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A GoAuiBARi Type 

Leggings of plaited cane sewn with cowrie shells are worn to protect 
the legs from sago thorns and leech bites. The whole of the Goanbari 
delta is chiefly mud or sago swamp. 







A. C. HADDON, M.A., Sc.D., F.R.S., F.R.G.S. 







Reverend James Chalmers, several of the Anmial Reports 
of the Government of Papua and more particularly the 
district reports of the various Resident Magistrates who 
have been my predecessors in the Western Division. 

To Dr. Gunnar Landtmann my very best thanks are 
due for his chapter, which is really the most interesting 
portion of the book, and I have to thank several friends for 
the loan of photographs. 

W. N. Beaver. 



DURING a comparatively short but very active life 
the author, Mr. Wilfred Beaver, has contributed 
much of value and interest to the gradually accumulating 
stock of knowledge concerning Papua, as British New 
Guinea is now officially termed, and his premature death 
will prove a great loss to the science of anthropology. 

He was born in 1882 in Melbourne, Victoria. At the 
early age of thirteen he matriculated from the Christian 
Brothers School at St. Kilda and took an entrance scholar- 
ship at the University High School, where he did Honour 
work, but he could not enter the University till he was 
sixteen. He gained another scholarship which gave him 
a year at the Scotch College, after which he took a non- 
resident exhibition at OrmondLCollege, where he remained 
for one year and passed the first Law examination. 

He then left Australia for England and the Continent, 
and two years later returned to Australia. Three years 
later he entered the service of the Commonwealth Govern- 
ment in British New Guinea, where he had a varied career. 

Mr. Beaver entered into the Government Secretary De- 
partment on March 18, 1905. One of his first active duties 
was to escort a party of miners up the Waria River. This 
expedition resulted in the establishment of a gold-mining 
settlement, and in 1906 he was appointed Mining Registrar 
of the Yodda Gold Field. In 1907 he was appointed 
Assistant Resident Magistrate in the Northern Division, 
and to a similar office in the Central Division in 1908. On 
his return from leave in 1910 he was promoted to be the 
Resident Magistrate of the Western Division, which post 
he held for some years. During this time he explored the 
mainland up to the Netherlands New Guinea boundary, 
as well as certain regions east of the Fly. He thus played 
a leading part in opening up the Western Division, and, 
owing to his being an experienced bushman, he was put 



in charge of the expedition that went to the rehef of Mr. 
Staniforth Smith, Later he estabhshed a Government 
Station at Kikori, in the neighbourhood of which he did 
much useful work. 

Subsequently Mr. Beaver was successively the Resident 
Magistrate of the Mambare and Kamusi Divisions. During 
this time, in collaboration with Mr. E. W. P. Chinnery, 
he mapped the distribution of the languages, migrations, 
and territories of the tribes inhabiting the area between 
the Hydrographer's Range and the boundary of the then 
German New Guinea. 

After ten years' service, at the outbreak of the war, he 
obtained leave of absence in order to take a commission 
in the Australian Imperial Force, and arrived in France 
in November, 1916, with the 60th Battalion. He remained 
there till March, 1917, when he was invalided home for a 
period of three months. At the expiration of this time he 
returned to France, and played his part in the heavy 
fighting which took place at Passchendale and Polygon 
Wood. He was killed on the 26th September, 1917, at 
the last-named place after successfully taking his company 
through the wood. 

From this bald statement of the various stages in his 
career it is evident that Mr. Beaver possessed great natural 
ability, and the experience he had gained in New Guhiea 
in exploring expeditions and in deahng with natives, to- 
gether with his studies of native customs, gave promise of 
still better work in the future. However, his patriotism 
and a desire to assist the cause of justice, peace, and 
humanity urged him to take part in the Great Adventure, 
and in so doing he paid the full price, the cost of which he 
had already counted, to the great sorrow of his relatives, 
friends, and comrades, to the impoverishment of the 
Papuan Service and to the loss of ethnology. 

Mr. Beaver was a most successful magistrate, having a 
sound knowledge of his work, legal and administrative. 
He exhibited great patience with junior officers and spared 
no pains in training them. He gained the confidence of 
the natives whom he administered owing to his under- 
standing of and sympathy with them. His success in this 
direction being largely due to the practical application of 
ethnological methods. 


He was fair and just, a staunch comrade, and beloved 
of his brother officers. That he accomphshed so much was 
due to his wonderful energy and tireless devotion to duty, 
and he stimulated his colleagues by the sheer force of his 
personal example. 

Mr. Beaver has done good service in giving us an account 
of a part of British New Guinea about which the previous 
information was very scattered and imperfect. Thanks to 
the investigations of Dr. G. Landtmann, of Helsingfors 
University, we are acquiring an accurate knowledge about 
the inhabitants of Mawatta and Kiwai, of which the final 
chapter in this book is an example. 

The accounts by Mr. Beaver of the Bush tribes from the 
Fly to the Netherlands New Guinea boundary may not 
have the same interest to the general reader that other 
chapters undoubtedly possess, but they are very welcome 
to students, as these tribes may be regarded as some of 
the most primitive in New Guinea. They are Papuans in 
the true sense of the term, and practically have been un- 
affected by extraneous cultures ; whereas all the im- 
portant groups of people east of the Fly dealt with by 
Mr. Beaver, such as the Girara, Bamu, and Goaribari, have 
cultures which may safely be regarded as having spread 
more or less southwards. These, too, may be considered 
as being essentially Papuan peoples who speak indigenous 
languages as contrasted with the intrusive Austronesian 
languages, which are commonly termed " Melanesian." 
The more dramatic elements of their cultures, such as the 
customs centring round head-hunting, human sacrifice, 
the wearing of masks, and other customs, form part of a 
series of cultural migrations which have entered New 
Guinea presumably from the north-east and, with diverse 
modifications, have spread by various routes dowTi to the 
coasts of the Gulf of Papua. The great Sepik (Kaiserin 
Augusta River), with its wonderfully rich cultures, was 
probably the immediate source of these internal migra- 

A. C. Haddon. 

Cambridge, June, 1919. 



Papua in Generat, 


The Division 


History .... 


Daru ..... 


Mawatta and Turituki 


The Bushmen 


The Bushmen {continued) 


The Extreme West 


The Extreme West {continued) 


The Fly River . . . . 


The Fly River {continued) . 


KiWAi Island . . . . 


KiWAi Island {continued) 


KiWAi Island {continued) 


The Girara Tribes 


The Girara Tribes {continued) 


The Bamu 


The Bamu {continued) . 



XIX. The Gama and the Tubama . . . 232 

XX, GOARIBARI ....... 243 

XXI. The Kikori Hinterland .... 255 

XXII. Property and Inheritance . . . 271 

XXIII. Development and Possibilities of the West 282 

XXIV. The Native, The Administration and Civil- 

isation ....... 292 

XXV. Religious Beliefs and Practices of the 

Kiwai-speaking Papuans . . . 300 


A GoARiBARi Type ..... 

Double Outrigger Kiwai Sailing Canoe 

A MoTUAN House Built in the Sea 

A Tree House ..... 

A TiRio Widow's Weeds 

Drum-Making ..... 

A North Coast Fisherman, Buna Bay 

Men Dressed up to Represent the Spirits of the 

Family Party on the Morehead . 

A Tabaram Girl with a Grass Petticoat 

Babiri Man from Near Dutch Boundary 

BiNA Village .... 

The Ravi or Club House 

A Long House of the Fly River 

Types ..... 

North Coast Women 

Fly River Archers 

Painful Shaving 

Orokaiva Girls Smoking 

A Fly River Long House, Kiwai 


Facing page 






Gaima Man Chewing Betel-Nut 

Bam0 River Archeb in Fttll Fighting Dress 

Woman Roasting Food, Kiwai 
A Bamu River " Kauwai " 
Cat's Cradle at Kiwai . 
Kaiva-Kuku from the Papuan Gulf 

Girara Woman with Fishing Pot . 
GiRARA Ceremonial Head Dress 
A House of the Eastern Division 

Facing page 







' A Description of the Girara District, Western Papua," Geo- 
graphical Journal, XLII, 1914, p. 407. 

' Some Notes on the Nomenclature of Western Papua," Man, 
XIV, 1914. No. 68. 

' Some Notes on the Eating of Human Flesh in the Western 
Division of Papua," Ibid. No. 74. 

' Notes on the Initiation Ceremonies of the Koko, Papua," 
(with E. W. P. Chinnery), Journal of the Royal Anthropo- 
logical Institute, XLV, 1915, p. 69. 

' A Further Note on the Use of the Wooden Trumpet in Papua," 
Man, XVI, 1916. No. 16. 

Unexplored New Guinea 


Stories of" New Guinea — The fascination of the country — ^Out-station 
life — Cookery — Stores — Papuans as servants— The native-built house 
— Furniture — Insect pests — Fever. 

NEW GUINEA has usually been looked upon as a 
land of mystery and a potential breeding-place of 
travellers' yarns. " Ex Africa semper aliquid novi " runs 
the phrase, but omit Africa and insert Papua and you may 
grasp the ideas expected of the country. It is not so many 
years ago — at the present day popular imagination is hazy 
enough as to where New Guinea really is — that the country 
was regarded as a place where, if a man escaped dying of 
fever within the first three weeks of his arrival, he was 
eaten by cannibals within the fourth. But quite apart 
from such ideas as to the unhealthiness of the country and 
the dietary fancies of its inhabitants, any story however 
weird ran an excellent risk of being believed. It has been 
said that when you are listening to stories of the sea you 
must either believe all you hear or none at all. If you are 
going to adopt the former course as to New Guinea, your 
credulity may be severely taxed. De Saavredra's Islas 
del Oro of the sixteenth century and the sometimes quaint 
descriptions of the old Portuguese and Spanish explorers 
are infinitely more truthful than the legends of tailed tribes, 
web-footed peoples, and villages of Amazons of modern 
days when the average tourist who spends three weeks in 
the neighbourhood of Port Moresby or Samarai goes back 
to the world with stories of cannibal feasts — there must be 

B J7 


something very alluring about the cannibal — and war 
dances that should, properly speaking, lift the hair from 
your head. 

There is, however, always something enticing about the 
unknown and the possibility of something new turning up, 
and I do not think that anyone, even the man who has 
spent years in the country, ever goes into a new district 
without some excitement of expectation. There is a 
mystery about Papua that seems to enhance its fascina- 
tion. What that fascination is and why there should be 
any at all, it is hard to say. It is a beautiful country, but 
a hard one to those whose lot it is to live in it. It exacts 
far more than it gives. Every one realises that the scenery 
is magnificent, but every one also realises that this scenery 
is about the worst in the world to have to tramp over. 
There is little or nothing of the lotus-eating life which the 
story-books tell us is the great charm of the South Pacific 
Islands and which spreads its coils round a man and brings 
him back time after time. Papua is a land of disappoint- 
ment, a land where nothing happens as you anticipate, 
where the Unexpected usually occurs and the Impossible 
is achieved. 

There are, of course, people who enjoy struggling 
through a sago or mangrove swamp, who are content 
with short rations, who revel in a stormy night at sea in 
a whaleboat with the rain pouring down, and the other 
attractions of Papua ; and there is an equal number of 
others who do not. There are few of us who have not 
cursed each in our own way the day when we first set foot 
in the country, but I fancy there are just as few who can 
tear themselves away from it. 

To the uninitiated I imagine Papua suggests a mixture of 
the usual tropical jungles, coconut palms, coral beaches 
and birds of paradise, an intense heat and painted head- 
hunters seeking whom they may devour. In reality I 
think the tropical jungle is conspicuous by its absence. 


Thick scrub or forest is the real not the ideal, and this 
in certain parts gives place to nipa or mangrove. You 
seldom see a bird of paradise, and if you did, I fancy you 
would hardly recognise it as the same bird whose feathers 
5'^ou see in shop windows. The burning heat is seldom 
a reality. In the low country you may get a damp, steamy 
climate, but in the mountains you are likely to find it 
considerably colder than you would think possible. 

Out-station life is to my mind in many respects far more 
comfortable than in the townships. You certainly do 
not get much, if any, social life, but one hardly notices 
that after a while, and when you do get a visitor, he is 
really appreciated. In the old days, at any rate. New 
Guinea hospitality was proverbial, and especially on the 
outlying stations or plantations. A man would be deeply 
offended if you did not stay with him at least a day. 
Everything was at your disposal, but it was and still 
is usual to bring your own bedding and your own " boy," 
although neither were necessities. Outside the townships 
you can nearly always get a good supply of fresh food. 
On the coast there are fish, crabs, oysters and turtle. The 
bush gives you goose, duck and pigeon ; wild pig, if 
sufficiently young, or the hindquarters of a wallaby are 
by no means to be despised. In almost every part of 
Papua it is quite possible to grow most European vege- 
tables. Radishes, cabbages, tomatoes and the like do very 
well, and it is usually a man's own fault if he goes v/ithout. 
As for fruit, at the worst there is always the banana. 
Many of the native varieties are good, but the best of all 
is a West Indian one imported many years ago and now 
spread all over the colony. The papaw and pineapple 
while not indigenous, are found everywhere now. I 
remember a rather amusing instance of native conservatism 
when I first introduced the former to some Main Range 
mountaineers. They were interested enough in the fruit 
in a mild way, but it was a new food and they were not 


trying experiments. la te some myself as a guarantee 
of good faith. Finally, after much persuasion one man, 
who, I suppose, must have been regarded by his mates as 
a dangerous reformer, was induced to try a piece. He 
took it gingerly enough at first, ate it thoughtfully and asked 
for more, and finally the hillmen went away home with 
some suckers for planting. Mangoes do very well, although 
they take a long time to come into bearing. But con- 
sidering the number of years that New Guinea has been 
settled, it is surprising how little interest has been taken 
by settlers or for that matter officials in planting out fruit 
trees, such as mangoes, oranges and mandarins. I am 
afraid each man looks on things too much in this light. 
He reckons he may only be stationed in such and such a 
place for a short time and it is not worth while bothering, 
never thinking of the man who will come after. It is 
quite a selfish idea. 

If one wants to keep healthy in Papua, too much 
importance cannot be paid to one's diet. I should imagine 
one of the principal reasons for the great improvement 
in the health of the colony in the last few years is that 
men have awakened to the fact that " pigging it " does not 
pay. Clean and comfortable quarters and the ownership 
of a tolerable cook mean a good deal. And nowadays 
the latter is not an impossibility. I do not know that the 
Papuan is naturally a chef, but he can be taught a certain 
amount of cookery if caught sufficiently young. Of one 
thing you may be certain : he will always take an interest 
in anything connected with eating. I was once travelling 
in the bush with a new boy who professed an elementary 
knowledge of cookery. One evening I shot a Torres 
Strait pigeon and handed it over to " cooky " with in- 
structions to make " one good fellow sitoo (stew) along 
billy can." The stew was concocted right enough, but 
everything went into the pot, beak, legs, feathers, nothing 
was forgotten. Another cook of mine had his imagination 


as regards puddings limited to three kinds, rice, sago and 
tapioca. We used to get rice, sago, and tapioca served up 
regularly and without variation. Healthy, no doubt but 
monotonous. A cookery book is useful enough but it 
usually is far above the ability and resources of a bachelor 
establishment. One is only too apt to find recipes like 
this, " Take two cups of cream, six eggs," etc. There is 
a need and a big sale guaranteed for a Mrs. Beeton that 
will tell you how to make reasonable dishes of possible 
materials and will set forth some method of disguising 
and serving up things out of tins. The ordering of stores 
is a very important question to the out-district resident, 
especially to those living or stationed in the far Out-Back, 
where calling boats are infrequent or all your stores have 
to go seventy miles up-country in fifty-pound loads on 
men's backs. It is usual to lay in a stock of at least three 
months' provisions and necessaries at a time, and it is 
only when you start to make up the list that you discover 
what a lot and what a variety of things are needed. All 
sorts of tinned stuff (in these modern days you can get 
almost anything put up in a tin from an apple pie to a 
curried fowl), flour, sugar, soap, all the hundred and one 
items must be thought of, for there is no shop just round 
the corner. But even at the best tinned food is rather 
an abomination. To me the ordinary tinned meats would 
taste alike were it not for the label, and having read it I 
suppose the imagination helps you to detect the difference 
between boiled mutton and corned beef. 

I was once sent down to a station in the Gulf of Papua 
as relieving officer for a month. Not being a new chum 
I took six weeks' stores. As it chanced I spent three 
months on that station before I was relieved, and for over 
a month I depended for my daily food on a few odds and 
ends left in the store and what my boy could catch in the 
bay or shoot in the bush. Communication with the 
nearest centre was at that time very infrequent and there 


was nothing to be bought or borrowed anywhere. If the 
boy came home without any fish or pigeons I had to hve 
a simple hfe on dry biscuit and black tea. On another 
occasion on the Ma,mba River, the district was served by 
a small oil launch which plied between Tamata and 
Samarai. There were some thirty or forty miners working 
on the goldfields with several hundred boys. Everyone 
was short of stores and all were anxiously awaiting the 
arrival of the Bulldog. Something happened to her, I 
forget what, but we saw no boat for weeks. The local 
store was out of everything except tinned sheeps' trotters. 
Sheeps' trotters once in a while are all very well and even 
enjoyable, but sheeps' trotters more or less three times 
a day become monotonous. Since that time I have never 
cared much for them. 

Cooks and house-boys are apt to have limited ideas on 
the subject of house - cleaning and general work. The 
house-boy will often consider he has done his duty nobly 
when he has carefully cleaned your room, but swept all 
the dust under the bed or somewhere out of sight, and he 
cannot always grasp why you have a prejudice against 
his wiping the cutlery on the edge of his sulu (loin cloth). 
I am afraid that the New Guinea habit of always wiping 
one's knife and fork on one's serviette is apt to stick when 
one gets to civilisation. I have often found myself half 
involuntarily commencing to do so. There are three 
almost infallible ways of detecting a man from New 
Guinea or the Islands, If he has a camphor-wood box 
with a lock that rings like a bell, if he wipes his knife and 
fork at table, and if he wolfs fresh butter, the chances are 
that he has spent some years in the Pacific. 

On the whole, however, the Papuan does not make a 
bad house or personal servant. If he himself is inclined 
to steal trifles or use your handkerchiefs and shirts in an 
unauthorised manner, as a rule he will not permit anyone 
else to do so. And he is just as likely to make up any 


deficiencies in your kitchen from somebody else's supply, 
so that things even themselves out. The spread of educa- 
tion and an increasing knowledge of reading and writing 
have certain disadvantages ; for instance, when your boy 
abstracts a blank form from your cheque-book and makes 
a clumsy attempt at forgery. Wages range from ten to 
about thirty shillings a month and all found. Once 
broken in to your ways he becomes handy enough, but 
even at his best cannot compare with a Chinese or Indian 
servant. But Papua is not bound by the same traditions 
as India, where it is necessary to have a special servant 
for almost every duty. The New Guinea boy has no 
objection to combining the duties of cooking, looking 
after the fowls (when he does not forget), feeding the dog, 
making your bed, and washing your clothes more or less 
badly according to ability. 

Most of the out-station Government bungalows at the 
present time consist of comfortable enough wood and iron 
constructions, but in the old days a man had to build his 
own station with the help of his police detachment, and 
his comfort varied very much according to his and their 
skill as builders and architects. The timber had to be 
cut in the bush and adzed down by hand. More often 
than not the supply of nails was insufficient and all sorts 
of make-shifts had to be adopted. A floor plate could 
just as easily be kept in place by a wooden peg and a 
joist or rafter tied with liana, native fashion. The roof 
was made of sago leaf or grass. There are many who wax 
enthusiastic over the native material house : it is certainly 
cool and comfortable. But the roof is a harbour for 
snakes and insects, the walls for " borers," and the floor, 
if made of palm, jumps under your feet as you walk 
across. A grass roof only lasts about eighteen months 
and you have to be continually shifting your bed round 
the room to dodge the rain until you have time to renew 
it. Still, after all, there is no West African jigger to bore 


into your feet, and you get accustomed to the nightly 
wanderings of the carpet snakes after rats and the little 
Gecko lizards dropping down on you unexpectedly. By 
the way, when thchc little chaps chirp away on the roof 
the natives say, " A friend or an enemy is coming this 
way," a fairly safe conclusion to draw about one's visitors. 
I have never worried much about looking for snakes in 
my boots, but it does give a shock to tread suddenly on 
one of the small green frogs looking for a temporary home 
somewhere. Bush life is very hard on clothes and boots, 
especially in the mountainous and wet districts. Boots 
grow a fine crop of mould in a few days, and unless Euro- 
pean kit is taken great care of it will be riddled with wet 
mould and " silverfish." The best way to keep kit is in 
an air-tight uniform case or the universal camphor-wood 
box, or, perhaps, best plan of all is not to bring your 
European clothes to New Guinea at all. 

As I have said, men are living in a much more comfort- 
able manner than they used to do. Government provides 
no furniture, except a few simple — very simple — office 
requisites. On the first station I was posted to, Kokoda, 
then newly opened, the whole establishment did not 
boast one chair and the office table showed plainly its 
origin as a meat case. The man who built the station, 
too, had with a touch of genius built the walls of the 
living house with sheets of bark. When the bark dried 
it contracted and left great spaces betM-een each sheet 
for all the admiring tribes to come and stare through. 
Still, if a man has a taste for carpentry he can make all 
sorts of things out of tobacco boxes and packing cases. 
A biscuit crate draped artistically with a yard or two of 
turkey red makes an excellent washstand, and a seventy- 
two-pound meat case quite a suitable set of bookshelves, 
always supposing that the cockroaches or borers have 
left you any books at all. At one station we used to be 
cursed with a plague of black-beetles which came out 


nightly and played havoc with any papers that happened 
to be lying about. At Daru every year about November 
a swarm of beetles descends on the settlement after dark 
and makes life a misery in the evenings. In many of the 
hill districts one is plagued with swarms of little native 
stingless bees which crawl all over one's hands and face. 
I have no space to describe the legions of flying ants which 
descend into one's lamps and put them out with a holo- 
caust of frizzling bodies, and the innumerable entomologi- 
cal specimens which help to add to the white man's burden. 
Leeches and various kinds of itch, scrub and dhobie, are 
among the products of the bush, and I do not know which 
is the worse, scrub or dhobie. The former causes the more 
exquisite irritation, but the latter lasts longer and is most 
difficult to get rid of. There are two or three kinds of 
ringworm, and altogether the skin parasites available to 
the resident in Papua ought to turn a dermatologist green 
with envy. 

Fever is the dread of the dweller in temperate climes, 
but personally I find it less troublesome than toothache. 
You can get rid of fever, but dentists in Papua are few 
and far between. The remedies for an aching tooth are, 
therefore, occasionally heroic. A red-hot wire jammed 
into the gum and a crystal of crude carbolic inserted into 
a raging stump were two of the remedies I have had sug- 
gested, and after all a sufficiency of quinine and three or 
four blankets ought to have some effect on the average 
dose of fever. 


Form of administration of a division— A district officer's work — TTie 
court for native matters — Papuan magistrates— The village constable 
— How he is appointed — The armed constabulary — Detective work in 
New Guinea — An Il.M.'s work in the district— Native ideas of truth — 
Interpreters and interpretation — Pidgin English. 

FOR the purpose of administration, Papua, that is to 
say, the British portion of the island embracing 
an area of over ninety thousand square miles, has been 
divided into ten divisions. The size of each division 
varies, some being larger than others, and the administra- 
tive boundaries have been fixed as far as possible in 
accordance with ethnological limits and the necessities 
and conveniences of government. The original number 
of divisions was three, with limits but loosely defined, 
as was only natural when little of the country except 
perhaps in the immediate vicinity of Port Moresby was 
known. The first five years of sovereignty brought a very 
fair working knowledge of the territory. Gradually the 
number of divisions increased, but they were always too 
large for actual efficient working with a very small staff, 
and the present tendency is towards an increase of divisions 
with a reduction in area. 

Each is under the charge of a Resident Magistrate. He 
is termed Resident Magistrate possibly because he is con- 
tinually travelling. He is the direct representative of 
the Government in his division and his powers and duties 
correspond very much with those of the District Com- 
missioner in East or West Africa or the Resident in 
Malaya or Borneo. Judicially he has no inherent power 
except such as is conferred by statute or rather in Papua 
by Ordinance. This statutory authority confers the full 



powers and jurisdiction in criminal matters such as are 
possessed by Police Magistrates in Australia or England, 
and in civil causes jurisdiction in matters up to £100. 
Thus he possesses the ordinary familiar powers of summary 
jurisdiction, and in cases of indictable offences commits 
when necessary for trial or sentence to the Central Court 
of the Territory. In criminal matters his power is not so 
great as in some of the Crown Colonies where the District 
or Provincial Commissioner has full judicial power of life 
and death subject to confirmation, I believe, by the Chief 
Justice. It has not been found necessary to confer such 
power in Papua. But the judicial power is but a small 
portion of the authority vested in the Resident Magis- 
trate. He possesses, as far as his division is concerned, 
as the representative of the Administration, a practically 
free executive authority in the first instance. This 
authority has never been actually defined and its limits 
are somewhat loose, but they can be fairly well summed 
up in the phrase, " maintenance of Law and Order." His 
duties are many and various. He is in charge of the 
district prisons : he carries out the public works of the 
division as far as possible (a man may be a very good 
magistrate but his education in regard to road making, 
bridge or wharf building may have been neglected). He 
collects the divisional revenue' and in fact carries on 
every department of government which has not a special 
representative of its own in the district. Most important 
is the power derived from the fact that the Resident 
Magistrate is also head of the constabulary of the division. 
This, of course, supplies the legal machinery for the up- 
holding of law and order. It has been questioned whether 
the combination of civil and police authority in the same 
person is advisable. In many colonies the constabulary 
duties are distinct from the purely administrative. In 
West and East Africa the police, both civil and military, 
are admmistered by a special department. But ne vert he- 


less the senior Civil Officer is supreme although the actual 
detail is carried out separately. So far as Papua is con- 
cerned the point seems to me to be almiost academic, 
and the system has worked and is working well as it 

It might almiost go without saying that the District 
Officer acts as Political Officer. He must learn the atti- 
tude of the numberless tribes towards the Government 
and towards each other. He must learn their peculiarities 
and must learn to deal with the thousand and one native 
matters that crop up, and as, naturally, a large proportion 
have never been settled by precedent or contemplated by 
law, he must learn to deal with them on their merits. 

The District Officer must have a working knowledge of 
surgery and medicine, infantry drill, surveying, building, 
and boat-sailing. Briefly, he should be prepared to turn 
his hands to most things and, I daresay, many an officer 
has often wished he could exchange a hazy recollection 
of Greek roots or " pious ^neas " for some really practical 
knowledge of carpentry or geology. A man must be pre- 
pared to spend weeks or months alone with savages ; he 
must be physically capable of keeping pace with his men 
on long rough marches and must be able to resist malaria 
and dysentery, and it is not always an easy matter to 
maintain discipline among the raw natives who may 
happen to be employed as labourers or carriers. 

In addition to the ordinary Courts of Petty Sessions 
such as have been m.entioned, there is in Papua the Court 
for Native Matters. The native, of course, is not exempted 
from the processes of the ordinary police courts, but the 
Native Court provides a simple and less formal means of 
procedure in matters entirely as between native and native 
and in certain purely native offences which are not dealt 
with by the ordinary law, for instance, the offences of 
adultery and sorcery. It has both the civil and criminal 
sides and perhaps by a stretch of imagination might include 


a matrimonial causes jurisdiction, for applications for 
official recognition of divorce or rather " throwing away " 
a wife are by no means rare. The civil claims cover a large 
variety of matters. For example it may be noted that 
So-and-so was ordered to pay thirty-six sticks of tobacco, 
and customary New Guinea pay as the price of a wife 
which had been withheld and was sued for. 

The proceedings are informal enough. In the Western 
Division where most of my travelling was done on a sailing 
boat, I used to hear cases on board. The cabin of a twenty- 
ton ketch is not over large and there was just about room 
for myself, the prisoner, and the interpreter, with a police- 
man half-way up the ladder and a ring of w itnesses looking 
down through the skylights. To enjoy Papua thoroughly 
one wants a keen sense of humour. 

The Native Court is presided over by a magistrate who 
is usually either the Resident or Assistant Resident 
Magistrate of the division. When the Court was first 
set up it was thought that the Papuan could be trained 
to act as a magistrate himself, and several native magis- 
trates were actually appointed in the Western Division. 
Some of the men proved capable. Unfortunately nearly 
all of them succumbed to that stumbling-block of the 
official Papuan, blackmail, or extortion, or pay-back. 
The last holder of the office, Gamea, the chief of Mawatta, 
was degraded for incontinence or some such cause to the 
position of village constable. A few years ago he retired 
into private life owing to his habit of holding " Court," 
fining his prisoners (?) and pocketing the proceeds. As 
a matter of fact the system of a native judiciary seems 
to have proved very successful among the Torres Straits 
Islanders. On each island there is a Government Chief 
and Council of men of good character empowered to deal 
with the domestic and internal affairs of the tribe, but their 
powers of punishment are strictly limited. The Islanders 
take their Council very seriously. Where a tribe has 


sufficient strength of character, I personally am rather 
inclined to think that a certain measure of self-government 
on lines such as exist in Torres Straits is not midesirable. 
The probability is tliat the appointment of Papuan native 
magistrates was far too early. Where they held office, the 
people had barely come under Government knowledge, 
to say nothing of control. With careful supervision and 
very limited powers the experiment might not be so 
unfortunate at the present day. 

In the division, as far as the European population is 
concerned, the chain of administration is complete. It may 
happen that the division la split into districts under the 
charge of assistants. Their judicial authority on the 
Bench is the same as that of the Resident Magistrate, but 
executively, of course, they are subordinate to him. Thus 
there is the Patrol Officer who is subordinate to the 
Assistant, while both of them take their orders from the 
Resident Magistrate, who in his turn is responsible to the 
Lieutenant-Governor through the Government Secretary. 
But as between the district officers and the natives there 
is a link wanting. This link is supplied by the village 
constable or V.C. Unlike most native countries, there 
is not in Papua a village head-man or any one person who 
could be regarded as responsible for his tribe or village. 
It is true that throughout the country there are tribal 
chiefs, but in most cases their authority counts for little 
or is obeyed in special cases only. The war chief may 
lead in time of war or the ceremonial chief at the time of 
festivals, but there is no person whose authority is im- 
plicitly obeyed in all circumstances. The government of 
a tribe, at least in the West, was carried on by a sort of 
council of old men who yarned over and came to some 
conclusion about knotty points, but it had no executive. 
Some individual was necessary to be the m.outhpiece of 
the R.M., that is, of the Government, in each village. 
There being no one actually paramount in native life, 


some one had to be made so and invested with all the 
prestige that could be given by that vague, semi-benevolent, 
semi-malignant being called " Guvmint." 

Li the West, where a chief has a little power, an actual 
Mamoose was as far as possible selected. This word 
Mamoose, by the way, which has passed into general use 
throughout Western New Guinea, is not a Papuan rank 
or word at all. It was imported from Torres Straits, and 
even there was originally a proper name which became 
applied to a number of individuals. It meant, I believe, 
" red hair." If the chief was a strong, capable man, so 
much the better, but the honour was conferred upon any 
individual possessing the necessary qualifications. The 
village constable is naturally supposed to have some 
knowledge of our ideas of right and wrong, to preserve the 
King's peace and to bring evildoers before the magistrate. 
Years ago it was naturally difficult for raw savages to 
grasp these facts. Most of the early village policemen 
were appointed from those who, when the pacification of 
the country was in its first stages, had served a term in 
prison for some such crime as murder. As a matter of 
fact this did not imply in those days any great disgrace 
or criminality. These " murderers " for the most part 
had been leaders in tribal battles and were, therefore, the 
most intelligent, courageous or .dominant men of their 
clan. During their stay in prison — and at the time I can 
conceive no better training for an ambitious Papuan than 
two or three years' imprisonment — these men were able 
to get some idea of the Government and of civilisation. 
On their return to their villages many of them were well 
qualified to be appointed village constables with a blue 
serge uniform and a salary of ten shillings or a pound a 
year paid half-yearly in trade goods. 

As time went on this village constable service has 
developed until it now numbers several hundred men, and 
on the whole works remarkably well. Perhaps in years 


past appointments were occasionally a trifle haphazard, 
but the claims of candidates are very strictly examined 
nowadays and a sentence of imprisonment is by no means 
regarded as the best recom^mendation for a Government 

With a good V.C. service a magistrate, as some one has 
remarked, has his hand on the pulse of his district. He 
knows or should know everything that is going on. And 
with a bad or inefficient roll, matters are apt to get very 
slack indeed. As I have said, in the main the men carry 
out their duties remarkably well, but it is only to be ex- 
pected that there will be occasional lapses from grace. 
After all a village constable is but human and a blue 
uniform, does not put the wearer above all earthly tempta- 
tion. At one time both handcuffs and keys were issued. 
The power of " making fast " for an offence is all very well, 
but when it is combined with the power also of " making 
loose " there are possibilities of trouble, and more than one 
village constable has had to retire into private life for 
using his official position to secure pigs and other wealth. 
Handcuff keys are no longer issued, and when anyone is 
arrested he simply has to be brought before the magis- 
trate. Some offenders, I fear, must have a pretty rough 
time dragged for days over the mountains or through 
swamps or travelling in all sorts of weather on long canoe 
journeys, but I have sometimes had a shrewd suspicion 
that handcuffs are put on about two hundred yards from 
the Court House. 

Where possible it seems to me advantageous in ordinary 
matters to utilise the village police in preference to the 
constabulary. An arrest by one of the former, himself 
one of the people, creates but little interference in the 
ordinary village life, and, as you may be tolerably sure the 
matter has been well talked over beforehand, it probably 
has the assent of the community, whereas a sudden 
irruption of armed men may often leave behind a feelhig 


of disturbance. And apart from that, the fact that the 
village police, not the constabulary, are making necessary 
arrests is a fairly good proof that the district is law- 

It is considered that one wife is ample for a village con- 
stable as for other servants of the Crown. I suppose this 
rule is regarded as another strange fad oFthe Government, 
like its objections to man-eating and other inexplicable 
vagaries. Possibly it is at times regarded as a hardship 
by the V.C. who, a Papuan, belongs to a country where 
a man's social importance is often gauged by the number 
of his wives ; that is to say, wives must mean wealth and 
wives mean larger gardens and- more food. I fear many 
a V.C. must be torn between Love and Ambition, between 
acquiring a second wife and resignation, and I fancy more 
than one have cast the die and plunged into an orgy of 

The village constable is allowed but one suit of uniform 
a year, and necessarily it must be taken great care of. 
For the greater part of the time it is put away in his house 
only to be donned for official occasions, such as an arrest. 
Indeed I would not be sure that a V.C. would consider 
he was acting quite legally unless he was in full uniform. 
I know I have unexpectedly arrived in a village and found 
him as naked and as painted as his fellows but he declined 
to discuss official business until duly arrayed. I recollect 
the case of an officer looking for some track or other and 
meeting the local poHceman. He flatly refused to put him 
on the road until he had gone to his village and returned 
with his clothes under his arm. I suppose one should not 
discourage this respect for the uniform, although it is 
somewhat trying at times. 

There have been very few instances that I can recall 
where a V.C. has proved disloyal or broken out in open 
revolt. Once in a Bamu River village the local policeman 

in full kit was shot at the head of his tribe while m the act 


of loosing an arrow at the constabulary. In another 
case, also in the Bamu, the V.C. joined his tribe in taking 
up arms, but first he carefully laid out on his verandah 
his clothes and handcuffs, a sign, I suppose, that hereby 
he renounced the Government and all its ways. A good 
many years ago in the Northern Division, a prominent 
chief and village constable, named Ambushi, endeavoured 
to carry out his duties and dispose of his enemies at the 
same timic. I am not quite sure how many proved murders 
were placed to his credit, but he was duly convicted and 
hanged from a coconut tree in the middle of his village. 

The only armed force a district officer has to support 
his authority is his detachment of armed constabulary. 
During the early days of the Protectorate there existed 
no means at all of enforcing the orders of the Administra- 
tion or even of defence. Men-of-war at rare intervals 
patrolled the coast, but man-of-war punishment was 
never satisfactory in New Guinea. The first Commissioner 
for the Protectorate recognised this, and suggested the 
formation of a small force of Samoans or other South Sea 
Islanders under a British officer as a police force. 

To police Papua with Papuans was regarded as altogether 
too risky. In 1890 two Fijian N.C.O.'s and twelve Solomon 
Islanders were sent to New Guinea and formed the nucleus 
of the constabulary. A little later a few Papuans were 
added, all from Mawatta and the villages of Kiwai Island 
in the West. There are now none but Papuans in the 
force and a few of the origmal Kiwai recruits still remain. 
The employment of Papuans has been amply justified by 
its success, and it is doubtful whether any Force more 
suitable to the country could have been devised. The 
service is distinctly popular, for I imagine a uniform is an 
attraction all the world over, and the work is just suited 
to the best fighting tribes. The Kiwai-speaking men, I 
suppose, supply the brains of the Force and certainly 
make the best non-coms., but the Binandeli men from 


the northern districts, while not so intelHgent and with 
less force of character, supply material that will go any- 
where and do anything with unquestioning obedience. 
Cheerful under severe physical hardship and capable of 
great endurance, the Force has done work that will com- 
pare with that of any other native police. These " Savages 
in Serge," as a critic has termed them, may be rightly called 
the Handy Men of Papua. One cannot imagine a wider 
field than their duties embrace : it is just as wide and as 
varied as that of their officers, and that is saying a good 

There is very little of the policeman, as we understand 
him, about one of the constabulary. It is on the military 
side that he shines. For detective purposes he is a hope- 
less failure. Indeed there is very little detective work at 
all about a Papuan crime. Suppose it is a murder. The 
first thing to be done is to go somewhere near where the 
crime has been committed, for the chances are that the 
first story you have heard will not be correct. You ask 
the people of the village who killed So-and-so or what 
tribe has murdered the men of such-and-such a village. 
You may be told that the people of a certain tribe are a 
bad lot, and that they probably did it. The whole thing- 
is hearsay, so you go on somewhere else and go through 
the same performance again. Gradually you narrow 
things down to something definite and the next proceeding 
is to try and arrest the culprits, and it is at this point that 
the constabulary step in. 

The name Resident Magistrate no doubt summons up 
visions of a somewhat dingy room with a more or less 
benevolent-looking gentleman sitting in a raised comfort- 
able arm-chair. Around him are policemen, solicitors, and 
officials of various degrees with all the accompaniments 
of justice in the making. It is a far cry from Bow Street 
to Papua. I have heard a Court described as a place 
where justice is " dispensed with," but perhaps some more 


civilised country than Papua was referred to. The head- 
quarters of the R.M. are, of course, at some fixed station 
where his office and records are, but in the main his real 
work lies out in his district among the people. An ofiicer 
starts off for a tour — patrol or walk-about as we say in 
Papua— lasting perhaps for weeks, travelling from village 
to village, hearing complaints, settUng troubles and 
generally dealing with matters on the spot. Villages must 
be kept clean, roads clear, houses in repair, and coconuts 
planted. An ounce of personal inspection is worth a ton 
of V.C.'s reports, for a native's ideas of what is a state 
of cleanliness seldom correspond with yours. This going 
on tour, patrol, walk-about or whatever you like to call it, 
forms part of the accepted life of the district officer. It 
lasts for weeks, sometimes for months : it all depends 
where you are going and what you are going to do. " Walk- 
about " comprises yourself and your party, food, kit, 
camp gear, police, and especially carriers. If you are not 
traveUing by whaleboat or by saiUng ketch, the carrier 
is the important factor in your outfit, and you must 
remember that his load is Umited to about fifty pounds and 
that he eats his own load in about three weeks, so that if 
you cannot live on the country your travels may be cir- 
cumscribed. Sometimes your carriers happen to be the 
rawest of crude savages, barely reclaimed cannibals, or 
head-hunters in esse, but everyone is keen on trying to 
secure the smallest load for himself or themselves, as in 
many districts it is customary to carry a double load on 
a pole between two men just as a pig or a victim was 
carried home to the ovens after a raid. A case of ammuni- 
tion looks light and there is usually a rush for it : the 
look of disgust at its real weight is often funny enough. 

I have generally found the people taking more than a 
little interest in the proceedings of the court. Of course 
I do not suppose that one ever gets to know actually all 
that is going on in the village. You get told just about 


as much as you are wanted to know. You sit down in a 
chair, if you have one, in the shade, the villagers squat 
around, and a few of the constabulary stand by to add 
dignity and to interpret. Some of the matters brought 
before you are clear enough ; more often they are not, 
with their eternal admixtures of pigs and women. Fanciful 
beliefs about sorcery floating through a witness's brain do 
not help to clear the point at issue. It is often difficult 
enough, well nigh impossible, to follow the chain of native 
reasoning that prompts so many actions. A man of 
Kiwai once went away to work, leaving his wife in charge 
of his father. During his absence the woman died and 
when the husband returned he was stricken with grief. 
He accused his father of not having taken good care of 
her and in his anger violently raped the first woman he 
met in the bush. Anger and grief were the only reasons 
he could give for the crime. Disputes about land often 
make your head reel with strings of interminable descents, 
and marriages and intermarriages and claims for part pay- 
ments on canoes are simply labyrinthine in their ramifica- 
tions. A credit system in the canoe trade exists in some 
parts of the West, and the man who has to unravel a claim 
of this sort is not to be envied. Sometimes the problems 
are human enough. A native once came up to me with 
trouble on his mind. He remarked. that he had heard that 
it was forbidden to steal another man's wife and also that 
his neighbour's wife was continually making advances 
to him. " What was he to do about it ? " I trust I gave 
the best advice under the circumstances. 

I think usually the truthfulness of a native varies in 
inverse ratio to his state of civilisation. It seems a sad 
comment on the results of our contact with the native, 
but the fact remains that a " bushman " is only too ready 
to tell you all about the murder he may have committed, 
while the knowing one will say with his acquired know- 
ledge, " Prove it, no one saw me." I remember one case 


in the Fly River where a back-country man gave himself 
up for a head he had never taken. Why he did so I could 
never fathom unless perhaps it was a case of " restraint in 
anticipation." When I say the bushman is generally 
truthful, I mean that he has a decided tendency to state 
what he imagines you would like him to say, not from any 
idea of telling falsehoods but simply as a matter of pure 
\^dllingness to oblige. Some witnesses may be voluble 
enough, but at other times you run up against that blank 
wall of " Don't know " or stony silence that seems im- 
possible to break down and I suppose is common to all 
native races. 

Interpretation is among one of the greatest bugbears of 
the district officer. New Guinea is notoriously a Babel, 
and to combat this appalling multiplicity of tongues — I 
have found three distinct languages within a two-mile 
radius of a station — the Administration has wisely 
encouraged the use of English among the natives, but no 
man can really enter into native ideas or understand the 
native, in other words, think black, until he can talk with 
them in their own tongue. A man might advantageously 
make an effort to learn the principal language of his dis- 
trict, for I think almost everywhere there will be found 
one leading dialect that will be at least understood over 
a fairly large area, such as Kiwai in the West or Binandele 
in the North. 

It is both annoying and disheartening to hear a man 
talking freely to your interpreter, and you can tell by his 
manner and his gestures that he is saying something of 
the deepest interest, only to find the latter put the whole 
thing to you in half a dozen words. 

Of course there are times when one interpreter will not 
suffice and you have to filter what you want to say through 
two or three or even four. One might be pardoned for 
sometimes being sceptical in such cases as to what really 
does reach the person addressed, granting the bona fides 


of the interpreters ; one can only hope for the best. Still, 
cases of more than two are not common. Occasionally 
it happens that you can find no one at all to act with even 
tolerable fluency, and the only way out of the difficulty 
is to secure some one from the tribe you want to communi- 
cate with and keep him on the station until he can learn 
a language that is known. This does not take a great while, 
for Papuans as a rule are good linguists. I recollect some 
years ago in the North of Papua a certain small tribe had 
given the police an immensity of trouble. A couple of 
men were eventually captured, but we could discover no 
one who could talk with them and it was decided to keep 
them for a while in the hope that they would pick up a 
little of some known dialect. The experiment was not 
quite successful in this case for the men began to refuse 
food and pine away, and eventually it was discovered that 
they thought they were being kept to be killed and eaten. 

For a long while in the West communication with the 
districts westward of the Paho was almost hopelessly 
difficult. The languages were entirely different from the 
Kiwai types and no one could understand them. At last 
a small boy, a survivor of one of the Morehead tribes, was 
brought to Daru, and after his return to his own district 
he proved for many years almost the sole medium of 

As a rule when you are speaking to your interpreters 
or police it is as well to put your remarks in the simplest 
" pidgin " you can. I remember a brother officer instruct- 
ing a corporal of police " to proceed immediately to the 
scene of the affray, make enquiry into the disturbance and 
arrest the principal aggressors." It is not difficult to 
sympathise with the consequent bewilderment of a native 
whose educational opportunities had after all been rather 


The Spanish and Portuguese discoveries of the north-west coast— The 
Dutch explorations to the south-west — The voyage of Captain Bligh 
through Torres Straits and his annexation of New Guinea— The voyages 
of Captains Bampton and Alt and their annexation of NeAv Guinea — 
The claims of the Dutch to Western New Guinea — The "Western Divi- 
sion of Papua —The Cinderella of Papua — The peoples of New Guinea 
— The Papuans of the West. 

HUNDREDS of years ago the country which is called 
New Guinea was shaded black on the map and 
called the Islands of the Bad People. The earliest accounts 
of the discovery of the island are conflicting, but there is 
no doubt that the islands to the west and north-west 
were known to the Spaniards and Portuguese. Both 
nations were rivals for the possession of the Moluccas or 
Spice Islands, and it was this rivalry which brought about 
the eventual discovery of New Guinea. The Portuguese 
route was via the Cape ; the Spanish across the Pacific 
from Mexico and Peru. 

As early as the commencement of the sixteenth century 
the name Papoia occurred on a map, in all probability 
referring to the Island of Jilolo. A Portuguese, Aiitonio 
d'Abreu, sighted what is believed to be the New Guinea 
coast in 1511, but Don Jorge de Meneses, another Portu- 
guese, is generally credited with having been the first 
actual discoverer of the island. The Portuguese had 
hitherto been well to the front. But Spanish venture had 
sailed from Corunna in 1525, and in the folloAving year 
tnree ships under the command of Alvaro de Saavedra 
were ordered from Mexico in search of the missing expe- 
dition. Saavedra sailed twice along the northern shores 
of New Guinea, which he named Isla del Oro, or Island 



of Gold, for he had found traces of the precious metal all 
along the coast. 

At the end of 1536 another Spanish expedition was sent 
from Mexico to Peru. After landing troops there Grijalva, 
the commander of the squadron, sailed across the Pacific 
and cruised for some time about the northern shores of 
New Guinea. Grijalva was murdered by a mutinous 
crew, but not before he had discovered in what is now 
known as Geelvinck Bay an island which he named Isla 
de los Crespos, or Island of the Frizzly Heads. The ship 
was wrecked on the New Guinea coast and the survivors, 
who had been taken prisoners by the natives, were rescued 
by the Portuguese. In the accounts of the remnants of 
the expedition who returned to the Moluccas is set forth 
the name which is now given to the British portion of 
the island, " The people on all these islands are black and 
have their hair frizzled whom the people of Maluco do call 

In 1545 Ynigo de Retes, in command of the Spanish 
ship, San Juan, commenced a cruise round the north-west 
of New Guinea. Continuing on his way he reached the 
northern shores of Queensland under the idea that he was 
still sailing along a part of the same island. Actually it 
was to Northern Queensland that he applied the name of 
Nova Guinea, which first appeared on Mercator's map of 
1569. Torres does not seem to have touched the western 
portion of the island. 

