off the Track, the further the better, and allow them to pass. Also observe the wash points in villages, as there are separate areas for males and females. While in the village precincts you must be respectful towards the culture of the Koiari people.

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