Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Papuan-speaking Siwai reside in South Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Siwais have long been horticulturalists, subsisting largely on taro (sweet potatoes after World War II), supplemented with a variety of other vegetables, pigs (particularly important in ceremonies), fishing, and tree crops. Cocoa was introduced in the late 1950s and has become a major cash crop. Most adult men have since been employed as plantation laborers or as copper miners in other parts of the island. Households are comprised of nuclear families. Many Siwais go on to secondary and tertiary education, and some participate in the local, regional and national democratic government. Prior to the establishment of wage labor and a cash economy, women held some sway through matrilineage control of agricultural and hunting lands, and enterprising men amassed prestige and power through organizing multi-village feasts.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


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 eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication, and title where necessary.

The documents in the file are all written by two ethnographers working a generation apart. The earlier ethnographer Douglas Oliver (1955) wrote the classic monograph on the leadership institution of Siwai big men ( mumi) based on fieldwork carried out in 1938 and 1939. His work had an impact on culture area studies, political anthropology and the discipline of anthropology in general. Oliver (1949, "Human relations and language…") also wrote on semantics of the name for big man ( mumi), the source of big man authority, and the work that goes into organizing a "social-climbing" feast. Additional articles are on the economy of pig-raising (Oliver 1949, "Economic and social uses of domestic pigs…" ) and land tenure (Oliver 1949, "Land tenure in northeast Siuai…" ). John Connell, who did his fieldwork in the 1970s, has written about hunting and gathering (1977) post-World War II economic development (1978), and urban migration (1988).

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

Overview by

Ian Skoggard

kaposo – men’s house – use PUBLIC STRUCTURES (344)

mara – spirit – use SPIRITS AND GODS (776)

mikai – sorcerer – use SORCERY (754)

mumi – big man – use STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)

muminai – social-climbing feast – use MANIPULATIVE MOBILITY (557) with VISITING AND HOSPITALITY (574)

tuhia – tokens (bundle of twigs) accounting for a loan – use ACCOUNTING (451)

Indexing Notes by

Ian Skoggard

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