The Dutch now began to take a hand in the New Guinea 
world and very little more is heard of Spanish or Portuguese 
discovery. It was the Dutch explorers who first came 
closest to the mainland of British territory. In 1605 
Wilhelm Jansz sailed from Banda in the tiny j^acht, 
Duyfken, and came as far south along the mainland as 
Cape Turnagain. He described the natives of these parts 
as " wild, cruel, black savages." In 1623 Le Maire and 
Schouten sailed round the north coast and discovered 


New Ireland, where it is on record that they bought pigs 
from the natives for beads. 

The next Dutch expedition of importance was that of 
Jan Carstenz in the Pera and Arnhcm. It was he who first 
sighted from the sea the great Snow range of Dutch New 
Guinea. , Unfortunately coming into conflict with the 
mainland natives he was killed, a fate that was shared 
by Thomas Pool, who commanded two ships, the Klyn 
Amsterdam and Wasel. After visiting the Ke and Aru 
Islands, Pool had sailed soutli where he was killed. 

The evil reputation of both the mainland and of the reef- 
studded waters of the south-west coast prevented much 
exploration for some years. In 1644 Tasman was de- 
spatched to ascertain whether there was any passage 
between New Guinea and the large " South Land." He 
followed down the south-west coast about as far as the 
mouth of the Merau River, and this was the nearest 
approach that seems to have been made to our own terri- 
tory. At any rate I have been unable to trace any record 
of exploration by either Dutch, Spanish or Portuguese 
into the west end of Papua. 

Just as the Dutch had ousted the Spanish and Portu- 
guese, so the British now ousted the former in their 
exploring. Dampier, who rounded the north and east 
coasts, was followed in 1770 by Captain Cook, who landed 
in Dutch New Guinea, but did not meet with an en- 
couraging reception from the natives. 

In 1793 the East India Company, anxious to extend 
their trade, hoisted their flag on the north-west coast, and 
the settlement was occupied for some time by British 

A year earlier Captain Bligh (of the Bounty), in a King's 
ship called the Providence, sailed past Darnley Island in 
Torres Straits and had free communication with the 
natives. Bligh noted that their canoes possessed mat 
sails and two outriggers. Passing through Torres Straits 


the nearest land was the north-westernmost of three small 
islands, and to this the second lieutenant was sent for 
the purpose of taking possession of all islands seen in the 
Straits for His Britannic Majesty Iving George III with 
the ceremonies usual on such occasions. The name 
bestowed upon the whole was the Clarence Archipelago. 
Thus was the west end of British New Guinea inferentially 
taken possession of by England. 

In 1793 two East India Company ships, under Cap- 
tains Bampton and Alt, set out from Norfolk Island and 
their passage through Torres Straits is well described by 
Mathew Flinders. Apparently they sighted the British 
New Guinea coast somewhere off the estuary of the Fly 
River. The great shallows off the mouth of the river were 
noted and the wanderings of the two ships among the 
reefs, banks and breakers can only be properly appreciated 
by those who know this dangerous coast. Bampton gave 
his name to the large island lying to the south of the Fly 
Estuary. Both ships cruised in company through the 
shallows as far as 9° south, and then Bampton went east 
along the Gulf of Papua in the hope of finding a passage 
to the northward between the mainland and the Louisiades. 
He was well in the head of the Papuan Gulf, but gave up 
the task in despair and turned west again in latitude 8° 3" 
longitude 145° 23". The westwa^-d voyage was continued. 
On July 10th forty-four men, under Mr. Dell, were landed 
at Darnley Island and hoisting the flag " took possession 
of this and the neighbouring islands and the coast of New 
Guinea in the name of His Majesty." 

Bampton' s annexation was sufficiently vague, but it 
was infinitely more definite than that of Bligh. Both 
appear to have been ignored, and it was not until nearly 
a hundred years later that any serious attempt was made 
to carry out an annexation in fact instead of in theory only, 
if we except the abortive settlements in the north-west. 
None of these attempts were upheld by the Imperial 


Government, and, in fact, the actual annexation was 
forced upon it, but the facts and history of the declaration 
of sovereignty are too well known to need repetition. 

The Dutch Government based its claims to Western 
New Guinea as the suzerain of the Sultan of Tidor, on the 
right of discovery and. of constant trade. In 1828 they 
formally took possession by opening a station at Triton 
Bay, and later they extended their jurisdiction over the 
portion of the island west of a line drawn from north to 
south along the 141st meridian. 

The outline I have given of the early exploration of New 
Guinea is chiefly confined to the western side of the island, 
as that is more closely connected with the west end of 
British New Guinea or Papua. No one with the exception 
of Tasman ever seems to have approached the British 
coast until the English navigators themselves did so. The 
first really definite knowledge of the west end was obtained 
by Captain Blackwood during the surveying trip of H.M.S. 
Fly, but I am inclined to think there must have been 
more than one castaway ship on this coast of which no 
record has been left. Torres Straits is studded with such 
wrecks, and it is more than possible that vessels have been 
driven by weather into the Papuan Gulf. That adminis- 
trative portion of Papua known as the Western Division 
embraces the country lying between the Dutch Boundary 
and the western mouth of the Purari. This area is a huge 
one and it is hardly necessary to say that the greater part 
of it still remains a terra incognita. In fact, not much 
more than the merest fringe of it has been explored and 
charted. The boundaries of this unwieldy division have 
within the last two years been considerably amended by 
the creation of a new division which covers the country 
between the western banks of the Turama and Purari 
Rivers, reducing what is now the Western Division to 
a more manageable but still almost hopelessly large area. 

Containing as it does a large number of important river 


systems it seems to me that a description of each in turn 
would form the most convenient means of giving some 
account of the native population and of the districts 
themselves. And as it happens this grouping is, to as great 
an extent as can be expected in so large an area, almost 
ethnologically correct. Native tribes are seldom arbi- 
trarily bound by mere parallels of latitude. 

For many years and for many reasons the West has been 
neglected and at the same time regarded with an almost 
mysterious awe. The division is unattractive as com- 
pared with the fertile and pleasing aspect of the east end 
of the territory. The difficulties of inland travel, bad as 
they are in any part of Papua, are infinitely worse, due for 
the most part to the swampy nature of the low-lying coast 
and hinterland. Added to which the natives possessed a 
reputation for ferocity which, while in many cases it 
was not ill-deserved, was and is not actually worse than 
that of the other inhabitants of Papua. Be that as it 
may, if Papua was spoken of as the Cinderella of the 
Commonwealth, or as I saw it described in a cartoon in the 
Sydney Bulletin, " Nobody's Cliild," the Western Division 
has long been regarded as the Cinderella of Papua. 

The primitive races, according to Dr. Haddon, inhabiting 
New Guinea appear to have been black, woolly-haired, 
people who are represented in the New Guinea pygmies, the 
now extinct Tasmanians, the Papuans proper, and the 
ground stock of the Melanesians. The Papuans proper are 
a black, frizzly-haired race of medium height and narrow- 
headed with an arched and prominent nose. At a later 
period, a composite people, now called Proto-PoijTiesians, 
migrated to the Western Pacific and mixed with the black 
folk of the islands. The results of this triple fusion are 
termed Melanesians. 

At some period successive migrations of Melanesians 
took possession of the south and south-east coast of 
Papua, mixing to some extent with an original Papuan 


population. Thus there are broadly speaking in Papua 
two peoples, scientifically referred to as Papuans and 
Papuo-Melanesians, while the whole of the native races 
are called Papuasians. 

It is hazardous for the layman to venture any theories 
as to the racial origin of the tribes of New Guinea, but 
as far as the natives of Western Papua are concerned 
it may be, I think, safely asserted that they are not 
Melanesians, that is to say, that they are Papuans. Mr. 
Sidney Ray classes all the languages from the Fly to the 
Aird (on the coast, that is) as Papuan. There has been, 
so far, little or no material upon which to base conclusions 
concerning the far interior of the hinterland ; but, as far 
as my own observation goes and it is that of a layman 
only, I have seen nothing that would lead me to believe 
that the inland tribes are any but Papuan. A light colour 
is no criterion of race, although it is supposed to be one 
of the hall-marks of the Melanesian. D'Albertis, writing 
of the people on the head of the Fly, held the view that it 
was a meeting-place of two distinct races, but there does 
not appear to be any reason to doubt that the whole 
western population is autochthonous. As a matter of fact, 
apart from the critical tests of language and physical 
measurements, it seems to me to be an extremely difficult 
matter to say which are Papuan and which are not. One 
may, of course, take into account the existence of certain 
cultures as evidence for one view or the other. For in- 
stance, the Long House with its accompaniment of secret 
ceremonies, separation of the sexes in its peculiarly 
western form, and in some cases its original intimate con- 
nection with warfare, is a tolerably sure test of the Papuan. 
I might say that the Long House is by no means confined 
to Western Papua, but exists in varied forms in other parts 
of the territory. Thus the tribes of the Upper Kumusi 
Valley use a fairly long communal dwelling. The tribes of 
the Upper Waria have houses set apart for the men in 


a ceremonial manner ; and there is, I believe, no reason 
to doubt that all these people are Papuans. The use of 
the bow as a weapon seems to be confined to Papuan 
tribes, but I do not think that this can be regarded as a 
sure test. 


Daru Island— The aboriginal owners of Daru— The Hiamu — The abode of 
spirits— The devil stones— The devils in the fig tree— Waimee— Daru 
township — Daru prison — Sport near Daru — The ketch Juanita — 
The village of Parama— The seventeen spinsters— Fishing habits— 
Turtling— The use of the sucker fish — Parama cemetery— The old 

LYING opposite the mouth of the Oriomo River and 
separated from the mainland by a narrow channel 
only a mile or so in width lies the island of Daru or Yaru, 
now the headquarters of the division. Before 1888 the 
district between the very loose limits of the Dutch 
Boundary and the Aird River was occasionally visited 
by the Government residents of Thursday Island, Mr. 
John Douglas and Mr. H. Milman, who held appoint- 
ments as Government Agents for New Guinea. The first 
actual post in the West was established at Mabuduauan 
by Mr. Cameron, who was appointed the Resident Magis- 
trate for the Western Division, but the superior advantages 
of Daru as a commanding centre became evident and a 
transfer was made here by Mr. Hely, who had succeeded 
Mr. Cameron in his office. 

Daru itself embraces an area of about two or three 
thousand acres fringed all round by a deep belt of man- 
grove. The roadstead carries a fair depth of water and 
offers a good anchorage, which, however, is far better in 
the south-east than in the north-west season. During the 
latter heavy squalls sweep up the coast with great sudden- 
ness and whip the harbour into a heavy sea. I was coming 
up from Mawatta on one occasion in the whaleboat. 
Thick black clouds commenced to gather rapidly and a 
" guba " was plainly evident. We had just time to 
down all sail except the jib and reach Daru Point when 


A Tkee HorsE 
These houses are used for oliseivation. 


DARU 49 

it burst. I could never have imagined a whaleboat 
could travel at such speed, and I had about half the crew 
hanging on to the mast to keep both it and the jib from 
disappearing altogether. 

Sir William MacGregor on his first visit does not appear 
to have held a very high opinion of the island, deceived 
in all probability by the mangrove belt. Really, however, 
there is quite a large extent of good dry land and a smaller 
area of agricultural coimtry. Along the eastern sides the 
ground rises up into several high banks and a broad 
ridge some forty feet high runs from one of these banks 
across the island for some distance. I believe the general 
formation is sandstone, but the surface is mixed with 
large quantities of pebbly ironstone. A form of lignite 
has been discovered, of no value however. Most of the 
island is covered with a light forest of ti trees, which is 
excellent for some forms of building and seems to resist 
the white ant. 

For years before the Administration had made any 
settlement in the West, indeed before the time of the 
Protectorate at all, Daru had been used as a harbour and 
wood and water depot by pearling and bcche-de-mer 
boats working in the Straits. One or two Europeans 
settled or had fishing stations there, and a firm of cedar 
getters, Messrs. Williams and Tait, made it their head- 
quarters. The Tait River (the Oriomo) received its name 
from the latter gentleman. A few Polynesians were also 
settled ; one of them, Charlie Gora, received a block of 
the best land as a gift from some of the white men before 
they left the island. 

I do not think Daru ever had a large native population. 
A part of the Mawatta and Turituri emigration from Old 
Mawatta occupied the place for a few years during their 
journey westward, but they were harassed by raiding 
parties of the Kiwai tribes just as they had been in their 
old home. The aboriginal owners of Daru, the Hiamu, 


50 DARU 

were almost exterminated by raids of the same kind and 
the survivors journeyed to the islands of Torres Straits. 
A few people of composite origin, but mostly belonging 
to Turituri, were in occupation when the island first 
became known to Europeans and they claimed the country 
as theirs, for the Hiamu had faded away into almost a 

The chief Sisa voluntarily gave up to the Crown a large 
portion of the foreshore and planting land, but until a few 
years ago the major portion remained in native ownership. 
With the exception of a sufficiency of land for the few 
remaining people, I succeeded in acquiring for the Crown 
all the native rights. It appeared that almost all the owners 
were Mawatta or Turituri folk ; one woman who had 
married into the Yam Island tribe had to be brought from 
there to complete the transfer. From the native point 
of view Daru always had a very bad reputation. Even 
now the native settlement is only occupied for a few days 
at a time by the Turituri people who come up to make 
gardens or use it as a fishing centre. The Mawatta people 
seldom spend more than a day or so in the place. Daru 
v/as full of devils and spirits. The natives regarded the 
transfer of the station from Mabuduauan with great mis- 
givings and prophesied that the whole establishment 
would fall sick or become afflicted with boils and sores. 
The Mawatta tribe seriously proposed that one of them 
who was in the police should at once leave the Force. 
There were two large stones inhabited by two malignant 
spirits to whom the Daru people used to bring offerings 
of food and shell ornaments and were regarded with in- 
tense fear. Mr. Hely was successful in finding out where 
these stones were and broke them up and threw the frag- 
ments into the sea. It was believed that anyone inter- 
fering with the homes of these spirits would swell up and 
die and Mr. Hely noted in his journal that the Mawatta 
chief made a special visit to find out if all was well after 

DARU 51 

the destruction of the stones. The spirits, I believe, found 
another habitation on Daru. Fortunately, no sickness 
followed on the action taken by Mr. Hely and the situa- 
tion was regarded with more complacency. 

There are female " devils " who live in trees (they, I 
think, correspond to the " Dogai " of Torres Straits), and 
a number of them once inhabited a species of fig tree near 
the Residency. Such a tree should never be cut down. 
Only one man was found courageous enough to brave 
the devils in the matter of sawing off some branches. 
Constable Uria, who in the course of long service became 
sergeant. This particular fig tree, by the way, was al- 
together cut out some years ago. As nothing happened 
to Uria, the idea naturally got about that New Guinea 
devils had no power over the Government and Government 
people ; but this protection did not apply to outsiders, 
an idea more or less current throughout Papua. A police- 
man will only have a moderate belief in devils when in 
uniform, but when he returns to civilian life he is just as 
subject to ghostly interference. 

There is also a certain spot on Daru which is the abode 
of a man-devil, named Waime. He it was who first showed 
them, so the Mawatta people say, how to make and to use 
the Garara mask — half man, half fish — which is worn by 
the highest rank of initiates. 

Daru township is not a large one, a few stores and private 
dwellings ; the buildings of the London Missionary Society 
and the Government quarters and offices make up the 
whole. It was once considered an unhealthy fever nursery, 
and I have been told of the great swarm of mosquitoes 
that rendered life unendurable throughout the greater 
portion of the year, and how you had to keep sandal- 
wood burning all through the day and creep under the 
mosquito net at dusk. It still keeps up its reputation 
for mosquitoes, but the township area has been divided 
by roads and seamed with drains and health has greatly 

52 DARU 

improved in consequence. Much timber has been cut 
and this has probably affected the rainfall, for at any rate 
in my experience it is not nearly so heavy as the old 
records showed. The whole place is ablaze with crotons 
and hibiscus, the flower of the Kiwai, and to my mind 
Daru would almost be a beauty spot were it not for 
the wide foreshore which lies foul and black in a mass of 
mud at low water for a full quarter of a mile. Part of it 
is mud pure and simple ; in other parts the mud is mixed 
with sand and small shells and possesses some quality that 
binds it into a kind of friable sandstone. 

On Daru of course is situated the district prison. Partly 
owing to its long distance from Port Moresby and the 
East End, partly owing to the impossibility of escape, 
and partly because of the fact that it is a greater punish- 
ment for a native to be imprisoned in a district away from 
his own, a large number of long-sentence convicts serve 
their time here. For some reason or other it is an unpopular 
prison ; I think the East End men dislike mixing with 
the " black " men of the West (there are, I suppose, 
degrees of blackness). Owing to the great cheapness and 
ample supply of native foods such as sago and coconuts 
it has always been found possible to use them in place of 
imported rations. A ton of sago can be bought for not 
more than five pounds at the very outside and lasts a long 
while. In the East End sago is usually dried, but it is 
preferred wet in the West. Stored in a tank or wooden vat 
it is kept moist by a daily bucket of fresh water. Treated 
in this way sago will keep almost indefinitely, while if 
it is allowed to dry, it soon ferments. In the calm weather 
season both dugong and turtle are plentiful and figure in 
the menu. Turtle soup and steaks for convicts seem 
almost an extravagance, but when a large sized turtle 
can be purchased for the equivalent of about five shillings, 
the extravagance is more apparent than real. 

During North- West time there is a little sport in the 

DARU 53 

way of shooting and fishing, although it must be confessed 
that most people shoot purely for the pot, and I can 
hardly insinuate that the shooting " boy's " methods arc 
really sportsmanlike. He prefers a sitting to a moving 
shot and the nearer he can creep, the better he likes it. 
The water in the channel is at this time of the year fairly 
clear, and at times you can get a fairly good catch with a 
seine net. Now and again you can secure mullet or whiting 
or gar on the line, but the western waters are really too 
muddy to be good fishing grounds. I know I have trailed 
a tow line over almost every mile of the coast without 
ever having hooked a king fish which is common enough 
everywhere else. When the nights are calm and dark the 
natives go off to spear fish by torchlight and it is rather 
good sport in its way. If you go on the reefs, it is well to 
be careful of the stone fish, an ugly looking gentleman, a 
thrust from whose poisonous spines is dangerous. In these 
modern days the native uses a spear made of a number 
of small iron rods — this will account for mysterious losses 
of fencing wire — diverging outwards from the staff on which 
they are lashed. The canoe glides quietly across the shal- 
lows, the fisherman standing erect with a torch in one 
hand and a spear in the other. The light drops suddenly 
and the upraised arm darts forward. I have occasionally 
tried my hand but without much success. The fish always 
gets away. And I suppose it is even more difficult for a 
European to shoot fish with the bow, although the natives 
are particularly clever at it. 

In September and March there is very fair pigeon- 
shooting. If you get out on the reef in the evening at 
low water great flocks of Torres Straits and blue pigeons 
cross over from the mainland. There is in the Daru 
swamps a fine wood duck {Tadorna radjah) which settles 
on the trees, and along the beach there are occasional 
snipe and plover. Opposite Daru at Old Mawatta there 
is a big swamp where about November you can get goose 

54 DARU 

and plenty of wild pig, but Old Mawatta is such a mosquito- 
hunted spot that there is very little attraction to go there. 
It was once the home of the Mawatta people, but now is 
occasionally occupied by small camps of bushmen who 
come from the Oriomo and build temporary shelters on 
the beach, just mere kennels, while they make gardens. 

Everyone in the West must have a boat of some sort : 
there is no other way of getting about. For the Govern- 
ment work there were two ketches, both faithful craft, 
but the old Juanita was the veteran of the country. How 
old she was it is impossible to say, but she was old when 
over thirty years ago she was first brought to New Guinea 
with a cargo of miners going to one of the goldfields in 
the Louisiades. About six tons burden, she was bought 
by the Government, rebuilt and refitted at Nivani in the 
Archipelago. For many years she was used everywhere 
and anywhere until she at last found a permanent home 
at Daru. At first the R.M. had only the Juanita to cruise 
around one of the worst coasts in the world. How police 
and prisoners and stores could be crammed into her and 
still leave a sleeping place for the officer is a mystery. 
One thing is certain and that is that he travelled with a 
maximum of discomfort, but she had the advantage of 
having such a light draught that she could be taken any- 
where, up impossible creeks, across impassable banks. 
When the large ketch, the Toawara, came down, the 
JiMinita descended to being a mere carrier of sago and 
prisoners. She was and looked a " native boat." Through 
gross carelessness her police crew sank her one day in a 
Kiwai creek and then, appalled at what had happened, 
they called together what must have been the whole 
population of the district. By dint of tying ropes of all 
kinds round her hull and sheer united strength they must 
have lugged her bodily to the surface again and the old 
craft sailed into Daru as usual. No one suspected for weeks 
what had happened until by mere accident the secret got 

DARU 55 

out. She became leakier and leakier and finally sank at 
her moorings a couple of years ago dismasted and unrigged. 
I for one always felt an affection for the old craft, and 
many of the police bewailed her loss as they would have 
one of their o\vn dead. 

Separated from the mainland only by the narrow Toro 
Passage lies Bampton Island on which the Parama people 
have their village. This passage forms the short cut into 
the Fly River, but on the Daru side its entrance is closed 
by broad shallow sand and mud banks which can only 
be crossed at high water through a narrow channel. Often 
you happen to reach the entrance when the ebb is about 
half out and you have a dreary wait for the tide to rise. 
Sometimes you get impatient and try to cross before the 
tide is full. If you have luck you may get over on the 
" bumps " ; if not your boat runs up on the mud and you 
still have to wait. Parama is on the seaward side of 
Bampton, and its front is protected by a wide stretch of 
flat reef dry at low water and making the village impossible 
to approach. Nowadays Parama is a most civilised village 
and the people among the most intelligent and enlightened 
in the West even as they are among the finest physically. 
Like the Mawatta and Turituri, the Gebarubi are a tall, 
well-made black people with the arched Jewish nose and 
a very Jewish keenness in trade. They speak a dialect 
almost the same as Kiwai. The women as a whole are 
nearly as tall as the men and have a decided will of their 
own. A little while ago there was a great upset in village 
society. There were seventeen single young women in the 
community and they all flatly declined to marry. Good- 
ness only knows what abstruse ideas of civilisation dictated 
their action, but, as usual, deputations from both men and 
women waited upon Government to decide what was to 
be done. 

Equally also do the men know their own minds. A few 
years ago they decided among themselves that they would 
not sign on for work on the pearling fleets for less wages 

56 DARU 

than two pounds a month. The pearlers were not inclined 
to pay this amount and Parama would not sign on for less. 
The " strike " lasted for a couple of years as far as pearling 
was concerned, but in a manner typically Papuan quite 
a lot of men signed on for some other class of work at ten 
and fifteen shillings a month. 

Intense rivalry exists between them and the Mawatta 
people, to whom they are very similar in both their old 
native customs and their modern ones. A couple of years 
ago Mawatta challenged Parama to a contest in dancing 
at the Christmas festivities at Daru. The Parama men 
turned up but the Mawatta men failed to put in an appear- 
ance which led to jeering and much talk of " fight." 

It is difficult at this day to realise that the civilised 
Parama people are the same as took the heads of more 
than one shipwrecked crew and murdered some of the 
London Missionary's Society's teachers in 1873, and 
assisted Katatai folk in a dnmken orgie of arrack obtained 
from a Dutch barque that went ashore off Parama reef, 
dancing madly round bonfires until the spirit caught and 
put them to flight by its explosion. 

The tribe is totemistic and the totems and organisation 
are almost identical with those of Mawatta. Like the 
latter, the people are keen fishermen and a great deal of 
their lore is connected with the sea. They certainly resent 
any other natives working their reef, and even went so 
far as to want to be paid for the bcche-de-mer which a 
white trader was fishing in the neighbourhood. Both 
men and women go out at low water on the reefs after 
fish and they know the use of New Guinea dynamite (the 
shrub Derris scandens), which is pounded and bruised and 
placed in the reef pools. The poison turns the water a 
milky wliite and the fish become stupefied and float to 
the surface. As at Mawatta, turtle and dugong fishing 
are most important. The turtle-catching season, that is, 
coupling time (November and December), is a lively one 
both from a social and a ceremonial point of view. This 

DARU 57 

season of the year, like yam planting time and the change 
of the monsoons, marks one of the terms of the native 
calendar. The turtle float on the surface and can be 
easily caught : at other periods of the year they are as a 
rule only to be found in deeper water. 

The two principal varieties of turtle found on the New 
Guinea coast are the Hawksbill {Chelone imbricata), from 
which is obtained the tortoise-shell of commerce, and the 
Green {Chelone my das), which is used as food. Turtling 
is as exciting and interesting as dugong hunting. In the 
season they are to be found floating about in pairs and 
sleeping on the surface. The canoes go out either by day 
or on moonlight nights, with certain charms called Kobai 
placed on their prows. Previous to setting out on a turtle 
hunt a wooden figure of a man is set up by night, and a 
charm something in the nature of a small bull-roarer is 
s-wTing. This is supposed to attract the turtle much in the 
same way, I suppose, as the bull-roarer is used to ensure 
a good crop agriculturally. The women do not see this 
charm and they believe that the figure itself is making the 
noise. When a turtle is sighted the canoe approaches from 
behind as noiselessly as possible, for the animal is easily 
scared and dives at the first sign of disturbance. One man 
goes forward to the bows with a rope and spears it with 
a dugong harpoon, then leaping overboard on to the 
animal's back he ties a rope round the flipper, when it can 
then be hauled into the canoe. Another method which I 
have seen is for a man to tie the rope round his arm over 
the shoulder and then, watching his opportunity, jump 
on to the turtle and hold on to the carapace or endeavour 
to turn it over in the water. The turtle, of course, dives, 
and the point is to seize him by the edge of the fore flipper 
and to turn him over before he reaches the surface again. 
It is scarcely necessary to remark that this is not altogether 
easy and you should avoid the hind flipper altogether 
unless you \nsh to be entirely at the disposal of the turtle. 
Spearing pure and simple is not very interesting, but one 

58 DARU 

does get enthusiastic over the struggle when the turtle is 
literally being " ridden " or when the fisherman is trying 
to rope it. 

Perhaps the most interesting method of all of turtling 
is by means of the gapu, or sucker fish. This method is 
rather rare nowadays and seems to have been more used 
at Mawatta than at Parama. The sucker fish {Echeneis 
naucrates) is allied to the mackerels and possesses a sort of 
disc with which it attaches itself to any flat surface such as 
a turtle or even a ship. When it is intended to catch 
turtle in this manner the "sucker" has first to be caught, 
which among the Mawatta people is done by a bait. The 
tail is pierced and a long line passed through the hole and 
lashed around it. When the canoe approaches the turtle 
ground and an animal is sighted the sucker fish is thrown 
overboard, one end of the tail line of course being retained 
in the canoe, partly for the purpose of guiding it towards 
the turtle. The sucker immediately makes for the turtle 
and fixes itself to the shell. Immediately it is fast one of the 
crew with a line jumps overboard and makes the turtle 
fast, when it is rapidly drawn in to the canoe. 

There are less sporting ways of catching turtle. The 
female goes ashore to some sandy beach where she can 
deposit her eggs, and she can be easily traced and captured 
by simply turning her over on the back. Bramble Cay and 
Marukara and Deliverance Islands are favourite spots and 
large numbers are caught there. The female lays up to a 
couple of hundred almost round parchment-shelled eggs, 
all yolk, and they are eagerly sought for by the natives ; 
personally I think they are far too strong, although they 
are passable for cooking purposes. 

The native wastes no part of the animal ; the blood, 
entrails, and fat, are all greatly esteemed. The turtle is 
always cut up alive, the plastron or hard stomach covering 
being first removed. Like the dugong, the turtle must be 
cut up in a particular manner and the art is not known 

DARU 59 

to everyone. If it is not butchered correctly the flesh is 
likely to be poisoned. Thus if the gall has been pierced 
it contaminates the meat. Much of the turtle fishing is 
now carried on from small boats and they catch a sur- 
prising number. I have seen the Yam Island cutter, a 
craft of about six tons, come into Daru with seventeen 
large turtle on board for sale and so many people that 
many of them had to find room up the rigging. 

Parama, of course, has a proper cemetery. Of late it 
has been fashionable to erect what in native parlance is 
called a " stone," even though more often than not it is 
made of wood. Recently I have known of cases where 
some pounds have been paid for a cement headstone. 
Most of the " stones," however, at Parama consist of 
wooden posts, frequently painted with heathen red and 
carved at the top in the semblance of the deceased's head. 
Quaintly enough the carvings are nearly always provided 
with a hat, a most indispensable garment in the West, 
and I have seen alongside these intensely modern affairs 
food for the spirits, bows, and women's petticoats placed 
on the grave, showing that with all their up-to-date ideas 
the Parama men cannot altogether abandon their old-time 

Very different were the structures apparently in memory 
of the dead as described by Dr. Wyatt Gill : " Further 
on were two funeral screens so arranged as to give one the 
idea of a passage between them. They were five feet six 
inches in height and consisted of a number of stakes 
driven into the ground covered with lattice work. At 
intervals along the top were hung wooden images of turtle, 
sharks, alligators, dingoes, and cassowaries, all painted 
red to the number of about thirty. At the base were 
placed in a row some round stones, i.e. gods and, until 
recently, human skulls." This screen seems to me to 
correspond very much with the arrangement of the ground 
as prepared for the Horiomu ceremony. 


Modern .Mawatta— Clothes— The migration— Skulls of enemies— Skull 
divination — Courtship — Al^'oman makes the overtures — Exchange of 
brothers and sisters— The price of a wife— Adultery— Divorce — 
Relationship by marriage and tabus in connection with it — Pregnancy 
— Fire - making— Origin of fire — Dugoug fishing — Ceremonies — 
Charms— The dugong spear — Totemism and the Mawatta totems — 
Initiation — The Horiomu ceremony — Mourning costume- Fish 
markets — Trading relations— The canoe trade— The modern canoe. 

rriHE important villages of Mawatta and Turituri are 
J- situated on the coast -line adjacent to the estuary 
of the Fly River. Mawatta, containing a population of 
about three hundred people, is built at the mouth of the 
Bina River, which was also known as the Kadawa by the 
coast folk and early European visitors. What we now 
call Mawatta is an amalgamation of the villages of Kadawa 
or Katou and Mawatta. Turituri, containing a rather 
smaller number of people, lies about an hour's walk along 
the beach to the eastward. 

Whether Parama or Mawatta is the most up-to-date 
village of the West is perhaps doubtful. At Mawatta 
there is a most ludicrous mixture of European and native 
fashions. No man would ever dream of wearing anything 
but English clothes and no woman anything but a print 
dress over her native petticoat. European tools have 
long ago replaced native ones : the village possesses two 
or three kits of carpenters' implements which I am afraid 
for the most part have been " acquired " from the Thurs- 
day Island pearling boats or the Government station at 
Daru. The village is laid out in two streets of pile houses 
built European fashion and on European lines, each house 
being occupied by certainly not more than two families. 
There is a flagstaff and a small courthouse, a wooden 



church and a trader's store. What more could be re- 
quired ? 

I suppose Mawatta has come in contact with white men 
more than any other village in the West. For fully forty 
years this coast has been visited by stray vessels from 
Torres Straits, and years before the Protectorate the 
Mawatta and Turituri men used to sail away on the 
pearling vessels which were continually putting into the 
river for fresh water and vegetables. It is not surprising, 
therefore, that these people have acquired a thick coating 
of foreign veneer, and cast-off uniforms of British regi- 
ments were fashionable as clothing years before the soul 
of the Port Moresby native had soared above paint and 
a sihi. But if manners maketh man, certainly clothes 
do not. I cannot think that the Mawatta man has been 
improved by wearing a felt hat and a pair of red striped 
trousers, even if he does speak English freely with an 
excellent knowledge of its slang. 

The tribe, which speaks a Kiwai dialect, is a well-built 
black race with the narrow head and arched nose, which 
in Papua is popularly termed the Jewish type. Turituri, 
Mawatta and Kadawa were originally settled on the point 
just north-east of Daru, a site still known as Old Mawatta. 
About one hundred and twenty years ago, being sadly 
harassed by the Kiwais, two chiefs, Kuke and Gamea, 
the latter the great-grandfather of the present chief 
Gamea, travelled westward looking for new lands. Kuke 
settled with his people at the present Turituri site which 
was unoccupied. There seems to have been some friction 
between Kuke and Gamea, and the latter continued his 
journey west as far as Dauan Island. On his way back 
he called in at Mawatta and entered into terms of great 
friendship with the Masingara people. They gave him 
all the territory which the Mawatta people occupy at this 
day, seeking no payment, and the two peoples have ever 
since Uved in the most friendly manner. The Kadawa 


section came from Daru some ten years after the migration 
of Gamea. The first site occupied by Mawatta was a 
little to the eastward of the Binaturi, but it was subject 
to tide-flooding and hordes of mosquitoes, so a shift was 
made to the western bank. I cannot say that in either 
respect is there much difference. 

Just as the Masingara gave land to the Mawatta people, 
so the process was reversed in the case of Turituri. These 
latter have allotted a site on the coast to a small bush 
tribe named Kunini, who own a large area of good land 
and an immense grove of coconuts in the bush, but for 
some reason, a tribal quarrel, they decided to move to the 
sea. The Turituri tribe owns all the coconut trees on 
the coast, but it allows the Kunini the use of the fruit of 
those on the village site. Kunini has taken to a seafaring 
hfe to some extent, but it cannot get rid of the 
" bushman " taint, although every man in the place 
would be intensely indignant should you but hint at it. 
Although both Mawatta and Masingara and Turituri and 
Kunini are respectively great friends, it does not prevent 
either of the coast villages grossly overcharging the 
others for a passage by canoe anywhere. Apparently 
there is no sentiment in business. 

When D'Albertis visited Mawatta or Katau, as he called 
it, in 1875 he found four long houses and the village 
fenced and surrounded by groves of bananas and coco- 
nuts. The temper of the people was by no means above 
suspicion, and altogether they were about as raw as an 
up-river Bamu tribe is to-day. The skulls of those killed 
in battle were to be seen hanging in the houses. These 
heads after they had been cleaned of the fleshy parts were 
covered with a mask made of a preparation of wax. The 
top was pitted with bright red seeds of the wild Uquorice 
and the eyes were represented by small cowries or pieces 
of pearl-shell, and the whole was surrounded with red 
seeds. From the bones of the forehead hung long-fringed 


pendants, and the cavity of the skull was filled with small 
stones, so that apparently it could be used as a rattle. 
The decoration differs considerably from that of the 
Bamu or Aird. 

I believe skulls of relatives were not frequently kept. 
When a " big man " or one of his relatives died, the body 
would be buried up to the neck until the head was clean 
of flesh. It was then removed. The skulls of relatives 
are frequently consulted on the temporal affairs of life. 
The owner places them by his wooden pillow at night 
and during his sleep the dead man's spirit comes to com- 
mune with the sleeping one. All sorts of valuable informa- 
tion about gardens or wizards or hunting may be gleaned 
in this manner. I think this is about the nearest the 
Papuan gets to anything approaching divination. A 
similar custom of burying to the neck is also found at 
East Cape, where the skulls are stored away in caves 
among the rocks. 

Contrary to our own accepted custom the overtures in 
making love should come from the woman. Of course lack 
of chastity, except when displayed without regard to 
decency or decorum, is never considered any bar to court- 
ship or marriage. All that was necessary was the Papuan 
equivalent of the rule, " Do not be found out." Ostensibly 
to-day the moral feeling has changed, but I doubt whether 
there is any real difference. An illegitimate child is cer- 
tainly looked upon as a disgrace even more so than it 
was in olden times, when I daresay it would have been 
quietly disposed of. There was an instance recently at 
Parama where a young w^oman gave birth to a child. 
She resolutely declined to disclose the name of the father, 
and feeling in the village ran very high indeed. As a 
marriageable asset she was regarded as quite beyond the 
pale as long as the child was alive. And it is not surprising 
that after a few weeks the child died. The death was 
apparently due to malnutrition, but I have very little 


doubt that it was deliberate. These coastal people have 
been shrewd enough to dislike having to support an 
illegitimate child, and gathered enough of European ideas 
in several instances to bring demands for affiliation orders 
before the Court for Native Matters. 

When matrimony was desired or intended a woman 
who had taken a fancy to a young man sends him a message 
usually by his brother or sister, if they are small, telling 
him to come to her house by night. Although the over- 
tures come from the girl there is no doubt that a youth 
has means of letting her or all the village girls know he is 
on the look-out for a wife, either by scenting himself with 
certain barks or by displaying his agility in dancing or by 
taking a head. The nocturnal visits continue for some 
time until the parents find out what is going on, although 
in many cases the affair has been well discussed by the 
village elders long ago. If the prospective son-in-law is 
considered suitable negotiations commence on both sides. 
The suitor sends presents and receives cooked food from the 
girl. It seems in the old days to have been an accepted 
thing that her mother and brothers and friends should dis- 
play some resentment and attack the friends of the 
bridegroom, but the fight was really of a conventional 
nature. In some cases the bride is decked out in her best 
clothes and jewellery, such as " mabua," or armshells, 
and her face painted. In other cases there is no approach 
to ceremony at all. It is almost a fixed law that brothers 
and sisters are exchanged in marriage, a law holding good 
to the present day. The bridegroom's sister, if he has one, 
must be given to the bride's brother or failing a brother 
to her nearest male relative. This rule was very strict 
and no attention at all was paid to the feelings of the lady 
in the matter. Instances are known of girls being forcibly 
handed over, but I suppose after a while they regarded 
the situation with equanimity. 

When there are no brothers or sisters available the bride- 


groom has to pay for his wife. The price of a wife varies, 
but generally speaking she would be worth a large canoe 
or a couple of " mabua." At Mawatta the price seems 
to have been unduly inflated and young men got consider- 
ably into debt. A working figure was consequently agreed 
upon and the value of a wife is fixed at four pounds 
sterling, paid over in the presence of the magistrate. 
Sergeant Uria had four daughters or adopted daughters 
and he married them off on the same day. At least he 
received in my presence sixteen pounds from four young 
men. In some cases apparently daughters are a valuable 

A man has full powers over his wife : she is his property 
and he can do exactly what he likes with her. Unfaithful- 
ness without the consent of the husband is regarded 
seriously, and in the old days was punishable with death 
if it seemed good to him. The paramour ran considerable 
risks ; it all depended on who was the better fighting man 
or whose supporters were the more numerous, but if he 
were killed it was considered that he deserved all he got. 
Nowadays the injured husband brings the co-respondent 
into court with a claim for damages or a demand for his 

The position of women in the community, however, 
is by no means as bad as is usually imagined. She has 
a good deal to say (I do not altogether mean literally) on 
the questions of the day and there undoubtedly exists an 
amount of affection between husband and wife or wives, 
although there is little or no polygamy in Mawatta and 
the other coast villages to-day just as very few cases of 
adultery from these parts are brought before the courts. 
It is rather remarkable how quickly these people adopt 
precedents. A prominent " big man " and deacon was 
summoned by a husband for philandering with his wife 
in the gardens. The elder came into court with a very 
sheepish and ashamed (at being caught) expression and, 



as there seemed to be no doubt that he was the party 
tempted, I let him off with a warning and a fine of thirty 
shiUings, one-half the maximum. A week or so later 
another " big man " fell from grace. He came into court, 
pleaded guilty, and, without waiting to hear what was 
going to be the penalty, placed thirty shillings on the 
table. I am afraid it will be almost impossible to con- 
vince Mawatta that one pound ten need not necessarily 
be the price of sin. 

Divorce is uncommon at the present day, but it is not 
unknown, and the woman goes back to her parents or 
brothers. She is eligible for remarriage, but the new 
husband pays the old one ; he still, so to speak, retains 
a proprietary interest in her. Sterility may be a reason 
for divorce, but formerly the necessity for such a course 
would be obviated by taking a second wife. Habitual 
infidelity or even incompatibility of temper may be a good 
cause for throwing away a Avife. There was a case at Kiwai 
where a man, wishing to divorce his wife and not having 
a reason which would gain the sympathy of the village, 
engaged a couple of youths to violate her after which 
he got rid of her. Many of the men who have gone up 
to the East End and remained there for some years return 
with a wife from these districts. Sometimes the original 
wife makes trouble, sometimes the two or more women 
live in peace, but in all cases the stranger must have a 
pretty bad time. Native women are like their white 
sisters and make things verj^ unpleasant for one of their 
sex they pretend to despise. 

There is a certain amount of " tabu " in connection 
with relatives by marriage, especially in speaking their 
names. Nor is this custom confined to this part of New 
Guinea, or to New Guinea only. The local word for 
" tabu " is " sabe," meaning something forbidden, and 
resting on a basis of fear that something unpleasant will 
happen either to the community or the individual trans- 


gressing it. Relationship-in-law has a definite name, 
" emapura." A man may not mention the name of his 
wife's father, mother, elder sister or elder brother or of 
any male or female relative of her father and mother. 
The prohibition is reciprocal as between husband and wife, 
and holds good when both are members of the same tribe. 
Mr. B. A. Hely says that people may exempt themselves 
by a formal renunciation at the time of marriage and also 
that outside tribal boundaries the custom does not apply. 
Personally I do not know of any instances of renunciation. 
Nor am I aware how far the custom of not speaking to 
relations -in -law is carried. In many places it is strictly 
forbidden to speak to your mother-in-law and vice versa, 
but, whatever may have been the custom, there is no 
restriction now. All the same the rule that her name must 
not be spoken is strict enough. When a man wishes to 
speak of some prohibited relation-in-law he uses some 
roundabout expression such as the wife of So-and-so's 
husband. Any breach of the " sabe " is paid for by giving 
the person named a present of food or even more valuable 
articles, and this payment is enforced by a tribal or clan 
prohibition to enter the Man House, a sort of sending 
to Coventry in fact. In the olden days I believe a man 
was able to recover his standing by taking a head. 

When a woman becomes enceinte her husband collects 
food with which to make a feast for relatives and friends. 
All hot food is denied her, principally, I believe, on the 
supposition that it is bad for the child. She is not per- 
mitted to eat turtle during the turtle coupling season. 
In fact, a pregnant or recently confined woman is regarded 
as unclean and this uncleanness extends to her husband. 
For instance, a man whose wife is pregnant is not allowed 
to spear either turtle or dugong or to go forward in a canoe 
while another man is doing so. Cohabitation ceases as 
soon as a woman becomes enceinte, and the prohibition 
is maintained until the child is able to walk about, at any 


rate. Native women, as a rule, suckle their infants for 
a very long time and no cohabitation takes place during 
this period, as they say it injures the mother's milk. This 
may be one of the reasons for polygamy. At birth the 
women are taken to a small house outside the village, 
attended by the mothers of both husband and wife as 
well as any old women specially skilled in midwifery, for 
whom a feast is provided. None of these attendants 
appear to be regarded as unclean. After birth the mother 
and child remain for a few days in the birth house ; then 
they return to the village, the mother having first washed 
herself in the sea. A child is named by its paternal uncle 
or aunt, but there seems to be no particular rule as to the 
class of names. A newly born child should be carefully 
watched, as its first cry attracts a devil who steals little 
children. This devil is whitish in colour and is armed with 
tusks like a pig. 

I believe actual means are taken to procure either a 
temporary or permanent sterility, and in the old days 
infanticide was not infrequent. Mr. E. Beardmore states 
that too great an increase in population was not desired, 
giving this as one reason for the practice of certain un- 
natural offences. While twins are not looked upon with 
any great favour, they are both allowed to live, but the 
maternal uncle adopts one of the children. 

Menstruation, when it first appears, according to Dr. 
Seligmann, is ascribed to the moon having connection 
with the girl in the shape of a man and the red ring some- 
times seen round it is said to represent the blood. In this 
connection it is well known that among certain Australian 
tribes it is firmly believed that conception is due to the 
entry of a spirit. Should a man have connection with 
a woman during her periods, it is said that he will die 
slowly after he has had intercourse with another woman. 

Fire is made by the friction of two sticks, one in the 
shape of a short hard peg being rubbed in a groove. This 


is quite an ordinary New Guinea method, as is also the 
method of using one stick as a drill. The third way, that 
of drawing a piece of cane rapidly underneath a piece of 
soft dry wood, is almost equally widespread. Fire, accord- 
ing to one story, was originally brought to Mawatta from 
Mabuiag. In those days the people of Torres Straits, like 
those of New Guinea, did not know fire. One day some 
people saw a crocodile with fire in his mouth with which 
he cooked his food. They said, " O crocodile, give us fire," 
but he refused. They then went to their chief who was 
lying ill in his house. On his recovery he took some food 
and swam to Dauan. While resting there he saw smoke 
on the New Guinea coast. Swimming across he met a 
woman setting fire to the grass and he stole the fire from 
her, which he carried back to Mabuiag. From Mabuiag fire 
went to Tutu, and the Tutu people gave it to Mawatta. 
There is another Mawatta story quoted by Mr. Beardmore. 
There was once a tribe living at Double Island, a man of 
whom produced fire from between the thumb and fore- 
finger of his left hand. Some trouble arose and all the 
people became changed into animals, birds and fish. 
Eguon, the bat, eventually made his way to Mawatta and 
gave the people fire. 

Both Turituri and Mawatta have always been fishing 
tribes, and they claim fishing rights over the foreshore 
and reefs to a point about twenty miles down the coast 
from Mawatta. Included are some of the reefs now within 
the Queensland boundary. Quite recently I was ap- 
proached by a deputation to know whether they would 
be protected if they sailed their cutter out to certain of 
these reefs for the purpose of dugong catching. Like the 
turtle the dugong is both an important article of food 
and a cause of much ceremonial. The animal {Halicore 
australis) itself is a harmless mammal, attaining a size of 
eight or nine feet in length and feeding only on marine 
flowering grasses. Consequently where this food is not 


plentiful there are no dugong. It is hunted usually at 
new and full moon because then the spring tides allow the 
animals to pass freely across the reefs. It is much ap- 
preciated as food, and the whole of it is eaten with the 
exception of the gall, bladder, and brain, the blood being 
very carefully collected. The knowledge of properly 
cutting up a dugong is confined to a comparatively small 
number of men. 

There are two ways of catching dugong, one by harpoon- 
ing it from a canoe and the other from a platform erected 
on the reef over its feeding ground. The canoe is used 
almost at all times, the platform only on moonlight nights. 
At the commencement of the season a short festivity takes 
place and the village dances around a decorated dugong 
spear stuck in the ground. All the men drink gamada 
and sprinkle a little of the potion over the spear and sing 
for favourable fishing. The large orange and white cowry 
shells and the small coconut beetle are also used as 
fishing charms on the spear, and the vine rope which is 
attached to the spear barb is also anointed with gamada 
before the party sets out. These vine ropes sometimes 
are as much as forty fathoms in length and are invariably 
used and much preferred to manila even now, principally 
by reason of their buoyancy. Certain wooden charms 
roughly carved to represent a dugong are placed on the 
prow of the canoe, serving a double purpose of both 
attracting the animal and showing where it may be found. 
A fisherman is restrained from having sexual intercourse 
during this period, and the party sets off singing songs 
which entice the dugong to the reefs. 

