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Gebusi[1] identify themselves as a distinctive Gebusi-speaking cultural group within the Nomad River area of the East Strickland River Plain, Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Gebusi perceive selective similarities between themselves and other Nomad River groups such as the Honibo, the Samo, and to a lesser extent the Bedamini to the east.

History and cultural relations

Gebusi are one of some dozen cultural and linguistic groups inhabiting the Strickland-Bosavi area. Each ethnic group claims distinct customs and a named language.

Features common to the entire area include: traditional residence in a communal longhouse, with men and women sleeping separately; social organization based on small dispersed patriclans, adult males coresiding through a combination of agnatic, affinal, and matrilateral ties; spirit mediumship in all-night spirit seances focusing on sickness and curing, sorcery or witchcraft, collective subsistence, and conflict; a single-stage initiation or celebratory transition into adult manhood; and all-night dance and songfest rituals between longhouses, during which a beautifully costumed dancer is accompanied by plaintive songs.

Raiding between adjacent ethnic groups was common. Gebusi were the target of raids particularly by the much larger Bedamini population to their north and east, which has intruded strongly into border areas. Bedamini were pacified by government patrols in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Gebusi were first effectively contacted in 1962 and have had little subsequent contact with outsiders except for yearly government patrols, a recently established mission station (begun in the mid-1980s), and highly sporadic work with Western geological survey crews northeast of Nomad. In 1980–1982, spirit seances, sorcery inquests, male initiation, and ritual homosexuality were still practiced.