Yokoim Tribe

The Yokoim tribe resides in the twin villages of Kundiman and Manjamai. Despite the efforts of the tribe leaders to preserve the Yokoim language, it is currently in steep decline, with very few living speakers. Still, other Yokoim traditions remain intact, including belief in magical spells and the power of communicating with one's ancestors.

Kundiman and Manjamai, Papua New Guinea, S 4 52'06.40" E 143 53'069.0"

300 people

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Luke's family

Bird of paradise clan

A disappearing language

Luke’s family has been in Kundiman for many generations. He is sad to see the unique culture and language of the Yokoim tribe edging closer and closer to extinction.

The tribe’s ancient naming practices help prevent intermarriage within the same clan. Each person receives three names: one passed down from the father’s side, one from the mother’s side, and an additional Christian name. This way, each person’s genealogy is easy to discern, and inter-clan marriages — and the genetic diseases they can produce — are easier to avoid.

Family Tree
The language will be lost. The culture will be lost.

My children don’t know Yokoim ways. They only speak Tok Pisin. After my generation,

the language will be lost. The culture will be lost.

The most important thing is to

safeguard our legends and our history.

We want the children coming later to be able to search through the Internet and pick up whatever they want to know about their tradition.

The language will be lost. The culture will be lost.

Jeffrey's family

Holding on to tradition

The traditional animal totem of Jeffrey's clan has been forgotten, but Jeffrey is doing his best to leave a legacy for his children nonetheless. He has been recording his daily life in a journal, so that the next generation will have a glimpse into the way things were before. He hopes that these memories will encourage those who come after him to preserve the culture of the tribe so it doesn't disappear forever.

I hope for my children

that all of what I enjoy in my life now, getting the fish from the river, making food out of sago, that they also get to enjoy all of these beautiful things.

Our ancient forefathers came from up the river. At first they lived deep in the forest, but life was hard. So they came here, to the river banks to fish and collect sago.

We are the children of immigrants.

The origin story

Although Jeffrey feels well-connected to his home in Kundiman village, the tribal origin story tells of arrival from far away.
Jeffrey collects his memories of the family legends and accounts of daily life for one specific purpose: to allow the next generation to carry on the tribal traditions so they don’t become extinct.

I started writing this book as a journal, and kept writing in it as a

record of my life,

so that those who come after me will know what I did and what came before them.

Gerald's family

Shark totem

Love & spells

Gerald and his wife Maria were married in 1977. The story of their relationship is atypical in the community, where most marriages are arranged. One of Gerald and Maria’s children is adopted. Donila was born to Gerald’s brother’s daughter.

The language will be lost. The culture will be lost.

She saw me at a sing sing. She only set her eyes on me,

and immediately she confessed her love.

In reply, I told her I would marry her. Now we have 10 children.

Her mother made her sick.

My wife put some money to help with the sick daughter and saved her life. In return, she got Donila for herself.

The language will be lost. The culture will be lost.

Black magic

Several members of Gerald’s family have suffered unusual deaths. The family believes many of these deaths were the result of spells or evil spirits.

Dominic Maimali

The person who wanted him to die carved his image out of wood and left it out in the bush, where it was hit by lightning. Dominic, aged 14, then got sick and died. The family suspected who the spell-caster was and approached him, but he refused to remove the spell.

Phillimon Kapi

Someone wrote his name and put it in a bottle of water and then stabbed the bottle of water. Phillimon wasn’t sick before, but became suddenly ill that night, and was dead by morning.

Fita Nokandi

His wife became possessed by evil spirits and killed him.