The " wap " (harpoon haft) is a most valuable native 
article. I believe the best are made at and imported 
from Torres Straits, although they are now made locally 
on occasions. The length ranges from ten to fifteen 
feet. The harpoon is made from a very heavy black 
wood, and the end in which the barb is inserted bellies out 


into a rounded butt. A barb ("kiwaura"), formerly made of 
wood or shell, is inserted in a hole in the thick end and 
lashed to a long line which is attached to the platform of 
the canoe. At the taper end the spear is often carved 
and decorated with bunches of cassowary feathers. When 
the canoe approaches a dugong the harpooner springs into 
the water, striking at the animal at the same moment. It 
immediately dives, the harpoon shaft is jerked smartly 
back, leaving the barb and line fast in the dugong. The 
harpooner then swims back to his canoe and when the 
dugong rises again to breathe, the other members of the 
crew jump into the sea and rope it round the tail. The 
dugong is seldom killed outright, for the skin and blubber 
are very thick, and it is only by the merest accident that 
the barb penetrates to a vital spot. 

The harpooner must be careful to see that he does not 
get entangled in the rope and so suffocated. Dr. Landt- 
mann mentions how a Mawatta man named Maiva once 
perished in this manner and not even his body was found. 
Some of his countrymen were unsuccessfully endeavouring 
to spear dugong from a platform. Then in the moonlight 
they saw the bloated body of the dead man swimming 
towards them followed by a flock of dugong. Each tried 
to spear one but without success, and all being struck with 
terror went home. Next time they carried food for the 
spirit of the dead man inside the coils of rope and were 
successful. If they see Maiva they throw the food into the 
water and the fishing is good, but the people now no 
longer remember him and make no offerings. 

Platform fishing is carried out in this way. During the 
day the reef is inspected for traces of the animal, such as 
the cropped marine grass on which it has been feeding. 
A platform made of several mangrove or other sticks 
lashed together to form a kind of scaffolding is erected 
at the spot, for the dugong will return to its feeding 
ground during the night. When it comes sufficiently 
near, it is speared in the usual way from above. 


Definite portions of the catch are allotted to members 
of a canoe crew, and the owner especially gets a prime 
cut. On the conclusion of the season a great feast and 
dance is held in the village and there is a great deal of 

The usual definition of a totem is that of a class of 
objects, animals, fish, plants, or other things, that are rever- 
enced by groups of men and women who say they are de- 
scended from this or that object, and, as members of the 
group, believe that they are consequently of one blood, 
they do not intermarry within the group. The group is 
known as a clan and there are many social obligations 
imposed on members of the same totem. This social 
system is found in a more or less modified degree through- 
out the West, but nowhere does it approach such a high 
state of organisation as in the Trobriand Islands. 

In Mawatta and Turituri there are eight totem clans 
or divisions : (1) The Cassowary. (2) The Crocodile. (3) 
The Dog. (4) The Tortoise. (5) The Rock Snake. (6) The 
Ground Shark. (7) The Kangaroo. (8) The Stinging Ray. 
These totems are divided into two groups : the Crocodile- 
Shark and the Cassowary-Dog. Associated with the 
former are the Ray, Tortoise, Snake, and with the latter 
the Kangaroo. One of the cardinal principles of totemism, 
viz. exogamy or marriage outside the clan, has broken 
down to a large extent at Mawatta and in a less degree at 
Turituri. Another rule, that of not eating the clan fish 
or animal, has also broken dovm to a large extent. 

Formerly, of course, no totem could be eaten, and inter- 
marriage between totems would have been regarded as 
the worst form of incest. I suppose a breach of totem 
law would have been unknown or, if it did occur, the 
punishment would recoil on the offender's own head, and 
he would become afflicted with boils or sores or swelling 
of the body followed sometimes by death. 

Husband and wife mutually respect each other's totems, 


and the totem descends to the children through the father. 
Mr. Hely states that the children are equally divided 
between the parents' totems and that a person does not 
belong to more than one sept. But there are many men 
who have two, three, or even four totems, all derived from 
the father. For instance, one man belongs to the Cas- 
sowary clan and also to the Dog and the Tortoise, all of 
which are forbidden to him as food. In this case he 
married a woman of the Shark clan. Although children 
follow the totem of the father, I believe considerable 
respect is shown to that of the mother, especially in regard 
to eating it. I do not know that totem cognisances were 
regularly carried on the body, although the scarification 
marks sometimes represented them, but when a man went 
out to fight he painted his mark on his chest in mud or 
red paint. 

Initiation takes place during the North-West season. 
The lads are taken from their mothers and go to the 
Darimu, where they remain in a screened-in compartment. 
The maternal uncle undertakes each boy's instruction 
and brings him his food which is prepared by the mother. 
During the stay in the Darimu the boys are taught about 
their totems, various customs of the tribe, and the use of 
certain ceremonies. When this is completed they are 
taken outside and shown to their mothers, but return to 
the Darimu that night. Next morning they come out, 
when they are beaten ceremonially with coconut stalks, 
A feast is then held during which a present is made to 
the maternal uncle by the boy's father, and the boy is 
a young man. 

The Horiomu ceremony in connection with the spirits of 
the dead takes place at the commencement of the South- 
East season. Actually when it is to be held is decided by 
the old men. Several young men go into the bush at night 
and make a whistling noise which makes the women 
afraid and say that the spirits of the recently dead are 


near by. Drums are beaten, but there is no dancing at 
first. All the village goes off to the gardens to obtain a 
supply of food, and the men who are to take the part 
of the spirits in the coming ceremony go to the bush to 
make and prepare their costume. This dress consists of 
a petticoat of young coconut leaves and the arms and 
legs are similarly covered. The face is screened with a 
mask of leaves in such a manner as to conceal the wearer. 
Each man carries a bow and arrows. 

The food is placed inside the two fences erected for the 
purpose, one of which belongs to the Crocodile-Shark clans 
and the other to the Cassowary-Dog. During the actual 
dance the women remain on one side of the fence and the 
men and performers on the other. I believe that the 
women are not supposed to know that the actors who take 
the part of the spirits of the dead are living men and they 
are considered to be real ghosts, nor do they know who 
the dancers are. The idea of the dance is to let the 
mourners know that the spirits are alive. After the actual 
dancing of the " spirits " is over the women go away and 
the food is changed from the Crocodile to the Cassowary 
fence and vice versa. It is then removed to the Darimu 
and shared out and eaten. The mourning costume which 
is worn for periods up to a year consists in covering the 
body with a white mud and two long fringes of frayed 
leaves hanging from the neck, one of which falls in front 
and the other behind. Armlets and leglets of a similar 
nature are worn in addition. 

Much fish is caught by both Mawatta and Turituri 
along the reefs and the surplus catch is traded with the 
bush tribes. There used to be regular markets with 
Masingara, and now the Mawatta women sell fish almost 
daily to the bushwomen, who come down to the village 
for the purpose. Similarly Turituri held markets with 
Darimu and Irimisi and other villages inland. One melon 
shell, to be used for making hoes, was worth forty bunches 
of bananas and ten baskets of tare. Ten pounds of fish 


bought a large bunch of bananas or about thirty pounds 
of taro. This merely gives an approximate idea of the 
trading, but it can be confidently asserted that the coast 
men never lost by their transactions. I have at times 
known Mawatta men, who perhaps were in regular employ- 
ment or had other private business, engage the bushmen 
to make gardens for them, paying either in cash (very 
rarely) or old clothes or marine products. I was recently 
at Masingara when I noticed the carapaces of four large 
turtles. When I asked where they obtained the turtle 
I was informed that they were the payment for the fencing 
of about five acres of Mawatta gardens. While the bush- 
men are infinitely better fencers, this looks to me sus- 
piciously like sheer laziness on the part of the Mawatta 

Partly owing to its situation and partly owing to the 
enterprising nature of its people, Mawatta has become 
an important trading centre, but acts more as a middleman 
than anything else. Many products are required by inland 
and river tribes that can only be obtained from the sea, 
and the people of Torres Straits use many articles that can 
only be obtained in New Guinea. 

The principal article required for home consumption 
is food. Sago is largely bought from Kiwai Island, as 
Mawatta makes little or none of this commodity. From 
Torres Straits are imported such articles as shell armlets 
made from the Conus millepunctatus, pearl-shell crescents, 
dugong spears, nose shells, various shells used for all sorts 
of purposes and, in the old days, small pieces of iron. 
There was in addition a small trade in dogs' teeth. In 
return are traded drums, arrows, feathers, especially those 
of the Paradisea Raggiana, boars' tusks, and a little sago. 
A small amount of basketry and armlets and various 
earths to be used for pigments are exported from the 
Wassi-Kussa district principally through Boigu Island. 

Several of the Fly River tribes exchange pandanus 
leaf mats and women's grass petticoats for shells at the 


rate of one mat and one dress for one large melon shell 
and one conch shell. The former are required for basins 
and other domestic utensils, but the demand is not a large 
one. Another trade between Mawatta and Kiwai used 
to be bows and arrows for manufactured sago. One large 
bundle of the latter purchased one bamboo bow and 
twenty odd arrows. Cowry shells and pearl-shell crescents 
are traded for certain purposes only ; the former are not 
in great demand, being used among certain tribes as grave 
charms and dancing rattles. Small cowries and dogs' 
teeth are not looked upon as articles of any importance. 
The arm shell (mabua), however, is in unlimited demand 
and almost any price will be paid for good specimens. 

The most important trade article affecting Mawatta and 
Turituri, however, is the canoe. Neither tribe are builders 
themselves, but they buy both for themselves and for the 
Torres Straits trade. As a rule Saibai used to buy from 
Mawatta and Murray or Darnley from Parama, but at 
the present day many of the Torres Straits buyers, after 
having received permission, buy direct from the Fly River 
traders. One stipulation, however, is made and that is 
that payment shall be made on the spot. Formerly, I 
gather, payment extended, that is, when trade was done 
direct, over a number of years, a source of constant 
trouble. Mawatta and the coast people buy their canoes 
from certain Kiwai and Fly villages, the buying trip 
being usually made during the calm weather of the North- 
West season, and a successful expedition is always followed 
by much feasting and dancing. The negotiations extend 
over some days, and when they are over the vendors 
supply the buyers with a store of sago and coconuts for 
their return home. Sometimes the canoes are bought 
on credit, a deposit being paid, but the debt may often 
not be cleared for some years. Frequently the canoe is 
worn out before it is fully paid for. As a matter of fact 
I do not believe the Kiwai people themselves make half 


the canoes they sell to Mawatta, for it is only a very few 
of the Kiwai villages that own a sufficiency of suitable 
canoe trees, A large canoe is worth two large arm-shells 
and a small one, one melon shell, one dugong rib bone, and 
a string of dogs' teeth. 

The canoe is a dug-out made from a single trunk with 
the ends gradually tapering to a blunt point. When 
purchased it is provided with a single outrigger and is 
without masts or sails. The outrigger consists of a float 
made of light wood, six or eight feet in length, according 
to the length of the canoe, and attached to the hull by 
two transverse poles. These are fitted to the float by 
two sets of sticks running in opposite directions. The 
double outrigger, which is an introduction from Torres 
Straits, is now the usual thing on the coast and in the 
estuary of the Fly River. It is interesting to find that the 
dug-out canoe, as far as Torres Straits is concerned, is 
a New Guinea invention, but if New Guinea gave the 
dug-out to the Islanders it obtained the double outrigger 
sailing canoe from them. Previously a poor sort of mat 
sail was in use. Nowadays the whole outfit of a Mawatta 
sailing canoe is semi-European in gear, rig, and everything 
else. Calico or canvas is used for the sails, Manila rope for 
the running gear, and wire for the rigging. Proper blocks 
are used. The canoe on its arrival at Mawatta, if intended 
for sailing, and very few are used in any other way, although 
you may find a few small ones with a single outrigger for 
paddling up creeks or small rivers like the Binaturi, is 
at once fitted with a double outrigger, a washstrake 
attached to the hull with lashings, a platform for the crew 
and the storage of supplies, masts, and rigging. All this 
work is carried out locally. I do not know if a canoe had 
a specific name in the old days, but at the present time 
every craft of any size in imitation of European boats has 
a name painted on the bows. Some of them are even 


The inland country — Tlie Badu — Kesave — Poisoned arrows- -Orgal and 
Aita — The adventures of an Aita man — Branded brides — The Podari 
sorcerers — Eating corpses — General type of housebuilding — Class of 
country inland — Natives' ferries and bridges — Dirimo tribe — Bush 
tribes generally — Mania for clothes — Arpra villages— Case of Pomboa 
— Kuru Downs — The hasty burial^Gardens and hunting — Kangaroo 
hunting — Trapping — Planting charms — The Masingara — The story of 
the crocodile — Gamada drinking — Its preparation — Lack of cere- 
monial — The bow and arrows — Decrease in population : its causes — 
Wearing of clothes — Sodomy — Excess of males — Abortion and infanti- 
cide — Sorcery — Dreams and the spirits of the dead. 

THE whole of the inland district lying between the 
Paho and Oriomo rivers is collectively known as 
Daudai or Dudi ; the latter name, however, being more 
specially applied to the region abutting immediately on 
the estuary of the Fly. It has been penetrated principally 
from the south-eastern coast, and one has rather a ten- 
dency to regard the furthest limits of tribes known inland 
from that direction as totally distinct from those known 
inland from the southern bank of the Fly. It must 
naturally be presumed that the further one proceeds up 
that river the more the inland tribes, such as they are 
known at all, will differ both in type and language ; but 
what I wish to make clear is that in my opinion those 
lying between the south-eastern coast of Western Papua 
and the southern bank of the Fly, at any rate as far as 
Canoe Island, merge imperceptibly into one another at 
some point in the interior. I do not mean, of course, 
that there is an absolutely fixed line of demarcation. 

It is known that the greater part of these tribes is of 
a wandering habit. I know of at least two small packs 
whose travels take them between the Oriomo River on 



the south and Aduru (above Canoe Island) on the Fly 
to the north. From what I have seen I am inclined to 
group them all together with a set of more or less common 
customs, at the same time excepting those immediately 
adjoining the coast. It is, I admit, a very broad classifica- 
tion, but, as knowledge of their habits is scanty enough, 
it is about as much as can be said. The coastal tribes of 
Mawatta and Turituri have exercised within the last 
twenty years a very considerable influence on their 
" bushmen " neighbours principally in the direction of 
what might be called " Europeanising," which is not 
necessarily " civilising." 

The district is drained or watered by only two streams 
of any importance, of which but one is more than a large 
creek, the Oriomo, entering the sea just opposite Daru. 
The other, the Binaturi, reaches the coast at Mawatta. 

The first tribe of any significance in the bush is that of 
Badu. Its lands are situated some miles to the north-west 
of Masingara, of whom more anon, and is undoubtedly the 
largest and most important in the district. These lands 
are composed of low ridges covered with grass and a 
species of eucalyptus separated by low swampy land, and 
there is a considerable area of forest country. At one time 
the Badu village consisted of ten houses built on the 
ground, each about fifty feet long. The tribe must there- 
fore have been a fairly large one, but neither a large village 
nor a large population exists at the present day. The 
people were continually at war with Masingara and ipso 
facto with Mawatta, and it was in connection with some of 
these intertribal raids that they first came in contact with 
the police, and they appear to have built up for them- 
selves a considerable reputation as fierce fighters. The 
first party that went to the Badu village was accom- 
panied by a large train of the Masingara, and naturally 
the Badu turned out in full fighting kit. There was con- 
siderable arrow fire, and one of the Mawatta men with the 


party named Kesave was rather badly wounded. Kesave 
was either at that time or a very httle later a member of 
the constabulary, and this was his first wound in the 
service of the Crown. He seems to have been rather an 
unlucky person for he managed to get wounded on two 
or three later occasions while serving with the police 
It has often been stated or surmised that the Western 
people poison their arrows and the coast people un- 
doubtedly believe this. It was thought at first that 
Kesave was struck by a poisoned arrow and it was he 
himself who told me so. The sap of a tree called " tote " 
is stated to be a poison used for the purpose, but as " tote " 
is merely a rosewood {Pterocarpus), I surmise it is harm- 
less. D'Albertis mentions on his first visit to Mawatta 
that the arrows were smeared -with a reddish substance, 
and as the sap or juice of " tote " is brown or reddish, 
what he saw was probably the same. 

I have heard from some sources that a few of the bush- 
men poison their arrows by dipping their tips in a 
decomposing human body. Whether this could actually 
produce fatal effects apart from septic poisoning I am 
unable to say, but even if correct the practice is probably 
a " sympathetic " one. When Mr. Massy-Baker, of the 
Papuan Service, returned from his trip to the Strickland 
River in 1911 he brought back a bundle of wooden arrow 
tips which he thought were poisoned. They were found 
carefully protected by a covering, so it is evident that they 
had been dipped in something, actually poisonous or not. 
When I was on the head waters of the Waria in German 
New Guinea in 1006 I found broad-pointed arrows in use 
smeared with a very evil-smelling, sticky substance, and 
protected by coverings of leaves, which I was assured by 
the police was a poison, although at the time I was inclined 
to think it more in the nature of a charm. Incantations 
are frequently muttered over arrows both to produce good 
shooting and a fatal effect, and less often charms may 


be used for the same purpose, although I have not seen 
a charm in actual use on an arrow. The use of actually 
poisoned arrows by Papuans is still unproved, but almost 
all of them are dirty enough to produce blood poisoning 
without any assistance. Mr. J. P. Hennelly, when acting 
as Resident Magistrate of the North-Eastern Division, 
met the Gombara tribe who were stated to poison their 
spears. The method is described as follows : " They get 
the bark of a tree called morso and with the betel nut 
this is chewed up and the mixture then spat all over the 
spear-head. As two constables were wounded and no ill- 
effects followed it is reasonable to presume the mixture 
was harmless and was perhaps intended as a charm or as 

The furthest inland villages yet reached in this particu- 
lar district have been Sorgal, or more properly Sogaru, and 
Aita and Podari at a distance of about forty miles from 
the coast in a straight line. Near Aita is some very excel- 
lent planting country and a small lake and a large grove 
of coconuts. A year or so ago considerable trouble broke 
out among these three villages, as usual over a woman, 
and mingled up was a tangle of charges and counter- 
charges of sorcery and " pay back " for deaths. A number 
of Podari men had been recruited for the plantations in 
another part of the territory, and unfortunately almost 
all of them together with some Aita men had died. Hence 
the accusations of sorcery. So closely inbred and inter- 
connected were these Podari people that the officer who 
went to distribute the wages of the deceased to the next 
of kin could only find one woman who stood in varying 
degrees of close relationship to ten persons. Much of the 
trouble between Aita and Podari was caused by a man 
who had also engaged himself for work at the same time 
as the others. Almost immediately after his arrival at the 
plantation where he was to work, he with some of his 
fellows deserted from somewhere in the neighbourhood 


of Port Moresby. Nothing has ever been heard of his 
companions nor could he give me any information as to 
their fate, but the tale of his own adventures was exciting 
enough. Two years ago the coast line between Port 
Moresby and the mouth of the Purari was safe enough, 
but between the Purari and the Turama a solitary stranger 
ran an excellent chance of being eaten. It was a mystery 
how he escaped arrest on the first part of his journey, 
but how he escaped being eaten on the second part was 
a still greater one. Being a bushman he of course could 
neither swim nor manage a canoe and there is a wide 
network of river and sea to traverse. I gathered frag- 
ments of his story, how the Urama people had hunted him 
in canoes while he waded through water up to his neck, 
how other savages had chased him like a water-rat through 
the swamps, firing arrows at him all the while, how he 
stole a canoe and drifted somewhere. Finally he appeared 
to have come to land near Bell Point on the Turama, 
where instead of being eaten he was treated kindly and 
given a wife. He lived with these people for some months 
until he was picked up by a recruiting vessel and brought 
to Daru. As if he had not already had enough excitement, 
no sooner had he returned to his home than he started 
a pretty feud by shooting a Podari man. 

Mr. Massy Baker tells me that among these villages 
girl children are allotted in marriage very shortly after 
birtli, and that it is customary for the man to whom she 
is to be given to incise his " brand " on her arm or breast, 
just as if she were a pig. I am not aware what form these 
scarifications take, but they may partially explain some 
of them seen elsewhere, although this is the first time that 
I knew of this custom. 

The Podari tribe, or what was left of it, made a strong 
effort to "pay back" for the deaths of their brothers. Com- 
plaints of their sorcery became rampant through the 
district from Masingara and Mawatta and a number of 


small bush villages. A Masingara man was reported dead 
and it was stated that four Podari sorcerers and one 
Glulu man had brought about his death. From the 
evidence brought forward in court later it appeared that 
the Podari party came down to Glulu, a small village a 
few miles from Masingara, where they obtained their 
accomplice. He seems to have been a tool more than 
anything else. They then went on to the Masingara 
village of Bulau by night and found their victim sleeping 
in his house. Charms were made against him, he was 
lightly struck with a large piece of a vine, which when 
dry has all the appearance of a human bone and is stated 
to be very strong medicine, and a piece of real human bone 
was pointed at him. That there should be no doubt 
about the result the Glulu man hit him on the back of 
the head with an axe. The most extraordinary thing 
about the whole case was that the latter incident was 
only introduced as a most minor detail, quite an after- 
thought in fact. Everyone seemed to attach far more 
importance to the sorcery as the actual cause of death. 
Next day the corpse was buried, but it appeared that the 
sorcerers returned during the night and consumed some 
portions of it. I do not know that man-eating is much 
in evidence in the inland districts, but I have been in- 
formed by one Daru resident that he had known of several 
instances especially of corpse eating. I mean, of course, 
dead bodies actually buried in the first instance. 

The same gentleman is also my authority for an instance 
of a stockaded village wliich he mentions having seen 
when travelling inland. This particular village, the name 
of which he was unable to give me, apparently is situated 
in the downs country. As far as my memory serves me 
he described the place as strongly palisaded and the people 
as naked, curled, dark brown savages of strong medium 
stature and of a fierce disposition. In appearance they did 
not differ much from the ordinary type of bushmen 


except that they were uncontaminated by outside influ- 
ences. I have not been able to find or identify this tribe. 

The general type of village and housebuilding among 
these Western bushmen is that of a house up to about 
forty feet in length built on the ground, about eight feet 
high, roofed with ti tree bark and with curved ends but 
without walls. The women and children live separately. 
As a matter of fact the pile-built house is now replacing 
the ground house almost everywhere, a change partly 
introduced from the coast and due to imitating the houses 
seen by visiting bushmen either at Daru or at the up-to- 
date coast villages and partly by the example and precept 
of various Europeans settled in the neighbourhood. 

The generally accepted opinion used to be that all the 
land between the Fly River and the sea consisted of low 
swampy country, but actually it is very different. It 
consists principally of long, low, undulating hills and 
ridges well grassed and broken by belts of forest timber, 
such as bloodwood, varieties of eucalyptus and ti tree. 
There are certainly great patches of swamp, and in the 
rainy season a great deal is almost hopelessly impassable. 
Round about the villages of Tate and Glulu, neither of 
them very far from the coast, there is a considerable tract 
of elevated country with scrub land and open stretches 
with a rich dark red loamy soil. Further inland and 
between here and the Oriomo the late Mr. Hely describes 
the country thus : " The country was like a garden, the 
number of wildflowers of various colours (three kinds of 
wild pea, honeysuckle, wisteria) reminding me of other 
lands . . . there is splendid permanent water in creeks 
and lagoons : the country is high and could never be 
flooded — the soil is firm even in wet weather, while the 
grasses are entirely different to those nearer the coast on 
the low lands, sweet and succulent and of moderate 
height." The most extraordinary thing about the district 
is that " the soil rests on a coral foundation. In a creek 


at Somlos I found what seemed to be coral limestone, a 
view that was confirmed by finding boulders of coral at 
Irupi containing fossil shells." 

The Binaturi has been ascended by whaleboat almost 
to the beginning of the Djibu Hills, which form the water- 
shed between this stream and the Oriomo. A few miles 
from its mouth it divides into two branches, neither large, 
but both carrying a good depth of water, and really pretty 
streams mth their arches of overhanging forest. On one 
branch, the Budupupu, there are many native ferries, for 
the stream is infested mth crocodiles. These ferries con- 
sist of a bundle of bamboos loosely tied together so as to 
form a raft. Across the stream is stretched from tree to 
tree a long line of native liana and the passenger pulls 
himself across by hauling on the rope. Another method 
of crossing is by bridges peculiar to the district. These are 
made of long bamboos well lashed together and laid on the 
surface of the water from bank to bank, so that when one 
walks over, the bridge sways and becomes half submerged, 
half floating. They are a trifle awkward to the booted 
European, especially when they tip over at an angle of 
about thirty degrees, but the native seems to get along 
all right. There are some excellent fertile patches along 
these streams, and one quite large tract that I was told is 
owned by the Yam Island natives. How these people 
became possessed of land here I cannot say unless it be 
by intermarriage ; but I do not suppose their claim could 
be recognised, as they are a Torres Straits tribe under the 
jurisdiction of Queensland. 

The largest tribe in the neighbourhood is that of Dirimo, 
on the banks of the Budupupu, and consists of a few 
remnants of other tribes added to the original Dirimo one. 
They live in a mixture of small communal houses both on 
piles and on the ground and are a dark weedy lot, much 
addicted to the wearing of clothes. In numbers the}^ are 
distinctly on the decrease. About five years ago they 
numbered sixty ; less than two years ago they were not 


more than forty-seven. They consider themselves very 
civilised, but have highly inflated ideas of themselves and 
their property. I was buying some land from them for 
the Crown, about a couple of hundred acres. The price 
demanded was one million pounds in cash money. I 
explained that the Government was hardly prepared to 
pay that sum and the price dropped in one jump to a 
hundred, and in the end they were willing to accept the 
usual price per acre in trade goods. 

There are one or two peculiarities about some of the 
small villages to the north-west. At some of them which 
are not nomadic there is an arrangement of two paths 
leading up to the houses. One road, the more direct one, 
may only be used by men, the women being permitted to 
approach only by the second and longer track. I have 
several times noticed the unfortunate women with a load 
of taro and firewood on their backs having to crawl round 
this circuitous road. When white men first come into 
many of these hamlets, the women do not actually show 
fear, but seat themselves on the ground with their hands 
over their faces or with their backs turned. 

Speaking generally the bush tribes are of a colour 
almost black, but not quite the black colour of the Fly 
estuary. Their noses are shorter, straighter and thicker 
and not of the aquiline or Semitic type. They bury in the 
ground and cover the grave with ti tree bark. The men 
go clothed or used to go clothed in nothing but the in- 
separable bow gauntlet, but now rags at any stage of wear 
are in great demand. The ordinary dress of the women 
is the long grass petticoat, but it seems to be a fashion 
when one comes to a village for every woman as soon as 
she gets an inkling of your approach to race off and 
wriggle into a shapeless print dress which she has managed 
to acquire somewhere, just as the men have been known 
to pass round a solitary shirt from one to another in order 
to pay their respects. It is quite hopeless to try and 
combat this sense of false modesty. When a woman is in 


mourning she is wrapped from head to foot in strings 
of ti tree bark, which she wears for months when it is 
finally cut off and burned. 

At the head of the Gowapupu, the smaller branch of 
the Binaturi, there is a village called Aripra, where excel- 
lent tobacco of good flavour and very little thread is 
grown. I met here a curious custom in defence of murder 
which was pleaded successfully, that is in mitigation of 
sentence, for the accused got i off with but six months' 
imprisonment. A young man named Pomboa was charged 
with having killed his sister. Pomboa, by the way, gave 
a lot of trouble before he was arrested. He received some 
warning of our approach and took to the bush followed 
by the village policeman of Dirimo and some men of Aripra. 
The party followed Pomboa for over thirty-six hours — 
these people are great travellers by night- — before he was 
caught in a very exhausted state. It appeared that his 
brother-in-law had died, and in an ecstasy of grief Pomboa 
seized his bow and shot a couple of arrows into his sister. 
He pleaded as his excuse that "it is our custom when a 
man dies it is not right that the woman should remain 

The pick of the district is undoubtedly the country 
lying in the vicinity of Kuru on the northern side of the 
Djibu Hills. Almost imperceptibly the country rises in a 
succession of low ridges till it reaches at Kuru fully four 
hundred feet above sea-level. The climate is delightfully 
cool and fresh, especially towards evening and in the early 
morning. The Djibu people are now but a very small 
remnant. On the last occasion when I was travelling 
through to the Oriomo across these inland downs I found 
the few people living in small humpies on the ground and 
exceedingly exasperated the Kuru tribe by accusing them 
of having killed a man by sorcery. When I reached Kuru 
I found a kind of death feast in progress. I was told about 
the deceased who was a man of middle age, and it was 
explained that they really had commenced to celebrate 


his death some time before, but in the middle of the festivi- 
ties the corpse got up and said he was hungry. This did 
not seem quite normal, but he was given some bananas, 
and then I was told that " he died again." I was a trifle 
suspicious of this second " death," and asked if they 
were sure that the man had actually died. " Oh, yes," they 
replied, " we buried him." It may have been a case of 
the hasty burial, but apart from that there is a distinct idea 
that the spirit should not he held back when it wants to 
go and I suppose inferentially that it is right to lend a 
helping hand. Natives have a great objection to awaken- 
ing anyone quickly from sleep for the spirit may be 
wandering and perhaps it will not get back in time. 

Kuru at one time was about the leading tribe of the 
neighbourhood, but they are now sadly diminished in 
numbers and live in tiny hamlets widely scattered. On 
the Oriomo there are but few people left, and to my own 
knowledge two small tribes have entirely disappeared 
within the last six years. 

The whole district is a planting one, taro being the staple 
crop. It is always roasted, the women doing the cooking 
and being very skilful in the use of bamboo tongs for turn- 
ing over the food on the fire. Personally I have not seen 
any taro here equal to that of the Northern Division, but 
many people swear by this. Taro is a root of the arum 
family and looks when cooked very much like a piece of 
mottled soap. Very big gardens are made, far greater 
than would seem to be required by the actual needs of the 
inhabitants ; but the gardens are very scattered, each 
man planting away from his neighbours. To the extrcxne 
west the yam is the principal food ; here it is the taro, 
while away to the eastward very little but sago is used. 
During the past few years the seasons have been very 
dry and consequently the crops suffered severely. Every 
tribe with the exception of such as possessed patches of 
sago was hard put to it for food and was driven to subsist 
on coconuts, bush fruits, mangrove shoots and the pro- 


ceeds of hunting. The natives are almost better hunters 
than they are planters, and exceptionally skilful at follow- 
ing the kangaroo and cassowary, shooting them with 
arrows. Near the Oriomo I saw a method of catching 
kangaroo which I have not come across in any other part 
of the territory, and that is by the hunters forming a ring 
round three or four of the animals and gradually closing 
in and running them down, not necessarily using any 
weapons or dogs at all. The usual method in other parts 
is to drive the game into nets and spear it. In the open- 
ended sheds which serve as houses you can often see small 
coops for confining young cassowary or piglets which have 
been caught. Ginger, by the way, which is very plentiful, 
is a powerful hunting charm, both for men, dogs and 
weapons. A good deal of game is trapped, such as 
kangaroo and smaller marsupials like bandicoots. The 
trap is built on the animal's run and consists of a heavy 
beam of wood, one end of which rests on the ground, the 
other on a light stake some six feet long slightly inserted 
in the ground. Pandanus fibres are placed between the 
beam and the upright. The animal coming along in the 
dark becomes entangled in the snare, the stake is pulled 
away and the heavy beam falls killing the animal. The 
kangaroo found here is the kangaroo of Australia and is 
infested with tick. At some villages, although there 
seems to be no objection to assisting others to kill them, 
it is forbidden to kill or eat kangaroo ; for a totem reason, 
I suspect. 

A good many garden or planting charms are used. 
Frequently one sees on the tracks near gardens large circles 
of grass hanging from trees which I am told are charms 
to make the taro grow. Although one seldom sees them 
in use at the present time and among the more civilised 
tribes they do not appear to be regarded with much 
veneration — the last I saw was a worm-eaten and grimy 
specimen lying neglected in a corner — rudely fashioned and 


somewhat obscene effigies of both men and women are 
used as garden or agricultural gods. As is the custom 
generally throughout New Guinea garden work is women's 
work, that is, the lighter part of it such as planting and 
digging with the digging stick or shell hoe, and weeding 
and gathering in the crop. Myself I have always thought 
it was the harder part. Once ground is cleared and 
fenced (they do not always fence in the Downs country) 
the man's job is practically over, while bending over taro 
beds in the heat of the sun all day is an everlasting task, 
to say nothing of dragging home heavy loads of food and 
firewood at dusk. The shell hoe is made of a piece of melon 
shell inserted into a wooden handle and kept there by 
wedges. It is now supplanted by the iron hoe or mattock. 

The bush people have a system of quarantine during 
sickness. When a man becomes ill he is placed in a hut 
by himself away in the bush, and I am afraid all too fre- 
quently he is left to himself. Still the idea is good even if 
the patient does die. 

The Masingara are at the present day about three 
hundred strong and their two villages lie a twenty minutes' 
pleasant walk from Mawatta, with which tribe they are on 
terms of intimate friendship and among whom you find 
a few of the very rare instances in which a coast tribe inter- 
marries with bushmen, but I cannot recall any case in 
which a bushman has married a Mawatta woman. It is 
an agreeable surprise to walk in from Mawatta for the first 
time and find a broad guttered track diving into the forest 
as one approaches the villages and to come out into a clean, 
well-built settlement of some size. The children are 
numerous, sturdy and show no fear and they follow on 
your trail like a string of light infantry foraging for frag- 
ments of tobacco, but they are quite prepared to dive 
like rabbits for shelter into the nearest warren if you 
happen to turn round rather suddenly. The two present 
villages are separated by a tidal branch of the Binaturi 


which is crossed by a broad bamboo bridge resting on 
bamboo piles and lashed up with cane. It is safe enough, 
but somehow it looks too slippery to inspire confidence. 
Once upon a time the whole tribe used to live in ground 
houses, the single men and boys sleeping in unwalled 
shelters on the ground, in which were kept great strings 
of pigs' skulls and cassowary bones. The family houses 
were walled in and shared with the village pigs. The long 
Man House still exists, but it is now raised on piles and is 
regarded as a kind of club and meeting-place. The family 
house — and the modern tendency is for the whole family 
to live together — is pile built, but the lower space is walled 
in, a concession to conservatism, and is still shared by 
pigs and those who cannot get used to the new-fangled 
method of sleeping on a floor. Twenty years ago or more 
the tribe was divided into six sections with four Man 
Houses, two of the sections each possessing one and the 
remaining four sharing one between each two. 

The crocodile is looked upon with great respect, and 
Mr. Hely mentions in an old district report how it became 
a sacred animal, for the crocodile may be killed but not 
eaten under pain of becoming exceedingly ill and breaking 
out into sores. A man named Usai was one day walking 
near Pudu Creek when he heard singing and talking. 
Being curious, for the language was that of his people, he 
searched and found a large crocodile playing with two 
small ones. Hastily making his way back to the village 
and telling the people what he had seen and heard he 
suggested that it would be just as well to secure this great 
" god " for themselves. Next day everybody went to 
the place and asked the crocodile to become their god. 
The honour, however, was declined and the crocodile 
disappeared. However, the Masingara did not intend 
to be cheated out of their deity and managed to capture 
the large animal but only one of the small ones. The 
name of the large one was Nugu and the small one Ulbe 


and they were both taken away to the village and shut 
up in a house. After a while, however, it was noticed 
that children began to disappear while their parents were 
away in the gardens. Nugu admitted eating them. So 
an arrangement was made whereby Nugu should receive 
pigs and he in his turn should leave the children alone. 
Ever since then the Masingara children may play %vithout 
fear of crocodiles. 

There are or were two well-designed carvings of Nugu and 
Ulbe, the former about eight feet long, and Nugu is also 
represented as a large carved figure of a man and was 
looked upon as a garden god. The two former effigies 
were hunting charms and were brought out among the 
dancers at the big hunting dance. 

The Masingara in common with the rest of the bushmen, 
for it was from this district that the practice seems to 
have originally sprung, have solved the problem, as it 
has been put, of how to get drunk on a piece of dry wood, 
or rather root. I do not know how the peculiar properties 
of gamada came to be discovered, but it must be prepared 
in a special way in order to develop them. 

Gamada is the drink prepared from the stem and roots 
of a plant known as the Piper methysticum. It is widely 
distributed over New Gumea. It has been found on the 
Gira River in the North and in a stunted form in the high 
mountains of Central New Guinea. Mr. Armit mentions 
having seen it in the Yodda Valley, but describes it as 
lacking in potency, and I have seen it growing on the 
head waters of the Kiko. But the knowledge of the plant 
and its use is confined in Papua to a comparatively small 
area in the Western Division. It grows as a low shrub 
about three feet in height and is a light green in colour. 
The natives plant it by itself in small plots usually away 
from the ordinary gardens and attend very carefully to its 
cultivation, the shrub being of slow growth and taking a 
very long time to mature. If you bite the root, it does 


not taste very enticing, but at the same time it leaves a 
not unpleasant peppery flavour. In order to experience 
its full intoxicating effects I am told that you should smoke 
after drinking it. 

To prepare the drink the root and stem are chewed, the 
chewed mass being spat into a bag made of the inside 
portion of a coconut leaf, a little water is added and 
the whole is then squeezed into a coconut shell. The 
chewing apparently brings out the peculiar properties of the 
plant and the drink tastes much like a concoction of senna, 
pepper, and other nasty compounds, and resembles nothing 
so much as a strong mixture of curry powder and water. 
The Papuan gamada is stated to be very much stronger 
than the South Sea kava, the effect of which is compara- 
tively mild, and it does not require a great deal of gamada 
to produce symptoms closely resembling drunkenness, 
outwardly at any rate. 

The New Guinea method of preparation gives you rather 
a feeling of intense disgust, and there is almost a total 
absence of ceremonial in both preparation and drinking. 
At the same time you can find very faint traces of cere- 
mony. For instance, when visitors arrived at a village 
they used always to be offered gamada and, as a matter 
of politeness, it was chewed for them ; but apart from 
that it was drunk without more ado. Inter-village or 
domestic matters are frequently discussed and settled 
over a bowl, and there is no more harm than if it had been 
done over a cup of tea. At Masingara it is smeared during 
the hunting dance over certain effigies, and at Mawatta 
and other places it is consumed during fishing and initia- 
tion ceremonies when, I am told, it is chewed by small 
boys. So much for the ritual of gamada. 

At the present time it is known and used all over Kiwai 
and in many parts of the Fly River. At no time was it 
ever used by women or lads, and until very recent years 
it seems to have been reserved solely for the older men. 


In itself as used formerly gamada was harmless enough. 
It formed a strong social tie, and beyond perhaps a state 
of blissful nothingness into which someone might fall at 
odd times through over-indulgence, no ill results followed. 
However, its use has been extended and inordinately large 
quantities began to be consumed, and it was considered 
that this increased use was having a bad effect upon 
drinkers. Consequently it has been prohibited by a 
Native Regulation. I do not think that there is any 
doubt that moderate drinkers find it quite innocuous, but 
it is otherwise with confirmed drunkards. They become 
emaciated, they lose their appetite, their sleep is fitful 
and they generally sink into an unwholesome lethargy 
while their mental faculties are dulled. After a debauch 
there is a profuse and offensive perspiration, weariness 
and pins and needles in the hands and legs, and one of the 
most noticeable symptoms is a loss of control over the 
limbs. In fact, like most other things, gamada is all right 
in moderation, but in excess it does not produce any good 
effects. " Its chief physiological influence," says Mr. 
Basil Thomson, " is on the motor nerves, but the sensory 
fibres are also affected and the influence is cumulative. The 
alcoholic extract, when evaporated to the consistency of 
soap, is as active as cocaine, weight for weight, in inducing 
local anaesthesia." 

When gamada drinking was prohibited, many of the 
Mawatta natives came to me and urged that it was useful 
in staving off dysentery. Medical opinion, however, 
beyond finding certain astringent qualities in the root, 
did not support the plea. It is interesting in this connec- 
tion to note that the Fijians have a firm belief that yan- 
kona (kava) is a specific in the early stages of diarrhoea. 

The chief weapon of the bushmen is, of course, the bow, 
and they are excellent makers of arrows. The Papuan 
arrow is not feathered and consequently at anything over 
a very short range the trajectory must be very high. 
Extreme arrow range cannot exceed two hundred and 


fifty yards, and at that distance aim at a definite target 
is quite out of the question. Besides the ordinary varieties 
they make arrows carved in the shape of men, crocodiles 
and snakes, some of them very elaborate, others rather 
crude. This carving is always done on the wooden head, 
and in the old days, being made with an " epa " shell, 
must have taken a great while. Very few of these elaborate 
man arrows are made now. The shaft is made of reed and 
sometimes has a few rude chevrons or lines drawn upon 
it. None of the shafts are notched. I have mentioned 
previously that arrows are frequently charmed before 
being used for fighting and in addition a successful arrow, 
i.e. one that has killed a man, is often named and cele- 
brated in songs. I should not omit to state that the 
manufacture of carved arrows is not confined to the 
bushmen. They are equally well known in the Fly and 
elsewhere, and each type of arrow has a specific name. 

I have referred previously to the decreasing numbers 
of the bushfolk. The officers of the Government have 
drawn attention to this fact over twenty years ago, point- 
ing out the numbers of abandoned village sites, and in 
my mind there is no doubt that the population must at 
one time have been very considerably in excess of what 
it was even then and still more so than what it is now. 
In many instances there is no apparent visible cause for 
the perceptible decrease in population apart from obvious 
factors such as dysentery or whooping cough. The 
country is fertile, there is no lack of food either animal 
or vegetable, and there is no fighting. But the fact re- 
mains that the native population is dying out, in some 
cases slowly, in others rapidly. I have already mentioned 
the figures at Dirimo, a settled tribe. But the greater 
part of the bushmen is nomadic or semi-nomadic. Although 
they cultivate large areas they are continually on the move. 
They are greedy imitators of what they believe to be wliite 
man's fashion as passed on to them through the coast 
villages such as wearing clothes and even to the extent of 


learning English. But clothes-wearing and the filthy 
rags they do wear seem to render them peculiarly liable 
to pulmonary troubles to which they easily succumb. One 
officer notes in a report that it was unpleasant camping 
near a village as he was kept awake all night by the con- 
tinual coughing. Many are weedy and undersized, a 
condition induced partly by inbreeding among themselves, 
for no coast tribe with the possible rare exceptions in the 
case of Mawatta and Masingara would dream of inter- 
marrying with the bushmen, and the numbers of the latter 
are too few to permit of a wide choice. The excess 
of males over females is noticeable. At Ori on the Oriomo 
I counted in 1908 a population of twelve males to eight 
females, children included, and the same proportion is 
roughly maintained in a number of tribes. I have noticed 
this same excess of males over females in other districts, 
in some of the mountain tribes in the Central Division and 
a similar decrease in population. Another reason is 
that while there are not enough women to go round, 
polygamy exists, the elder and more influential men 
marrying two or even three wives with the object of possess- 
ing larger and better gardens. Then again the falling birth- 
rate is influenced by the fact that many of the girls are 
married at a very early age, the ceremony being com- 
pleted as soon as it is physically possible to do so. Arti- 
ficial means are taken to limit births, and if these fail, 
infanticide is practised. It is only right to mention that 
no case of any of the practices described above has ever 
been brought before the courts, but that does not neces- 
sarily imply that they do not exist and I should say that 
these are not only my own observations but those of two 
experienced officers who have been my predecessors in the 
West. I do not intend to apply all these factors to every 
bush tribe, but the sum of them applied to all in general 
will, I conceive, supply a working reason for the almost 
alarming decrease in population. A few years ago a small 
wandering tribe named Iruku consisted of seventeen males 















^A^^i, -_#»i=l; j*^kj., 


and four females. They were a wizened, monkey-like 
pygmy lot of beings, and they have now completely dis- 
appeared, nor is it surprising. 

Added to all this are the deaths caused by sorcery or the 
fear of sorcery. Sorcery, it is needless to say, is the bane 
of every Papuan. I think I can safely say that I have 
never been in such a sorcerer-ridden district. And the 
worst of it is that little or none of actual sorcery practice 
is brought under one's notice although one knows it exists. 
It appears to be believed that a doctor of the black art 
can dissociate his spirit from his body and despatch it 
about the country working all sorts of mischief. Certain 
men are credited with supernatural powers either acquired 
or by inheritance and the people are prepared to ascribe 
everything to them. The coast folk invariably say the 
bush people are powerful sorcerers and the bush people 
accuse each other of the same thing. Possibly and very 
often the sorcerer himself does nothing to shake this 
belief. Why should he ? It is a source of power and 
wealth to him, whether it be black or white magic. When 
anyone dies from some unexplained cause, when a person 
dies from snake bite (and in New Guinea no one except 
those actually killed in battle or the very aged die a 
natural death), when the crops fail, when there is too much 
rain or too little, it is all due to the sorcerer. Natives, too, 
attach much importance to dreams. After a death I have 
often had some one come along, perhaps a relative, and 
remark that last night as he slept the spirit of the deceased 
came to him and said that So-and-so, probably a well- 
known wizard, had done him to death. So, too, the 
spirits of the dead are communicated with while not 
sleeping by those who are dowered with the power to see 
and converse with them. That many deaths occur in 
connection with witchcraft is certain, whether by self- 
suggestion due to fear or by poisoning I cannot say, 
but I exclude such physical forms as a blow from an axe 
previously described. 




Tlie Pabo River — Tlie Dabu and Toga tribes — Description and dwellings — 
A great pig-breeding district — Pigs and cassowaries can swim — Raids 
from Torres Straits — Kwoiam's fight — Mabudauan Hill — The station 
at Mabudauan— The purchase of the site — Paho Island — The drum of 
Besai — The weeping place of the spirits — Wawa's house at Mabudauan. 

ON the coast the village of Buji is a convenient stopping- 
place before treating of what might be called the 
far Western tribes. Eastward, that is to say, the district 
between that place and the Paho River, I have fouiid 
distinct traces of connection in the inland country ; for 
instance, at Sogaru, mentioned previously, much of the 
language is identical with that spoken on the head of the 
Wassi Kussa ; but for practical purposes a division at 
Buji in the West is most easily grasped, more especially 
as the whole area hereabouts is very sparsely populated. 
In fact there is but one tiny settlement on the coast 
between Buji and the Paho. 

The Paho River, or as it was once termed somewhat 
meaninglessly the Kawa Kussa, is an uninteresting stream 
passing through swampy mangrove for five miles or so 
near the coast until it makes a big loop and then flows 
through somewhat higher ground. Sir William MacGregor 
ascended it in a steam-launch as far as it was navigable 
without finding much of interest, and one or two others 
have travelled laigher than his furthest point in dingeys 
without any greater success or finding any native popula- 
tion. One trader made several cross-country trips, in the 
search for good land, but beyond a few suitable patches 
found nothing sufficiently attractive. The only two tribes 



known to myself personally on the river arc the Da))u 
and the Togu, the former to the westward and the latter 
on the opposite bank, but very much higher up. 

At the time that both tribes were first met they were 
living in constant dread of the Tugeri raiders from Dutcli 
New Guinea, although that fear did not prevent them 
raiding Mabudauan Station themselves and stealing- 
knives and axes and whatever other portable property they 
could lay their hands upon. The original camps of the 
tribes were merely lean-tos about fifteen feet by ten, open 
at each end and with roofs made of curved saplings, over 
which were spread sheets of ti tree bark. They were 
built on the ground and indeed were typical Western 
bush houses. Altogether existence must have been pretty 
miserable. These camps were temporary ones, but do 
not differ much from those of the present day except that 
the modern ones are a trifle better built, but in no sense 
are they to be taken for permanent homes. Both tribes 
till the ground and grow much taro, but they are con- 
tinually shifting their habitations, as the gardens become 
eaten out and there is distinct tendency to break up into 
small packs. The Togu were at one time about two hun- 
dred strong with a proportion of males to females and 
children of about one to three. The usual form of social 
organisation is maintained, that i,s, the women and children 
occupy separate quarters from the single men, irrespective 
of family, and like all the bushmen the men go naked 
except for the bow gauntlet which throughout the West 
seems hardly ever removed. The demand for clothes is 
spreading rapidly among them. 

