The Karen People of Burma: A Study in Anthropology and Ethnology

by Harry Ignatius Marshall


As Rev. Marshall began his ethnographic study, “The Karen are a group of Indo-Chinese tribes living principally in Burma, the easternmost province of the British Indian Empire, in the Indo-Chinese peninsula, and in the adjoining country of Siam to the east. They are found between the tenth and twenty-first degrees of north latitude and between the ninety-fourth and one hundredth degrees of east longitude. The greater part of this territory they occupy in connection with the other peoples of the country, namely, the Burmese, Shan, Siamese, and Chin. The only exclusively Karen country is the hilly region of the Toungoo district and the Karenni subdivision, where the Karen chiefs of five states, comprising 4,830 square miles and a population of 42,240 are still in power under the Advisory Council of the British Government. There is also a Karen chief ruling one of the Shan States, and five other states in that section are ruled by Taungthu chiefs. In all these latter districts we find a mixed population.

The whole group of Karen tribes can be divided into three divisions, according to their language or dialect differences. These are the Sgaw, Pwo, and Bwe groups.”

Reverend Harry Ignatius Marshall, born in 1878, worked as a missionary in the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.