It is just about this point on the Paho that one notices 
most strongly the Western limits of the black people. 
These Paho folk are almost black and wear their hair in 
short curls. To the westward the prevailing colour is 
much lighter. Both Togu and Dabu have been decreasing 
in numbers, but apparently less rapidly than their east- 


ward neighbours, and the former especially seem to be 
a more conservative tribe altogether and hold themselves 
very much aloof from their neighbours. Togu is a very 
good pig-breeding district, and the pigs are well fed and 
carefully looked after and are often offensive in their 
familiarity, attaching themselves to visitors and frequently 
only being restrained by force from following them away 
from the villages. People working in their gardens or 
travelling are attended by their pigs much as other people 
are by their dogs. Like most other natives they geld 
many of the boars to let them grow large, and occasionally 
blind them with lime to prevent them from straying. 
I used generally to send down here at Christmas time to 
buy pigs for the men's Christmas dinner. I have an idea, 
by the way, that it is generally supposed that both pigs 
and cassowary cannot swim, but I once saw a cassowary 
swim the Paho to escape from a hunting party, and one 
November I bought a couple of pigs at a village in the Fly. 
The crew rigged up some sort of rope arrangement to keep 
the animals on board, but they managed to escape while 
we were lying at anchor and started to swim the Fly here 
about two miles across. I don't know whether trying in 
a small dingey to catch a pig swimming its hardest in a 
current running at the rate of so many knots an hour is 
considered sport, but at any rate it is exciting enough. 
The boys succeeded in getting their Christmas menu by 
diving underneath the animal and roping its legs under 
water and then hauling it into the dingey. 

At first the Togu were generally in a state of jumps and 
used to stand with bows ready and arrows on the string, 
nervous to the last degree. A man in a state of extreme 
fear is often dangerous, but it is difficult to realise that 
the dirty, undersized, nervous Togu of the present day 
could have been the ferocious and desperate savages 
mentioned by Sir William MacGregor. 

I am inclined to fancy that the Tugeri and Mawatta 


men were not the only ones who harried these two Paho 
tribes. It is well known that several of the Torres Straits 
Islanders used to raid the New Guinea coast and bush for 
heads. At times they descended on the Wassi Kussa, 
but generally they went to the coast further east. There 
is an interesting story told at Mabuiag how Kwoiam, the 
great hero of the Islands, paid for his mother's death. 
(He killed her himself, by the way.) The story is told in 
full in the Report of the Cambridge Anthropological Expe- 
dition to Torres Straits, but a brief account will bear 
repetition. When Kwoiam was about to cut off his 
mother's head, he said, " When I sharpen this knife I will 
cut off the heads of the New Guinea men." He went first 
to Boigu and then passed on to Dauan Island, where he 
climbed up the hill and threw up his throwing stick which 
fell in the direction of Daudai (New Guinea). So Kwoiam 
and a companion went on in their canoe and came to 
Daudai and went up a creek and then into the bush. 
They reached the village of Tog (this is probably Togu) 
which was surrounded by a fence with two openings 
(another instance of a stockaded village in Western New 
Guinea), and collected all the bows and arrows and, 
having set fire to them, fought the men as they rushed out 
of the gate. Two men only escaped. Kwoiam cut off 
the heads of the slain and tied them in bunches and these 
he hung over his shoulders so that there were two bunches 
of heads in front and two behind. " In one hand he held 
his javelin and throwing stick and a head with the other 
hand, and with his mouth he held the head of a grey- 
haired old man." Whether Togu is the actual location of 
this particular raid or not, the story is noteworthy as 
showing what the Daudai bushmen had to put up with. 
Even at the present day or rather until very recently 
the bush people have been subjected to a great deal of 
annoyance from the Islanders. Parties of the Saibai men 
were in the habit of coming across and sailing up the 


Paho on hunting or so-called trading trips. The bushmen 
sold garden stuff and were paid or not just as seemed 
good to their unwanted visitors, and they had their lives 
nearly scared out of them by the guns the Islanders 
brought with them. Much the same kind of annoyance 
was practised further west by the Boigu Island people. 

On the western bank of the mouth of the Paho stands 
the only hill on the coast after you lose sight of Aird Hill 
in the Papuan Gulf, and it is a pleasant break to the eye 
after the interminable dark green of the flat mangrove- 
lined coast. The Australian Main Range can, I believe, 
now be traced from Tasmania in the south along the 
eastern margin of Australia through Western Torres 
Straits into Mabudauan. This hill is from one hundred 
and sixty to two hundred feet high and is geologically the 
same as Dauan or Cornwallis Island, itself separated from 
the New Guinea coast by only a comparatively narrow 
channel. To the ordinary person Mabudauan looks 
exactly like what it probably is, that is, an island sur- 
rounded by recent alluvial deposits. The hill itself is 
entirely composed of granite, but does not cover any 
large area. Littering the intervening space between it and 
the yellow sandy beach are huge boulders and weather- 
worn stones. The Paho flows round the hill entering the 
sea on its eastM^ard side between two small islands. The 
channel is full of great stones and the two islands are also 
rocky. Stretching away to the west is a sea chain of 
stones culminating in another island not far from Saibai 

This was the site selected for the first Government 
Station in the West. In some ways it is difficult to see 
why this was so. The soil is only light, the district is not^ 
thickly populated and the anchorage while fair is not 
good. A vessel drawing six feet has to lie a long way out, 
for the foreshore is almost dry at low water. There is one 
channel on the western side, by which if you are lucky 


and your ship does not draw too much water and you 
care to risk turning suddenly at right angles among the 
rocks, and if some other contingencies do not happen you 
can enter right into the Paho. On the eastern side there 
is a fairly straight passage, but it is filled with con- 
cealed boulders. On the other hand, it was the first site 
seen that looked at all suitable. The land was high and 
dry and above all it was apparently the only place, for 
Daru, although known, was evidently not considered 
suitable. In addition, Mabudauan was in a convenient 
position for checking the raids of the Tugeri pirates from 
the West, To my mind Marukara Island just opposite 
would have been a much better place. It is only a small 
island, but there would have been enough room for the 
Station with a pleasant sand beach and a deep and secure 
anchorage. I have always anchored under Marukara and 
pulled over in the whale-boat to the mainland or up river. 
It is not always easy, however, to get back in the teeth 
of a south-east gale. I have had literally to pull for hours 
and then find the boat carried away miles to leeward 
until the Toawara got up anchor and sailed almost down 
to Saibai to pick us up. 

At first it was believed that the Mabudauan land was 
not owned by anyone and the Crown took possession of 
it without more ado. Mr. Cameron, the first Resident 
Magistrate, had not been long in residence when two sets 
of claimants put in an appearance. The MaM^atta people 
stated they were the owners of the whole coast-line, and 
a little later the chief of Dabu said his people owned 
Mabudauan. I believe the rival claims were disposed of by 
assembling the parties at the Station and paying both. 
Many years later I happened to ascertain the actual 
facts. After the abandonment of Mabudauan by the 
Government and the removal to Daru, a settler applied 
for five hundred acres, including the original one, of one 
hundred and fifty, bought by the Crown. It was necessary, 


of course, to purchase the balance. The chief of Mawatta, 
he who had been the vendor in 1891, also claimed inland. 
It was not certain where the boundary would run so I 
brought the Dabu people along with me, and while running 
the back line the two chiefs pointed out the dividing mark, 
a certain large tree. The claims of Mawatta were therefore 
fully admitted by the bushmen. 

Paho Island, at the mouth of the river, is much used 
by the Mawatta people as a temporary camp either while 
they are on fishing trips or when they go to Mabudauan 
to make gardens. There is but one part used for houses, 
that facing the old station site. On the other side facing 
the sea is a well-known spot with a small rocking stone, 
and near by a flat stone on the ground evidently covering 
a hollow. The former is the home of a local devil named 
Besai, and the stone over the hollow is her drum. When 
stamped upon it gives forth a muffled echo. When a 
death occurs at either Mawatta or Turituri you can hear 
the boom of Besai' s drum as the spirit passes Paho, and 
the rumbling of the rocking-stone near by. Even when 
the people are camped at Mabudauan they know when 
somebody has died at home by these sounds in the night. 
On a rock near the water's edge are four marks made by 
the ghost of Sido, the great hero of the Kiwai peoples, on 
his journey to Adiri, and near the highest part of the 
island is a species of fig tree under which the spirits of the 
dead weep. I was told that plenty of people had seen 
spirits here, both men and women, the latter being nearly 
always nude. I made a slight examination of the place 
and I am very much inclined to think that Besai's drum 
is due to the fact that there may be a tunnel running 
towards the sea which is affected by certain states of the 
tide. But there is not the slightest doubt that even the 
most modernised of Mawatta men firmly believe in the 
passage of the spirits and the beating of the drum of 


Mabiidauan, too, has its romances. As a matter of fact 
there is hardly a prominent landmark or spot on the 
coast that has not some story or other connected with it. 
There are many huge granite boulders strewn about, and 
one in particular was pointed to me as the dwelling of a 
malicious spirit named Wawa. Dr. G. Landtmann refers 
to him and the spot thus, " From Wawa's house a narrow 
path leads to a horizontal slab of rock on which Wawa 
sharpens his stone axe, as shown by several oblong marks 
in the rock." Malicious as he is, I hope Wawa is not the 
personage responsible for the hordes of fleas at Mabudauan 
when I happened to pitch my camp in the vicinity of his 
" house," and that they were more prosaically due to 
some Dabu men who had just left the spot. 


Buji — The visit to Dimiri — The Beer tribe — A trading expedition from 
Mawatta— The Beer murders— Story of Bagi —The Mai Kussa River- 
Mr. MacFarlane's discovery of gold — Strachan Island- The Dutch 
boundary — The Morehead River — Morehead people. 

LYING opposite the Queensland island of Boigu is 
the modern village of Buji, situated just a little to 
the eastward of the mouth of the Mai Kussa River. At 
no time was Buji ever of any size and it was continually 
being decimated by the Tugeri, so that it, Hke most of 
the other tribes in the vi'cinity, was reduced to very small 
numbers. The Reverend James Chalmers is believed to 
have been the first European who came in touch with these 
people, and he describes the tribes of the district as Buji, 
Wasi, Bera, Tabalata, Caima and Uiba. Tabalata, however, 
is the name of a district, not of a tribe. At the present time 
Buji is made up of the broken tribes of Madi, Buado, 
Darp, Waigi, Pado and Wasi, Darp and Buado being 
practically extinct, although I fancy there is a Darp man 
at Boigu who Mas taken over there as a boy for fear of the 
Tugeri. These remnants of tribes were collected and 
settled at Buji when a small police post was established 
there in, I think, 1897 as a means of holding the Tugeri 
in check. Inside a loopholed stockade were built the 
houses of the villagers and the quarters of the six con- 
stabulary who formed the garrison. The original houses 
of the Buji were described as bemg built of saplings bent 
over and thatched with bark. The stay of the police for 
several years improved this type of architecture, and all 
the dwellings are now built on piles and are fairly sub- 
stantial and seemingly a compromise between the strictly 

1 06 


European and the ordinary communal Darimu type. The 
yam storehouses are built on the ground. 

The people of the district are organised in totem clans, 
the principal being the Crocodile and the Kangaroo. I 
have been told that the Raggiana Bird of Paradise is among 
the totems, but if this is so I fancy it is the only case in 
New Guinea where it is knowTi. According to Mr. Chalmers 
sodomy of a ceremonial nature was practised during initia- 
tion, and it is not difficult to believe if one takes any note 
of the appearance of the people. 

The duty of the constabulary stationed here was not 
only to watch the Tugeri, but also to try and get in toucli 
with neighbouring tribes. At the time, of course, very little 
was known of the country at all, and what exploration had 
taken place in these western parts had been principally 
dictated by the necessity of preventing the raids from 
Dutch New Guinea. In fact, it is not too much to say that 
the history of the Far West twenty odd years ago was the 
history of the Tugeri. 

A tribe called Dimiri living in the vicinity of the Yaru, 
the first stream running into the Mai Kussa, was among 
the first visited by the police. The men of Buji, who 
were friendly with the Dimiri, suggested the visit and 
introduced the police. Much in accordance with New 
Guinea fashion the hosts suggested that it might be a 
good opportunity of getting rid of their guests. Possibly 
Buji might have fallen in with the idea, but the con- 
stabulary were their only protection against the Tugeri 
bogey, and accordingly a warning was conveyed to them. 
The Dimiri attacked in the early morning, but got 
decidedly the worst of it, losing several men and some 
prisoners. As they were unable to secure the heads 
of the police, Dimiri avenged their defeat by immediately 
raiding a smaller tribe living to the north-east called 
loro. The latter had not done anything in particular 
to deserve this, but in New Guinea warfare that docs 



not matter. These loro people differ rather considerably 
from the Buji-Morehead type and more nearly resemble 
the bushmen of the Paho. It is interesting to note that 
they possessed a village surrounded by a stockade and 
loopholed for arrow fire. I have only found three or four 
references to villages of this kind in Western New Guinea, 
and I doubt if any exist at the present day. '| 

Eastward of Buji but inland only two tribes are known : 
Beer, already referred to, and Gaima. They are very 
similar to the Buji people in appearance, using the same 
kind of bow, crossbelts and arrows and wearing the pubic 
shell in the same way, which is entirely different to the 
method of the East. On the other hand, they are much 
darker in colour and physically better built. The Buji 
men seem to succumb to disease very quickly and to have 
very little stamina. Out of fifteen men who signed on for 
work in various parts of the Territory not more than four 
returned home, the others dying from dysentery, beri-beri 
or pneumonia. 

It is mthin recent years only that the Buji and other 
tribes have learned to use canoes ; the former have two 
or three small sailing ones. Previously, I believe, they used 
rafts to cross streams. In the yam season, those aristo- 
crats of Western Papua, the Mawatta, make trips as far 
as Buji for trading purposes. But they go up to the Beer 
tribe as a rule, whom they reach by ascending a small creek 
some fifteen miles east of Buji and then travelling by road. 
I happened to be at Mawatta when one such expedition 
was starting. It was looked upon as a regular picnic ; 
everyone in the village with the exception of a few old men 
and women set out in their whole fleet of canoes. The 
goods taken for barter included old tools, knives, axes, 
old print dresses, in fact all the rubbish they could find 
no use for themselves. A stay of three or four days was 
made at Beer, during which time their hosts fed them. 
In exchange for all this rubbish palmed off on the un- 


sophisticated bushmen they brought back some tons of 
fine yams and much other miscellaneous gear such as 
women's dresses, bows, orchid root bags in two or three 
colours and the so-called Tugeri arrows. These arrows 
are sold again to Europeans in New Guinea or, by way 
of the Torres Straits Islanders, reach Thursday Island, 
where they are disposed of to curio-hunting tourists. The 
Buji and Wassi Kussa people carry on some trade with 
Boigu, selling belts and boars' tusks and manufactured 
stone clubs, although on the Wassi Kussa I was told that 
the stone for clubs was obtained from Boigu and Dauan. 
The first trip I made to Buji was in the height of the 
south-east season in the old Toawara. At the time there 
had been a number of deaths from a somewhat mysterious 
disease variously considered to be beri-beri, " wasting dis- 
ease with acute cardiac failure," and pneumonia. In 
addition a little later there had been the mysterious 
alleged murders of two Beer women, which wanted looking 
into. They were supposed to have been shot with arrows 
and then beheaded. The blame was laid upon the Babiri 
tribe — everybody living between Buji and the boundary is 
called Babiri locally unless called Tugeri — because a 
small party of Morehead people were camped on the Mai 
Kussa at the time and a Morehead head-knife had been 
picked up on the road. The blam^ in particular was laid 
on a Sanana man called Bagi. Bagi's history is rather 
interesting. He is the last, or one of the last, surviving 
members of his tribe which had been exterminated by the 
Tugeri. On the establishment of Buji Station, Sir Wilham 
MacGregor brought him there as a lad, and he subse- 
quently was taken on to Daru to learn English and Kiwai. 
With his knowledge of the languages right up to the 
boundary Bagi was in great demand as an interpreter and 
go-between. For some years he lived at Buji and married 
a Buji woman. The epidemic mentioned above swept 
away his wife and children and he returned to his friends 


on the Morehead, where incidentally he acquired another 

I spent nearly two days trying to find out something 
definite about the miu-ders. One man had been told by 
another, who was since dead, that he saw Bagi and the 
Babiri shoot the women one night. Another man said it 
was too dark to see. The father of one of the women 
said he knew nothing at all about the matter. Somebody 
else had a dream about the affair until in the end I began 
to wonder whether there had ever been any Beer women 
at all. One thing, however, all were agreed upon and that 
was that, if the Babiri had killed the women, it was in 
payment for the deaths of Bagi's wife and children who, 
it was to be presumed, were dead by means of Beer sorcery. 
As far as I was concerned the only thing to be done was 
to go up the Morehead and get hold of Bagi. Rather 
unfairly, I suppose, I asked him the direct question. He 
gave me a very plausible explanation : " My wife died, 
my children died from the sickness and I too would have 
died. I came away from Buji and therefore the Buji 
people are wild and have spoken my name." As no in- 
formation could be obtained on the Morehead, perforce 
the matter had to be dropped. As a matter of fact there 
were later on some good grounds for supposing that Bagi 
and his friends did actually kill the women, but no evidence 
could be obtained that it was worth while arresting them 
on, and Bagi still continues to act as guide, interpreter 
and friend to those travelling in the Far West. 

About a mile to the west of Buji is the mouth of the 
Mai Kussa River. The two so-called rivers, the Mai 
Kussa and the Wassi Kussa, are really two large arms of 
the sea embracing an island of considerable size, now 
called Strachan Island, after Captain Strachan who visited 
the delta in 1885. Into these two rivers, for it is perhaps 
convenient to call them so, flows a large number of streams, 
some of quite a large size and one or two of them have 


been ascended for some distance. Tlie word " Kussa," 
by the way, is not a Papuan one at all, but, I believe, comes 
from either Saibai or Boigu, nor are these names the 
correct native ones. The Mai Kussa is called the Toji and 
the Wassi Kussa the Bauda, but as the former names have 
passed into general use it is better to retain them. The 
Rev. S. MacFarlane and Dr. Stone were the first to enter 
the Mai Kussa, which they explored in the Mission steamer 
Ellangowan in 1875 and which they claimed to have 
ascended for ninety-one miles. Guido Coro's map pub- 
lished three years later and another map published in 
1885 shows it as entering the Fly near D'Albertis Island. 
Mr. MacFarlane named the Mai Kussa the " Baxter," and 
the party brought back some very typical New Guinea 
travellers' stories, among which was a report of a bird 
measuring twenty-two feet between the tips of the wings. 
Mr. MacFarlane also brought back with him news of a 
very startling discovery, of which I give an extract from 
the Brisbane Courier. " He would tell them something 
that they did not write about at the time and that was 
that the missionaries discovered gold there (on the Mai 
Kussa) in 1875. He was not such a fool as to write about 
the matter or there would have been a rush of people. . . . 
He knew a place where a nugget had been picked up on 
the beach, but he did not know \yhere it came from. . . . 
He would not be surprised to find that if gold were ever 
discovered in New Guinea it would be on the Gulf. There 
was in that vicinity a spot about two days' journey from 
Katou (i.e. Mawatta) which had never yet been visited 
by white men in which it was possible there might be 
gold." As far as I have been able to discover, none of the 
country around Strachan Island ai3pears auriferous and 
no trace of the gold has yet been found. Certainly Mr. 
A. H. Jiear reported having discovered a faint colour in 
a small creek leading into a tributary of the Wassi Kussa, 
but it may have been pyrites or even mica. Whenever I 


have been in the district I have endeavoured to trace, 
without success, the spot where the colour was found and 
I have not discovered the faintest sign of the mineral. 
One hardly expects to find gold in such country as exists 
south of the Fly. 

Captain Strachan made some exploration round this 
delta in 1885, but his distances, like those of the previous 
explorers, are, I think, greatly exaggerated. The affluents 
of the Wassi and Mai Kussa are very tortuous and numer- 
ous, many of them leading into each other which would 
easily account for any confusion in distance. The tM^o 
large rivers are salt all through, but the smaller streams 
are fresh at low tide. 

Strachan Island is fairly well raised above the sea and 
contains some open grassed country. It is absolutely un- 
inhabited at the present day, the whole population having 
been destroyed by the Tugeri, except the few who have 
now settled at Buji. As on most of the water-ways in this 
district, there is an abundance of game and bird life. 
Sailing out of the Wassi Kussa on one occasion we started 
up black duck in thousands while the mangrove on the 
beach was simply alive with fat young birds. Birds are 
equally plentiful, if you happen to be walking across from 
Buji to the banks of the Mai Kussa. 

It is a good run in the south-east from Buji to the 
Dutch boundary, although being in a rather deep draught 
ketch I had to stand out to sea a long way. The coast is 
all very flat and even and particularly uninviting. There 
are no deep bays or indentations and only one river of 
any size coming into the sea. The prevailing feature of the 
country is flatness and the prevailing vegetation man- 
grove. Occasionally at long intervals a few small clumps 
of coconuts may be seen, planted probably by fishing 
parties from the bush. I know of one or two such places 
where the Morehead people come down to gather shells 
and fish. The whole coast is devoid of population, and 


I do not think that this is due entirely to Tiigeri raids. 
It is simply that the country is too inhospitable to support 
any. At low water the foreshore is dry, in some places 
for five or six miles to seaward, a mixture of coral, sand, 
and mud. At this season the navigation is very un- 
pleasant, not to say dangerous. The waters are shallow, 
there is absolutely no shelter and the tides are very irregu- 
lar. There is one full tide in the twenty-four hours and 
a half tide only in the interval. The flood seems to run 
westward during the first half of its course and the process 
is then reversed. 

The westernmost boundary of British New Guinea had 
been fixed at 141° E. Long. There is no record of this 
part of New Guinea having been visited since Tasman 
cruised off Merau River until the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century, when the Dutch Government sent the 
man-of-war Batavia to the locality, and some years later 
the Dutch patrol boat Java came along searching for a 
tree which had been marked by the Batavia. The incur- 
sions of the Tugeri into British territory had rendered 
it necessary that some definite coast boundary should 
be fixed and a joint commission of Dutch and British 
officers was arranged to settle the matter. 

There was a small creek now called Java Creek in close 
proximity to the boundary, but the coast was swampy 
and a landing unsuitable. A short distance to the west 
on the British side was found a large fresh-water river, 
which received the name of Bensbach, after the Dutch 
Resident of Ternate. The middle of the stream calcu- 
lated to be 141° 1' 48" E. Long., and 90° 7' 35" S. Lat., was 
fixed as the commencement of the boundary which was 
to run due north until it met the Fly and then following 
the course of that river which turned into Dutch territory, 
until its return into British, when again the line runs due 
north to the point of junction of British, Dutch and former 
German boundaries on the fifth degree of south latitude, 



This arrangement gave a narrow strip of British territory 
to the Netherlands, but placed the whole course of the 
Fly within the boundaries of the colony. On the coast 
there was no mistaking this point of demarcation. The 
mouth of the Bensbach is about 150 yards wide, and the 
river itself was regarded as uninhabited and passing 
through poor mangrove country. As a matter of fact the 
Bensbach (its native name is Turas) is navigable for con- 
siderably over eighty miles and at that point carries a 
depth of five fathoms. For some distance there is certainly 
no population, but the reason is that the natives for some 
cause unknown to me regard the river as bewitched and 
never travel down it. Even the Tugeri never used the 
Bensbach as a highway. They invariably went overland 
to the Morehead or reached the sea west of the Bensbach 
and travelled east along the coast. \ 

I have already referred to a large river entering the sea 
at Heath Bay. This is known as the Morehead (Baiam- 
kad). Across the mouth is a deep stretch of sandbank 
and the channel through these banks is extremely devious. 
One can only attempt to take a sailing boat in with some 
risk, especially when it is blowing a howling south-east 
gale. I was forced therefore to anchor the Toawara about 
six miles out to sea and run in with the whaler. For some 
miles up the banks of the river are low, wet and covered 
with mangrove forest. After thirty miles there are inter- 
mittent patches of dry ground and long fringes of swamp 
and swamp grass. Further up the banks are consistently 
higher. There are large plateaux of short grass-land that 
might be suitable for cattle, but I am inclined to think 
that the whole of the river banks are far too wet. After 
one leaves the mangrove behind the river, however, 
presents a really picturesque and beautiful appearance 
with long stretches of park-like lands and forests of 
eucalyptus and ti tree. Pulling up stream I saw numbers 
of crocodiles, and they appear to be fierce and daring. One 


rose up right alongside the whaler and made a vicious 
snap at the coxswain, who nearly fell overboard on the 
other side in his fright. During our halts the police 
amused themselves with fishing for cat fish which abound 
and hunting for cuscus, of which I saw two varieties, a 
yellow and white, and a brown. Both are common in New 
Guinea, and here as elsewhere the natives use the skins 
as head fillets and arm streamers. 

The population now left on the Morehead is very scanty 
indeed, considering the fertility of the district. What may 
have been once fairly large tribes are broken and scattered. 
Some are extinct altogether. And this state of affairs has 
been almost entirely due to the raids of the Tugeri, who 
appeared to have looked upon British territory as their 
peculiar territory for obtaining heads and slaves as well 
as providing them with excellent hunting. 

The people are rather inclined to be light skinned and 
in the main are well built, but at one village called Tonda, 
which is made up of a mixture of various tribes, I noticed 
the men were anything but physically fit. In fact, they 
were mostly a set of weeds. Their hair is worn in long 
ringlets rolled up with mud or grease or wild honey and 
lengthened with tags of sedge or fibre until it hangs down 
over the shoulders. They make very good crossbelts of 
fibre, which are sewn with Job's tears and attractive head 
ornaments and necklaces of wallaby teeth. The septum 
of the nose and the nostrils are pierced and ornaments of 
various kinds are inserted and the lobes of the ear are 
treated in the same manner. The favourite ornament 
of all seems to be a piece of dried pigskin painted red on 
one side and hung round the neck or inserted in the ear. 
The men are either naked or wear a very large pubic shell, 
usually a fusus or triton, and tied round the waist with 
a cord, the head only of the member being drawn under 
the shell, which is a receptacle not a covering. Its use is 
more like that of the Dutch New Guinea penis gourd than 


the groin shell of the Fly and Bamu. The women wear a 
petticoat of bark strips usually uncoloured and reaching 
to the knee, which is quite different to the petticoat of the 


The houses are poor and built on the ground. Many of 
them, however, being mere hunting camps are not in- 
tended to be anything more than shelters. At one village 
called Tugaribio some years ago a very curious structure 
was seen. " In the centre of the village," says the Report, 
" and stretching for sixty yards from side to side was an 
erection of bamboo and light timber rising gradually from 
the ground at either end to an apex sixty feet high at the 
centre. It was openwork throughout except along the 
top, which to a great extent was covered in by the bamboo 
crosspieces, being placed close together affording a footway 
over it. The inside was divided into four distinct divisions 
by openwork partitions carried from the bottom to the 
top." It was ascertained that this structure was a frame 
for hanging yams and food upon at a feast. 



The Tugeri pirates — The peace token sent to Daru — Description of the 
Tugeri — Overland from the Wassi Kussa — Tabaram district — Fight at 
Pongaliki — Manioc cultivation — Tobacco cultivation — The western 
bamboo bows — Tugeri arrows — Crossing the Morehead — The tribes of 
the Bensbach. 

CONTINUAL reference has been made to the Tugeri 
(to use their popular name) and it is necessary to 
give a brief description of their connection with Papua, 
more especially as there are at least two villages of them 
now known to be British subjects. Their principal and 
most numerous settlements, however, are in Dutch terri- 
tory, but annually they despatched parties of several 
hundred men on head-hunting raids across our boundary. 
Their usual course was to follow along the coast during 
the calm north-west season travelling in long, clumsy, 
dug-out canoes propelled by poles. Then they canoed 
up the Morehead or travelled still further west to the 
Strachan Island Delta or even further east to Boigu, 
Saibai or Mawatta, returning home before the commence- 
ment of the south-east monsoon. In 1885, Captain 
Strachan was attacked in the Wassi Kussa by a force 
which he estimated to be over a thousand strong and he 
had great difficulty in beating it off. Next year they 
travelled as far as Mawatta and killed a European living 
there, but the Mawatta people put up a good fight and 
beat them back. In 1892 they again travelled east as far 
as Mabudauan, but by this time there was a Government 
Station at this point. The Tugeri landed there, but some 
early riser gave the alarm and the raiding force fled to 
the West. Four years later for the first time the con- 



stabulary succeeded in catching the Tugeri in British 
territory, and on a rocky beach among the mangroves of 
the Wassi Kussa broke up the raiding force and inflicted 
some heavy loss on it. The Buji people still point out the 
place with great pride. This defeat demoralised the 
Tugeri for some time and they kept quiet for a year. Next 
year, however, they were again raiding on the Morehead. 
Early in 1900 the Resident Magistrate received through 
the police detachment stationed at Buji a peace message 
sent " from a Tugeri chief to the Governor of Daru." It 
consisted of a broken arrow passed through one of their 
peculiar nose ornaments. This message reached Buji 
through a hitherto unknown district called Tabaram, 
which was friendly with the Toro, by whom it was sent, 
a tribe living on the Bensbach and closely related to, if 
not actually, Tugeri themselves. 

In the meantime some negotiations were going on with 
the Dutch Government regarding measures to stop these 
raids and compensation to the unfortunate Morehead 
people. In the middle of the discussion, a small body of 
Daru police cruising round the Morehead in the whaler 
were attacked one night by a large force of Tugeri. There 
were but six police, but they fought desperately. Arrows 
rattled into the whaler, pierced the rudder and stuck in 
the planking like a pin-cushion. Constable Kiau found 
his Snider jammed, and having no bayonet thrust forward 
with the muzzle into the chest of an adversary so that it 
became choked with flesh. Constable Peradi used the 
butt with effect, and eventually the Tugeri fled leaving 
among their gear three heads of some Morehead people 
which had been partially smoke-dried doubtless with a 
view to preservation. The R.M., Mr. Murray, recom- 
mended all these men for a special reward for their gal- 
lantry, but I am not aware that they ever received 
any. By the way, it was in connection with these Tugeri 
raids that the first and only issue of a New Guinea service 


medal was struck. Captain Butterworth and Sergeant 
Sefa were the recipients, but the medal was disallowed 
by the Secretary of State. Over twenty-two Morehead 
people were killed on this last raid and two lads were 
taken away as captives. The sum of £150 was a little 
later received from the Dutch Government as compen- 
sation and it was distributed among the various tribes 

With the exception of one last attack on the Morehead, 
which was repulsed by the tribes themselves, the Tugeri 
made no more raids on British territory, and indeed they 
now make frequent friendly visits as far east as Buji 
to join in feasts and dances, where I have occasionally 
met them. Nevertheless the people of Boigu and Saibai 
annually fall into wild convulsions of alarm at the sight 
of a canoe along the coast or a fire on the mainland and 
drag the Daru officers, myself among others, down on a 
groundless and abortive errand of protection. 

In physical type the Tugeri are quite equal to the best 
of the Western tribes, such as Wabada or Goaribari, but 
they are a light brown in colour. They wear their hair 
lengthened out with tags finished off into a ball or plaited 
to form a kind of ruff round the neck. Typical of the tribe 
is the method of piercing and ornamenting the nostrils 
with claws of the cassowary or eagle and bones or feathers, 
thus giving the whole countenance a particularly ferocious 
appearance. They invariably travelled along the coasts 
or rivers in long ten-men canoes without outriggers and 
used poles made of the midrib of the sago. On their 
expeditions they carried a small supply of sago and arrow- 
root, but they lived mostly on game and on the country 
they raided. The whole of the raiding route is covered 
with the remains of old camps, which were long shelters 
of bamboo roofed with ti tree bark. The Tugeri seem to 
have a custom that I have not met elsewhere in Papua, 
and that is, instead of cleaning the skulls of their enemies. 




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they carefully smoke-dry the whole head, extracting the 
brain and soft matter through a hole in the occiput. Sir 
William MacGregor noted having found a smoke-dried 
human tongue. Another practice not known elsewhere 
is the custom of taking captives. These were always 
young children, and they were, as far as is known, well 
treated and brought up as members of the tribe. For 
instance, two members of the Pirara tribe, who had been 
taken away years ago as lads, were recovered from the 
Kondua section of Tugeri and returned to their homes on 
the Morehead, where their arrival brought the surviving 
numbers of the tribe to five. Runaway carriers in the old 
Northern Division used to be caught by the Orokaivas and 
held as slaves to work in the gardens for a month or two 
before they were handed over to the police, and occa- 
sionally some would be allowed to settle altogether, but 
nothing actually approaching the Tugeri custom is known. 
A year or so ago I made a trip across the interior of 
the district lying between the head of the Mai Kussa 
and the Bcnsbach, travelling west in a line about forty 
miles from the sea, much of it through new country. 
At Buji we picked up an interpreter called Awati — I was 
not able to get hold of the useful Bagi until reaching the 
Morehead — and for the convenience of others I might 
remark that Awati, while he understands English and 
Kiwai, is far too given to relapse into a condition of lan- 
guid boredom to make either a good interpreter or guide. 
Nor should I say that he is strictly truthful. We spent 
a few days travelling round the water-ways surrounding 
Strachan Island and the rivers running into these two big 
arms of the sea, but the country was not interesting, most 
of it being low with occasional clay banks. Then due 
north of the Wassi Kussa we turned up a large tributary 
called the Kutuburra, and at some distance up this 
stream the river threw off two branches. Travelling up 
the right-hand one we were soon hailed by a naked ring- 


leted individual who remarked that here was the landing 
place for Tabaram. 

We spent a week in the district and among the villages 
lying between the Wassi Kussa and the Morehead, and 
I ascertained for certain that the whole country between 
the Tabaram district and sea is absolutely uninhabited 
and that this uninhabited area extends far westward 
across the Morehead. As a matter of fact the country is 
unsuited for habitation and the population all lies far 
inland. These Tabaram people were first met about 1900 
and came into prominence by a sanguinary raid on the 
Boiboi. The Buji police went up to their villages, but 
were forced to retire with some of their number wounded. 
A patrol then went up from Daru. Outside one of the 
villages was a large cleared space which had been used 
as a dancing ground in celebration of the raid on Boiboi 
and the heads of those killed were placed round its 
boundaries. At either Pongaliki or Deredere practically 
the whole collected fighting force of the district met the 
constabulary and commenced pouring in showers of 
arrows from the scrub and from each house in the village. 
Heavy volleys silenced the fire from the bush, but the 
arrows still came from the houses. To the surprise and 
dismay of the officer in command it was found that the 
garrisons of the houses contained almost as many women 
. as men and they were using the bow as capably as their 
husbands. One woman came to the door of a house and 
deliberately drew an arrow on the police sergeant. 

This is one of the few known instances where women 
take part in the actual fighting, although on the Kumusi 
in the North they accompany the men to the attack and 
act as spare spear-bearers, and on Kiwai they follow their 
husbands with a kind of wooden sword. 

However, our reception in the district was tumul- 
tuously hospitable. As we entered, the people rushed to 
cut banana leaves and place them on the ground for the 


baggage and ourselves. Like all bush villages they were 
scrupulously clean. Instead of all the houses being built 
together in a street or single group, each house or group 
of two or three houses was kept separate, surrounded by 
a neat garden of bananas or yams and in many cases care- 
fully fenced in. In fact, to find one's way through a 
village of any size became rather like wandering through 
a small maze. Village sites naturally were always selected 
for the fertility of the soil, the general type of country 
being poor and lightly timbered with ti tree, stunted 
she-oak and bloodwood. There are large patches of open 
country covered with sour grass and large numbers of 
pitcher plants and sundew, both an indication of poor 
soil. Planting land seems rather limited, but what there 
is is very good indeed and seems to run along very low 
undulating country. All round the villages the land is 
thickly planted with yams, bananas, and manioc. The 
presence of the latter throughout the whole district from 
Buji to the boundary was rather a puzzle to me, as manioc 
is not a plant indigenous to New Guinea. I discovered, 
however, it had been first introduced from either Boigu 
or Saibai to Buji, and from Buji it has spread until it is 
now one of the staple crops. Papuans do not as a rule 
adopt a foreign food so readily, for they are very con- 
servative in this respect. 

The houses are built of saplings laid lengthwise on the 
ground and range up to twenty-four feet in length. The 
roof of ti tree bark is what is known as the inverted boat 
shape and projects in front to a point, forming a verandah 
about three feet wide. Each family or group of related 
families lives in its own house and there does not appear 
to be any arbitrary arrangement whereby the men occupy 
one group of houses and the women and children another. 
I might add that the whole of the district and as far west 
as the Dutch border has been untouched by outside 


A very interesting feature is the skilful cultivation of 
tobacco, which is of fine quality although the larger leaves 
become coarse and ribbed. Every village contains many 
beds of the plant, old house sites being selected for the 
purpose, possibly because of the well-manured soil. The 
walls are removed before planting and the plot is well 
dug and mixed with ashes. The roof is left. As the 
seedlings become stronger the roof is gradually removed 
until only the frame remains. The leaves are collected 
and dried in the sun and in the houses ; they are then 
packed in plaited rolls, ranging up to six feet or so in 

Travelling west we passed through Pongaliki and 
Dembebi, where our guides took some pride in pointing 
out the bullet marks in the trees made at the time of the 
fight with the police. Just here was a big chain of lagoons 
with many acacias. At Mata, a large village which was 
hitherto quite unknown, our arrival created some little 
excitement, the people yelling out, " The devils have 
come." The local word for devil and white man is evi- 
dently the same, or it may be inferred that the local devils 
are white in colour. By my reckoning we were only a 
few miles from the Morehead at a point about eighty 
miles from its mouth, but no inducement and no 
pressure could produce anyone who professed the slightest 
knowledge of anything or anywhere north or west of the 
village. Perforce we had to turn south-west. 

The bamboo bows of this district are the most powerful 
I have seen anywhere in New Guinea and are about seven 
feet long. The string is a flexible shp of bamboo and the 
weapon is strung by holding on the ground with the great 
toe that end of the bamboo which used to grow in the 
ground. It must take considerable strength or perhaps 
knack either to string one of these great bows or draw 
an arrow to its head. I could do neither. At Ponju, a 
village to the south, I saw Tukom, a well-built savage, at 


a distance of fifty yards drive a bone-tipped arrow right 
into the heart of a four-feet ti tree. 

There is a variety of arrow which is only to be found in 
this district and which is the most ornamental and best 
finished I have seen in New Guinea. About five feet long 
it consists of a reed shaft painted alternately in red and 
black with a design of scrolls and leaf patterns. The tip 
is of white cassowary bone and fastened to the shaft by 
a lashing of hibiscus fibre or ti tree bark, the whole covered 
with a white cement made of what looks like lime. These 
bone tips are most formidable and can produce a dangerous 
wound. Some are broad-bladed, tapering to a sharp 
point. Others are cut into fantastic barbs and spikes. 
Other tips again consist of a single cassowary claw with 
a spike made of bone turned in the opposite direction. 
These are primarily war arrows, but they are nowadays 
made for a more prosaic use, trade. The natives manu- 
facture very good drums too, painting them like their face 
in red and white, and the ornamentation consists of raised 
bands and raised triangles, ending in spirals. Most of the 
drum heads are made of wallaby skin. 

The dead are buried outside the villages and raw yams 
and the weapons or digging stick and roasting tongs of 
the deceased are placed on the grave. The spirit goes up 
into the air. It is interesting to note that the dog here 
also has a spirit and apparently accompanies his master 
to the hunt in the place of the dead. 

In dress and appearance both men and women resemble 
very much the Tugeri and Morehead peoples. Several of 
the men had their tagged hair eked out with strings of 
artificial hair hanging down to the waist, but I saw no 
girls similarly adorned. Like the Tugeri and Morehead 
men, they pierce the nostrils, and claws or bones are stuck 
through the holes. In a few instances a string decorated 
with Job's tears led from each nostril tln'ough the ear lobe 
and was tied round the neck. 


Travelling south from Mata we passed through nothing 
but poor dry country. It was certainly the dry season 
and water was very scarce ; but there is no doubt that just 
as the country is parched up in the dry, so it is one vast 
swamp in the wet season. 

There is a great deal of country which is termed " devil 
devil " in the Northern Territory, and, in fact, the whole 
bush with its light scrub and thousands of white ant 
heaps, and its bird life, reminds one forcibly of Northern 
Australia, and is as little like a tropical jungle as one can 

Suddenly coming out on to a fertile garden patch we 
met a typical New Guinea family party from the More- 
head. The husband was walking on ahead followed by 
his dogs and carrying nothing but his heavy bow and 
bundle of arrows and with his gauntlet of sago spathe 
on his left arm, so that he was ready to fight or shoot game 
at the shortest possible notice. Behind walked the wife, 
her big conical-shaped basket hanging from her forehead 
and the baby straddled across her shoulders. 

A number of chiefs and old men accoinpanied me on 
this trip from village to village striding along in front, 
each old fellow playing what was doubtless intended to be 
a tune on the Pan's pipes. I have been in many queer 
situations in New Guinea, but this was the first time that 
I have marched preceded by a special band. 

We came out on to the Morehead in the middle of the 
big loop where Tonda is built, where I met Bagi and 
several other men I knew personally. The only way to 
cross the river was by using a very worm-eaten old dug-out 
canoe which had been captured from the Tugeri. We got 
the party over and camped on the western bank near a 
prawn catching and hunting camp of the Saluam tribe, 
a fine well-built lot, almost a light yellow in colour, but 
not otherwise differing materially from the other Morehead 
tribes. I noticed these people in possession of quite an 


amount of trade goods, such as beads, straw hats and 
prints which I knew could not have come through any 
British source. On enquiry I found that these goods had 
reached them by trading with the Tugeri, with whom 
they were now on very friendly terms. 

On the western side of the Morehead are many park-like 
glades and open plains with short grass, seamed with 
innumerable creeks and simply alive with game and 
waterfowl, duck, shag, cranes and ibis. After leaving this 
pleasant region we travelled north-west towards the 
Bensbach over dry wind-swept undulating plains. 

About seventy or eighty miles up the Bensbach, which 
trends so much to the eastward that it comes within a 
comparatively short distance of the Morehead, are situated 
the villages of the Toro people who, with the allied villages 
of Kua and Tord, might be termed semi-Tugeri. They 
are closely related to both the Tabaram tribes and the 
Tugeri themselves. I might state that I do not think that 
the former were ever subjected to Tugeri raids. From 
Toro it is about three days' march through poor, unin- 
habited open country to the boundary where a little on 
the British side are two villages of Tugeri, Bau and Kondu- 
gara, each of a couple of hundred people, and just across 
where the border was reckoned to be is a large village, 
Kondua. The reception of the police might be termed 
friendly, but there was a distinct endeavour to entice the 
party inside the houses by offering them women, for none 
of the tribes from Tabaram westward are regardful of the 
chastity of their women, but there is some reason to 
suspect that treachery was intended. A feature of the 
men, who resembled the Tabaram and Morehead folk, 
was the wearing of certain parts only to be taken from the 
male. Evidently the Tugeri, like many, if not all, of the 
tribes in the Western Division, mutilate the dead. 


The discovery of the Fly by Blackwood — V^arious early explorations — 
Description of the lower river — The islands — The lower villages — 
Tirio — Sorcery — Sorcerers — Baii the sorcerer of the Gulf — A coco- 
nut dance — -Baraniura village — The raid by the mission teacher — 
Attack on the police — Customs with regard to women. 

" rilHE coast was quite flat with a great line of coco- 
-*- nuts and other pahns running along the beach 
which appeared to be sandy. Several large openings or 
gaps in the shore were remarked, up the widest of which 
no land could be seen from the masthead. . . . When 
immediately opposite the great opening seen this morning 
we found the water alongside the ship during the ebb tide 
very muddy, and on dipping some up and tasting it it 
was found to be only slightly brackish, just enough to be 
unpleasant to drink. This was at a distance of ten miles 
from the shore, and confirmed us in the opinion that this 
must be the mouth of a large river." Such is the descrip- 
tion given by Mr. Jukes of the discovery of the Fly River 
by Captain Blackwood, of H.M.S. Fly, in 1842. Captain 
Blackwood was engaged in a survey of Torres Straits and 
the neighbouring waters with the Fly and two smaller 
craft, the Prince George and the Midge. He first attempted 
to land on Bristow Island, and three days later was 
cruising off the mouth of the river, which he notes as 
" shoaly." It is a forbidding entrance and it is evident 
that Blackwood did not appreciate fully the extent of his 
discovery, for he mistook the large numbers of islands and 
channels as simply indentations of the coast. The sea 
breaks heavily across the forty-mile wide estuary, and the 
passages through the countless sandbanks are narrow 
and difficult to find. The banks extend seaward for miles 
I 129 


on which big rollers hurl themselves, while the sea is dis- 
coloured for a great distance by the outpour of muddy 
water. Blackwood pulled in towards one of the islands in 
his boats and landed, but retreated owing to the approach 
of a large number of natives. 

The first actual proof that the Fly was a river was not 
obtained until 1876, when Messrs. MacFarlane, D'Albertis 
and Chester, in the steamer Ellangowan, explored the 
stream for some distance, but even then confused by the 
numerous islands they were doubtful whether the channels 
all formed part of the same river. 

For many years, even till the present time, the Fly was 
regarded as a mysterious region in which anything might 
be found. Monkeys, rhinoceri and buffalo have been 
among the least of the marvels. Tailed men and men 
who were joined together in pairs (it is noteworthy that 
the two mothers of Sido, the great Kiwai hero, were in 
the legend joined together) were to be found there, and 
after all it is to be expected that something beyond just 
ordinary " New Guinea " should be discovered in its six- 
hundred-odd-mile course. 

Mr. MacFarlane mentioned the natives as being armed 
with helmets, shields and armlets. The helmet is, of 
course, the white peaked fighting head-dress, arched with 
white cockatoo feathers ; the armlet is the bow gauntlet, 
but the shield I cannot account for. No bowmen in these 
parts use the shield, but it probably refers to one of the 
carved wooden " gopes " or screens being waved, such as 
I have seen in the Aird River. 

Mr. MacFarlane's trip was not altogether a peaceful one, 
nor was that of D'Albertis in the launch Neva next year, 
although in the majority of cases the natives came off 
waving green boughs, the sign of peace. MacFarlane, 
however, proved that the Fly was something more than 
a good navigable river, and that there is no good land 
within two hundred miles of the mouth ; but, on the 


other hand, he stated that there is a thick population 
of mixed Malay and Papuan type, thinking like D'Albertis 
that the lighter skinned people of the interior were cer- 
tain evidence of the mixture. The Malay element may 
be entirely eliminated, and I do not think there is the 
shghtest doubt that the population of the Fly as well 
as the whole population of the West is Papuan in the 
strictest sense of the word. 

Mr. MacFarlane can be regarded as the first explorer 
of the Fly ; but he himself seems to disclaim the honour, 
for he came to the conclusion that before he entered the 
river there must have been many shipwrecked sailors cast 
away in these waters whose heads have long since rotted 
in the Darimus (Man Houses). There are strong currents 
which sweep through the Gulf of Papua, and, apart from 
them, the dangerous navigation off the estuary must have 
wrecked many a ship. Even now mysterious and untrace- 
able wreckage occasionally floats ashore in the river. 

The two subsequent expeditions of Signor D'Albertis 
and the expedition of Captain Everill in the Bonito, under 
the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society of Austra- 
lasia, which travelled up the large branch of the Fly 
known as the Strickland, were the only explorations under- 
taken until Sir William MacGregor ascended the river for 
some six hundred miles in 1891 or 1892 ; but exploration 
was confined in the estuary almost entirely to the western 
side, and the eastern bank was untouched for many years. 

Roughly, the Fly is about forty miles across at its 
estuary and even sixty miles up the river it is miles across. 
Through this great mouth there is a series of ever-changing 
islands split into two distinct portions by the great mass 
of Kiwai, and again on the western side by the large island 
of Mibu. Mibu must have originally been a small sand- 
bank, for almost in its centre is a patch of sand some sixty 
acres in extent and excellent coconut ground ; round this 
sandbank mud and mangrove collected until the whole 


island attained its present size. It is thickly planted with 
coconuts, even the mud, and the Sumai people once 
owned large gardens on it. Practically all the islands have 
been formed in the same way, and almost daily you can 
see them in the making or being washed away — islands 
which will some day dissolve into banks, and banks which 
will equally attract floating timber and mud and eventually 
become islands. I think it was on Abaura, one of the great 
Kiwai fishing grounds, that there was once found deeply 
imbedded in the centre some wreckage of an ancient ship, 
clearly showing how the island grew. This inass of islands 
extends right up the river until one reaches what might 
be called clear water, that is, when you can see the banks 
on either side. 

There is nothing beautiful or attractive about the lower 
reaches of the Fly. Nipa and mangrove are the prominent 
features with mud thrown in, and scenery is conspicuous 
by its absence. A trip in a sailing vessel is depressing 
enough. Unless the wind is fair, you simply have to 
depend on the tides — the river is tidal for a couple of 
hundred miles — and it is quite impossible to make head- 
way against them. Beating down-stream on a falling tide 
you can raise some mild excitement in wondering whether 
you are going to remain on a bank until next flood or if 
you are going to hit the only reef in the western channel. 
All navigation is by the lead, for the water is too muddy 
to notice any shallows. The south-east trade wind raises 
a very heavy sea, although I have heard many sceptical 
remarks about getting bad weather inside a " river " ; but 
when the wind and tide are running against each other 
and it happens to be blowing hard, I have had as bad 
weather in the Fly as I ever wish to meet in a small craft. 

On the lower western bank there are but three villages 
of any size, each of the single Long House type, all peaceful 
and none particularly interesting. All the inhabitants are 
black and ringleted and perhaps less afflicted with civilisa- 


tion than their neighbours opposite at Kiwai. In the 
bush are many small packs of natives, mostly nomads. 
Now and again they send out messages to you that they 
are not afraid of the police. " Come in and fight, your 
guns are only sticks made to frighten us," is the burden 
of their cry, and when you have tramped for hours through 
some beastly swamp you find a couple of shelters like 
dog kennels, whose owners have fled in abject terror long 
before your approach. As a matter of fact the river folk 
are intensely afraid of the sorcery of the bushmen and 
invariably describe them as " big " fighting people. 

Further up the western side is the village of Tirio, which 
at one time possessed the double distinction of having the 
largest house and the most powerful sorcerers in the Fly« 
When I first went there in 1908 the whole of the clans in 
the tribe were living under one roof over six hundred feet 
long. A couple of years later Tirio was living in two 
Long Houses very much smaller and about half a mile 
apart. I did not find out any particular reason for this 
change except that old Tirio had been abandoned on 
account of some epidemic resulting in a number of deaths. 
Infinite trouble has been caused by Tirio sorcery. Sumai, 
a powerful Kiwai village living just across the river, was 
trembling at Tirio black art. Spells were even cast upon 
the various magistrates, though without much effect I am 

It has been stated so many times that sorcery is the 
biggest curse of native life that it seems almost unnecessary 
to repeat it. Most of the sorcerers, if not all, are old men 
and in many cases work upon the credulity of the village 
for their own gain. If a man wants a love charm, he goes 
to the sorcerer ; if he wants to get rid of an enemy, he 
goes to him likewise, and of course he has to pay for what 
he wants. The mere suggestion that he has been bewitched 
is often enough to kill the victim, although I do not mean 
that every death is brought about by auto-suggestion only. 


The Rev. Mr. Chalmers stated definitely that at Kiwai 
poison is given secretly, but what these poisons are it is 
impossible to say. Among the Orokaivas of the North 
I have known actual cases where something has un- 
doubtedly been given, but I have not been able to get the 
real something. For instance, there is one substance 
which is applied to the lips of the victim during sleep and 
which has the effect of rendering them dry so that on 
wakening he licks his lips and swallows, with consequent 
death in a few days. There is another substance which 
is also placed in the open mouth during sleep and the 
involuntary motion of swallowing absorbs the poison. The 
sorcerer's outfit as a rule consists of pebbles, small bones 
(sometimes human ones), pig's bristles and similar articles 
which for some reason may be credited with potency. 
Of course it must be remembered that apart from any 
specific case that the sorcerer may be employed upon, he 
may have also his own ends to serve. Charms may be 
worked primarily by obtaining any part of a person's 
body such as a lock of his hair, the parings of his nails or 
scraps of his food. That is why a native is always exceed- 
ingly careful about their disposal, especially in company 
that he is not too sure about. 

Having obtained something connected with the person 
about to be bewitched, the rest is easy. Even sand that 
a man has trodden on and left a recent footprint may be 
used. A little later a man touches something or steps on 
something or smokes something in his tobacco ; the 
whisper goes round and he regards himself as good as 
dead. If the entrails of an animal, such as a wallaby, are 
removed and the charm placed inside and given the name 
of the person to be bewitched, he will die. I remember 
a case at Kubira (on Kiwai) where the sorcerer, an old 
man, was charged with the offence. For some reason, I 
have forgotten what, he " puri-puried " a youth by 
placing some of his charms, in this case consisting of pig 


bones, in a spot where the lad would step on them. As a 
matter of fact, the latter was seriously ill when I saw him, 
complaining of severe abdominal pains, but a sentence of 
six months in gaol for the sorcerer had a wonderfully 
curative effect. 

Equally, of course, the sorcerer may be employed to 
cure as well as kill. It is possible there may be actual 
healing, but in most cases the cure seems to consist of 
a little sleight of hand in juggling stones, sticks, and even 
wallaby skins, from the sick person's body as the cause 
of the ill. Charms may be worked by breathing on leaves 
or stones or by using things such as plants which, according 
to native ideas, have qualities inherent in themselves. 
Nor is malignant sorcery always applied to persons. It 
may be equally well applied to prevent gardens producing 
a good crop or to prevent the fishing being successful. And 
quite apart from black sorcery there is another kind which 
is harmless enough in its way and to interfere with which 
means interference with the ordinary village life. A garden 
charm, to help the crops, does no harm. A wind-bringer, 
a rain-maker, a sea-calmer, a charmer of turtle or dugong, 
are all proper enough and work no ill. Nor would one 
interfere with those who provide appropriate charms for 
hunting or who perhaps for a consideration supply a charm 
guaranteed to prevent you being hurt in battle. It is the 
esoteric sorcerer, such as he who pretends to the power 
of sending his spirit out to work harm, very like the 
" Vata tauna " of the Motuans, and the charlatan who 
works mummery for gain, he who works ill by physical 
means, who deserve all the punishment they get. 

Politically the sorcerers as a body, partly because they 
are among the elders of the village and partly through the 
fear they impose, possess a deal of power. It is very largely 
on their advice that important tribal decisions are made. 
It is perhaps hardly necessary to say that every Papuan, 
no matter how civilised he is, believes firmly in sorcery 


and the power of the sorcerers. Some years ago there 
lived at Baimuru, the very last village in the Western 
Division on the borders of the Purari Delta, a very re- 
nowned wizard named Baii. Bail was a little wizened, 
dried-up old man with a crippled leg and one side of his 
face horribly distorted with lupus. Baimuru was being- 
pretty actively patrolled at the time and it happened that 
an attack was planned on the police party. The attack, 
I might say, resulted in utter failure notwithstanding the 
fact that the tribe had already allotted (in anticipation) 
the party as the menu for the next banquet. Baii was 
accused of having planned the whole affair and lay in 
prison for a long while awaiting trial. The chief trouble 
was in securing evidence against him. Now it was 
rumoured that Baii had only to whisper a man's name 
and that man sooner or later in some mysterious fashion 
died and consequently no one was willing to run any risks. 
However, in the end a few witnesses were secured and the 
court was opened. It was all very well for these witnesses 
to say what they knew unofficially, but I was quite unable 
to make them face the sorcerer. As witness after witness 
came in, Baii, leaning nonchalantly on his stick, gave the 
unfortunate Papuan one single look and that man simply 
fell in a fit on the floor. I saw this happen time after time 
till even the interpreter became affected and the epidemic 
began to seize the police. The old Kiwai sergeant, who had 
spent most of his life in the police, regarded Baii with the 
utmost respect. I did not complete the hearing of the case, 
but I believe Baii had to be eventually released owing to 
the utter impossibility of getting anyone to give evidence 
against him. 

It was at Tirio about three years ago that I saw a part 
of a dance that is hardly ever performed now, the coconut 
dance. I arrived at dusk unfortunately when almost 
everything was over, but I was able to get the main ideas 
of it and for a full description I am indebted to one of my 


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I might state that this dance is only given by such 
tribes as possess a large number of trees, and only those 
who are equally wealthy receive invitations to the cere- 
mony. For instance, Sumai and Auti, who have no great 
goodwill towards Tirio but who possess many coconuts, 
are invited while Kubira, which is always friendly but is 
lacking in a grove of trees, is omitted. The ceremony is 
performed between the months of August and November 
or December. The first thing needed for the dance is a 
supply of white cockatoos, for these birds, as is doubtless 
well known, are very destructive to the coconuts. As 
many of these as can be procured are killed aud hung 
about the trees near at hand. Several men, in one in- 
stance an old woman, then harangue the dead birds in this 
strain : " Your family are bad. You steal coconuts. 
You throw coconuts to the ground before they are ripe. 
We shall kill your father and mother. Tell your friends 
to keep away from our gardens or we shall see you become 
like coconut water and we shall drink you." Some of 
the coconut trees are plastered with mud and above the 
mud are hung festoons of coloured sago fibre. The food 
is then gathered — no dance is complete without a supply 
of food — and heaped near by. The drummers seat them- 
selves in a circle and the dancers rush pell-mell about the 
coconut trees, stopping at intervals to snatch a morsel 
of food or whiff of tobacco. The dancers' dress is entirely 
made up of coconut leaf strips, the decorations being the 
skins of the flying squirrel and sago fibre. The dancing 
is kept up for some hours at a stretch, and on the departure 
of the visitors presents of coconuts are made to each. 
Much singing of an incoherent and at times desultory 
nature is indulged in during the performance, the gist of 
which is as follows : " We have plenty of coconuts. 
Other places (names never mentioned) have none. Our 
coconuts are strong as the ti tree. Our coconuts are 
sweeter than others." This is all interspersed with appeals 


to the wind not to blow down the coconut trees and to 
the Auwo Oromo (Fly River) not to wash them away. 
No women take part in this particular dance and no 
names are ever mentioned during the singing, so that some 
of the visitors are apt to imagine that their own village is 
meant when it is stated " other places have none." 

The idea of it all is this : Cockatoos are killed as a 
warning to others not to steal coconuts. The mud is 
put on the trees as it is thought to assist the growth of the 
trees and is food for them. 

One cannot help noticing at Tirio some of the peculiar 
styles of women's hair dressing. Sometimes it is shaved 
or cut close, leaving a tuft running the length of the skull. 
Sometimes the whole head is devoid of hair except a line 
running across, or perhaps just one curly tuft is left on the 
very top. The widow's costume is equally odd, although 
somewhat similar to that of the Oriomo. She is swathed 
from head to foot with coverings and petticoats of grass 
or fibre, while on her head she wears a plaited cap with long 
streamers hanging all round right down to the ground — 
veritable widow's weeds. I also saw a widower, a bush- 
man this time, who was costumed in an exactly similar 
manner, but with the addition of a plaster of white mud. 

About four miles further up the river is the fairly large 
village of Baramura, a tribe that has always been some- 
what unsatisfactory and difficult of control. In 1890, 
Sir W. MacGregor came to this place, which he called 
Odogositia, but there is little doubt that it is the same. 
Situated up a small creek, which in the spring is an exceed- 
ingly pretty one except for the mud, Baramura possessed 
an extremely long house, 520 feet as paced out. Its 
interior was no different to those of Kiwai except that, 
at the time it was seen, it had a small temporary shi'ine. 
At the time of Sir William's visit the people were shy and 
suspicious, keeping their big bamboo bows close at hand 
and ready strung. 


These Baramuras are a well-built black folk costumed 
as at Kiwai. The raised scarification mark is almost 
universal among them, taking the form of a coiled loop 
on the shoulder muscle and possibly representing a snake 
or other animal on the breast. This latter is almost 
certainly a representation of the scales of the crocodile. 
Matters went well at Baramura until a foolish coloured 
mission teacher some years later came to the village with 
a party of followers. They were hospitably received, but 
repaid the kindness of their hosts by trying to seize what 
they called the " god." This was undoubtedly one of the 
very sacred Moguru images or carvings, and the act was 
unwise to say the least of it. The incident ended in the 
party being chased from the village and their vessel looted. 
A bad matter was now made worse. A party of police 
came up and shot the pigs and burned the magnificent 
house to the ground. Matters were partly settled through 
the good offices of a Sumai constable home on leave, but 
Baramura was sadly upset and for years the village 
remained more or less suspicious of any intercourse with 
whites. The Long House was, however, never rebuilt as 
far as I am aware. A couple of years ago a serious out- 
break took place, when, led by their chiefs, they made a 
desperate attack in order to rescue some prisoners upon 
the officer and three or four police who were visiting the 
village, after which the whole tribe immediately took to 
the bush. Through the good offices of the Tirio neigh- 
bours I was able to induce them to meet me, and after a 
little moral pressure the ringleaders of the attack were 
arrested and the prisoners who had been rescued gave 
themselves up. Besides being very good cultivators and 
pig-breeders the Baramura are among the best canoe- 
builders on the Fly. Pulling up the Baramura Creek I 
have seen scores of canoes of all sizes in the making. All 
are dug-outs fitted with the single outrigger, but without 
a platform. For the first time I saw here a two-bladed 


fighting arrow, not a bird or fish arrow, but one made for 
fighting with murderous barbs on each blade and actually 
so used. The points were wooden. The bamboo-bladed 
arrow which is generally used in pig-hunting is fitted 
somewhat differently to the shaft, and when used in war, 
as far as any aim at all is made, is fired at the abdomen 
with the idea of causing as much loss of blood as possible. 
This is also the reason for its use as a pig arrow. 

To my great astonishment I found quite recently that the 
same customs with regard to women as obtain in the Bamu 
and Aird also appear to exist here. They are now known 
to hold good from Buji to the Dutch border and along 
both banks of the Fly. I had always been under the 
impression that the Fly River people were exceedingly 
careful of the chastity of their women ; but it seems to 
be a mistaken idea and I should be quite prepared to 
believe that they once existed on Kiwai and even at 
Mawatta and Parama, although nowadays of course they 
are quite uathinkable at these places. 



Aduru aud Pisarame — Canoes and gopes — Banana cultivation — Bird- 
catching houses — Stockaded village — Edible clay — The custom of 
Sarina — Suwami — Driving out the devils of sickness — Dog-breeders of 
Weridai — Egereba tribe — Man-eating at hvi — Tlie Wabada tribe — The 
custom of Sob up — Cat's cradles — The man in the moon — A night visit 
to Kowawisi — The upper Fly. 

fT^HE chain of islands, as shown on the maps, beginning 
-*- with Canoe Island do not now appear to exist. 
Apparently the channels between them and the mainland 
have silted up and in reality the islands form a part of 
the river bank. There is a large population in this neigh- 
bourhood and the tribes at one time lived in the mainland 
swamps, but came out on to the river after they were 
pacified and given village constables. Thus the Pisarame 
settled on Canoe Island, the Aduru on the next one and 
the Suwami on Bennet. Aduru and Pisarame are practi- 
cally the same people and are closely allied to the bush 
tribes living on the Bituru (a tributary of the Fly). 
Pisarame can, I think, be identified as the tribe which 
attacked MacGregor just near here. They all have the 
single Long House together with a number of small family 
dwellings occupied by the women and filled with their 
gear — great oval cane, large meshed fish and fresh- 
water turtle nets, looking exactly similar to an enormous 
butterfly net without a handle, materials for making 
dresses, firewood, food and various ornaments. There 
is a noticeable tendency to drop the single Long House, 
and in its stead erect six or seven smaller ones, each to be 
occupied by a single totem clan ; much of this tendency 
has been caused by local jealousies and quarrels. 



Both tribes are skilful pig-breeders, and the Kiwai 
people make frequent trips here to buy pigs, for which 
they pay in tools, shells and calicoes. They are also 
celebrated for the good canoes they manufacture, which 
are of the usual Fly paddling type and have no platform. 
Even with such comparatively uncivilised people as these 
are, I have never seen anything but steel tools used in 
canoe manufacture ; rather a striking contrast to the 
infinitely more enlightened Kerepunu people of the 
Central Division who still prefer the stone adze for the 
finer work on their canoes. Like all the Fly River craft 
these are fitted with a decorated removable prow orna- 
ment called gope used as a charm of good luck or good 
fighting and on which the heads of the slain were hung. 
Whereas the Kiwai and Bamu gopes are flat boards 
carved in relief into rough outlines of a man's face and 
body ; these are not carved at all, but simply bound with 
plaited cane and decorated with crotons and other bright 
shrubs. The gope in a slightly different form, in its man- 
carved form, is hung on almost every Long House in the 
Fly and Bamu, and is a sign of good health or good luck. 
Dr. Haddon rightly considers it as a derivative of the bull- 
roarer ; but there is no doubt that its primary use, cere- 
monial in its nature, was for the purpose of hanging heads 
on. Even now you see along the east bank of the Fly the 
skulls of small animals or birds hanging from what are 
intended to represent the legs in exactly the same manner 
as the heads are hung from the Agibis at Goaribari. 

Just among those tribes is the very heart of the banana- 
growing country, and the huge areas under banana culti- 
vation are the most striking features of the river for fully 
fifty miles. The gardens are laid out in squares with 
irrigation drains which enable them to be watered by the 
rise and fall of the tide, and the whole plantation resembles 
nothing so much as a gigantic chess-board. Every year 
new ground is cleared, for the people recognise that a 


banana crop exhausts the soil rapidly, so when a planta- 
tion is made it is cropped for some years until the fruit 
diminishes and the garden becomes overgrown. All the 
while of course fresh crops are coming on. While the green 
bananas are still on the trees, the bunch is packed with 
leaf debris and bound round with a complete covering of 
dry nipa or sago leaf. This both improves the fruit and 
protects it from birds. There are dozens of varieties 
cultivated, from the hard green plantain to a soft sweet- 
eating banana, which, when boiled, forms an excellent 
vegetable. As growers of yams, sweet potatoes, or bananas, 
the Kiwais are mere children compared with these up-river 

I have noticed now and again a few very fine star clubs, 
but I think they have been brought back by men who 
have been working in the North, but they have been 
fitted with a short cane handle. At Aduru among the 
gardens I have seen at odd times small houses built in 
native fruit trees in which the natives sit and shoot 
pigeons or birds of paradise in the manner shown in the 
story books. Birds, such as the Paradiseae whose plumage 
is required for decoration, are shot with a blunt-headed 
bird bolt or sometimes caught in nets in the trees or by 
smearing bird-lime in the places they frequent. 

I have occasionally bought at several of the ^'illages 
between Aduru and Weridai specimens of the so-called 
Tugeri arrows, thus proving that there is a trading com- 
munication with the southern coast. I was told that the 
arrows are bought from the bushmen and they are probably 
traded through many successive tribes. As a matter of 
fact I succeeded in tracing this route from Buji, but un- 
fortunately have never had the chance of following it. 
It is known, however, that three or four Fly River chiefs, 
including those of Daumori and Weridai, some years ago 
travelled across almost to Buji. 

Somewhere in the neighbourhood of Aduru Mr. Milman, 


who many years ago when Resident at Thursday Island, 
acted as Government Agent for Western New Guinea, 
mentions that there was a large stockaded village with 
walls forty feet high. It was near here, also, that in 1886 
a large cutter called the Manu-Manu was caught in the 
Fly River bore and had two of her crew drowned. The 
bore starts many miles lower down near Gaima and comes 
up with great force, being especially dangerous first along 
the western and then along the eastern bank between the 
Bituru and Buceros Island, after which its force diminishes. 

At Tapamone on the Bituru River there is an edible 
white clay to which attention was first drawn by Mr. 
Robert Bruce, well known in Torres Straits. The clay is 
put up in rolls with a string running down the centre, and 
when eaten it is scraped down with a shell and used as 
a relish. This particular clay is also found near Sui, a small 
village near the mouth of the estuary. There are one or 
two villages living on the north-western side of Mt. Laming- 
ton in the valley of the Kumusi River who are clay eaters 
and invariably carry supplies of this " food " about 
them. In fact, from all accounts they pine away when 
deprived of it. The first acquaintance with Tapamone, 
by the way, was hardly a friendly one. As the two parties 
met, the police in the whaler and the natives in canoes, 
the canoe party poured in a shower of arrows to which not 
unnaturally the police replied. After these amenities, 
however, everybody got very friendly and remained so. 

Aduru at first gave a good deal of trouble. I forget the 
actual cause of their last outbreak, but as the police were 
returning down a narrow grass-lined creek, the Aduru 
kept up a heavy arrow fire on their canoe from each bank. 
Everyone from the officer to the junior constable received 
a wound or a pierced uniform and the wonder is how 
anybody at all escaped. Patience has brought the Aduru 
into line, but they are still a queer lot, one month affable 
and pleasant and the next bolting off to the bush like a set 

The Ravi or Clvb House 
Such houses as the one shown in the top picture are used by the Namau tribe on 

the Pajiuan Gulf. 

A Long House of the Fly River 


of hysterical schoolgirls and all for no earthly ostensible 

There is an extraordinary custom all through the Fly 
and Bamu rivers which occasions a lot of trouble, and 
unless one knows the custom it is likely to cause some 
bewilderment. This is called Sarina in the Fly and 
Harina in the Bamu. When a prominent chief feels that 
he is near his end, he sends to some other chief or tribe 
with whom he has during his life been on terms of great 
friendship a head knife or a club or a bundle of arrows. 
This message is well understood. When he dies, the 
people to whom the token has been sent, at some suitable 
opportunity attack the tribe whose chief had originally 
sent it. The latter people of course are absolutely in the 
dark as to any reason for being raided and are apt to 
resent it. One of the best known cases of sarina occurred 
at the death of Araua, a Daumori chief, who died some 
years ago. Before his death he sent a club to Saopo, 
chief of Pisarame, with a result that Saopo simply had to 
lead his people down on Daumori after Araua' s death. 
Fortunately for the Daumori they happened to be away 
at the time of the raid, and the few who were in the village 
promptly bolted at the sight of the Pisarame armada of 
canoes. The latter contented themselves with chopping 
down some gardens and departed after calling out that 
the Daumori did not know how to fight and that they 
would return when they had made new canoes, and decor- 
ate them with Daumori heads. 

Suwami differs a little from the two preceding tribes 
both in general characteristics and in being if possible a 
trifle more hysterical. The tribe possesses six or eight 
houses about one hundred feet in lengtli, each of course 
occupied by a single totem clan, the social organisation 
being of the usual Fly River kind. I doubt whether one 
would see a head nowadays at either Pisarame or Aduru, 
for they are all too well hidden in the garden houses, but 



at Suwami one sees now and again an old head still hang- 
ing on its carrier, naked and unashamed. Once when I 
was pulling up the Suwami Creek leading to the village 
I heard a terrific din, drums beating, conch shells blowing, 
and a deafening yelling. It turned out that there had 
merely been some sickness in the place and these means 
were adopted to drive away the evil spirits — quite sufficient 
I should think for any ordinary devils. At the river end 
of the creek I saw an effigy dressed in trousers, shirt and 
felt hat which was the representation of a Suwami man 
who had died on a plantation some hundreds of miles away, 
but apparently his ghost travelled back to the spot it knew 
in life. Near it were bunches of bananas on stakes and 
parcels of cooked yams, and the food was brought daily 
just as if this cenotaph were the ordinary grave. I noticed 
many women in mourning, the most striking part of the 
costumes being the grotesque patterns traced in the mud 
that smeared the breasts of the mourners. 

The Fly here makes a big bend, and at this point is a 
trifle more than a mile wide. The eastern bank is unin- 
habited, and hereabouts you can at times see great flocks 
of white pigeons, which are attracted by the numerous 
wild nutmeg trees. There is a special variety of fresh- 
water turtle, peculiar, I believe, to the Fly which is found 
in this district and of which I was anxious to obtain a 
specimen. The one I succeeded in getting was sent on 
board, but to my disgust the police on the Toawara, not 
knowing I wanted the beast, ate it and disposed of the 
skeleton, the part I wanted chiefly, by dropping it over 
the side. 

From this point upwards the river carries a splendid 
depth of water ; indeed, sounding along the western bank 
near Weridai we got " no bottom at nine," which was all 
the lead went. For over five hundred miles up-stream it 
is navigable for craft not drawing more than six feet, 
but the current is very strong in the upper reaches. 


The large village of Weridai (MacGregor called it 
Tagota, but I have never identified this name) is prettily 
situated some distance up a large tributary and sur- 
rounded by many clumps of bamboo. This latter is used 
a good deal in house construction. The clan houses con- 
tain a partition at the far ends, which are reserved for the 
chiefs and the men. I could not at first understand the 
large packs of dogs to be seen here when it suddenly struck 
me that dog flesh is greatly esteemed as food in these 
parts, and I found that dogs are bred for table and traded 
to tribes lower down. 

About forty miles lower down is the island and tribe of 
Daumori. If you should happen to be sailing about the 
islands or banks round here in October or November you 
can see the D'Albertis creeper at its best and in all its 
glory. Seen against the intensely dark background of the 
forest, it shows up well in one brilliant scarlet blaze. The 
Daumori people, a betel nut chewing race, are the first 
cousins of the Girara living inland. They have two Long 
Houses, but they do not possess a stairway as at Kiwai, 
and you have to climb by a notched stick into what are 
I suppose the darkest houses that I have seen, even at 
midday. The Daumori have some reputation both as 
makers of canoes and of drums and they are also consider- 
able traders in native tobacco. 

The eastern bank of the Fly below the red clay banks 
of Gaima is known as Manouetti, and is inhabited, on the 
river, by two and, inland, by six villages of the Egereba 
tribe. The coast villages are quiet black folk with many 
gardens on the neighbouring islands, and in former days 
had to put up with a good deal of raiding from Wabada. 
The villagers that still remain inland have in a few in- 
stances, notably Urio, both a riverside and a bush settle- 
ment. These Urio folk are a shy lot, rather small in 
stature like most of the real swamp dwellers. On one 
occasion I gave a passage to a couple of Urio men on their 


return from a year's work on one of the east end planta- 
tions. As the whale-boat grated on the beach a mob of 
scantily clad women rushed down with green leaves which 
they placed on the sand, and they would not permit the 
men to land except on these, and then each of the two 
was lifted up shoulder high and carried away by the 
women into the gloom of the Long House without being 
allowed to touch the earth. I could obtain no reason for 
this procedure except that, if it were not done, the two men 
would undoubtedly die. 

Urio has suffered considerably from the attacks of a 
neighbouring bush tribe called Iwi. Always more or less 
unfriendly a very petty quarrel started a couple of years 
ago. A married woman of Urio fell in love with an Iwi 
man. It appeared that the only way she could think of 
to get the man of her choice was to dispose of her husband. 
Accordingly arrangements were made to entice him along 
the beach towards Iwi when her lover and some friends 
fell upon the unfortunate man and shot him to death 
with arrows and took his head, and then the whole party 
includuig the lady cut up the body, cooked it with sago and 
ate it. This was an interesting case as it disposes of the 
much-discussed question of man-eating, apart from mere 
ceremonial cannibalism, in the Fly. I have ascertained 
that this is no isolated case, but in all justice it must be 
admitted that Iwi belongs more to the Damu tribes than 
to the Fly. After this, of course, Iwi, which was just 
beginning to have a little confidence in the " Governman,'* 
took to the swamps, thougli shortly before the Iwi chief 
had sent me as a present his head knife with seven notches 
in it, a much prized heir-loom. Some of these inland districts 
are just unspeakable travelling, and the road to Iwi, for 
it was in the wet season, lay first on trees raised on forks 
and then on saplings resting on or below the level of the 
swamp so that one slithered along a sagging stick, that 
one could not see but only feel for with one's boots with 


the prospect that an unbalanced step would land one 
either among the sago thorns beside the " track " or neck 
deep in the foul muddy compound below. The Iwi 
refuge village was in the very heart of a thick swamp with 
the houses built on stilts high above the mud, and even 
the pigs were provided with platforms to rest on. 

The Siba-rubi or Wabada tribe living on the island of the 
same name were undoubtedly the big fighting people of the 
eastern Fly estuary. They terrorised the Egereba, and 
even Kiwai was inclined to treat them with respect. Of 
powerful build and more clear cut features and even a 
trifle lighter skinned than the Kiwais, they were excellent 
bowmen and could put a couple of hundred men into the 
field, or rather canoes. A fierce raid on the small Purutu 
tribe, which lives in a filthy mud swamp, for the purpose 
of obtaining heads to adorn their new canoes, brought 
them under the notice of the Government and eventually 
ended in their submission. Wabada is divided into two 
villages and is closely connected with the tribes of the 
lower Bamu estuary and their customs are the same, even 
to the extent of mutilating the dead, both men and 
women, in exactly the same manner and for the same pur- 
poses. They speak the same language, which is not unlike 
Kiwai. The Long House system is the same as Kiwai, but 
Wabada has many more totems and not so many of them 
are plants. At one time they used to fight with the 
Kiwais, taunting them with being " women " (a very 
deadly insult) and with wearing clothes, for Wabada then 
went naked but for the groin shell and bow gauntlet, and 
quite unashamed. Nowadays Wabada is a hard-working 
trading tribe with as keen a penchant for clothes as the 
most bigoted Kiwai or Mawatta man. On the other hand, 
they still practise, but surreptitiously, the peculiar customs 
of the Bamu with regard to their women, and I have found 
here what I have not noticed in any other part of the West 
and that is that professional prostitutes are, or were, 


maintained by the village. I believe there is something 
of the same sort at Rossel Island in the Louisiade Archi- 

There is a curious custom here, of which the name, if 
my memory serves me rightly, is Sohup, by which any 
persons thrown up by the sea, say from an overturned 
canoe, are killed. It may be partly because they are 
strangers and as such are therefore enemies, and partly 
there may be the same sort of idea that caused the old 
Breton and Cornish seaside folk to cast shipwrecked people 
back into the sea, that is that they bring ill-luck. I became 
aware of the idea when a small cutter belonging to a copra 
trader on Kiwai Island was borrowed without leave by his 
" boss boy," who overloaded the little craft with a host 
of his friends at a shilling a head and took them out crab 
fishing to Abaura Island. The cutter was never heard of 
again, but a persistent story got round that some were 
washed ashore at Wabada and were there killed. I came 
across the custom when making enquiries about the 

Like all the other western tribes, the Wabada people 
are very clever at cat's cradles and string tricks. Many 
of them are exceedingly complicated and hands, toes and 
mouth are all brought into use. The Flying Fox is a really 
clever trick, while such others as the cockatoo, the jelly- 
fish, the crocodile, the waving of cassowary feathers and 
a man bending down are equally good. The varieties, 
however, are innumerable, but a great number of the tricks 
are utterly obscene. 

According to a Wabada story the moon is inhabited by 
a man named Sagome. In the old days a man named 
Sagome and his mother Gebai lived at Dibiri (the Bamu). 
When Sagome grew up, he became enamoured of his 
mother and wished to marry her but she refused, pointing 
out that he was her child. Sagome became very annoyed 
at her refusal and went away to the moon, which he 


reached by climbing up a sago palm. As he climbed, the 
sago tree became longer and longer until it reached the 
moon and then it sank back again to the earth. As the 
new moon approaches the Wabada people now say, " See, 
Sagome is coming." 

Almost opposite the Wabada passage on the Fly bank 
is the Begeri village of Gowabuari, speaking a Dibiri 
language, and, like Wabada, closely connected with the 
tribes of the Bamu estuary. It consists of one Long 
House at one end of which is the chief's divan and men's 
club. Like the rest of the river, they once went naked 
and unashamed in their blackness, but now, like the rest 
of the river, they wear old clothes ; but it is not so very 
long ago that Gowabuari kept strings of skulls in their 
Long House. A mile or so below Gowabuari is a small 
river called Segera with a very badly silted bar, but, once 
inside, it is a splendid shelter in the worst of weather. 
This river is most peculiarly discoloured, and during the 
ebb tide the smell is very noisome. A small tribe called 
Kowawisi divides its time between living on the Segera 
and on the Bamu. I have unpleasant recollections of a 
miserable midnight journey up the Segera to this place 
in a canoe in the driving rain in order to arrest a man who 
had shot three arrows into his wife for sleeping with another 
man without her husband's consent. We sat drenched 
and huddled up in the narrow craft while the paddlers 
drove it silently along until we reached the collection of 
hovels dignified with the name of Kowawisi. 

Of the upper reaches of the Fly and Strickland I have 
no personal knowledge. All the present information of 
these parts is derived from the reports of D'Albertis, 
Everill and MacGregor. In 1911 Mr. Massy-Baker made 
a long journey up the Strickland, but neither on that 
river nor on the Fly did he meet with much population. 
Within the last year or so, however, the Papuan Govern- 
ment has sent two or three expeditions to these parts, and 


among the important results from a geographical point of 
view has been the discovery by Messrs. Baker and Burrows 
of a large lake in the triangle of country between the Fly 
and the Strickland. The population that has been met 
appears to have been fairly numerous, and the same 
curious armour of rattan, the same mummified bodies 
laid out in platforms in the villages and the same extra- 
ordinary life-sized heads of stuffed human skin, such as 
have been described by the earlier explorers, have also 
been seen. 

I. A TrGERi Type,— The hair is worn in curls and lengthened with tags 
of sedge or tibre. Sometimes false curls are worn, but this practice is 
confined to the men. Claws of the eagle or cassowary are inserted 
in a hole in the nose, giving the wearer a particularly ferocious 

■2. Veiled Giuara Woman. 

3. Fly River Type. 

4. A North-East Coast Scarification.— In the West, raised scars 

usually are signs of having killed a turtle, or clan marks, or signs of 
suitability for marriage, or for mere ornamentation. Each scarifica- 
tion shown in the above represents a love affair. 




Origin of Kiwai— The Kiwais— Their history — Cannibalism — Attempt of 
Siimai to resist the Government — Sexual crime — Relieviufi: their feel- 
ings — Decreasing population — Sago — Sago-making — Woman's work — 
Native bridges — Canoes and canoe trading. 

THE native story of the origin of Kiwai Island is 
probably well known, but as the aceount corre- 
sponds very much with what was possibly partly the case, 
it is perhaps worth while repeating. Kiwai, its people say, 
was once upon a time a small sandbank which gradually 
grew and increased in size till trees made their appearance 
and other plants. After this the birds came and nested. 
In due course one of the birds laid an egg which produced 
a worm and the worm became man. 

The whole island, the largest and most important in the 
Fly, is some thirty miles long with a greatest width of 
about three miles. Very little of it is above high-water 
mark, and indeed the majority of the villages are inun- 
dated at flood-tide by the rising waters. At the sea or 
southern end, the island is rapidly being washed away. 
In fact, at the present day you can anchor in two fathoms 
of water over what was a few years ago the Mission Station 
at Saguan. On the northern end it is making a little. On 
the eastern side at Wiorubi and Sagasia the river is rapidly 
eroding the island, and at low water you can sec the 
stumps of the old houses, the people now having to build 
further and further in the bush. The whole of the seaward 
end is blocked by large and dangerous sandbanks. On 
the island itself there is little or no timber of economic 
value and the interior for the most part consists of sago 
swamps and small forest undergrowth. At Kiwai you get 



the first of the true sago-eating peoples, who extend as far 
eastward as the Bailala River. 

The inhabitants, commonly called Kiwai (a name given 
by the average European to all natives of the West from 
the light-skinned Morehead people to the small dark 
Bamu men), are among the most distinctive in Papua. 
The people, who are true Papuans, are almost black in 
colour, long - limbed and flat - chested. Their heads are 
small, but perhaps their most characteristic feature is the 
large hooked nose with a Jewish curve, so much so that 
I have heard the Kiwai referred to as the black Jews of 
New Guinea ; but it might be stated definitely that the 
Semitic and Kiwai peoples have not a custom in common. 

Generally speaking the physique is good — ^there has 
been a marked advance in physical type within the last 
twenty-five years — and the Kiwais are without doubt 
among the most intelligent and forceful of the Western 
peoples. Like the men of Mawatta and Parama, they are 
somewhat stubborn and know their own minds, and, like 
the rest of the West, they are far too susceptible to foreign 
influences and ideas. They have greedily assimilated to 
themselves the use of European tools, fashions, and clothes, 
so much so that it would be accounted almost shameful to 
be seen clad in anything but trousers and singlets or in the 
case of the women in shapeless print dresses which, by the 
way, do not appear to receive as much laundry attention 
as they might, although I understand there is a slowly 
increasing demand for soap : a change from only a few 
years ago when almost every man wore his hair in tags 
and when even lasa men ate rice raw, not knowing how 
to cook it. 

I am afraid that I cannot altogether agree with those 
who have called the people of the Fly a melancholy and 
morose folk. It must be admitted that their country is 
not enlivening nor is the Kiwai of the same volatile and 
laughter-loving disposition as the man of the East End. 


I admit he takes life more seriously and his sense of 
humour is not of the keenest. Still a village is nothing 
but one continual state of chatter from dusk till dawn and 
the laughter is often as annoying as it is constant. On 
one occasion I happened to be stuck on a sandbank near 
the mouth of the Fly with a number of Kiwais and others 
aboard. The wait for the rising tide was monotonous 
enough until some bright genius among the crowd com- 
menced telling stories and mimicking his neighbours. 
Shrieks of laughter brought me up to watch the actor, and 
although I could not follow his jokes in the vernacular — 
and goodness knows they were broad enough — the gestures 
and mimicry spoke for themselves. 

As far as can be traced the whole of the present villages 
on Kiwai, with one exception, were settled as one com- 
munity at a place called Barosara in almost the very centre 
of the island. About a hundred and twenty years ago a 
faction fight over the ownership of some coconut trees led 
to a secession of some of the people who occupied and 
built what is now known as Doropo on the eastern side. 
Concerning these people I have heard another story, and 
that is that they originally came from the interior of 
Segama Island in the Bamu, and that they were akin to 
the Sisiame tribe there. The latter told me the story them- 
selves and pointed out a large tree from which both they 
and the Doropo issued in the dim past. They also said that 
at one time the Doropo used to speak a Bamu language, 
but now everybody had forgotten it and all speak Kiwai. 

Another split occurred after the Doropo emigration and 
this party settled at Wiorubi, also on the eastern side. 
After this exodus the remainder of the tribe shifted from 
Barosara to the riverside to what is known as lasa or 
Kiwai, still regarded as the principal and parent village. 
Some forty years later there was yet another tribal split, 
and the settlements of Auti and Paara (Sumai) were 
founded under the leadership of a renoviicd fighting 


man called Sibara. The story runs that Sibara came to 
the land and saw that it was good and said, " This is a 
good place to die in," and so the land was called Paara, or 
Death. So far the offshoots of the original tribe have 
been more or less distinct entities, but now lasa itself 
threw off several colonies in search of planting lands to 
the south-east. In this way Ipisia and Agabara, under the 
leadership of a renowned man called Bune, Samari and 
Saguan were occupied. All these frequently leave their 
villages for months at a time, returning to lasa generally 
to make sago and in connection with the big Gaera and 
Moguru ceremonies. Each of these four communities has 
its own house or houses at lasa, so that at one time the 
latter may be extremely crowded and at others com- 
paratively empty. There is but one foreign element on 
Kiwai, the small Kubira tribe, between lasa and Sumai, 
and speaking a totally different language. Practically 
nothing is known of their origin except that they claim 
to be aboriginal owners of their lands. 

Kiwai, in common with the rest of the Fly, seems to 
have acquired from the very start rather a reputation for 
ferocity. In 1845, Captain Blackwood was attacked off 
the southern end. Forty years later an attempt was made 
to massacre the teachers of the London Missionary Society 
at Samari and lasa. The attempt failed, but it resulted 
in the flight of the teachers and total abandonment of 
what Mission work there was. Neither MacFarlane, 
D'Albertis nor Bcvan gave Kiwai a very good character. 
Although doubts have been thrown upon Mr. Bevan's 
remarks, in the main they were not far out. Kiwai was 
continually at war and on the look out for heads. As is 
well known they drove the Daru, Mawatta and Turituri 
people to the West. Whether they were ever actually 
cannibals in the sense of man-eating for food is perhaps 
doubtful, but that they indulged in ceremonial man-eating 
is beyond question. For instance, after a fight when the 


heads are brought home, the muscle behind the ear is 
given with sago to the small boys to eat in order to make 
them " strong," and small portions of certain other parts 
of the body are also eaten both by warriors and youths for 
the same and other purposes and for war charms. 

Sumai has been the only village that has ever made any 
really serious attempt to challenge the power of the 
Government. A party from this village returning from 
a friendly visit to a neighbouring tribe lost one of their 
number through, 'twas said, the machinations of a sorcerer. 
All Sumai turned out to pay back and proceeded to the 
offending village. The Daumori people endeavoured to 
explain that they were friendly and were " Government 
people," to which a Sumai man replied, " Who cares," and 
fitting an arrow to his bow shot the speaker through the 
body. Sumai then slaughtered all they could lay hands 
on and brought the heads back in triumph. Then followed 
the boast that they would treat the magistrate and the 
police in the same way and that their heads would soon 
be rotting on the village house posts. The prospects of 
severe fighting looked promising, but the R.M. cut the 
boasters off from the neighbouring villages and secured 
their alliance and when it came to the point Sumai refused 
to take the field and surrendered among others Koresa, 
their leader, a truculent blackguard w^ho, nevertheless, 
had a great reputation as a fighting chief. Apart from 
this and a little resistance at Wiorubi on one occasion I 
do not know of any other organised attempts at revolt 
on Kiwai. The Village Constable system has worked 
excellently among them, but there was a little difficulty 
at its first institution. Owing to the clan house system, 
the V.C. was inclined to promptly run in offenders of his 
own clan house, but his interference was resented by 
others of different clans and equally in other cases the 
V.C. was inclined to overlook offences by his own clan 
and make a great deal of those committed by outsiders. 


These difficulties, however, soon resolved themselves. I 
firmly believe at the present time that if you gave a Kiwai 
man his own warrant of imprisonment and told him to 
report at Daru gaol to undergo his sentence, he would be 
found there at the proper time, i have never actually put 
the experiment to the test, but it has seldom been found 
necessary, except in very serious offences, to issue any- 
thing more formidable than a summons. The Klwai 
quite understands the system of fines, and a sentence 
" without the option " is rather regarded with disgust. 

Nothing very exciting seems to happen on one's trips 
round Kiwai. Usually it is a monotonous round of cases 
of adultery or wife beating or petty assaults or not cleaning 
villages and letting the houses get rackety. Still, after all, 
a bad road does not matter much because there is no land 
but swamp to make roads on and all travelling is done by 
canoe, and one cannot be too hard upon a dirty village 
when it is remembered that it is flooded at every high tide. 
There is often a great objection to cleaning up rubbish 
heaps, not on account of any unwillingness per se, but 
because each heap is supposed to be inhabited by a mis- 
chievous spirit who dislikes being disturbed. Apart from 
adultery the most typical troubles one meets are sexual 
ones, some of the most brutal type. I do not know why 
the Western man and the Kiwai in particular should be 
addicted so much to this class of crime. There is a suffi- 
ciency of women, and, although monogamy is slowly 
becoming fashionable, polygamy is the general rule. I 
can only advance the theory that there are times when 
the Kiwai becomes afflicted with a kind of sexual mad- 
ness, when he appears absolutely indifferent to anything 
but his own desires. Among the people themselves this 
class of crime is but lightly regarded and no loss of status 
appears to attach to the women. Many of the adultery 
cases are due to an oldish man taking a young girl for a 
second or even third wife, or to a husband devoting more 


attention to one wife than to another. The East End 
natives have got hold of rather an exaggerated idea of 
Kiwai customs, and I have often heard the expression 
" Kiwai fashion " used in disgust as implying the most 
loathsome and objectionable practices. 

A common source of injury is the method throughout 
the Division that the people have of relieving their feelings. 
They all seem to be rather quick tempered and when a 
man is angered about anything he will seize his bow and 
start shooting arrows without much regard for anyone 
who may be in the way. He will stand in the middle of 
the Long House and shoot down the centre regardless of 
the fact that it may be full of people, and he will stand 
outside and send arrow after arrow up in the air. It is 
quite immaterial if anyone gets hit. One man, annoyed 
because the mosquitoes were troubling him, put an arrow 
through a friend's body without having the slightest 
animosity against him. Another split his mother's head 
with a bar of iron because the baby she was nursing 
started to cry and was absolutely aggrieved because he 
received six months' imprisonment. Another brought his 
little boy to me with a fractured arm that he had smashed 
in a fit of anger because the child had interfered with him 
while engaged in making a canoe. Another, a youth of 
sixteen or seventeen, was told by his father to fetch water 
and annoyed at this hurled a firestick into the thatch of 
the Long House, thus rendering a couple of hundred 
people homeless. 

The worst about Kiwai is the travelling round it. In 
each season of the year the seas are often very heavy and 
there is no very good anchorage anywhere. lasa in 
particular is a very nasty place. Within my own recollec- 
tion there have been at least two or three vessels driven 
ashore there, one right up into the middle of the village. 
Perhaps worse than a mere bad anchorage and rolling 
gunwale under while at anchor is getting ashore, especially 


if it happens to be low tide. There is usually a stretch of 
anything up to half a mile of soft mud to labour through 
and it is next door to impassable to anyone but a native. 
One often wonders why the Western man has such big 
splay feet until one sees Western mud. The reason is then 

About twenty-five years ago the population was esti- 
mated to be about five thousand, but I should not be 
inclined to put it do^vn as more than three thousand five 
hundred now. Assuming the original estimate to be cor- 
rect, I am somewhat at a loss to account for such a heavy 
drop in a quarter of a century. The introduction of foreign 
diseases or epidemics of dysentery, beri-beri and whooping 
cough may partly account for loss of population. An 
occasional heavy death-rate among able-bodied labourers 
who have engaged for work either in other parts of the 
country or in Torres Straits is also a factor. There is, on 
the whole, I think, a growing tendency to monogamy ; 
infant mortality is fairly high here as elsewhere. Un- 
doubtedly artificial means are taken to limit the number 
of children, and the social customs generally may have 
a strong bearing on female fecundity. On the other hand, 
the Kiwais have greatly improved in physical type, and in 
spite of the comparatively insanitary conditions of their 
village life, they are not an unhealthy people. Whatever 
the cause or causes of decline in numbers, I think the fact 
has been well established. 

Sago is the staple but not the sole food. The coconut 
is extensively planted, grows well and, as everywhere else 
throughout New Guinea, it provides the people with many 
commodities. Most of the Kiwai soil is mere mud, but the 
coconut seems to flourish in it. Where the land is suit- 
able, bananas, yams and sweet potatoes are cultivated to 
some extent. There are many varieties both of yams and 
sweet potatoes known and a few of them are quite good, 
but personally I find the latter very stringy. In Kiwai 


the sweet potato is always planted in bunches along 
rows of mounds, not on the flat as in some other parts of 
Papua. Planting of course takes place before the rainy 
season, but as might be expected there is usually someone 
who has left his garden until the last minute and has to 
suffer a bad crop in spite of charms and appeals to his 
fathers for a good harvest. 

The sago palm, which both grows wild and is cultivated, 
is a lover of low wet ground, and the swampy country of 
the West is exactly suited to it. Much of Kiwai Island 
is covered with sago swamp, which provides an almost 
inexhaustible supply of food. The palm, which attains 
a height of from forty to sixty feet, is covered with long 
sharp thorns. It is an extremely slow grower, and a man, 
as a rule, seldom looks forward to eating any of the sago 
he has himself planted. Like the coconut, it is perhaps 
a provision for his children, but whereas the coconut 
will bear in, say, seven years, the sago palm may not reach 
full maturity for nearly twenty. It can be propagated 
either from seed or suckers ; after flowering it dies off. In 
the story the sago palm is referred to as the husband of 
the daughters of the mythical woman Abere, and the 
ceremonies for a good harvest of sago occupy an important 
place in Kiwai agriculture. When sago palm is planted 
a pig is killed and small pieces of its flesh are placed in the 
ground around it. 

It is estimated that a full-grown palm ought to produce 
from two to three hundred pounds of wet sago, and, as 
that quantity would probably sustain a family of five for 
nearly a month, it can easily be realised what valuable 
property a sago tree is, especially as it requires no atten- 
tion. The manufacture of sago is essentially the work of 
the women, just as felling the palm, stripping it and, 
when necessary, bringing it home is essentially the work 
of the men. The Western men are exceedingly particular 
on the point that it is shameful for men to do women's 



work, and I have known this feehng carried to absurd 
lengths. When I was on the head waters of the Kiko 
River with a large body of Kiwai carriers, after having 
been several weeks out, provisions began to run short 
and it became necessary to make sago. Although it was 
a question of making sago and having sufficient to eat 
or not making it and starving, the Kiwais positively 
declined to set to work. Jeers, persuasion and threats were 
equally unavailing until a couple of days' hunger brought 
them to their senses. As they remarked, sago-making 
was women's work ; they themselves had never made it 
and did not know how to do so properly. 

After the bark is stripped, the hard stringy white pith 
is beaten with wooden beaters hardened in the fire, and 
a trough some six or seven feet long is made from a round 
of sago bark. This is fitted with a sieve made from the 
inside of the coconut leaf or some similar material and 
the lower end of the trough rests in a receptacle usually 
made from the hard inside sago spathe. The beaten or 
adzed-out pith is then placed in the upper trough, and 
the women pouring on plenty of water, work it with their 
hands and allow the fluid matter to filter through the 
sieve into the basin, where the sago starch is allowed to 
settle, and the water is then poured off and the process is 
repeated until all of the pith is treated. After a partial 
drying the manufactured product is put in parcels of sago 
leaves ranging from small rolls a couple of inches in diame- 
ter to large bundles twelve or eighteen inches round and 
three feet or more in length. The larger bundles are 
packed round with the midribs of the sago leaf, a method 
of packing peculiar to Kiwai and certain other parts of the 

For special occasions, such as feasts, very large bundles 
are made up ; I have seen them averaging one hundred 
and thirty pounds in weight. As a rule a great deal more 
sago than is actually required for home consumption is 


made on Kiwai, and there is a considerable export to 
Mawatta and the coast villages and to certain of the Torres 
Straits Islands. Sago, it might be stated, is never boiled 
but always roasted on the fire in rolls in its own leaves 
and mixed with elams, fish, scraped coconuts, or bananas. 
It does not look particularly appetising and when roasted 
looks and tastes very much like hard dry flour, but that 
it must be a nourishing and sustaining food is evident from 
the fact that it forms the staple foodstuff of many thou- 
sands of the natives of the Territory. If well washed and 
boiled with milk and sugar, it makes, I believe, quite a 
palatable European dish. 

Kiwai is seamed by innumerable tidal creeks, and most 
of the villages are split in sections by small streams. The 
bridges that were formerly used to cross these creeks were 
rather a noticeable feature. As all of these purely native 
affairs have, by, I surmise, what might be considered a sad 
act of vandalism, been replaced by bridges of more ortho- 
dox European type, and I do not suppose there will be 
any more of the old variety, they may be worth describing. 
A big log was laid across the mud at low water, alongside 
which ran a row of forked sticks rising gradually towards 
the centre in the form of a low arch. Small poles were 
laid on the forks and lashed to them were rows of bamboos 
or poles in X form, their bottom pnds being well pushed 
into the mud. The " decking " was completed by more 
sticks laid along the forks, a ad occasionally the whole 
would be finished off by handrails lashed along the tops 
of the X. However graceful and simple these structures 
might be considered, they are trying to European nerves, 
and I for one have never crossed without an inward qualm 
at the thought of a possible slide into the peasoup mud 
below. A native method of crossing a narrow creek is to 
climb a suitable tree with branches overhanging the water, 
seize a branch from a tree on the other side, tie the two 
together and walk over comfortably. The first and only 


time I tried this method some well-meaning person com- 
menced testing the branches to see if they were strong 
enough with exceedingly disastrous results to myself. 

Like the coast people, the Kiwais have changed into a 
race of thoroughgoing sailors. They always were good 
canoe men, but the use of the calico or canvas sail is a 
comparatively recent introduction and is now spreading 
to the lower Bamu. The rig is almost entirely European 
and the double outrigger is used, another late introduction. 
The oldest form of canoe was probably the solid log that 
floated witli the tide, the remnants of which can still be seen 
if you happen to be at a village at dusk. The women float 
back with the tide from their crab hunting or fishing in 
the small single outrigger canoes with a large nipa or sago 
leaf held up as a sail. Steering in the old form of platform- 
less canoe was done with a paddle, but with the modern 
use of large sails, a steering board is employed. Not more 
than thirty years ago it used to be remarked that there 
was never a sail to be seen from east of Kiwai to the 
Papuan Gulf. The lower Fly is now alive with sailing 
canoes. And not more than fifteen years ago a Resident 
Magistrate expressed his doubts whether the Kiwai would 
ever be much use as a seaman. At the present day he 
is eagerly sought after at high wages as among the best 
boat hands in New Guinea. 

I do not know that Kiwai was ever much of a canoe- 
building district, but it acts as a middleman in the trade. 
The principal canoe villages in the Fly are Daumori, 
Pisarame, Baramura, Taitiarato and Wariabodoro, from 
which places the majority of the Kiwai canoes come. The 
famous Dibiri (Bamu) craft are obtained through Wabada. 
For a sixty-feet canoe three very large armshells and 
thirty large cowries might be paid ; for a small canoe five 
large and a fathom of small cowries. European goods are 
now largely used in the purchase price. One large canoe 
would cost, for example, three axes, five half-axes, a dozen 



tomahawks and one armshell ; indeed, the latter is an 
essential to the bargain. I remember buying a partner- 
ship in a large Mawatta canoe to be used for fishing (I 
think I paid most of the price and received least of the 
catch), and while I provided most of the knives and axes 
my partners produced the necessary armshell. At Sumai 
a very large canoe was bought for a metal shoe horn by 
a youth of that village. He had stolen the article at Daru 
and returned to his village with the story that it was a 
most powerful " puri-puri." This was firmly believed 
even by the " big men," and one of them, anxious to 
possess such a charm, offered a large canoe for it, to the 
temptation of which the thief succumbed. 



Food, meals and eating — Cooking utensils — Woman's dress— Shaving — 
Nose piercing — Ear piercing — Head manipulation — Scarification : how 
made— Object of scarification — Tobacco and smoking — Warfare — 
Vendetta — The totem in war — Head hunting — War ceremony — Pipi 
dance — Ghosts of the slain. 

T IKE most natives, the Kiwais rise early in the morn- 
-*-^ ing and the women set about preparing a meal. 
Practically but two meals a day are eaten, one in the 
morning and the other, the principal one, at dusk, but 
it may happen that a man will only eat once in the day or 
equally he will eat whenever he feels hungry and there is 
food available. It is extraordinary how quickly natives, 
when working with Europeans, take to three meals a day 
and how loudly they complain if they do not get them. 

Leaving sago aside, nine-tenths of the food of the Kiwai 
is vegetable ; very little of it will bear keeping, and almost 
all must be eaten when ripe. The labour spent on growing 
native food is greatly in excess of its actual value. Yams, 
for example, yield really poor crops, and then only after 
a great expenditure of time and trouble. Famine, of 
course, in the actual European sense is unknown, but in 
specially dry seasons I have known the people really hard 
pushed for food. In such times the seeds of the red man- 
grove are a great stand-by. Animal food scarcely forms 
a regular part of the dietary ; pigs are, of course, to be 
found in every village, but they are generally reserved 
for ceremonial or festive occasions. Fish of a kind, shell- 
fish, crabs, grubs and such like form the usual accompani- 
ments to a meal, and wild pig or wallaby at times when 

the hunters are lucky. 



Food is invariably prepared by the women ; indeed, if 
a wife neglects or refuses to do the cooking in good time, 
there is trouble in store or the husband may suspect that 
there is some other man in the case. The sexes usually 
eat together, but the women may often cook a meal for 
themselves and the children as the fit strikes them. 

All food is roasted except that the use of saucepans and 
iron pots is becoming very general, just as a good deal 
of flour made into very indigestible-looking doughboys is 
being used in addition to, or as a substitute for, the usual 
sago. Formerly the only domestic utensils the Kiwais 
possessed were buckets of sago bark and basins made 
from the melon shell, but of these a family only needed 
one or two at most. Possibly it would not be averse to 
accepting another as a present. Water is carried in 
coconut shells or lengths of bamboo, but the water 
round about the lower Fly is brackish and scarcely palat- 
able. A good deal of coconut water is consequently used 
for drinking purposes. 

Besides attending to a woman's usual duties, the 
Kiwai women make their own clothes. I am not, of course, 
referring to the print dresses of modern days worn over 
the native petticoat. This, by the way, is an indispensable 
garment, scanty as it is, no matter how many other 
articles may be worn over it. It consists of two long 
fringes of grasses or fibres woven on the same foundation 
and, leaving an overhanging fringe in front, plaited on 
to rows of solid cord which form a girdle. The fringes are 
very long, about three feet. The back one is carried 
tightly between the legs and passed under and over the 
front band, while the front fringe is just doubled over 
behind. To the uninitiated the whole thing appears most 
complicated, and from the length and amount of fringe 
one wonders where it is all going to be tucked away. When 
worn, one wonders equally what an infinitesimal covering 
it is. The legs and thighs are quite bare. These petti- 


coats (?) are well dyed, generally in three colours, yellow, 
reddish brown and black. Yellow can be obtained by 
scraping turmeric root and mixing with water. Red is 
made either from a red clay obtained on the mainland or 
by dipping in a decoction of mangrove root. One method 
of obtaining black is by burying the fibres in the mud of 
a mangrove swamp for a few days. The same style of 
garment, more or less scanty according to district, is found 
for a certam distance up the Fly when the more generous 
knee garment is in evidence. 

Until she marries a girl wears her hair long, but as soon 
as she becomes a wife it is shaved or cut short, a shell 
being used for the operation. Men shave by twisting a 
loop of thin fibre round each separate hair and pulling it 
out, a process which, while satisfactory, must be exceed- 
ingly tedious and painful. I should imagine, however, 
it is preferable to the use of the bamboo or shell razor. 
Most of the Western tribes are considerably more hairy 
than the average Papuans and the practice of wearing 
beards or whiskers is far more common. One of the prin- 
cipal signs of showing grief or mourning at a friend's or 
relative's death is by letting the face hair grow. 

Both sexes pierce the septum of the nose, an operation 
which is carried out in childhood with the aid of a thorn, 
and at the time of the piercing a small family feast may 
be given. A roll of grass is placed in the hole to prevent 
its healing, and, as the child grows up, it is replaced in 
the case of girls by a small piece of bamboo, and in the 
case of boys by shell or wooden ornaments. Probably 
more important than the nose-piercing is the piercing of 
the lobes of the ears, also carried out in childhood, but 
later than the nose operation. The ear piercing is impor- 
tant, because without it I believe a child is not suitable 
for marriage. After the actual hole in the ear lobe has 
healed, an ear weight of some heavy wood in the form 
of two balls or drops is inserted in the hole, primarily for 


the purpose of distending the lobe. These ornaments are 
usually made by the child's father or uncle and will be 
worn for some years until the lobe is ready for further 
treatment which consists of a very tight binding round 
the front portion of the lobe. Naturally as the ligature 
is always kept very tight, the end of the lobe swells up, 
festers and is finally cut, tteaving a pendant of flesh. This 
in course of time often gets torn away and nothing but a 
very mutilated ear is left. I doubt whether one could find 
any adult on Kiwai with two whole ears, and the mutilation 
is certainly no aid to beauty. I have frequently seen the 
ligature tied tightly round not the half section but the 
whole lobe, which is subsequently cut away after it has 
swollen up to a great size. The ear, however, is not 
finished with yet. Round the top a series of small holes 
are pierced, first one ear and then the other. These holes 
also in course of time become torn, leaving a series of 
notches round the rim of the ears. At the time of initia- 
tion long streamers of sago frond dyed red are passed 
through these holes in the ear rims ; on the conclusion 
of the ceremonies the fringes are cut close to the lad's ears 
and the remaining portions are left until they drop off. 
Instead of dyed sago fronds, strips of turkey red twill now 
are used for the same purpose ; the red is, I suppose, a 
bettev colour than that of native manufacture. 

Taking it all round the Kiwai, or rather the Western 
child has some painful experiences to go through. In 
babyhood the shape of the head is sometimes manipulated 
by manual pressure by the mother to the required standard 
of beauty. This practice certainly obtained at Mawatta 
and Turituri, and I have been told it is sometimes cus- 
tomary at Kiwai, although by no means universal. 

Tattooing is not a Western custom, but now and again 
one sees men who have spent years in other parts of New 
Guinea come back to their own parts with a series of 
tattoo marks. But, on the other hand, scarification is an 


almost universal Western practice. Scarification as a 
mark of grief and of mourning is by no means uncommon 
throughout Papua. It is frequently seen on the Kumusi 
and Mamba, and in some cases along the north-east coast. 
I have seen instances of arm scarification where the marks 
were signs of success in love-making. Cutting and scarring 
the body where pain is felt or for the purpose of blood- 
letting is very common, but this type is hardly a varia- 
tion of the peculiarly Western one. Generally speaking 
the reasons for these raised cicatrices and the meaning 
of their designs are far from being thoroughly known. 
The ordinary Western cicatrix consists of a raised pad of 
flesh in various shapes and patterns made on the shoulders, 
breasts, stomach, legs and back. I do not recollect ever 
having seen any on the face. They are usually made with 
a small clam shell, and coconut oil is applied to the wound 
in order that the resulting scar may be distinct. To pro- 
duce the raised effect, fire may be used or various native 

However produced, the process must be pretty painful 
and it evidently extends over a considerable period. In 
the case of women the scarifications are usually made above 
and across the breasts. The process commences when the 
girls are young and is carried on until they reach 
marriageable age. At Sumari I was told that thej'^ were 
made for the purpose of " making flash," probably an 
indication of suitability for marriage. The commonest 
forms of cicatrices are two or three longitudinal bars, about 
three inches long, across the breasts or an inverted V. In 
the majority of cases of women's breast cicatrices the 
object is in order to prevent the breasts becoming pendu- 
lous. Whether this has any actual scientific grounds or 
not, I do not know, but as far as I can see the breasts of 
Kiwai women do not appear to be any less pendulous than 
those of other tribes. Among the fishing tribes a design 
very like a leaf is raised on the shoulder by girls when they 


hear that their brothers have taken their first head or 
speared their first turtle or dugong. Some cicatrices un- 
doubtedly represent clan totem marks, but I do not think 
these are general. One very common shoulder cicatrix for 
men is a series of what might be termed concentric half- 
circles. And, finally, distinct from any other purpose, 
a cicatrix may be purely ornamental. 

A considerable amount of tobacco is grown locally, but 
the majority of it is imported from Daumori or the main- 
land. The ordinary bamboo pipe is used for smoking, but 
the method universal throughout the West and inland 
differs somewhat from the rest of Papua. Curiously enough 
it is almost identical with the method of smoking which 
I saw on the head of the Waria. The pipe is a long one, 
decorated with patterns intended sometimes to represent 
leaves or plants or sometimes just a series of zigzag 
scratched lines. One end is open, the other closed. Near 
the closed end a hole is made into which is fitted a small 
wooden tube. The tobacco rolled into a ball is put in the 
tube and the open end of the pipe being placed to the 
mouth the smoke is drawn in, or sometimes the smoker 
fills the pipe by simply blowing down the tube ; on the 
Waria, where the tobacco is rolled in the form of a cigar, 
the smoker places the glowing tobacco in his mouth. When 
the pipe is full of smoke the tube is taken away and with 
one hand covering the open end of the bamboo, the smoke 
is inhaled through the hole. A man seldom takes more 
than one suck at a time and then he passes the pipe on 
to the next smoker. On Kiwai white man's " trade " 
tobacco is now highly esteemed, but there are many 
places both in the Fly and the Bamu where the indigenous 
article is used for choice. 

Gamada is cultivated and used, although properly 
speaking it should only be drunk by initiated people 
at feast times. Unfortunately the natives have now 
taken to regular drinking bouts of the decoction, and 


although Sir WilHam MacGregor urged that gamada 
might be encouraged as a remedy against a possible 
desire for alcohol, it is beginning to look as if its abuse 
might be just as harmful. 

As a fighting race the Kiwais were certainly among the 
most prominent of the Fly River tribes and they usually 
managed to hold their own. Their women, like those of 
Afghanistan, often followed their men to battle and 
finished off such wounded as there might be with wooden 
swords and looted and mutilated the slain. The fighting 
men were said to derive considerable encouragement from 
their female supporters. Regular warfare should be dis- 
tinguished from what might be regarded as the personal 
vendetta, starting originally between two individuals and 
then taken up by the tribe. A life for a life is a custom 
recognised all over New Guinea, and it is easily seen that 
the business can go on indefinitely. About the only way 
a series of murders or massacres and counter-massacres 
can be avoided is by " paying " for the death and making . 
the tally even on each side. Thus a man who has killed 
another may by making payment, that is, if it be accepted, 
avoid the consequences to himself and his clan. Un- 
fortunately this, however, does not take the Law into 
consideration, and a man may have ppJd a good deal of 
New Guinea " somethings " and considered he was square, 
only to find he had still to reckon with the Government. 
If a man is killed m a private quarrel I believe it is the duty 
of his brother to kill the murderer, or failing a brother it 
is the duty of his nearest male relative. Should he be 
successful, the relatives of the other man step in and so 
the game goes merrily on. 

In general battle it does not matter much who kills 
whom, but opposing members of the same totem, who 
would wear their totem crest painted on their bodies, 
always avoid each other in fight and will even disengage 
should they by any chance become involved. 

OiioKAivA GiuLs Smoking 

Among the Papuans of the Xorth tlie women's dress is made of tappa, worn in the 
form of a petticoat and held in position by a plaited fibre belt. 


Much of the warfare used to take place in canoes and was 
to a great extent an exchange of arrow fire ; but when 
land fighting took place, the various clans kept together 
in the attack. Dislike of killing a man of the same totem 
was only, I think, to be found when Kiwai villages were 
fighting among themselves or when fighting tribes to 
whom they were akin. I do not think a man would worry 
very much what happened to an utter foreigner even if 
he knew their totems were the same. At the same time 
visitors from strange and therefore hostile tribes would 
be safe among people of the same totem. 

Distinct from fighting between individuals or tribes, 
often arising in the first instance from trifling causes, 
there is the purely head-hunting raid. The heads of rela- 
tives may be preserved from love and affection, but the 
taking of an enemy's head comes under a different category. 
For one thing the possession of a head is a sign of prowess 
and gains the favour of the women. Of course it is quite 
immaterial whether the head be that of a man, woman or 
child ; the glory is just the same. And it must be con- 
fessed that the Papuan warrior is not quite a chivalrous 
person, and he usually fights under rules that remind one 
rather of the White Knight of " Through the Looking- 
glass." Anyhow a head is a head, however obtained. I 
have even heard of skulls being bought with canoes. 

Before starting on a raid certain ceremonies are gone 
through in which parts taken from the bodies of the 
slain in previous fights are used and all the proceedings 
are with the intention either of weakening the power of 
the enemy or of strengthening the warriors. Ginger is a 
good fighting charm. And a man should refrain from 
sexual intercourse prior to a fight. 

After a successful fight or perhaps one might better call 
it massacre, the warriors smear their faces with black 
and paint red lines down their noses. They deck 
themselves with crotons and stick flowers of the red 


hibiscus in their hair. As the canoes return to the village 
heralded by blasts of the shell trumpet, the women come 
out and dance a measure of triumph on the beach. The 
captured heads are first singed in the fires to clean the hair 
and then the heads themselves are placed close to the flame 
so that the flesh will swell up and may be removed with 
ease. I have already described the decoration of the skull 
at Mawatta and the Kiwai method does not differ 

The " Pipi " dance is the principal celebration of a fight 
in which men and women join, the latter being roused to 
a frenzy — often of sexual passion. At Mawatta the song 
of Kwoiam (the Torres Straits hero who is perfectly well 
known to these people) is incorporated in the Pipi. 

The warrior who has killed is, as only might be expected, 
in continual danger from the ghosts of those he has slain. 
Consequently he must for a month refrain from intercourse 
with women and eat no crabs, crocodile, sago or pig. 
If he did, the ghost would enter into his blood and he 
would certainly die. As a further precaution against the 
power of the ghosts, food and a bowl of gamada are set 
aside and flung away with a warning to the dead to return 
to their own place. 

In the old days a village must always have been more 
or less in a state of anticipation of an attack. The women 
and children were always prepared to race to the bush at 
an alarm. When a man went to his garden, he took his 
bow and arrows with him ; when he went fishing his 
weapons lay ready in the canoe. It can scarcely be said 
there was anv lack of excitement. 



The Kiwai story of fire — Death and burial — Adiri^ the place of the dead — 
Spirits appear to their friends — Grief tabus — Kiwai music — Drum- 
making — Modern dancing — Gaera festival — Kiwai totems and mar- 
riage — The Long House — Description — Furniture — Initiation — Agri- 
cultural charms — Stone axes. 

rriHE Kiwai story of the origin of fire reads somewhat 
-L hke one of the Just-So stories. There was, of course, 
a time when the people had no fire and were compelled to 
eat all things uncooked. Fire, however, was known at 
Dibiri (the mouth of the Bamu), and, aware of this, the 
animals endeavoured to steal it. The crocodile tried and 
was unsuccessful, the cassowary failed, and even the dog 
could not manage it. Then the birds made an attempt, 
and the black cockatoo succeeded in picking up some fire 
and flew to the west with it in his beak. When he came 
to lasa, however, the fire burned his mouth and he dropped 
the firestick. Thus the Kiwais obtained fire while the 
black cockatoo carries the red blaze of the burn above bis 
beak to this day. In some other parts of British New 
Guinea the majority of fire stories say that the dog was 
the first to bring fire to man, and in one case the dog stole 
it from the rat. In practice among the Kiwais fire is made 
by holding down the usual billet of dry wood with the foot 
and drawing a piece of split cane swiftly up and down 
beneath it. An alternative is the " fire plough " method. 

Immediately a death occurs in the village the relatives 
and friends of the deceased break out into weird wailing, 
interrupted with crying and sobbing, which is kept up 
for some time. The first transports of grief are carried 
to extremes and the mourners often cut and tear their 



bodies until blood comes. Apart from the immediate 
relatives m^uch of the display of grief is conventional. I 
will not go so far as to say they are paid for their tears 
but at any rate friends who have come to cry are regaled 
with a feast, and I have known individuals suddenly 
break off in their tears to discuss the price of copra. 
Mourners smear themselves with whitish or yellow pig- 
ments — yellow is particularly a mourning colour — and 
assume a generally dishevelled appearance. On Kiwai 
the dead are always buried in a slightly recumbent posture 
in a grave in the gardens, usually surrounded by a fence. 
Sometimes the corpse is provided with a piece of broken 
canoe, a kind of soul boat for the journey after death. 
I recollect having seen a dead body being carried on a 
piece of canoe at Kaimare in the Purari Delta, but I am 
not aware whether a similar idea is held. Over the grave 
is built a small house of sago thatch, and for some days 
(the period seems to vary) a fire is kept burning on the 
grave so that the ghost may not feel cold, and every day 
small offerings of food are brought, sometimes with 
petitions of various kinds. Certain articles of personal 
property of the deceased are placed alongside the grave, 
such as his bow and arrows if a man or her petticoat if a 

The ghosts of the dead go to Adiri, a place vaguely 
indicated as somewhere in the Far West, following the 
road that was travelled by Sido, the mythical hero of t he 
Fly, the man who first died or rather was murdered, a 
typically Papuan ending. Mankind has the privilege of 
owing death to Sido, for on account of his decease everyone 
else has to die. Adiri is a desolate spot on the very con- 
fines of the world (as known to the Kiwais), and was 
inhabited by some people who had neither fire nor houses 
nor gardens until Sido provided them on his arrival. There 
is rather a modern touch about the way he produced fire, 
for he removed his teeth and rubbed them on a piece of 
dry wood, to make the flame. 



:^.- ' 



A Fly River L<iN(; House, Kiwai 

This is a comiuuiuil (Uve'iling iii wliicli tlie clans of tlie village live. Jl.ach 
family has its separate eoni]iartmeiit in the house, and the houses may be 
several hundred feet in length, according to the size of the community. 


The ghosts, however, do not immediately depart on the 
long trip to Adiii, but for some days at any rate they 
frequent the grave or the vicinity of the village. Nor do 
all the ghosts go to the place of the dead. Some appear 
to become malignant spirits and haunt the villages, and 
it is necessary to drive them off with blasts of the conch 
shell. The ghosts of women who have died in child- 
birth are admittedly evil — a belief not confined to New 
Guinea — and those of suicides. Suicide, by the way, while 
not common is not altogether rare. Love affairs are fruit- 
ful sources of disposing of oneself, and strangulation is one 
of the most frequent methods employed. Another way 
to ensure being killed is to depart alone for a hostile 
village, and this has the added advantage of causing 
trouble afterwards for those who are alive. 

While the ghosts remain in the neighbourhood they can 
be frequently seen, for there are folk who have the faculty 
of being able to see them and converse with them, and in 
this way the dead can give advice or warnings. A sorcerer 
may often derive his knowledge and power from the dead. 
If it has been thought that a person has died tlu-ough the 
machinations of a wizard, the grave is watched by some 
one gifted with the power of seeing spirits, and in due 
course the ghost of the dead man will invariably appear 
accompanied by that of his slayer, for even though the 
latter is still alive it is well known that his spirit can be 
influenced by that of his victim. 

In accordance with a very old custom the skulls of the 
dead are sometimes disinterred and worn round the neck, 
and these may also be of use in a divinatory manner. 

The usual special mourning dress is worn both by men 
and women. The widow or widows, of course, are bound 
to wail, and their position is that they go to their children 
if they are grown up and become very much like drudges. 
A widow, however, has this advantage that she may 
marry again if she can find anyone to take her or she can 


profitably be disposed of. Besides other marks of grief, 
mourners will often " sabe " (i.e. tabu) themselves against 
eating bananas or coconuts, according to which, it is 
said, the deceased last asked for, and this prohibition may 
last for months according to the seasons. There was a 
well-known case at Mawatta where a chief on the death 
of a friend " sabed " himself against dugong fishing. 
Coconut trees are not " sabe " when a man dies, but one 
of the trees from which the deceased used to take fruit is 
cut down. Cutting down coconuts on a death is a very 
common custom all over New Guinea, but as far as Kiwai 
is concerned it has ceased since its prohibition by one of 
the Native Regulations. Sago palms are never " sabe " 
or cut down. Although a man's son may inherit his pigs 
or dogs, these items are almost invariably eaten during 
the various funeral festivities. 

The Kiwais have good deep voices and their singing is 
excellent, if inclined to be monotonous. For musical 
instruments there are the one-stringed harp, the Jews' 
harp, the Pan's pipes, which curiously enough are usually 
made and used before harvest time, the flute, which is 
blown with the mouth not through a nostril, the shell 
trumpet and the drum. I do not know whether rattles 
of dried nutshells or cowries can be considered musical 
instruments. The trumpet and the drum are really the 
two most important items. The former has a deep rever- 
berating note and can be heard over a considerable dis- 
tance. It is always sounded when anything of importance 
is going on in the village, such as killing a pig : it denotes 
the finale of the death ceremony and announces the 
departure of a war party. The various calls are quite 
distinct and, as a rule, are on the long and short blast 
system. The Kiwai drum is a long, rather clumsy instru- 
ment, occasionally decorated with carvings. Sometimes 
it is almost of hour-glass shape, more often it is nearly 
straight. Kiwai is really not a good drum-manufacturing 


centre and I fancy most of the best instruments are 
imported. The largest average about forty inches long 
by some sixteen inches at the end and send forth a deep 
booming throb. The usual method of making a drum is 
to take a log of a special wood and to roughly shape it 
before attempting to hollow it out. It is then stood on 
one end so that the maker can keep a hard-wood coal 
glowing by a blowpipe made of either reed or bamboo. 
When one end has been treated, the other is turned up 
and similarly dealt with. The quality of the instrument 
depends of course on the smoothness and proportioning of 
the interior, and it is surprising how the tone can be 
affected even by slight slips in the making. The drum 
is smoothed down both inside and outside with a rasper 
of shell or shark skin. When the frame is complete the 
tympanum of snake or lizard skin is attached by gums, and 
sometimes a band of cane and three or four dabs of gum 
are placed on top of the skin for the purpose of tightening 
or tuning it up. An empty kerosene tin beaten with a 
stick has now become a frequent substitute for the drum 
in dances, and many of them, and the songs also, quite 
meaningless to the people themselves, have been copied 
or adopted from Samoan mission teachers or from various 
South Sea men met in the Torres Straits pearling fleets. 
How quick these Kiwai-speaking , tribes are at imitating 
or adopting foreign ideas may be grasped from such a 
dance as I once saw when about twenty young men 
moved round in a circle holding on to a rope and singing, 
the whole forming, I was told, the " merry-go-round " 
dance. The " cricket " song and dance explain themselves. 
A couple of years ago the Parama men introduced to us 
what they called the " compass " dance, each performer 
holding a model of what might pass for a ship's compass 
in his hand. 

I do not know whether there is any special reason, but 
invariably I have noticed that there is a regular epidemic 


of drum-making about May or June. Whether the wood 
is in any special condition at that time or whether it is 
that the drums are in preparation for the big festivals 
which usually commence about August I do not know, 
but everybody appears to stop their ordinary occupation in 
favour of drum-making. 

The dances are almost innumerable in their variety, 
apart from those which are peculiar to definite ceremonies. 
For dancing the men paint themselves with black, red, and 
white, and adorn themselves with streamers of sago or 
coconut fronds, strips of cuscus fur and quaint but 
handsome head-dresses of the feathers of the cockatoo, 
bird of paradise, or white crane, built up on cane frame- 
works. Many of the dances take place inside the Darimus, 
and two by two in long lines the folks move up and down 
the house, each man with his drum and singing their songs 
while the old men sit smoking by the fires. 

Probably the most important dance or festival in Kiwai 
is the Gaera or Harvest Dance, which takes place before 
the commencement of the planting season. It is connected 
with the initiation and Moguru ceremonies. The Gaera 
extends with numerous breaks over a period of several 
weeks, and the whole festival begins with a series of games 
which later on are followed by the principal act, the erec- 
tion of a large pole or tree upon which various fruits and 
vegetables are hung. A display of food is a sine qua non 
at all festivals. I was present at one at Sumai when a 
large framework was built in the centre of the village 
filled with bundles of sago and bunches of bananas, strings 
of coconuts and numerous pigs. The display of food 
must have totalled ten or eleven tons, and every ounce p 
of it was distributed among the visitors. Of course the 
same distribution occurs at every village, so I suppose the 
gifts of food even themselves out eventually. 

There are thirteen totem clans among the people of 
Kiwai, and plant totems are the predominating feature, as 


distinct from those of Mawatta or Parama or Wabada. In 
fact, only four, namely, the Crab, the Cassowary, the 
Catfish, and the Crocodile, are birds or fish. 

As usual the totem descends through the father. The 
late Mr. Hely, R.M., stated that a woman must take the 
totem of her husband, and that this is the reason why a 
man must always give a female relative of his own in ex- 
change for his own wife, in order that the relative strength 
of the clans may be maintained. People of the same 
totem must not intermarry, but this rule is breaking down, 
especially among the younger generation. Not very long 
ago at Ipisia two young people came to me with a com- 
plaint that their parents objected to their marriage. There 
seemed to be no reason why they should not marry, and 
I did not discover for some time that the old people's 
opposition was due to their being of the same totem. In 
cases of this kind I think it is generally unwise to give 
any direct decision, the matter being much better left to 
the good sense of the people themselves. There is no 
objection to persons of the same name marrying. The late 
Mr. Chalmers stated that a man may marry a step-daughter 
and even his own daughter. I have a recollection of an 
instance of this latter at Sumai, but I am at a loss to see 
how it fits in with the rule that all the children take the 
totem of the father. I was and am still under the impres- 
sion that this was a very exceptional case, one of incest 
both from our and from a native point of view. Totemism 
is found among the people of the Mamba and Kumusi, 
although in no advanced stage as regards exogamy, or 
perhaps one might say in a degenerate stage, and I believe 
incest of this kind is not unknown. I have a personal 
knowledge of at least one case of recent date where a 
father married his daughter and had two children by her, 
both of which he killed. Brothers and sisters of course 
may not marry among the Kiwais, nor may cousins, 
although it is well known among certain native races, 


notably the Fijians, that a first cousin marriage, but only 
between the children of a brother and a sister, is the best 

Totems may not be either killed or eaten, and I think 
in the main this prohibition is pretty strictly observeds 
even if some of the rising generation do not object to eating 
a totem animal killed by somebody else. Plant totems 
having so strong a position in Kiwai, the application of 
this rule is extended much further. For instance, if a tree 
happens to be a clan totem, the members of that clan can- 
not eat its fruit or use it in any way. Thus the Soko (nipa 
palm) clan may not roof their houses with nipa leaf, but 
must use sago leaf instead. The Duboro (pandanus) clan 
must make their sleeping mats from banana leaf and 
similarly the Gagari (bamboo) and Buduru (fig tree) clans 
may not use their special totems. 

This totem clan organisation is in reality almost a 
brotherhood in which members of a totem are bound by 
strong social ties, and are entitled to look for assistance 
and hospitality from each other on all occasions. If this 
assistance is withheld, the offender may be liable to a 
certain amount of social ostracism. The punishment for 
a breach of totem rule, such as killing a totem, recoils 
on the person's own head, or even the whole clan may 
suffer for the fault of one member. 

I suppose the one feature that appeals most strongly to 
almost every traveller in the West is the long clan house, 
chiefly, I think, owing to its great size. The Long House 
is a form of communal dwelling in which a whole clan or, 
in cases where there is only one house in a village, a whole 
series of clans lives under one roof. In such case as 
Oromosapua on Kiwai or Kowabu on the mainland and 
numerous other instances where there is but one house, each 
clan has its own special section in it. On Kiwai, where as 
a rule the villages are large, each totem clan builds and 
occupies its own house, and there are or used to be objec- 


tions to members of other totems eating or sleeping in it. 
Where, in addition to the ordinary Long House, a Darimu 
or a number of them (Man House) is found, it is occupied 
by the unmarried men and very often by those who are 
married, especially on ceremonial occasions and when 
a married man should refrain from living with his wife. 
It might be mentioned that there is no difference in appear- 
ance or construction between the Darimu and the ordinary 
Long House. The Darimu may be used by a single totem 
clan, but it is more common to find it in occupation of a 
group or associated group of them. When the whole com- 
munity occupies a single house, there being no Darimu, 
a special portion of the house is set apart for the unmarried 
men, and in certain cases the end of it may be partitioned 
off or set apart for the men. Broadly speaking, from the 
Dutch border eastwards society as a whole in the West is 
based on an idea of a separation of the sexes, with special 
quarters for the bachelors and special meeting-places for 
the adult and initiated men, and brought to bed rock, 
the whole system is probably based on war and fighting. 

The Long House varies in length and size according to 
its population. Consequently it averages from 250 to 450 
feet in length, although many have been seen of still longer 
dimensions. As might be expected, the construction of a 
building of this size is not without its ceremonial import- 
ance. For instance, thorny bushes are placed under some 
of the hundreds of piles which support the building, which 
is usually about eight or nine feet from the ground. These 
thorns block the road to the Spirit Land, and in various 
parts of the house are inserted parts of such animals or 
insects as the flying fox or spider which are fabled to pos- 
sess life-preserving attributes. A Long House is, of course, 
the work of the whole clan and may take months to com- 
plete, although I have known one to be finished off in a few 

The architecture of these Long Houses, in fact of all the 


tribes who build dwellings of this description, is decidedly 
ingenious. The whole of the roof, often many hundred 
feet in length, is supported by a single row of posts on 
each side and is apparently tied by the floor, or else the 
weight of the thatch keeps the ribs in touch with the sides. 
The roof is carried forward well over the end of the floor- 
ing with a slight dip and forms a verandah, while the eaves 
are continued below the head of the piles. 

All the long house builders work on much the same 
principles. But the tribes inhabiting the country between 
the Fly and Bamu are the only ones that carve their king 
posts and certain floor plates. Some of the people in the 
lower estuaries of the Fly and Bamu carve the lateral 
posts in representations of a legendary hero, semi-human, 

The floor is made of split " ti " palm, and when laid it 
IS stamped down by the people of the clan to " see that it 
is good." The roof of sago or nipa leaf thatch is left until 
the verj^ end. 

Running down the centre of the house is a broad hall 
flanked on each side by rows of stalls and platforms. The 
latter, built up of two or three tiers, are used for storing 
firewood and articles of personal property. Underneath 
each platform is the earthen fireplace sunk a little into the 
floor and it might be said that the fires are never out. 
There is invariably some old dame doing a little cooking. 
Each family has its own stall, but there is no actual par- 
tition marking the apartment, if it can be so called. The 
fireplace is the distinguishing mark. Even at midday 
the interior is very dark, and it goes without saying that 
there are no windows : in fact, what light there is enters by 
the end doors or the numerous openings along the sides of 
the house, which serve as entrances to the stalls and are 
mainly used by the women. Only in two places in New 
Guinea have I seen anything that might pass for a window 
or ventilator. One is in the Long Houses of the Girara 


between the Fly and the Bamu and the other in a rather 
more complete form is in the square houses to be found 
at the head of the Waria in what was German New Guinea. 
The two end doorways are the principal ones, leading on to 
a verandah and reached from the ground by a sloping 
stairway : round about this stair are often found poles 
surmounted with large shells. The life of a Long House 
is seldom more than ten years at the very outside, that 
of the sago roof very considerably less, but the continual 
fire smoke tends to preserve it. Small family houses — 
married men generally sleep with their families nowadays 
— are slowly replacing the Long Houses as they have 
already done at Mawatta and Parama, and I fancy that 
the eventual fate of the Long House is certain. 

Apart from ordinary belongings and utensils, there is 
no furniture other than sleeping mats and wooden pillows, 
the latter usually attempts at carvings of some animal 
such as a pig or a crocodile. In the Aird Delta I saw a 
pillow made from a block of wood resting on two stumps 
and carved on each side of where the head would rest into 
a man's head. The two carvings were most lifelike, 
painted red and wearing the customary fillets and plumes 
of cassowary feathers. 

Man Houses are usually associated with more or less 
secret ceremonies connected with the initiation and train- 
ing of lads. In the Fly initiation appears closely connected 
with agriculture, and during the course of the proceedings 
in which the boys are segregated from their families and 
instructed in the practices of their tribe, their totems and 
all that should or should not be done, those about to be 
initiated are shown the Madubu or bull-roarers, and how 
the use of them increases the quality and strength of the 
crop of yams and bananas and sweet potatoes. The pre- 
liminary part of the initiation Moguru, which was taught to 
the Kiwais by the demi-god JNIarunogcre, is held before 
the planting season and the lads are under certain restric- 


tions as to their food ; they must not, for example, eat 
birds, fish or crabs. A second ceremony takes place at 
a later period within a fenced enclosure in the bush, when 
a small wooden carving of a naked woman is shown and 
stated to be particularly favourable to a good supply of 
sago. None of the initiatory agricultural charms should be 
seen by women or children, and special care is taken that 
they may not come into the view of unauthorised persons. 
The large bull-roarer called Burumamaramu (literally 
Buruma — a yam — mother) is as powerful as it is sacred. 
What would happen should a woman see one of these or 
other sacred objects I do not know, but it is to be assumed 
that such a thing has never happened. Initiation covers 
really a long period and can scarcely be said to be even 
tolerably complete until a youth marries (perhaps not even 
then), although it is to be noted that marriage invariably 
takes place very early. A bridegroom must yield a kind 
of " droit de seigneur " to his paternal uncle, and both 
the youths at the marriage state and the younger lads 
undergoing initiation pass through a species of ordeal by 
fire in which the elders solemnly sprinkle them with the 
sparks from flaming firesticks. Closely connected with 
agriculture as initiation is, it is as closely allied to fitting 
the lad to be a warrior. This is only to be expected in 
communities which depended in reality for their exist- 
ence upon their fighting power. So the initiate must be 
rendered strong and active in battle and fear must be 
driven out of him. All the proceedings at initiation must 
be kept secret and initiates are bound to secrecy under 
horrible threats. 

There is among the Girara during the course of initi- 
ation a ceremony in which, I think, a distinct idea of 
redemption can be discerned. That is to say, the lad is 
spirited from his family and concealed for a long period, 
finally to be produced during the rites — for a price of 
course — and I am inclined to the belief that he is believed 


to be, so to say, reborn and enters upon a new life. I 
have heard of nothing of this kind on Kiwai or elsewhere 
in the West. 

At the present day the large stone axes whieh may be 
occasionally seen in Kiwai or Fly River villages are sup- 
posed to be agricultural charms. The former use has 
been forgotten, and the only answer to be obtained, if 
you ask about them, is that " they are old-time things." 
That they were ever actually used is not admitted by the 
people, but for a very long time past Kiwai has obtained 
iron by trade and so the knowledge of their former use 
can easily have been lost. Stone tools have scarcely been 
used for generations, but there can be no doubt that they 
were once used and, indeed in the story of Sido, the hero 
is referred to as using a stone axe. Some of these axes 
are so large that I have been inclined to regard them as 
once of a ceremonial nature. However, I have seen some 
as large or even larger from the interior of south-western 
Dutch New Guinea fitted to their handles and I was told 
they were found in actual use. I do not think the Kiwais 
themselves ever manufactured stone tools, and of course 
there is no stone on the island and certainly there is none 
of suitable composition anywhere within many miles, 
unless in the vicinity of Mabudauan, and I am inclined 
to think stone axes must have reached Kiwai by some 
trade route down the Fly. 


Gaima — Sosora's message — Mr. C. G. Murray's trip— Native objections to 
supplying information — Police station at Gaima — Visits to lu and 
Adario — The Gaima swamp — Vendetta of the chief of ^Varigi— 
Planning of the murders of the Kotari men — The arrest of the Gaia 
murderers — Court held on the scene of the murders — A dramatic in- 
cident — The swamp country — Dr. Landtmann's journey to the Bamu — 
Girara villages inland from Taitiarato. 

FOR about two hundred miles the banks of the Fly 
are low-lying and swampy, but on the eastern side 
about sixty miles from the mouth there is a more or less 
elevated tract. At one point called Gaima the bank, of 
a hard red clay, is several feet above high- water mark, 
and forms a striking contrast to the nipa and mud of the 
rest of the river. Just below Gaima is a reef of hard sand 
and mud with a considerable proportion of iron in its 
composition. Mixed with the sand are quantities of minute 
shells. This reef is the only one that I know of in the lower 
reaches with the exception of one on the opposite bank not 
far from the mouth of the estuary. The whole point upon 
which Gaima is situated is rather attractive and pic- 
turesque, and one lands there with a certain feeling of 
relief at not having to sink down in the usual slushy mud. 

Gaima is the first outlet on the river bank of a people 
whom I call Girara, from the name of their language, and 
who inhabit the inland district lying between the Fly and 
Bamu Rivers. 

I cannot find that any mention at all has been made 
of these people by the early explorers of the Fly. For one 
thing the eastern bank was left severely alone ; in fact 
owing to the numerous islands it is doubtful whether 
anyone knew of the existence of the eastern channel. 

1 88 


Sir William MacGregor never met them, although he saw 
the high clay banks and refers to them, so I take it that 
at that time (twenty odd years ago) Gaima had not then 
come out to the river bank. He, however, makes a men- 
tion of a tribe called Madiorubi living inland but which 
he did not see, and I should say these almost certainly 
refer to some of the villages of the Girara. The people 
as a whole are certainly too distinctive to have been over- 
looked and too interesting to have been ignored. 

The Gaima people have always been friendly with those 
of Daumori ; in fact, the two peoples are closely related, 
although their languages differ in some degree, and it was 
originally through the good offices of the Daumori that 
Mr. C. G. Murray, then Resident Magistrate of the Division 
(1900), seems to have heard of many villages living inland 
from the Fly, and received through the medium of the 
Daumori chief a message from a powerful and renowned 
chief named Sosora that he had heard much of the Govern- 
ment and would like to receive a visit from it. 

Mr. Murray determined to go inland, but to secure 
guides and interpreters appeared to have been a matter 
of great difficulty. After much discussion the Daumori 
agreed to go as carriers, and Sariki, the present chief of 
Gaima, acted as guide. Sariki is still alive, though now 
a very old man, and has been a loyal and devoted servant 
of the Crown. The old fellow was very broken up a couple 
of years ago when I had to bring him the news of the 
death of his two sons, who had gone to work on one of the 
Port Moresby plantations. He was a thorough old gentle- 
man in his trouble and bore up without giving forth the 
death wail until I had left the village. 

Murray's trip was a most successful one. He made 
friends with every village, although the people were in 
many cases naturally startled at the apparition of a white 
man and a uniformed escort. At Barimo, over twenty 
miles inland he met Sosora the chief who had sent him 


the message, a fine, tall middle-aged man with a keen- 
looking face. Sosora, of course, received the party hospit- 
ably, but there was much excitement at the first. Murray 
was anxious to proceed still further inland, but everybody 
swore that this was the last village in the district and 
without a guide it was quite hopeless to try and find a 
path through the immense swamps. Murray, however, 
persisted in his enquiries, and at last Sosora taking pity 
on him remarked that he had just remembered there was 
one more village called Dogona, but that it was a very 
long distance away. A march of two hours brought the 
party to the place. The people were taken by surprise 
and at once prepared for fight. For a time the position 
looked doubtful. The Government party consisted of 
but seven or eight, two men having been left with the 
camp and carriers at Barimo, while the population of 
Dogona must have been six or seven hundred. Sosora, how- 
ever, stalked up to the door of the great house, and striking 
on the post with a new tomahawk just given to him 
evidently harangued the people to some good purpose, 
for men, women and children came tumbling out in their 
eagerness to make friends with the police and to shake 
hands. Since then handshaking has become most fashion- 
able, and when you go now to a Girara village, it is simply 
imperative that you solemnly shake hands with the whole 
male and female population as it files by. If the ceremony 
were omitted, it would be thought there was something 

Mr. Murray, by the way, on this trip must have carried 
an umbrella as a protection in the hot plains. This 
seems to have impressed the natives very considerably, 
for some years later an officer when in the district was 
asked, " Where is your great black head," and was rather 
naturally somewhat puzzled by the question until it 
suddenly dawned on him what was wrong. It was evident 
that the people did not consider him quite complete 
without an umbrella. 


No inducement whatever could produce a guide to 
take the party beyond Barimo, much to Murray's dis- 
appointment, as he reckoned he was within eight miles 
of the Bamu. This, however, has been shown to have 
been a mistake ; he was close to the Aramaia, a tributary 
of the Bamu, but that river is very far to the north. 

There was no doubt about the good impression pro- 
duced by the trip. All the people faithfully promised to 
refrain from fighting and to obey the Government. I 
have wherever I have gone found Mr. Murray remembered 
with affection and the promise to him was faithfully kept 
for many years, and was only broken in obedience to the 
Papuan custom of " paying back." I shall have some- 
thing to say about these events later on. 

After Mr. Murray's departure from the West, his work the Girara was carried on by Mr. A. H. Jiear, who 
succeeded him in the charge of the Division. Owing to 
the district being so low and covered with swamp durmg 
the greater part of the year, it is only possible to go inland 
during the dry months of September, October and Novem- 
ber. At most, therefore, the tribes can only be visited 
once a year ; but it was gradually found that the popula- 
tion was rather large, and it being desirable to keep in 
constant touch, it was decided to transfer the small police 
detachment from Buji in the West (where by this time 
the need for them had ceased) to Gaima. About sixteen 
acres of land were purchased from the Gaima people at 
a rather high price and the police built a very nice little 
station. There was a patch of sago trees on the land and 
they planted a couple of acres with coconuts and other 
fruit trees so that the place soon assumed a pretty aspect. 
Not only was it a useful station for keeping in touch with 
the Girara, but a constant eye could be kept on the tribes 
of the upper Fly, who were hardly yet in hand. 

During several successive years Mr. Jiear extended the 
knowledge of the inland district, always working further 


to the north and north-east. He got in touch and made 
friends with the Adiba and In to the north-west and 
Adario, Burida and Kimamo on the north-east. Everyone 
who has travelled in this region knows the extreme diffi- 
culty in getting a village to give any information about 
tribes not hitherto known. Without a guide to locate 
villages, it is a hopeless task to try and find one's way 
through the great swamps or long grass plains. Every 
time enquiry would be made the same answer would be 
given, " No, this is the end of our people, there are no \ 
more," or, " Yes, there is another village, but it is so far, 
so far that your legs will be sick before you reach it." I 
think a good deal of this reluctance is due to the fact that 
the ground is very hard and dry at the season when 
travelling is possible, and it really hurt the feet of the 
natives who are accustomed to go about across country 
in canoes. At the same time it is most exasperating. 

The pacification of both lu and Adario was rather a 
ticklish job. Both villages were large, and neither was 
particularly well disposed to the tribes already known. 
At lu the trouble had arisen over the usual woman. Some 
Tu men had stolen women belonging to the Barimo, but 
the police in the face of great odds succeeded in persuading 
the former to hand them back to their lawful owners 
and peace was made between the villages. When the 
police party was going to Adario, a great crowd of Barimo 
men followed it. Just as Mr. Jiear was getting along nicely 
with the chiefs, he happened to look back and was just 
in time to prevent Sosora from loosing an arrow over his 
shoulder at the chief of Adario. A fight was barely 
avoided, but all ended well. 

After leaving Gaima on the river bank, the road runs 
parallel to the course of the Fly for a little through the 
village yam and banana gardens, and goes northerly for 
a couple of mi:les through light eucalyptus and acacia 
scrub. About an hour from Gaima there is an extensive 



swamp four miles long by about a mile broad. In the 
wet season it is more than waist deep ; in the dry I have 
sunk down to my knees in mud trying to struggle across. 
There used to be an old broken canoe on the Gaima side 
which I have used to cross the swamp, and have always 
done after I learned that it is full of crocodiles. My 
guide gave me this information very casually one day 
when we were about in the middle of the crossing, and as 
I did not look very happy qualified it by saying that they 
did not eat men. However, as there are always tales 
coming in of Gaima women being taken by crocodiles 
while fishing in the swamp, I did not feel greatly relieved. 
After leaving the swamp, the track runs through alternate 
sago swamp, forest and grass plains, which are always 
knee-deep in the rains, until you reach the first Girara 
village, Kubu. Another half-day's march brings you to 
Baia, which is built on a series of low ridges, evidently 
forming the watershed between the tributaries of the Fly 
and those of the Bamu. Just after leaving Baia there is 
a small creek which I was first told was the Bamu, an 
obvious impossibility. I later on learned its real name, 
Kabiri, and found that it flows to the north and eventually 
joins a large river generally known as the Aramia, which 
is the biggest affluent of the Bamu. 

About ten or twelve years ago the brother of the chief 
of Warigi, which is the next inland village to Baia, had 
been killed by some men belonging to Kotari, lying far 
to the north. Apparently there had been no paying back 
for this death and peace had prevailed for years. In the 
meantime the district had been opened up considerably, 
and in the year previous a number of the Kotari men had 
come down to the river bank and engaged for plantation 
work. Their time was now up and they were shortly 
expected home. Now the only route that they could 
travel by lay inland from Gaima through Baia and Warigi. 
The Warigi chief knew this and it struck him that the time 


was favourable to avenge his brother's death. He accord- 
ingly travelled down through Baia and Kubu to Gaima, 
trying to find somebody willing to kill the Kotari men 
on their return. I do not know that these particular men 
had had anything to do with his brother's murder, but 
that of course is immaterial in Papua. The chief, Daregi, 
however, was unable to find any village anxious to under- 
take the commission, and his own people were evidently 
unwilling to take the matter up. The principal argument 
against complying Avith his wishes seems to have been very 
much to the effect. " Too many policemen and too much 
Government." Twice he made the journey through the 
villages and at last in desperation he called the collective 
inhabitants of Gaima, Kubu and Baia "women." This 
insult was too much and the murders were agreed upon ; 
but Gaima resolutely declined to take active part in the 
affair, although of course they knew perfectly well what 
was going to happen. Some of the Kotari men had friends 
there and on their arrival they were detained on some 
pretext or other, but the rest passed on to their death. 
Towards sundown they arrived at Baia and, as they were 
about to enter the Long House, they were cut down and 
their heads taken, while the conch shell summoned all 
the people from their gardens to look upon the sight. 
That the killing was cold-blooded and the wretched victims 
had no chance was proved by thfc evidence given in court. 
Three or four men were told off to each Kotari man, whose 
arms were held while a Baia man struck him with an axe 
and another speared him from behind. As the bodies lay 
upon the ground many of the younger men came and fired 
arrows into them so that they also might partake of the 
glory of the deed. 

As chance had it, I was at Gaima a day or so after the 
murders had taken place. Although the Gaima people 
knew all about it, they gave some guarded information 
to the effect that they had heard that the Baia-na were 


the murderers, so I decided to make a quick march into 
Kubu and see if further news was to be obtained there. 
At Kubu the people were taken rather by surprise by this 
unlooked-for arrival of the police, but proved unexpectedly 
ready to supply information, and even suggested that they 
should supply a party to point out the murderers. It is 
seldom much good going to a village in the middle of the 
day ; everybody is away in the gardens or hunting or 
fishing, and it seemed that the best plan would be to go 
on to Baia in the evening — for the moon rose early — and 
make the arrests then. 

Just as the moon was rising I moved on towards Baia. 
The village lies at the top of a gentle rise, a broad open road 
lined with crotons leading right up to the principal door of 
the Long House which is surrounded by a wide courtyard. 
The whole body of police and carriers crept silently up this 
road and then divided off to surround the house and prevent 
anybody bolting through the side doors. Something, the 
bark of a dog, alarmed the people inside who were still 
talking, and a man stepped out on the verandah and 
waved a torch. For a few minutes the tension was great. 
Those of us in front flung ourselves to the ground behind 
such shrubs as there were and most of the others " froze " 
against the trees. The torch waver had a good look round 
and then went inside with a muttered " There's nobody 
there." After a decent interval to allow everything to 
settle down the police and myself with the Kubu informers 
walked up the stairway and jumped through the narrow 
main door into the darkness of the house, calling to the 
Baia men to surrender. Never have I seen such a sight 
or heard such a din. The inside of the hall was pitch 
dark but for the light of a few torches and fires and a 
solitary lamp which we had, and the yells of the Baia men, 
the shrieks of their women and the shouts of the police 
made a veritable pandemonium. Up and down the great 
hall and in and out the cubicles at the sides the struggle 


raged in the dark, while a few of the old men of Baia sat 
placidly by their fires chewing betel nut, and one of them 
said to me, " I told them how it would be, the police would 
come and they would go to gaol, but they would not listen." 
A couple of the murderers broke out of the side door, but 
they were chased across the moonlit courtyard, pulled 
down and trussed up. With a couple of exceptions the 
whole batch of murderers was arrested, and as the chiefs 
and remainder of the people remained by the village I 
considered it advisable to hold court at once. As it 
chanced I was sitting not ten yards from the very spot 
where the unfortunate Kotari men had been cut down 
and this led to an incident which bv its attendant circum- 
stances certainly thrilled everybody listening, and was 
as dramatic as anything I have come across in Papua. 
Many of the Baia people gave evidence of what had hap- 
pened, and then a Kotari man who had come from Baia 
with me stood up to talk. He detailed how his country- 
men had gone on from Gaima and then suddenly pausing 
he burst out, " And it was on this spot that my brothers 
were killed," pointing a little distance away. A quick 
look showed just a few yards from my chair a great 
brownish stain on the hard ground and a trail of broken 
shrubs and crotons marked where the bodies had been 
dragged away. 

The prisoners proved only too willing to tell of their 
share in the crime, but got very indignant at being arrested. 
" Why," said they, " have you made us fast and left the 
men of Kubu to walk about ? They killed the Kotari 
men just as much as we did." A hasty search for the chief 
of Kubu and his supporters showed that they had departed 
unostentatiously very early in the morning. 

After leaving the ridges and scrub round Baia the track 
descends down on to the Kabiri Creek, previously men- 
tioned. It is, at the crossing, a mere trickle, but once 
in the height of the wet season I canoed almost up to the 


source. On the last of the ridges there used to be a village 
called Sanabasi, which was a colony from Baia, but for 
some years it has been deserted, the people having returned 
to their old home. 

From Sanabasi the country slopes down into a huge 
low-lying tract, which is a vast swamp under six or seven 
feet of water during nine months of the year and a dried-up 
plain without an atom of shade during the remainder. 
Once travelling this route we had to wade waist deep 
through the water until I came across a kindly party of 
natives who hired us their long swamp canoes. Having 
no outrigger and being exceedingly narrow in order to 
allow progress through the long swamp grass I flatly 
declined to try and wedge myself into a craft of some six 
inches beam and maintain a balance at the same time, so 
we had to spend half a day joining two canoes together. 
As I got used to the swamp country I found it advisable 
to get a small canoe such as could be carried by four or 
six men and take it round with a patrol, so that I could get 
through the swamps with some degree of ease. At Warigi, 
which is on the farther end of this particular swamp, on my 
last visit I found the Long House in a tumble-down state, the 
people preparing for the erection of a new one on a site not 
far away. Just across a deep depression which is usually 
a lake lies Barimo, standing on a sort of bluff. Four years 
ago the village was at a site near Warigi, and at the time 
the frame of the new house was under construction while 
the usual groves of coconuts and betel nuts were being 
planted. The usual course seems to be that a Long House 
is inhabited until it falls into disrepair when a new one is 
constructed at no great distance from the old site. 

The Kabiri flows past Barimo on its tortuous course to 
the Aramia. On my last trip to the district it had been my 
intention to canoe down this creek to the river and thence 
to the Bamu, but owing to the exceptionally dry season 
there was hardly any water in the Kabiri and all the 


decent sized canoes had been split by the heat. This trip 
had been just previously done by Dr. Landtmann and 
Mr. Butcher, but unfortunately the journey was so hurried 
that no notes of the country were taken and the geo- 
graphical problem of the Aramia remained as it stood. 
The party, however, had an exceedingly narrow escape in 
their canoe from the bore which comes up the river from 
tlie Bamu. 

Instead of going down the Kabiri I spent some days in 
travelling round the villages to the north, north-east and 
north-west. The country was all of the same type, great 
swamps now dried up with the great heat, only broken by 
hillocks and low ridges, nearly all running south-east and 

On the south-eastern side I later on made another 
inland trip, starting this time from Taitiarato, a few miles 
below Gaima. This track tapped another series of villages, 
all, however, belonging to the Girara, but many of them 
were quite unknown previously. The country is of the 
same low swamp nature, if not more so, and the people are 
exactly the same as the other Giraras in every respect. 
The population, like the other villages of the tribe, is all 
settled on the small tributaries of the Aramia, which to 
a great extent serves as a highway. 



Sosora's journey to the north-east — The pygniy troglodytes — The story of 
the origin of tlie Girara-speaking people — Totems — People who wear 
hats — The veiled woipen — Descent of chieftainship— Description of 
the Long House — House courtyards — Blocking a road — Betel-chewing 
— Food, fishing, and cultivation — Carved and ceremonial canoes — 
Ceremonies and dances — Geography. 

THIS district between the Fly and Bamu Rivers is 
still far from being known. I fancy, however, that 
I have a very complete list of the villages comprising the 
tribes who speak the Girara language. The total popula- 
tion of these villages I should estimate at between six and 
seven thousand, but they are spread over a very wide 
area. Swampy as the region is, the country must neces- 
sarily become higher further inland, and I am convinced 
that there is a considerable population to the north, but 
it would, I surmise, be of a different type. Once when I 
was at Barimo, old Sosora told me a very circumstantial 
story of a tribe that used to fight with the Girara. When 
he was a young man, he told me, he made a very long 
journey to the north-east, travelling first for many days 
in canoes and then walking until he and his men came to 
a region where there were hills, " not little hills like these, 
but big hills, proper ones." As they were looking round 
they heard the booming of the conch shell, and out of 
holes in the ground rushed numbers of little men who 
attacked them with such ferocity that they retreated very 
hastily and with several of their number wounded. Two 
or three of the men who had gone with Sosora also told me 
the same story, one of them pointing out his wounds. All 
the versions were agreed on the facts that the people were 
very small men, " like your cook boy," that they lived 



underground and that the men wore " petticoats like 
women." I was naturally very much interested in these 
pygmy troglodytes, and on a later occasion I endeavoured 
to get some more information. This time, however, I was 
told that these fierce fighters were very light in colour, 
almost white, and not pygmies but giants. So that I am 
very much afraid that they will be found to be just ordinary 
New Guinea natives in the end. It is, however, noteworthy 
that there is a somewhat mysterious race of bushmen 
living between the Wawoi and Aworra tributaries of the 
Bamu who are accustomed to raid the Cagora tribe livinsr 
on the former. These bushmen have been described to 
me by the Cagoras as very small in stature ; apart from 
this they have never been seen. 

I am not prepared to offer any theories as to the racial 
history of the Girara-speaking villages, but one thing is 
certain and that is that their language is a Papuan one. 
The following story of their origin was told me at Barimo 
by the people themselves. At a spot not far from Gaima 
(this was pointed out to me, when we came back there) a 
very long time ago a man married a dog. The offspring 
of this match consisted of three sons, the two elder of 
whom were the ancestors of Daumori and Pagona (on the 
Fly) and settled in these places. The youngest son quar- 
relled with his brothers and went inland. He saw that 
the country was good and decided to settle there, and it 
was he who became the ancestor of the Girara-speaking 
villages. In this connection it is interesting that according 
to Mr. Chalmers the Koita of Port Moresby and the Koiari 
also derived a common ancestry from the dog and the 
Trobriand Islanders have a similar story. As far as the 
Girara are concerned, however, I have not found that the 
Dog forms any of their totems. I was told that these were 
first allotted by a person named Ibare and are five in 
number — ^the Pig (Itira), the Pigeon (Boboa — I think this 
is the Goura pigeon), the Crocodile (Dupa), the Cassowary 
(Goragora) and the Snake (Amura). This seems to me to 


be a very small number for such a large number of people, 
and very probably I have not been told the full list, or it is 
quite possible that these five form principal groups. The 
totems descend through the father, and the customs do 
not differ materially from those of the other Western 
tribes. A man must not marry in the totem nor is he 
allowed to kill or eat his totem. People of the same 
cognisance, though belonging to different villages, are 
always treated as friends and brothers. There appears 
to be some objection to a man allowing his totem animal 
to be killed in his presence. As we were travelling through 
a belt of scrub, a large cassowary stalked across the track. 
The native sergeant at once threw forward his carbine 
(he was a Parama Sting-Ray man) ; but one of the guides 
sprang in and knocked up the weapon, crying that the 
cassowary was his " father." 

Everything about this district is novel and striking, 
the houses, the canoes, even the swamps themselves. 
But the people themselves are the most striking of all. 
Almost every man wears a tall conical hat, built up of 
rings of fibre, fixed to the head by a plaster of gum and 
clay. These hats are painted red and white and decorated 
at the peak with bunches of cockatoo or paradise feathers. 
The hair is shaved well back, showing a high narrow fore- 
head, and the whole presents a most peculiar appearance. 
The hat seems to be first put on boys soon after initiation, 
and I think is essentially a ceremonial or fighting costume, 
although it is worn continuously. The older men dispense 
with the hat as a general rule, and in its stead wear a 
knitted skull cap. The younger men do not allow hair on 
the face, but the old men almost invariably wear a cork- 
screw goatee beard twisted into a rope four or five inches 
long. Except for armlets and leg bands of cane or root 
fibre all the men go naked. 

Novel as this head-dress of the men is, the women's 
costume is even more so. They wear the usual Fly River 
petticoat, but of even a scantier make, When in mourning 


they cover the head, face and bosom with a veil of coarse 
net. This is definitely stated to be a mourning costume 
but as nine-tenths of the female population are continually 
wearing the veil, it seems to me that cither the death-rate 
must be tolerably heavy or that the veil must form a part 
of the ordinary costume under all circumstances. Breast 
scarification seems to be the usual form of ornamentation. 

The people generally are of medium sturdy stature and 
are dark in colour. It is not surprising that they are bad 
walkers and splay-footed, seeing that the whole of their 
country is swampy and that much of their travelling is 
by canoe. I should put the average height of the men at 
about five feet four or five and that of the women two or 
three inches less. 

The chiefs of a village appear to have a little authority. 
The late chief of Barimo, a man combining the dual 
functions of chief and sorcerer, was one of the few men 
I have seen implicitly obeyed by his people. A chief is 
succeeded, not by his son, but by his brother, and the son 
follows after the death of his uncle. Thus Sosora was 
succeeded by his brother Nenea, and after the latter' s 
death, Sosora's son Charlie (I forget his New Guinea name) 
will assume the chieftainship. A somewhat similar rule 
is in existence among the Galoma tribes of Keakaro Bay, 
Central Division. 

Polygamy is the general rule, arid I have noted children 
by two or even three wives with the same husband. The 
chief of Kabani was or is, for I suppose he is still alive, a 
very much married man, his household closely approaching 
a baker's dozen. At the same time I believe divorce, 
although known, is very uncommon. 

The villages consist of one large communal house with 
occasionally one or two very small sheds attached. The 
main Long House is sometimes of great size, varying of 
course with the size of the tribe, but I have seen no village 
containing more than one Long House. The biggest house ' 
I have seen throughout the district was at Dogona, about 


163 yards long by 39 yards wide, with a height of about 
70 feet at the end verandah ridge pole. Both height 
and width are considerably greater than in the case of the 
Kiwai or Fly River Long Houses. The eaves of the house 
reach right to the ground and the entrance for women and 
children is by small doors at the sides. The back and 
front of the house are closed by walls made of the sago 
palm laid transversely and there is a small door at each 
end, not flush with the verandah but raised a couple of 
feet. Down the centre of the house is a wide hall, and the 
walled-in space between the hall and the eaves forms the 
family apartments. These are closed cubicles two or three 
tiers in height and reached by ladders made of a single 
notched pole. I believe that the women are permitted in 
the centre hall, which is reserved to the men, on one 
occasion only, namely the ceremony attending the open- 
ing of a new house, and this occasion is also the one on 
which they use the main back and front doors. Pro- 
jecting below the floor, the king post appears to be 
invariably carved into the representation of a bird, pig, or 
crocodile. The house is, of course, built on piles about six 
feet high, and is reached by a stair cut from a solid log and 
carved at times in the very undoubted figure of a naked 

Closely planted round the house is a row of betel nut 
palms and a row of coconuts. Outside of these rows 
there is a wide courtyard all round, kept scrupulously 
clean. Leading from the courtyard at each side of the 
square is a broad main road. The spaces adjoining the 
roads are laid out in beds with smaller paths between 
them and all the roads and paths are bordered with hedges 
of crotons, dracsenas, and other bright shrubs, while the 
beds are thickly planted with coconuts, bananas, and 
native fruit trees. It is stated that these main roads in war 
time are hned with archers behind the hedges so that an 
approaching enemy is caught between two fires. As 
villages were visited for the first time it was often found 


that the roads were " blocked " or " shut " by placing 
certain articles on the track to be passed, such as sprouting 
coconuts, croton leaves, or pigs' skulls. These " tabus " 
are invariably respected by natives, who are inclined to 
fear some disaster will fall upon them if broken, but 
although I always try to respect native ideas as far as 
possible, it would be of course absurd to allow one's party 
to be turned aside from its work for no reason at all. 
When I went to Baia after the Kotari murders I found 
stakes set up round the roads with pieces of human flesh 
and betel nuts on them which I was told were to act as 
charms to keep away the police. On one occasion Warigi 
for no known reason expressed the desire to hang the 
heads of the magistrate and his servant on the house 
posts, and also blocked all their roads. But as " tabus " 
on the track were not regarded, such expedients were dis- 

All the Girara people are inveterate betel chewers, and 
a bag containing a lime pot and chewing gear is the 
invariable companion of every man wherever he goes. 
The betel is not the variety used in the East End, but a 
species which the Motuans call " viroro." As is well 
known, betel is eaten with lime and various peppers, the 
best kinds of which are grown as climbers. The Girara 
obtain lime by burning " epa " shell which they princi- 
pally obtain from Pagona on the Fly. Betel chewing 
appears to be attended with rather more ceremony here 
than I have seen elsewhere. When about to indulge in an 
orgy of chewing, the Girara man seats himself cross-legged 
on the ground and spreads his chewing gear around. He 
peels four or five nuts and places them on his thigh. Then 
drawing a long thin bone needle or skewer from its case in 
the bag, he impales the nuts, one at a time, and starts to 
chew, adding lime and peppers until he has a suitable 
quid. The " quid," for I cannot describe it by any other 
name, is kept in the mouth day and night, and even when 
a man is talking to you, you can see tlie large red ball pro- 


jecting from his lips. The lime sticks and betel needles 
are usually made of cassowary bone, but I do not think 
the Giraras have reached the high stage of the Trobriand 
Islander, who considers it a mark of esteem to manufacture 
pieces of his dead relatives' bones into lime sticks. Like 
most betel chewers, the rattle of the lime stick in the 
gourd is used to express the feeling of the user. He may 
sit stolidly enough, chewing, but you can tell by the way 
he rattles his stick whether he is pleased, angry, contemp- 
tuous or just merely " don't care." The continual cliewing 
here among the Giraras, I think, renders them somewhat 
dazed and stupid-looking, and I am perfectly certain the 
betel used in the district is a very strong variety. Owing, 
however, to the universal use of betel nut, there is very 
little gamada drunk. I have latelv noticed a little beinsf 
grown in the gardens, but it is undoubtedly a recent 

There are very extensive sago fields throughout the dis- 
trict, and indeed sago and coconuts form the principal 
foods. Wherever there is an inch of suitable ground 
above high swamp level, there is a coconut planted, and 
the innumerable low hillocks are just one mass of coconut 
groves. Sago is packed differently here to the way it is 
in the Fly, being put up in medium sized bags made of 
plaited grass. The women are very skilful fishers and use 
a large sized trap of black cane, looking very like a lobster 
pot. I believe these traps are similar to those used in 
certain districts of what was German New Guinea. None 
of the fish, however, is very palatable. Swamp fish never 
are. And when fish is slightly roasted in a sheath of cane 
or light bamboo and kept perhaps for a week, it is inclined 
to become a trifle high. The natives, however, seem to 
prefer it this way. The dry season seems to be the fishing 
season par excellence. The swamps are then dried up 
except for small puddles, and the women go round expect- 
ing to get good hauls in the mud. It is somewhat of a 
shock to one's belief, when you see the men firing the 


dried grass of the swamps, to be told that they are " fish- 
ing." But it is quite correct. The tall grass is invariably 
burned off, in order to lay clear the wet mud and puddles 
where the little walking fish (Pcriopthalmus) arc found. 

The country is not very well suited for the cultivation 
of vegetables on a large scale, but the natives display a 
great deal of intelligence in their system of agriculture. 
All the young plants, yams, bananas, coconuts, are first 
planted out in beds and the soil is well trenched. To pro- 
tect them from the hot sun, low shelter sheds are erected. 
I do not recall having seen this system anywhere else in 
Papua except in the Tabaram district, where it is in use 
for tobacco growing. 

There are no novelties to be found in regard to their 
arms. They are the usual bow and arrows, the head knife 
and head carrier. I have seen three varieties of stone 
clubs, none of a very good type, but they make a rather 
good wooden club out of some hard heavy red wood. All 
these clubs were of the pineapple shape. 

The artistic bent of the Giraras is distinctly shown in 
their decorations and carvings, which reach their highest 
point in the canoes. The usual canoe is a narrow dug-out, 
ranging up to sixty feet in length, and many of their 
prow^s are carved into most realistic representations of a 
pig's or crocodile's head, often holding a man's head in 
its jaAvs. These carvings are splendidly executed and 
painted in red and white. The body of the canoe is also 
painted in three colours showing whorls and circles. The 
paddles are very long and liave a rounded end with one 
rib on the convex side. They are coloured in whorls and 
circles also. In fact, these designs are seen everywhere. 
I have seen them drawn on the ground near villages, and 
they are shown on dancing head-dresses and masks and 
drums. Some ceremonial paddles were once shown me 
with handles carved into a lifelike image of a naked 
woman. As a matter of fact figures of naked or pregnant 
women sometimes carved of wood and sometimes built of 


mud form a centre piece at certain dances and ceremonies ; 
for instance, at the initiation ceremony, when small boys 
are shown how to prepare betel nut. 

I was told once of an extraordinary custom which, was 
stated to be part of the sago harvest ceremony. It was 
a policeman stationed at Gaima who told me the story, 
but I must admit that there is no confirmation of it. A 
small boy, he said, is purchased from his parents for a 
pig and other items, and is sacrificially killed and then 
beheaded. During the course of the ceremony the head 
is produced and slices of sago and coconut are placed 
between the lips. 

One or even two of the carved canoes, such as were 
described previously, are used during a portion of the initia- 
tion ceremonies. The affair usually takes place in the 
court-yard facing the main door. The canoe is set up and 
the boys are shown how to paddle. At other times a minia- 
ture canoe is placed on a staging and filled with vegetables 
and fruits and decorated with crotons and bright grasses, 
such as I once saw at Warigi. A woman's dance at the 
same place may be briefly mentioned. The proceedings 
took place a few hundred yards from the village and the 
din was terrific, the main element being the sound pro- 
duced by seventeen conch shell blowers and six of the 
enormous drums used by these tribes, assisted by twenty- 
six small drums beaten by men. The women had the whole 
of their bodies painted a dull red colour, with white rings 
round each eye and a series of white spots down their 
backs. The large drums mentioned are peculiar to this 
district. They are from seven to ten feet in length and 
are held by one man and beaten by another with a wooden 
mallet. Each drum is well but fantastically carved and 
painted, and all the heads are made of wallaby skin. 

Geographically, this interesting district is drained by the 
Aramia and its affluents. The name Aramia is not the cor- 
rect one, but as it enters the Bamu just above Aramia 
Island, it has popularly received the name. Much con- 


fusion is caused at first — I know I was extremely puzzled — 
by the constant habit the Girara have of referring to it as 
the Bamu, and this evidently led Mr. Murray to believe 
he was close to the " Bamu " when he was at Barimo, and 
Mr. Jiear to think he had crossed the Bamu or the Wawoi 
when he was apparently merely on the northern bank of 
the Aramia. Its actual course is still much of a mystery ; 
but I am pretty confident it flows from the north-west, 
taking a course almost parallel with first the Wawoi and 
then the Bamu. It is fed from the thousands of acres of 
swamp by a network of creeks and streams on which most 
of the population is situated. The whole district was 
sketched for me one day on the sand by Nenea, the Barimo 
chief, and from all the evidence I have been able to gather 
his sketch is remarkably accurate in its way. The influ- 
ence of the tide and even of the bore is felt a long way up 
the Aramia, and I was able to notice a slight rise and fall 
in Kabiri Creek not a great distance from its source. 

The immense swamp plains, before they have dried up, 
present a most peculiar appearance, and my East End 
boys w^ere not far wrong when they saw this region for the 
first time and described it as a " sea with many islands in 
it," after all not an inaccurate description of the swamps 
Virith the thickly wooded and cultivated hillocks rising 
from their midst. These hillocks are, of course, the only 
places where it is possible to build villages and almost 
every one is occupied, if only by a garden house of some sort. 
The swamp region is alive with water-fowl of every sort, 
divers, pelicans, grey cranes and ibis being very common. 
In the timbered country game is equally plentiful. There 
is one kind of timber, from which the natives make their 
torches, which is very plentiful and may possibly be of 
some value. It is a long, straight tree and splinters from 
it burn wdth a bright clear liglit. And just as there is 
plenty of bird life, so the low damp plains are alive with 
myriads of leeches, an unutterable nuisance to Europeans 
and natives alike. 


Dibiri — Bainu entrance — Tlie route of the Prince George — Pigville — 
Description of the Bamu — Maipani and Wadoda — Fishing traps — 
Nomadic tribes of the Bamu — Description of Pigville — Dress — Heads 
and skulls — The Bamu weapons — The head knife and head carrier. 

THE Bamu is generally known to the Fly River people 
as Dibiri. By them it was regarded as a somewhat 
mysterious region and full of " bad people." It was here 
that Sido, the great Kiwai hero, was killed, and somewhere 
in Dibiri is situated Siva, the mythical mountain — any- 
thing approaching a mountain in the Bamu must neces- 
sarily be mythical. Dibiri is also the place where the most 
famous drums and canoes are made and exported to the 
Fly and elsewhere. As a matter of fact Dibiri is the 
name of but a very small section of the Bamu district, 
being only correctly applied to that portion in the eastern 
estuary which is nearest the Fly. So, too, the name 
Bamu only is used over a small area, being applied to that 
part of the river flowing between the junction of the 
Bina and the Bebea and the spot where the two large 
tributaries Wawoi and Aworra are thrown off. Further 
up than that the name Bamu appears to be absolutely lost. 
All along the mouths of the Bamu during the south-east 
season the sea breaks with tremendous violence. The 
coast is nothing but a mass of sand and mud banks with 
an average depth of under two fathoms even two or three 
miles to seaward, while the passages are intricate and 
dangerous. There is one fairly good channel leading 
direct into the Fly which is quite safe when you know 
it and which nearly everybody uses, but to enter the Bamu 
direct from the sea can only be done by romidabout 
routes. Having had occasion once to go to the southern 



end of Umuda Island, I thought it would be quicker to 
get into the Bamu by going round the end of the island 
and making for the usual Dibiri entrance on the start of 
flood tide. A very heavy sea was rolling in, but the water 
was not yet deep enough, and just as the sun was setting, 
the ketch went up on a sand bank. I have seldom spent 
a more uncomfortable couple of hours. It was just a ques- 
tion which was going to happen first, whether the boat 
would be smashed up by the heavy seas which lifted her 
and then bumped her down on the bank or whether the 
tide would rise enough to float her off beforehand. It was 
a pitch dark night and if the boat broke up our chances 
did not look too rosy, for we had only a small dinghey 
aboard. Fortunately for us the tide won. 

When you know the Bamu, it is easy enough to imagine 
the puzzlement of Captain Blackwood when the ship Fly 
was cruising off the Fly and Bamu estuaries. Apparently 
he first gathered the impression that the two really formed 
one river. After his return from the Papuan Gulf, Black- 
wood took his smaller ship, the Prince George, into a river 
at latitude 7 '50. This must have been the mouth of the 
Bebea branch of the Bamu, for Mr. Jukes' description of 
the coast tallies exactly. The choice must necessarily lie 
between the Bebea or the Bina, but putting all the facts 
together there seems little doubt but that it was the 
former. The Prince George seems to have gone quite a 
long way up the main river, and then retracing her course 
she cruised round the rivers of the estuary before returning 
to the sea. Mr. Jukes' famous village of Pigville corre- 
sponds, I think, with the present-day village of Buniki, 
which is situated where Sir William MacGregor placed 
a village which he called Bebea, and of which I have not 
been able to find any trace or record even among the natives 
themselves. It is possible, of course, that Pigville may have 
been one of the Bina villages, and there is no doubt in any 
case that the Prince George came into conflict with the 
Bina people, for they have a tradition to this day of how 


a big " cutter " (all ships are cutters in the Bamu) fought 
them. In fact, many of the lower Bamu villages have stories 
to the same effect, such as Sisiame, Oropai, and Miriwo. 

Few of the western rivers are attractive, but to my mind 
the Bamu is the least attractive of them all. Whenever 
I go into the river I seem to catch the feeling of depression 
that hangs over the low, muddy mangrove swamps. The 
first time I went there I spent three weeks in the district 
and it rained for eighteen days, so that it was quite a relief 
to get back into the Fly and see the sun once more. In 
the lower reaches and in the estuary the streams are wide ; 
the Bebea is about three miles across at the mouth and 
the Bina about the same. Above their junction the 
united river must be fully a mile and a half wide, and still 
further up when the Dibiri joins it, it is quite a mile. It 
is a melancholy and lifeless river, as lifeless as one could 
imagine no tropical river to be. The banks are thickly 
forested or lined with dreary stretches of nipa and sago 
palm, or worse still, tall and gnarled mangroves. At inter- 
vals there are collections of native hovels, and towards 
dusk one sees the canoes coming home from fishing or 
occasionally during the day the glint of paddles creeping 
along the banks. Sometimes you see a crocodile sleeping 
on the low mud and water birds flapping silently about. 
By day it has a dreary stillness, but at night when you are 
anchored a host of swampy sounds and the maddening 
drip, drip among the trees get on your nerves. And the 
people are about as depressing as the district. With the 
exception of four settled villages, almost every tribe is 
a wandering one, and their morals and general habits and 
conditions are about as unpleasant as could be desired. 

Entering the river from the Fly there are within a small 
radius four large villages which are practically identical 
with those of the people of Wabada and the east bank 
of the Fly, who speak the same language. The village 
of Maipani contains some of the finest looking men to 
be seen in the West and some of the best physical 


types. The village is awkwardly situated some distance 
up a small creek, and when the tide is out, there is but 
a tiny trickle in its bed — barely enough to float a 
canoe — with about fourteen feet of steep slippery mud 
to climb up to reach comparatively dry land. When 
they were visited for the first time the Maipani gave 
their visitors to understand that they were not wanted by 
tossing up the water with their canoe paddles. When the 
R.M. commenced actual administrative work in Maipani, 
his first greeting was a headless corpse floating down the 
creek, and his second was a shower of arrows when he 
landed in the village. When Maipani was once settled, its 
colony, Wadoda, suddenly took it into its head to break 
out and the village constable was shot in the nipa swamps 
while in the act of drawing an arrow on a party of police. 
Many of the Government orders were resisted passively 
more or less. For instance, one party in the tribe was pre- 
pared to fall in with the Law relating to the planting of 
coconut trees. A number of coconuts were planted out 
when one day the Maipani sorcerers stepped in and threw 
doAvn their " puripuri " bags among the young trees, and 
of course work was at an end. Nowadays, however, 
Maipani and Wadoda go in for copra making, trading, and 
the sailing canoe, and are intensely " Government." Not 
very long ago I had occasion to sentence a man here for 
some not very serious offence. ■ A young but zealous 
policeman immediately whipped out his handcuffs and 
began to drag the prisoner off to the boat. Such a pro- 
ceeding is hopelessly bad form in Blaipani and nearly 
caused a riot, the prisoner protesting disgustedly that he 
was no bushman and that he knew enough about Govern- 
ment to go to prison respectably. The handcuffs were 
removed, but the prisoner walked with us to the boat still 
grumbling audibly at the insult cast on Maipani and 

They carve the great house posts here in the figure 
alternately of men and women just as is done at Gowa- 


burai and Segera in the Fly and at a few other Bamu 
villages such as Damerokoromo and Oromokoromo, and 
you walk down the long houses between a row on each 
side of rudely designed, grinning faces. The two latter 
villages are, I think, the muddiest in a muddy district. 
They are both built two or three hundred yards in from 
the river, and when the tide is out there are two or three 
hundred yards of the thickest, stickiest mud it is possible 
to imagine. Being but a mere European, I always sit in 
a canoe and get dragged across. It is a great place for 
crabs, though, and the whole population turns out to the 
hunting. You can always buy large quantities here either 
packed in coconut leaf baskets or each crab separately 
with its claws neatly tied up. The natives prefer to sell 
singly, because you have to give a morsel of tobacco for 
each crab, while for a basket you would probably only 
pay half a stick ; consequently it is more profitable to sell 
separately. They have some very neat devices for catch- 
ing fish. Coconut leaf baskets with very wide mouths 
are tied to stakes and left floating in the creeks ; as the 
tide ebbs, small fish get in the baskets and are hauled up. 
There is an ingenious fish trap made of a thorny cane in 
the form of a cone. The fish gets entangled or caught in 
the thorns which point inwards and upwards, and are 
held safely. All these ways of fishing are for a people with 
plenty of patience and plenty of time, but I don't know 
that they are any worse than fishing with a rod and line. 
Near Damerokoromo is a spot called Ibu, which is a kind 
of neutral ground and a great sago making place. At cer- 
tain times, you will find the whole half a dozen tribes 
living here and making sago. At one time a small police 
station of six men was placed at Ibu, and these men did 
some good work in keeping an eye on the turbulent Bamu 
tribes and gave them an object lesson in gardening, but 
the lessons were, I fear, wasted. There is about as much 
cultivation on the upper Bamu now as there was twenty 
years ago and that is none. 


When Maipani and the neighbouring villages are 
passed, any pretence at civilisation is left behind. The 
rest of the Bamu tribes are semi-nomadic, rather unruly 
and head hunters and cannibals by choice. Not a single 
tribe cultivates the soil, although a few scattered patches 
of bananas or sweet potatoes may occasionally be seen. 
At such villages as Bina, Buniki, Sisiame there are small 
groves of coconuts, but generally speaking the upper and 
eastern Bamu people live exclusively on sago, sago grubs 
and small fish. Even the Pride of Papua, the village pig, 
is not too plentiful. These sago grubs, by the way, are 
esteemed a great delicacy and are greedily devoured 
either raw or roasted. The natives bring them off to you 
in small sago leaf packets and you can buy one for half a 
stick of tobacco. I have been told they are very good, but 
have never been able to summon up enough courage to 
try them. Almost all the sago is wild and self-planted, and 
when a patch is eaten out, the tribe shifts its habitation 
on to another patch. Each tribe, however, has its own 
well-defined limits within which it moves, and similarly 
it has its own distinct fishing grounds. For instance, 
Sisiame confines itself to the middle and southern end 
of Segama (or Aramia) Island, while Bimarami occupies 
the north-western corner together with part of the left 
bank of the Dibiri and a portion of the Aramia River. And 
so on. As long ago as 1843 Mr. Jukes of H.M.S. Fly 
remarked this nomadic trait, so that it is no development 
of recent years. Under these circumstances it can readily 
be imagined that the type of house is but a poor one. In 
fact, the houses are merely rough shelters built on piles 
and -with an entrance door so tiny that one wonders how 
anyone could get inside. Sometimes, but not always, 
a Long House is built, but as far as 1 can see, it is never 
permanent. A new one is built — and it does not require 
much exertion, seeing the material and the style, to erect 
one even a couple of hundred feet long, such as I have seen 
at Sisiame or Bina — when some initiation or Moguru cere- 


mony is due. At Bina I saw almost exactly the same kind 
of sacred figures, used at Moguru, as are to be found at 
Kiwai or in the Fly. 

Mr. Jukes, in his Narrative of the Voyage of the Fly, gives 
an excellent description of the Long House at Pigville, 
and according to his account the Long Houses appeared 
to have been very much more numerous in the river than 
they are now. " The roof," says Mr. Jukes, " was made 
of an arched framework of bamboo covered with an 
excellent thatch of the leaves of the sago palm. The end 
walls were upright, made of bamboo poles close together, 
and at each end were three doorways ha\dng the form of 
a Gotliic arch, the centre being the largest. The inside of 
the house looked like a great tunnel. Down each side was 
a row of cabins ; each of these was of a square form pro- 
jecting about ten feet, having walls of bamboo. . . . 
Inside these cabins we found low frames covered with mats 
and apparently bedplaces and overhead were shelves and 
pegs on which were bows and arrows, baskets, stone axes, 
drums and other matters. ... At each end of the house 
was a stage or balcony, being merely the open ends of the 
floor outside the walls on which the cross poles were bare 
or not covered by planks. The roof, however, projected 
over these stages both at the sides and much more over- 
head, protruding forward at the gable, something like 
the poke of a lady's bonnet, but more pointed. . . . Near 
the centre on one side was a pole reaching from the floor 
to the roof, on which was a kind of framework covered 
with skulls." 

The nomadic habits of these tribes are not altogether 
due to the necessity of seeking fresh sago patches. Villages 
are frequently abandoned for other reasons, such as a 
death or a series of deaths occurring there either from 
disease or, I suppose I should say, sorcery, for I do not 
think that death from disease enters into the Bamu mind. 
If a person has been taken by a crocodile (the spirit of 
such a one is most malignant) or if anyone has been killed. 

Bamu River Archer in Full Fighting Dress 

The gauntlet is worn on the left arm to protect it from the bowstring. 
The haniboo belieading knife is carried slung around tlie neck and is occa- 
sionally rendered more jjotent by the addition of certain charms. The 
head-carrier i; carried over the left shoulder. 

Woman Roasting Food, Kiwai 


the settlement will usually be shifted. From the point of 
view of the district officer, this continual shifting about 
is most annoying to say the least of it. You find a tribe 
living here to-day all comfortably and perhaps in a month's 
time when you are in the district again, you go to the old 
spot only to find a collection of deserted huts, and you 
have to wander half over the river to find where the new 
settlement is. 

The further up the river one goes, the smaller in stature 
the general run of natives seems to become. Many of the 
large Bina or Sisiame tribes are well-made, powerful men, 
but the up-river folk are in the main very weedy, and 
were one inclined to be sensational, might be called 
pygmies. Many men cannot exceed five feet one or two 
in height and many are even less. Most of them are naked 
except for the shield-shaped groin shell, which really, 
however, should not be considered a form of clothing at 
all. Like the coloured fibre petticoat hanging down a few 
inches all round, the shell is a fighting or ceremonial 
costume. The taste for clothes, however, the " curse of 
rags " as it has been called, is rapidly spreading. A hat, 
by the way, a felt hat for preference and it is immaterial 
how battered it may be, has now become ultra fashionable. 
It has become the dress of ceremony, and no village police- 
man would, I feel sure, consider himself complete without 

Head-hunting and the possession of skulls play an 
important part in Bamu life. The skulls are sometimes 
carved and bear their owner's private mark, and all those 
taken in fight (or by murder) are decorated in various 
waj^s, according to tribe. Recently the Bimarami raided 
an inland village and took eleven heads, which were later 
on found in their village. They were hung round with 
white feathers and seeds and had a large wooden snout, 
also feathered. In the eye sockets were inserted two long 
protruding pieces of wood tipped with large red seeds. 
Some of the old Bimarami men, who were in their village. 


lingered lovingly over these heads, pointing out how So- 
and-so had taken one and another man's mark on another 
and calling the skulls by name. It was these same Bi- 
marami who, long ago, had promised to give up raiding 
and head-hunting as a pastime. When their Long House 
full of skulls was pointed out to them as a proof of how 
the promise had been kept, they naively remarked, " Oh, 
yes, these are only the heads of bushmen. We never kill 
Government people, but bushmen don't count." I saw 
at Bimarami during one visit the nearest approach to a 
tree house that I have seen in Western New Guinea. It 
was really a watch-tower, built against a high tree to keep 
an eye on the Sisiame, their next-door neighbours. These 
watch-towers are not uncommon in the Bamu, and they 
have been seen up the Aworra and down the Bebea. 

I found many decorated and carved skulls in the bush 
shelters of the Sisiame in the interior of Aramia Island, 
shortly after they had massacred a large number of 
Maipani people. Many of these skulls were obviously old ; 
others comparatively fresh. At one of the Moguru dances, 
called " Sawina," skulls are brought out and carried. AVhen 
a man takes a head, he gives it to his wife's brother to 
carry at the dance. Skulls are also brought out at initia- 
tion, but women are not permitted to look on them. 

The weapon of the Bamu is the bow, but here instead 
of bamboo being used, it is mostly made of black palm. 
These palm bows are very much smaller than the bamboo 
ones and not nearly so powerful. The string is as usual 
made of a flexible strip of bamboo, but whereas further 
west the string is knotted and the ends of the bow are 
pushed through the knots, on the upper Bamu the string 
is fastened to the bow by fibre very skilfully and neatly 
let into the bamboo strip. The arrows, which are carried 
in bundles slung under the left arm, are chiefly wooden 
tipped and of the beaded type. The plaited fibre gauntlet, 
the head carrier and the head knife, a plume of cassowary 
feathers and shell ornaments complete with the pubic 


shell the full warrior's outfit. The head knife is made from 
a three-quarter section of bamboo about twelve inches 
long. A handle is made by lashing a piece of pith wood in 
the round of the weapon, and this string lashing is as a rule 
worked into a herring-bone pattern round the handle, 
thus serving the double purpose of ornamentation and 
giving a good grip. To prepare the knife for use, a notch 
is cut with a clam shell just below the handle and the bottom 
is slightly split. When an enemy falls, all that remains to 
be done is to tear off this strip and a sharp cutting edge is 
left. The edge is only sharp enough for use once, and in 
consequence a fresh notch is necessary for each head ; 
thus a tally is so to say automatically kept on the weapon 
itself, which becomes a much-prized possession. When in 
use, the knife is carried round the neck by a string. An 
enemy is generally killed or disabled by arrow fire and then 
he is beheaded, but I do not think it matters very much 
whether he is actually dead so long as he is out of action. 
The skin of the neck is then cut, and taking the head with 
both hands, the warrior jerks it violently from side to side 
in order to dislocate the vertebrae. The head can then be 
completely severed. At Sisiame I obtained a newly used 
knife which had been tossed away in terror by the owner 
at the approach of the police, which was fitted with several 
fighting charms, added, I was told, to ensure strength and 
good luck to the user. The charms M^ere merely small 
pieces of bark or wood, but I was told they were very 
" strong." When the head is cut off it is carried over the 
shoulder on the head carrier, which consists of a loop of 
cane, the two ends of which are lashed to a crosspiece of 
palmwood. The loop is passed through the lower jaw 
until it is brought up against the crosspiece or toggle. 
I have seen one or two very rare forms of head carriers in 
the form of two wooden circles joined by a bar, the circles 
being carved and painted with that particular design of 
a man's head which is common all through the Bamu. 



Mutilation — An expedition against the Sisiame — Pacification of the tribe 
— Bina — Takes heads, arms and legs— Bamu politics — The Maipani 
raid on Bina — Cannibalism — The groups of Bamu tribes — Canoes — 
Buniki^Kuria and the Kauwai mask — Drums and canoe trading — 
The Bamu bore. 

ALL the Bamu tribes mutilate the slain, both men and 
women, the parts being eaten ceremonially as war 
medicine and used as charms preparatory to fighting. 
In addition to this form of mutilation, the arms and in 
some cases the legs are cut off for cannibal purposes. I 
happen to have seen the full treatment of a dead enemy, 
but I cannot say that it is a very edifying spectacle ; in 
fact I felt exceedingly ill. 

It was among the Sisiame tribe that I had my first view 
of " heads." Head-hunting had previously been a mere 
name to me, but on this occasion I had its full force 
brought very much under notice. The Sisiame tribe had, 
a day or so previously, slaughtered under peculiarly 
treacherous circumstances a large number of Maipani folk 
returning from a peaceable canoe-buying trip at Bimarami. 
The actual start of the affair is not quite clear, but both 
tribes had been at enmity on and off for generations. The 
immediate cause was the murder of some Maipani people, 
who promptly retaliated by taking the head of a solitary 
Sisiame fisherman who unluckily for himself happened 
to be near Maipani. Sisiame kept the ball rolling by a 
general murder of all the canoe -buying party as it was 
returning down-river and which was unaware of the 
previous trouble. I happened to be in the Bamu at the 
time and we straightway went up to Sisiame. The whole 












tribe had packed up and departed for the thick swair^ps 
in the centre of Aramia Island. In the meantime I sent 
some men out to try and find traces of where they had 
gone to. The pohce sergeant returned to me a Kttle later 
carelessly swinging a bundle of heads from their carriers, 
which he casually remarked he had picked up on the road. 
Horrible as the fresh heads looked, they reminded me 
irresistibly of a string of onions. The subsequent journey 
into the heart of the island has always seemed like some 
nightmare. The track lay first on sticks through the 
swamps ; then the pretence of a road vanished utterly 
and we floundered through unadulterated sago swamp, 
waist deep. I remember I had almost all my clothes torn 
from my back by the sago thorns and the uniforms of the 
police were simply dragged into ribbons. I think all of 
us spent the evening picking sago spikes out of each 
other. A few days later I tried to reach the centre of the 
island by canoeing up one of the small creeks. The Sisiame 
had felled trees across it and the police had to drag the 
canoe across these obstacles while I tried to maintain a 
precarious balance and forget that the Sisiame, were they 
so minded, could line the narrow creek and pick us off like 
so many crows. 

I was lucky enough to capture the principal fighting chief 
who was alleged to have taken a principal share in the 
murders, and we held court on board the Toawara in the river 
surrounded by a regular fleet of canoes watching the pro- 
ceedings most intently. Later on he and I became great 
friends, and his son was appointed village constable of 
the tribe. The latter was a good lad, but had a remarkable 
command of foul language which he used on every 
conceivable opportunity, not knowing of course its meaning, 
although I doubt whether it would have made much differ- 
ence even if he had. 

This was the last occasion on which Sisiame broke out. 
It was a powerful and numerous tribe, and for years 


proved a terror of the upper Bamu just as Bina dominated 
the lower estuary. On one occasion as the poHce were 
pulHng in the whaler by night to make some arrests, 
a whispering from the bank gave them sufficient warning 
to fling themselves to one side, the boat receiving the 
shower of arrows in her planks. Nearly thirty arrows were 
found imbedded in them. Time after time the Sisiame 
promised to become the " Government's women." Time 
after time the pledge was broken. A ceremonial peace- 
making took place, in which a small dog and a pile of sago 
were presented to the Government. Things went on 
tolerably smoothly until a section of the tribe raided and 
ate some of the neighbouring Asarami tribe, and there 
was a desperate running fight between a canoe full of 
murderers and the police whaler under full sail along the 
waters of the main Bamu. 

Bina was and is probably the most powerful fighting- 
tribe of the whole district. Their propensities were dis- 
tinctly cannibal, and the story runs that they always took 
two heads and two sets of arms and legs for every man 
of their own that happened to get killed. A few years ago 
the trader and recruiter could never feel quite sure when 
at anchor near Bina that he was not going to find some 
headless body grating against his anchor chains. The 
particular victims of the Bina are a smaller tribe called 
Oropai, who had also to keep a careful eye on the Sisiame. 
Oropai took heads when it could from Bina, and frequently 
boasted of more heads than it actually took, and in the 
intervals raided Miriwo and other tribes as opportunity 
offered. To unravel the tangle of Bamu politics would be 
a difficult task ; but it is tolerably safe to say that -with. 
occasional intervals of peace every tribe was willing to take 
stray heads anywhere it could get them. I dare say a 
good deal of this desultory fighting was due to the state of 
having nothing to do that is characteristic of most sago- 
eating tribes who do not cultivate the soil. A whole tribe 


goes off in canoes ostensibly on a fishing trip (but well 
provided with fighting gear), and quite prepared to seize 
the chance of a little raiding if any stray fishermen hap- 
pens to be met. 

Bina and Maipani were always on bad terms, but as is 
usually the case even among the bitterest enemies, there 
are always one or two persons in each tribe who have the 
mutual right of hospitality for the purpose of trading or 
the like. Thus Maipani can supply Bina with certain shells 
and shell ornaments, and there are two Bina men who are 
always free to come to Maipani. 

Not very long ago a score of young bloods from Maipani 
did a thing that they would never have dreamed of ten 
or even five years ago, that is, they raided Bina. From 
whatever point of view you look at it, their impudence 
was colossal, for Bina in the old days before the Govern- 
ment could and would have eaten Maipani, literally. The 
party was organised and led by a clever Wadoda scamp 
who had engineered himself into the position of village 
policeman, and he had an able lieutenant who, about a 
month previously, had just completed a five years' sentence 
for a most cold-blooded murder. Some up-river people 
were trading tobacco down at Maipani. This man offered 
a small knife, and as the seller was not willing to let him 
have as many leaves as he thought he ought to get, he 
took an axe without any further remark and literally 
chopped the other into small pieces. The whole of the 
bright band set off for Bina, and, taking them rather un- 
awares, commenced by seizing the local village policeman 
and tearing his uniform off and then began to loot. By 
this time the indignant Binas had had time to collect, and 
the raiding party beat a very hasty retreat. These Mai- 
pani and Wadoda firebrands received a sentence of eighteen 
months apiece amid a chorus of " I told you so " from 
their countrymen. 

On the same island as Bina are two small but very con- 

THE 3AMU 225 

servative and truculent tribes who only come out from 
their almost impregnable swamps at odd times to seek 
heads. A couple of men were once arrested from one of 
these tribes for some murder. One of them, a man of 
fairly good physique, soon after he entered Daru gaol 
began to pine away ; there was nothing ostensibly wrong 
with him — he was simply dying. One day, however, he 
told me that he had managed to offend a sorcerer in his 
village over some woman and in revenge a spell had been 
cast over him. It was no use telling him a New Guinea 
spell could not possibly work in a Government gaol ; he 
remarked that the only thing that could save him was to 
get the sorcerer to remove the enchantment. He died a 
few days later. 

Nearly ail these tribes are frankly cannibal. The arms, 
legs and the breasts of women are esteemed the best por- 
tions, but the whole body is eaten roasted with sago. 
There do not appear to be any restrictions as to the 
eating of human flesh, even women are permitted to 
partake of it. The bones, the Bina people told me, are 
not thrown away but kept, probably for some ritual pur- 
pose. A man is permitted to eat of a body he himself 
has killed, although this is prohibited in some parts of 
New Guinea, notably in the Purari Delta and in the 
Yodda Valley. It is not quite clear whether the heads of 
relatives are always preserved. I know I had occasion 
once to exhume a body of a woman at Bimarami. She 
was buried in a shallow grave in the bush and I found the 
skeleton quite complete except where it had been dis- 
turbed by wild pigs. 

There are, I think, three well-defined groups of tribes 
in the district. The first comprises the four villages which 
cultivate the soil and speak the same language as Wabada 
and some other Fly tribes. The second groujD embraces 
the up-river peoples, a very much smaller and lower race 
with a different language, while the third group, which is a 


large one and might almost be subdivided into two sec- 
tions, covers the middle and eastern districts and is con- 
tinued on through the Gama and gradually merges into 
the Aird. At Buniki on the Bebea branch, I think, you 
find the half-way house between the tribes of the Fly and 
those of Goaribari. 

In the western Bamu the outrigger canoe is used through- 
out, and the same type, though smaller, is found up the 
Wawoi and Aworra for some distance when the only river 
craft seen are rafts. At Buniki on the eastern Bamu and 
even at Bina you see canoes both with and without the 
outrigger. The use of the latter form may be dictated 
by the fact that it would be quite impossible to use an 
outrigger canoe up many of the small creeks that seam 
the district. The observant Mr. Jukes also drew attention 
to the dug-out, and in addition to the practice of placing 
a man or small boy with his back to the sea in the low 
open end of the canoe in order to act as a stopwater, a 
custom seen at its best in the Purari Delta, far to the east- 
ward. The Buniki canoes are painted inside in the same 
manner and with the same designs as those of the Aird. In 
the western and upper Bamu the men paddle sitting down, 
while at Buniki they almost invariably stand up. 

On one occasion at least it is known that certain Omati 
and Turama tribes came round to Buniki trading for shells, 
giving arrows and other goods in exchange. All round this 
village appears to be a kind of meeting-place between 
east and west, and there seems to have been some tradi- 
tional friendship with Kiwai. Many years ago at a time 
of great famine at the latter place, the Agabara people got 
supplies of sago from Buniki, and I believe a small boy 
was given in exchange. He grew up among the Buniki 
and later on became their village policeman. In the end 
he died from an arrow wound received in some raid 
against the Gama people, protesting all the while to the 
visiting R.M. that the Buniki people never indulged in 


such amusements — and with a great gaping arrow hole in 
his side. If my memor}^ serves right, a Kiwai boy was also 
given to the Bina in much the same way, and I fancy the 
coastal Parama tribe have a tradition of old friendships 
with " Dibiri," for they may be heard occasionally to refer 
to certain Bamu villages as their " brothers." 

Well up the Bamu, I suppose, the principal tribe is that 
of Kuria, still very shy and far from being even partially 
civilised. At the suggestion of one of the Kuria chiefs I 
once took his son, a lad about fifteen, to Daru for a pro- 
posed visit of a few months in order to let him see the 
world. He was supposed to be a very raw savage indeed, 
but he had hardly been in the place a month when the 
sergeant of police in whose quarters he was living wrath- 
fully complained that he had been robbed of two sovereigns, 
with which the young man had endeavoured to purchase 
clothes at one of the local stores. " Civilisation " is 
evidently easily acquired. They use at Kuria a quaint 
mask made of cane and sago fibre and having the appear- 
ance of a long snouted man. This mask is called Kauwai, 
and is the representation of some old-time personage about 
whom I am not quite clear. I believe it is used at the 
initiation ceremony, and is very similar to the masks 
known as Awoto in the Aird Delta. The population just 
near the junction of the Wawoi and Aworra does not appear 
to be extensive. There are only a couple of villages on the 
banks and they appear to be in constant dread of some 
hitherto unknown buslimen. 

It is only when you get up as high as these tributaries 
that you lose the muddy water and it now becomes clear 
enough to drink with appreciation. Elsewhere the river 
is about half mud held in solution and one always has 
to sail by the lead. When cruising in the West, the problem 
of fresh water is a very serious and ever present one. There 
is practically no decent drinking water whatever to be 
obtained on the coast between the Dutch boundary and 


the Purari Delta, and one can only get it by going some 
distance up the various rivers. You have to go nearly 
sixty miles up the Bamu before it is possible to get any 
that is quite above suspicion. 

While certainly very little of the country seems suitable 
for agriculture in spite of assertions to the contrary, it is 
remarkable that after you leave the mouth of the estuary 
there is scarcely a single patch of native cultivation to 
be seen. With a population living in a semi-nomadic state 
and under pretty wretched housing conditions, one hardly 
looks to find any artistic traits, but it is a fact that the 
upper Bamu is celebrated for its fine drums and canoes. 
The drums are carved and painted in red, black and white. 
They are about two and a half feet long with slightly 
diverging jaws reminding one of a crescent, but they are 
undoubtedly intended to represent the jaws of the croco- 
dile, just as the carving and ornamentation on them repre- 
sent its head and snout. It might be mentioned that the 
Goaribari drums, made of a black wood, are similar in 
shape and design to these Bamu ones. Some rather good 
carving in relief is done on tobacco pipes, representing 
Toto-opu, a man's head design, which is found on all sorts 
of ornamentation in the Bamu, notably on the skull stands, 
and reappears in the Agibas of Goaribari. 

The most famous canoes in the West are stated to be 
built by the canoe-making tribes of Bimarami and Miriwo, 
and they have been exported to such far distant places as 
Torres Straits. The export trade is almost entirely in the 
hands of the Wabada people, who make periodical tr^ps 
for the purpose, principally during the north-west season, 
but occasionally at other times. On two or three occasions 
I have met the W^abada fleets in the Bamu on these trips 
and the men are always accompanied by their women, 
for the wives of the parties are always exchanged during 
the trading. The payment is invariably made upon 
delivery, and the trade consists chiefly of armshells, 


cowries, pearlshell crescents and dogs' teeth. It used to 
be always a source of wonder to me where all the dogs' 
teeth used m the Pacific came from until the other day 
I happened to read of an action between two London firms 
for payment of a shipment of dogs' teeth made to the 
South Seas. 

The Bamu customs with regard to their womenfolk are 
to say the least of it peculiar, but the customs arc universal 
and the women themselves seem to regard the position with 
equanimity. I hardly know whether one could call them 
immoral. I should rather say they are non-moral. Custom 
is custom, and that is about all one can say. 

Of all the tidal rivers I suppose the tides are the strongest 
in the Bamu. I do not know what is the particular reason. 
And equally of course the bores are the most dangerous, 
especially in certain reaches of the river. I had often 
heard of the bore before I went to the Bamu, but, when 
I did go, I never gave it a thought. On my first trip we 
had been sailing gaily down from the Wawoi with the ebb 
tide. As it happened the moon was approaching its full 
and bringing with it the spring tides. One morning about 
seven o'clock, after we had been under way for some 
hours, I heard the coxswain suddenly give the order to 
let go, and I heard the anchor rattle down. I was a bit 
annoyed as the tide was still on the ebb, but nobody 
paid much attention to what I had to say and all hands 
were far too busy lowering sail and making all fast to do 
more than throw me a mere " Ibua, Ibua " (the bore, the 
bore). In the far distance I heard a dull roar, and it sud- 
denly da\Mied upon me what was the matter. As it hap- 
pened we were right in one of the worst spots in the river, 
just above the top of Aramia Island. The roar grew louder, 
and rounding a bend a couple of miles further down I saw 
a great wall of water extending across the river from bank 
to bank and racing up-stream at an extraordinary rate. 
Had I been safely ashore, I am sure I should have regarded 


it as a fine sight. The wave looked formidable and, the 
tide still being on the ebb, we were lying stern on. Fortu- 
nately the flood comes on a little in advance of the wave 
and the ship swung round and met the bore with her bows. 
As the waves reached us, it seemed to tower well above 
them, but the ship rose to it and jerked at her anchor 
violently from side to side until she dipped her rails under. 
Contrary to expectation, as the wave struck, there was 
no violent concussion. The first wall of water, fully nine 
feet high, was followed by two smaller ones, and where we 
had been riding in a little over a fathom, there were now 
nearly three after the bore had passed. Even with a 
heavy anchor and over twenty fathoms of chain out, the 
ship was dragged hundreds of yards up-stream. I do not 
know what would happen if you were caught while under 
way — ^turned over and smashed up, I sujjpose. 

In the Bamu the bore comes up the river at each flood 
tide for five days during spring tides, that is, at new and 
full moon, but they are naturally very much higher and 
stronger at the equinoxes, i.e. about March and September. 
The bore is, of course, caused by the strong flood tide 
meeting the ebb and river current which it backs up and 
drives up-stream in a great water wall. 

The natives are very frightened of the bores and know 
exactly when they are due, hauling their canoes well 
above high-water mark. They say if anyone should get 
caught in the bore, he never comes to the surface again. 

There are a good many v/ell-known spots behind islands 
and sandbanks, where you are well protected from the 
full force of the bore. The Dibiri channel is one of the 
worst places in the river, owing to its shallo\\Tiess. You 
are extremely likely to be caught on a bank at the ebb and 
the position then becomes not a little dangerous when the | 
bore is due, especially as at one place in this channel you 
get a double bore. You are safe enough in a whale-boat if 
you can manage to get into one of the numerous small 


creeks in time. I remember once having to pull desperately 
along the bank to find one for the bore was due any 
moment, and, as there was hardly any water left, the ebb 
being at about its last gasp, we had to haul the boat by 
hand, standing waist deep in the thick mud to get her 
into safety. 

More trying to the nerves than all is being caught at 
night when there is no moon. You can see nothing and 
you have to wait in the darkness and listen to the roar, 
which under the circumstances is bound to sound more 
terrific, wondering when it is going to strike you and what 
is going to happen. 


The coast between the Bebea and the Gama — A trader looted there^The 
Gemarua natives — The missing front teeth — Houses on stilts — Sleeping 
in a whaleboat — Race with a canoe to arrest the raiders — The Sogeri 
tribe — The Turama river — Caught in a "Guba'' — Getting in touch 
with the natives — Installing a chief — Morigio Island — Daria Hills — 
Turama bore. 

FROM the mouth of the Bebea the coast slopes away 
in a gentle curve to the eastward in an almost 
unbroken line of nipa and mangrove. At its extreme 
mouth there is a small stretch of what might by courtesy 
be termed a beach of black sand. At any rate it is not 
mud, and the natives take a good deal of advantage of 
this " beach " for fishing. When I speak of fishing, I am 
referring to the hunt for small fish and fry such as may be 
caught by cone traps or by blocking the mouths of small 
tidal watercourses with brushwood weirs. I cannot recall 
having ever seen a real fishing-net in the Bamu. 

The beach soon merges into mangrove and the whole 
foreshore consists of just a mixture of liquid mud through 
which the gnarled and distorted mangrove roots thrust 
themselves. There is a good depth of water in the actual 
channel from the Bebea, which runs out south-easterly 
and gradually becomes shallower and shallower until it 
spreads out into one great series of sand-banks with a 
uniform depth of a trifle under a fathom at low water. 
These banks extend for many miles to seaward and as far 
east as Bell Point, effectually covering the mouth of the 
Gama and making both it and the coast almost impossible 
in the south-east season. It is usually easy enough to get 
into one of these bank-protected rivers with a sailing boat 
not drawing too much water, providing you go in on a 


rising tide, but the difficulty lies in getting out. In a 
sailing craft you must beat out on the ebb tide, so that 
ever}i:hing is against you, with the added prospect of 
hitting a bank and being smashed up if the weather is at 
all heavy. 

The Gama still is one of the least known of the western 
rivers. Really, however, there is very little to induce 
anyone to visit it. As far as I have been able to ascertain 
the population is only a temporary one and the country 
itself is quite unsuited for any European settlement. Sir 
William MacGregor explored the river in 1892, and some 
twelve years later Mr. C. S. Robinson paid a visit to the 
district, but no administrative work had been done there 
at all. The coast is bad and whatever was known of the 
temper of the inhabitants was not particularly in their 
favour, and the Gama was left very much to itself until a 
couple of years ago when an adventurous but foolhardy 
trader wandered there in a seven -ton cutter and a crew con- 
sisting of a single Fly River boy. What followed was not 
altogether unexpected, and he was glad to get away with a 
couple of severe wounds after having had his boat looted. 
Some years previously another trader, cruising round the 
Bebea Delta in what was little better than a decked-in 
whale-boat, was savagely attacked near Buniki by, it is 
stated, some Gama people who had travelled across. 
Buniki and the Gama, it might be stated, alternate 
between friendly trading visits and seeking each others' 

It was in the height of the south-east season and I was 
not anxious to risk taking a big boat like the Toawara 
along a practically uncharted coast, so I left her in the 
Bamu and went round to the Gama in the whale-boat, 
seizing the opportunity at the same time to see if there was 
a decent ship passage. The Gama is fully a mile wide 
across the mouth, and a short distance up on the eastern 
bank I found a series of small villages stretching up the 


river for some distance. These villages were obviously 
occupied only for temporary purposes and the surrounding 
scrub had only just been felled. Our arrival created no 
little commotion at first. Half a dozen long canoes 
pushed into the bank, the men tossing up the water 
towards us with their paddles in defiance and everyone 
stood to his bow. Soon, however, they started to wave 
green boughs, and the women and children, who had 
bolted to the bush, began to trickle back and were quite 
prepared to receive morsels of tobacco. The bows here 
are of palm wood and the arrows have a bone barb on a 
wooden tip ; some of them are quite well carved and 
painted in red and white. Almost every man had his face 
painted with streaks of red, and I noticed numbers of 
them were without either one or two of the front teeth. 
Now Papuans have splendid teeth as a rule, and although 
I was repeatedly told that there was no special reason for 
the missing teeth, with all respect to my informants, I 
am very much inclined to believe there was. A few cases 
might be understood, but when the instances ran into 
dozens I cannot believe that everyone had had toothache. 
I do not know that knocking out a front tooth is a New 
Guinea custom, although it is not uncommon elsewhere. 
All the men were very black in colour with small heads and 
sloping foreheads, but the characteristic arched nose of 
the Fly is not very noticeable. They were all naked 
except for an occasional pubic shell or streamers of red 
fibre hanging from the ears. They became so friendly that 
soon they thrust their bow gauntlets into my hands as a 
sign of extreme trust. When we started to continue the 
journey up the river, two or three canoes full of men, 
standing erect to paddle, acted as guides. The canoes of 
course had no outrigger and balance maintained, as usual, 
was wonderful. 

These people told me the name of their tribe was Gema- 
rua, and that they come round from the Turama to the 


east bank of the Gama for some months of the year to 
make sago, hunt cassowary and to fish, but that their 
real homes are on the former river. The houses I had seen 
on the Gama were just the ordinary dog-kennel ones 
that are usual in the Bamu. I gathered that they are a 
totemic people, numbering the Crocodile, the Snake and 
the Cassowary among the totems. It is remarkable how 
widespread this Cassowary cult is throughout the West, 
and that almost invariably it occupies a leading position 
among the clans. 

Further up the river were the villages of some of the 
people who had attacked the trader. At one place the 
houses were all built on stilts, I cannot call them any- 
thing else, at a most extraordinary height from the ground. 
Some of the piles were certainly not thicker than a good 
sized walking stick, and the houses themselves were 
approached by a crazy ladder of sticks. One man was 
arrested here. He raced up into one of these houses and, 
finding he was followed, crashed through the walls of the 
house like so much brown paper and was finally caught 
below. Immediately he commenced to howl to his friends 
to come and kill the white " devils " (several of the police 
were a shade or two lighter than himself), an invitation 
to which no one responded, so he contented himself with 
demanding a smoke. 

About fifteen miles up-stream the Gama changes its 
name to Wiboda, and it was along the eastern banks that 
I found the settlement of the Kiapa-Kiaru. This tribe, 
also, is really a Turama one and crosses to and from by 
following a route across country. There is a creek flowing 
into the Gama up which the people travel until it ends 
in mud, then they walk a few miles and reach a second 
creek, which they follow dowTi until the Turama is reached. 
I saw no Long Houses in this river-side settlement, but 
the usual separation of the unmarried men from the women 
and children seems to be the ride. Otherwise the houses 


seemed to be family ones. In the main villages, however, 
on the Turama they had in some instances the ordinary 
type of Long House. 

I found that most of the men concerned in the attack 
on the trader were away down river crab fishing, but it 
was too late to return that night. I made up a bed in the 
whaler — the ground was too sloppy to sleep ashore. If 
you lay out the oars close enough together along the seats 
of the boat, you can make a fairly comfortable bed, though 
it is hard enough, and it is not so bad provided the weather 
is fine. I once slept in a small gig with two companions 
anchored out off a point in Era Bay. It was an awful 
night, raining heavily and a big roll tossing the little boat 
about. Two of us slept on oars and I had a bed in the 
well, but I do not know who was the worst off, and I 
think we were all equally drenched. 

It was full moon that night in the Gama and I was not 
sure whether a bore would run up the river or not. Tlie 
tide turned with a perceptible " slap," but there were no 
signs of anything else. Next day we started down for the 
spot where the fishing camp was supposed to be. It was 
not far from the river mouth, and as we approached I saw 
a solitary canoe with two paddlers making for the same 
place. As soon as they sighted the whale-boat, they 
started to paddle for dear life, and we had a really sporting 
and exciting race for the entrance. The. canoe was a little 
nearer, but the whaler had the tide and a fair breeze. 
The canoe shot into the creek, a narrow gut in the man- 
grove, with the whale-boat almost bumping its stern, 
and both craft crashed through the bushes and up on to the 
mud at about the same moment. The mud was hopeless. 
I happened to be wearing a pair of rubber thigh boots and 
I literally stuck fast and had to be lugged out by main 
force. The natives, of course, raced through the mud as 
only natives can. The camp consisted of twenty or thirty 
rough shelters made of a few nipa leaves, just about 


enough to keep the rain off. As I toiled up to it I saw a 
policeman and another man struggling down in the mud, 
it was hard to tell whieh was which, while another excited 
native was dancing round the two yelling in a frenzy of 
excitement, " Hold him. Hold him," but of course doing 
absolutely nothing to help ; the funny side of it was 

I found quite a number of skulls in the camp, neatly 
packed up in coconut -leaf baskets. As the women were 
carrying and looking after them, they were probably the 
heads of relatives. It is at times rather comical to see 
the women racing for the bush with all the family heads 
tucked under their arms. 

Some months later than this trip, I managed to get the 
ship into the river, although we had some difficulty in 
finding the right channel at first. We went a good distance 
up but found hardly any sign of population at all. The 
people whom I had previously met had evidently all gone 
back to the Turama. As a matter of fact I do not believe 
there is any permanent population on the Gama at all. 
The eastern bank belongs to the Turama tribes. The 
western side belongs to certain Bamu ones. The country 
between these two rivers is inhabited by a couple of tribes 
who sometimes come out on the Bamu and sometimes on 
the Gama. Sir William MacGregor mentions one tribe 
whom he calls Dabura. Now thpre is no tribe on either 
river known to me by that name, but the name of the creek 
upon which Buniki and some smaller tribes live is called 
Dabura. It is tolerably evident, I think, that these 
people, who correspond in appearance, were one of the 
Padaru tribes. 

Only one other tribe was encountered by MacGregor's 
party, at a distance of about forty miles from the mouth 
of the river. This tribe, the Sogeri, attacked him on sight 
They travel between the main Bamu and the Gama, but 
for years they have been settled on the Bamu side, keeping 


very much to themselves and giving little trouble, al- 
though they are regarded as very powerful sorcerers by a 
majority of the Bamu people. Sir William describes their 
numbers as considerable, but I doubt whether they are 
more than a couple of hundred strong all told. 

The estuary of the Turama is some thirty miles wide, 
and the coast between its westernmost extremity (Bell 
Point) and the mouth of the Gama has a very bad reputa- 
tion indeed from a sailing point of view. The coast is all 
mangrove and cut by numerous small creeks, up two or 
three of which are tucked away some small tribes, whose 
presence was quite unsuspected until I happened one day 
to notice a canoe cautiously moving through the man- 
grove. Reasonably speaking, these villages are all but 
unapproachable except you crawl through a tangle of 
muddy water and twisted mangrove roots. 

The Turama by Bell Point is called Gawai, but, except 
for this, the river keeps the name of Turama throughout 
its whole course, and it is still known by that name even 
in the interior. 

About three years ago I sailed into the Turama during 
the north-west season on my way from Goaribari. At the 
time the coast was regarded as quite impossible in the 
south-east. However, at the present time it is quite 
possible to sail from Daru through the Gulf except in the 
very worst of south-east weather, and, as power boats are 
now much more common in Papua, many of the difficulties 
of the old sailing days have disappeared. 

What little wind we had got coming out of the Goaribari 
passage dropped altogether towards evening, so that the 
Toawara just drifted with the tide. Shortly after dark 
a strong north-west " guba " came up Avith particular 
suddenness and it blew hard straight down-stream with 
heavy rain. There are two large islands, Morigio and 
Neabo, well in the centre of the river, and we were blowing 
about in the pitch dark somewhere off the former. It is 


not the most comfortable thing in the world to be sailing 
in the dark on an uncharted river in the middle of a gale, 
with the lead showing only about a fathom and the ship 
continually bumping on banks. For a very anxious hour 
or so we groped round until a patch was found giving two 
fathoms, and with a sigh of relief I was glad to anchor. 

In the morning I found we were off the southern end 
of Morigio, and drifting along towards the western bank 
I could see many canoes putting off from the shores. They 
paddled up to within a couple of hundred yards of the 
ship, fine long canoes having no outrigger and holding 
from fifteen to twenty men each. For a long time no 
persuasion could bring them alongside. At length suc- 
cumbing to the influence and blandishments of a knife 
and some turkey red held up enticingly, a few men, in- 
cluding the chief, transhipped to a small canoe and came 
close but remained ready to bolt at the first alarm, while 
the men in the big canoes had every bow strung and ready 
for use at a moment's notice. Later on I worked the ship 
in as close to the villages as possible, although there is 
a good half-mile of stinking mud between deep water and 
the shore. The river banks are almost a trifle above high- 
water mark and the villages have some groves of coconuts, 
a welcome sight after the bare forests of the Bamu. The 
men were well made and dark in colour, but their counte- 
nances are infinitely more villainous than anything to be 
seen to the westward. The peculiarly diabolical-looking 
appearance is accentuated by shaving the hair far back 
on the forehead and adding streaks of red and black paint. 
Many wore the pubic shell, others a carved bark belt, 
painted red and white, from which hung a sporran of 
native cloth. There is one symbol of authority and 
acceptance of the Government which is now regarded as 
such throughout New Guinea, and that is an ordinary 
cotton shirt. How it came to be so looked upon, I have 
not the faintest idea ; but it has almost become a hard 


and fast rule that when you are getting into touch with 
a new tribe, the head man is solemnly invested mth a 
shirt and ipso facto becomes a " Government man." So 
I followed the usual course, but the old gentleman, who 
claimed to be head man, insisted upon wearing it back to 
front, which he maintained was more suitable. We did 
not quarrel on the point. Many of the men carried heavy 
wooden clubs with a sharp edge and the arrows had loose 
barbed points so designed that they should break off or 
remain in the body. 

On the extreme southern end of Morigio Island lives a 
tribe called Harago. I was unable to get within shouting 
distance of them. They once sent me a message that we 
should come and fight them, but when I next went to the 
Turama they would neither make friends nor fight, but 
took to the swamps with an energy worthy of better things. 
This reminds me of another message that I once received 
from one of the strong tribes in the old Northern Division. 
They said they were tired of peace and invited me to 
come to their villages and see them " eat cartridges like 
taro." At a convenient opportunity we went along, and 
pointing out the bandoliers full of " taro " asked if they 
were ready for the feast. The upshot was that we had 
a splendid reception and the whole party was escorted in 
triumph through the whole series of villages, the natives 
explaining that they were not really serious about figliting. 

A couple of years ago I went up the Turama for about 
sixty miles in the district boat Nivani, which had an 
engine of sorts. There were a good many villages on the 
upper reaches, but all on the western bank. The eastern 
side seemed singularly devoid of population. Parts of the 
Turama are among the very few places where the actual 
numbers of the natives seem to correspond with those 
reported or observed by previous parties ten or twenty 
years ago. It is always extremely difficult to estimate the 
numbers of natives even approximately and especially so 

^ ■ 

Kaiva-Kuku from the Papuan Gulf 



at first sight, and with a tolerably intimate acquaintance 
of most of the West I am unable to find any trace of the 
sometimes immense numbers mentioned by Sir William 
MacGregor, for instance, in the Bamu. I know popular 
opinion has generally credited the west of Papua with an 
extremely large population, but the idea is quite a mis- 
taken one, and with the exception of a few districts, such 
as the Aird Delta, for example, the numbers are far from 

As far as I have been in the Turama, I have seen no 
country fit for settlement. The lower portions of the 
river are nothing but swamps, and in the upper reaches 
where the banks are high, the soil does not appear rich. 
Some fifty miles up the river for the first time there is 
rising ground, the Darai Hills, forming a rough serrated 
range, running down almost to the water's edge. From 
this point upwards the watershed of the Turama is very 
rough and rugged, consisting for the most part of lime and 
sandstone hills. 

Vigorous district work is only now commencing in the 
Turama and consequently knowledge of its inhabitants 
is scanty enough ; but this much is known, that is, they 
are cannibals, head-hunters, and possess a social organisa- 
tion midway between that of the Bamu and that of the 
Aird, but with a closer approach to that of the former. 

The Turama is the third and last of the western rivers 
which are affected by a bore. It commences between the 
mainland on the eastern side of Morigio Island, and for 
some miles is barely perceptible. As the river narrows and 
becomes shallow, the bore mcreases in height and strength. 
I have only had one experience of it, and knowing the 
Bamu bore and having read of the Turama one, I was 
certainly prepared for a much worse experience than 
actually happened. We were coming down the river with 
the ebb. The bore, I know, was due and I was anxious 
to get out of its region. As the tide flowed out, the river 


became shallower and shallower until we were caught 
fast on a bank in something under five feet of water, and 
all our efforts to get off only resulted in pulling the ship 
broadside on, making the position even worse than before. 
However, the ship was fast and we had to stop. It was 
the night before full moon when the spring tides are at 
their highest and, if the bore due about midnight was 
going to be anything like what it had been reported, our 
position was not a happy one. We could hear its roar for 
fully twenty minutes before it appeared round a point in 
the river. The long line of white-tipped wave approached 
rapidly, but I could see that there was no danger for the 
top was broken in foam and the wave itself was only a 
couple of feet in height. I am now quite convinced that 
the Bamu bore is far the worst of the three, an opinion 
which will, I think, be shared by those who have had 
experience of it. 


Discovery of the Aird delta — Description — Network of clianiicls and 
waterways — ^V"^ecks in the delta — Houses — Man House, Youth House, 
and Woman House — Agibas — House dedication — Canoes — Goaribari 
women — Cannibalism — Burial of the dead — Cassowary daggers — First 
visit to the delta — Goaribaris as thieves — Goaribaris as labourers — 
Establishment of a Government Station. 

ONE hundred and twenty years ago Captains Bampton 
and Alt of the East India Company's Service were 
cruising round the head of the Papuan Gulf, and this is 
the first record of anyone having been in the vicinity of 
Goaribari. Fifty years later after leaving the shoals off 
the mouth of the Fly River, Captain Blackwood, r.n., 
worked his way past Bramble Cay and anchored off 
what he named Aird Hill, bearing north by east. Near by 
is the long promontory, called Cape Blackwood, which 
presents rather a curious appearance from the sea, appearing 
to be at first sight a piece of high ground. As Mr. Jukes, the 
chronicler of the voyage, describes it, " What we had 
first taken for moderately high land was, in fact, a wood 
of very lofty trees growing on a, dead flat sca":'cely above 
high-water mark." However, both Cape Blackwood and 
the conspicuous Aird Hill are good marks for navigators 
along this coast. A party from the Fly and her consort 
the Prince George left in the gig and proceeded to explore 
the river, or rather the great delta now known as the 
Aird, but it does not appear that the main river, the Kiko, 
was actually reached. The channels of the delta are so 
multitudinous that it is wellnigh impossible to follow 
Blackwood's course with any degree of certainty, and it 
is equally impossible to try and identify the villages he 
saw. The natives, however, appeared very terrified at 



the white faces, and when one of the gig's crew stripping 
off his shirt showed that his body as well as his face was 
white, the natives fled in terror to the bush. Mr. Jukes 
describes them as " tall muscular fellows with white nose 
ornaments, a round piece of shell hanging on their breast 
and a shield-shaped piece hanging over the groin and a 
waist belt of string adorned with shells or tassels ; their 
hair was tied back behind their head and they had a very 
wild and ferocious aspect " — a very accurate description. 
One of the crew said that he saw people puffing smoke 
from the balcony of one of the Long Houses as they passed, 
and, as they waved their arms, a jet of smoke proceeded 
from them. Mr. Jukes adds that Captain Cook observed 
the same phenomenon when he landed on the New Guinea 
coast away to the west. Cook seemed to have suspected 
some form of firearm, but of course there can be little 
doubt that the natives were simply smoking. 

The next traveller in this region was Mr. Theodore 
Bevan, who was the real discoverer of the main Kiko 
and explored much of the delta lying between Risk Point 
and the Purari. The full record of his work is set out in 
his Toil, Travel and Discovery in British New Guinea, 
and as far as his work in the Papuan Gulf is concerned, 
Bevan has scarcely received all the credit he deserved. 
His work was wonderfully accurate, and his dealings with 
the natives laid up no store of trouble for those who 
followed him. 

Like the whole of the Gulf of Papua the coast round 
about the Aird Delta and thence to the Purari is a particu- 
larly dangerous one in the south-east season. For many 
years it was only regarded as accessible during the calm 
months of the year, but that idea has recently been ex- 
ploded. Of course I do not mean to say that there is no 
risk sailing through this part during the south-east. Far 
from it. Owing to the bad navigation and the very 
correct ideas held as to the intractable temper of the 


native population, this district has for many years been 
a sealed book and most people gave it a wide berth, 
especially so after the murders of the Revs. Chalmers and 
Tompkins, a tragedy so well kno'v\ai that it is unnecessary 
to repeat the history of it. Even after this affair and 
the expedition led by Mr. le Hunte to punish the Goaribari 
natives, intercourse between the Aird and the outside world 
was confined to an annual visit by the Government 
steamer to the one village of Dopima. 

Between Aird Hill and the sea the country is nothing 
but one vast network of channels and waterways spreading 
in all directions and it is the same right through to the 
delta of the Purari. It is all semi-liquid and consists of 
nipa swamp and thick swamp forest, little, if any, of the 
land being habitable and none of it being really dry. To 
find one's way through this maze of channels is next door 
to impossible. One turns from waterway to waterway 
through the eternal nipa fringe, only to find that one ends 
in a blind mud alley or after travelling perhaps for hours 
to discover that he is back again in the very channel 
he started from. I write feelingly on the subject from 
some personal experience. It is only by sheer luck that 
you perhaps stumble into some broad stream and can 
locate where you are. The work of charting the passage 
through the delta has not been an easy one, but the 
routes are now tolerably well known. Indeed it is possible 
to enter the easternmost mouth of the Purari and never 
to have any necessity to come outside into the open sea 
until you descend through the channel at Risk Point 
behind Goaribari Island. This route is quite possible 
to steamers of some size, certainly to most of those which 
run on the Papuan coast. In fact, it is even unnecessary 
to come out there, for I believe there is a passage suitable 
for a whale-boat at any rate from the Kiko into the 
Turama, and from the western side of that river you can 
cross to the Gama ^vith only a short walk. To the best 
of my knowledge there is no direct water connection 


between the Gama and the Bamu ; but there is an over- 
land track, and from the Bamu it is easy enough to reach 
the Fly. In actual practice the inside route from the 
Purari to the Aird is frequently used, and it has robbed the 
coast of nearly all its danger in the south-east. 

A big series of sea currents seems to converge in the 
Papuan Gulf, and no doubt there have been many un- 
recorded wrecks. It is not difficult to imagine the fate 
of any of the unfortunate crews who happened to have 
been cast away here. The Goaribari natives, long before 
they could have possibly come in possession of iron by 
any other means, had obtained a good deal of this almost 
priceless commodity from wrecks and turned it into adzes 
and axes, a job that must have required no little patience 
and ingenuity. A few years ago I saw at one of the 
Goaribari villages part of the stock and flukes of an anchor 
of a very old pattern. At the same time I fancy these 
natives have been better off for stone weapons and tools 
than the majority of Western tribes, for there is stone 
not a great distance up the Kiko. I have seen quite a 
number of stone adzes round about the delta ; the handle 
being fitted direct into a hole in the haft, not bound with 
cane lashing. 

The population in the delta is very extensive, how 
extensive it is difficult at present to estimate even approxi- 
mately. A large population is found through the maze of 
waterways until the rivers of the delta converge into the 
main Kiko River, where the communities are a little more 
scattered. The principal centre of the population, how- 
ever, is round about the mouth of the Aird, the island of 
Goaribari and the entrances of the main streams leading 
up into the Kiko. Of the Goaribari villages proper the 
village of Kerewa was the original one, throwing out 
colonies for various reasons, notably overcrowding and 
quarrels among themselves. While, therefore, a large num- 
ber of villages belong to one tribe, there are other distinct 
tribes in the vicinity, but all to a very great extent speak 


the same language and have the same customs. The 
whole population is popularly termed " Goaribari," and 
for convenience that term will be retained. 

The Long Houses of Goaribari are among the longest 
in the country, some being larger than the largest recorded 
in the Fly, but none of them are as well built or designed 
and are narrower and lower than the best type of Kiwai 
Darimu. There are three distinct forms of house in the 
Goaribari village. First, the Dubu Daima, or Man House, 
which corresponds to a great extent in its ceremonial 
nature to the Fly River Darimu (the latter is essentially 
and primarily a ceremonial structure, even though the 
Long House is occupied by families) ; secondly, the 
Ohiabai Daima, or Youth House, and finally the Moto, 
or Woman House. The Dubu Daima is at times of very 
great length, but the Woman House is small and does not 
differ much from the ordinary women's houses such as are 
to be seen at Pisarame in the Fly. The Ohiabai Daima 
is of medium size and is somewhat differently arranged 
and decorated to that occupied by the married men. The 
Man House is divided into partitions or cubicles, many 
of them screened off from each other, and the whole 
interior is adorned with many painted and carved boards, 
the significance of which is not clear, although it is highly 
probable they may be some form of totem cognisance. 
The most noticeable objects in the house, however, are 
the carved boards representing the head of a man and part 
of his body, called Agiba, to which are attached by cords 
great numbers of skulls resting on a platform. The Agiba, 
as I have already remarked, corresponds in design almost 
exactly with the Toto-opu of the Bamu and in a less 
degree -with similar boards in the east Fly. This same 
head design appears too on many of the decorated bark 
body belts peculiar to this Goaribari district, and traces 
of it may be occasionally found on decorated arrows. 
There are some restrictions on the use of the Man House 


by the women, but they are decidedly not forbidden, as 
I have frequently seen them inside. 

There seem to be at least two chiefs in each, village and 
the number even rises to four, but it seems probable that 
they are to be regarded more in the nature of headmen 
of clans than actual chiefs. 

The building of such immense structures as these, like 
those of the Fly, is naturally attended by some ceremony 
or use of some charms. In fact, throughout New Guinea 
I do not think any house of importance or size is dedicated 
without some form of charm or ritual. In the north of 
British New Guinea a new house must be charmed to 
keep away devils by roasting a pig alive (in the old days 
probably it would have been a man), and smearing the 
house posts Avith blood and charcoal to the accompaniment 
of incantations. 

At Goaribari, it appears that human blood is demanded. 
I was once visiting the village of Ubua, a village which, 
indeed, has proved one of the most intractable in the delta, 
and although it struck me afterwards, I did not notice at 
the time that the Dubu Daima was almost brand new. 
I had left the whale-boat on the beach with a few men and 
walked to the big house, which was at the other end of the 
village. I walked through it and was quietly chatting 
with some of the old men near the chief's stall, when a 
number of men returned from the bush and a sudden 
commotion arose. It did not require the rattle of breech- 
blocks or shouts from the three or four police with me that 
" they are getting their bows out and the women are 
running to the bush " to tell me something was wrong. 
Looking through one of the small side doors I saw a great 
mass of men between the whale-boat and ourselves all 
terribly excited, yelling and racing about the village. 
The position for a few moments was not of the pleasantest, 
and it took quite a while before the village resumed its 
normal attitude. I was told afterwards that we were, as 
the first convenient strangers, to be the chosen victims 


These traps are made of black cane, and are about five feet high. They are laid 
dowu in the swamps and secure a plentiful supply of small swamp lish. 


to " christen " the new house. We may have been in- 
tended for this purpose or we may have been intended for 
use in the same way for new canoes, which must be painted 
with human blood before being put into commission. A 
somewhat similar custom is known in the Purari, and the 
Fly River tribes require heads to hang on new canoes. 
But however interesting a custom of this description may 
be, one hardly feels any great inclination to be the victim 
of it in practice. 

Many hundreds of skulls are to be seen in the Dubu 
Daima. They are frequently painted and usually fitted 
with artificial noses and eyes. All of these are the heads 
of slain enemies or strangers. I will not write slain in 
battle because one can hardly call slaughtering a casual 
bushman come upon while fishing or hunting " fighting." 
Chivalry is no part of Papuan warfare. Seeing the great 
number of skulls it is difficult to guess who provides them 
all. The Goaribari people fight principally with the villages 
on the Turama and those on the upper Kiko, but I do not 
think that the slaughter is one-sided. The Delta people 
are openly cannibal, and although ritual cannibalism does 
occur for certain specific reasons human flesh is eaten, 
when it can be obtained, to put it frankly, because it is 
highly appreciated. It must not be supposed, however, 
that the inhabitants of Papua are daily engaged in eating 
each other, in which case I suppose the population would 
eventually be reduced to small proportions ; man-eating 
or man-hunting is far too strenuous an occupation. There 
are one or two known cases where a strong tribe has been 
gradually eating up a smaller one. The Ukiaravi people 
in the Purari Delta used literally to regard the Morohai 
as a kind of larder from which supplies of fresh meat could 
be obtained together with a little excitement in the way of 
hunting their victims down. But I do not know that 
there was anything so pronounced as this in the Aird 
Delta. The usual food hereabouts is sago, which, like all 
other food, is roasted. Pots are unknown, although I 


believe one or two of Port Moresby manufacture have 
at odd times been seen, evidently traded from villages 
in the Purari. Where the soil permits there are small 
gardens of sweet potatoes, bananas and yams. A good deal 
of tobacco is bought from villages on the Kiko in exchange 
for crabs. A favourite food in the season is a fruit, both 
red and white, which grows on a small very light green 
tree. The pulp is refreshing enough but rather insipid. 
It is largely used for stringing together to make chaplets 
and wreaths. 

All these natives are expert at building and handling 
canoes, which are cut from the solid log, and obtained 
principally from the upper Kiko, but the manufacture is 
carried on in the villages themselves. When drawn up and 
not in use they are raised on rollers from the ground and 
carefully shaded from the sun. The after part of the canoe 
is open, cut square across and dammed with mud. The 
prow tapers to a blunt point turned downwards towards 
the water and is very little above it. Running along the 
gunwale are designs carved in herring-bone patterns, while 
the inside is painted in concentric circles in red and white. 
The craft vary in size from a tiny cockle-shell, almost a 
board lying flat on the water, to a big twenty- or thirty- 
men canoe, and the natives perform the most amazing 
feats of dexterity in managing these apparently crazy out- 
riggerless canoes. The men paddle in unison, standing up, 
and keep excellent time, but I have never anywhere in 
Papua seen better paddling than during a trip I once made 
on the south coast near Vilirupu in a sixty-foot double 
canoe with twenty-five paddlers on each side. They drove 
the canoe forward with a short nervous stroke, pausing 
at every third dip to beat their paddles as one man against 
the sides of the canoe. 

The Goaribari women would not be uncomely were it 
not for the thick layers of grease and grime, but they 
appear to deteriorate in appearance even more rapidly 
than the average native woman after a few years of married 


life. None of them tattoo, but in almost all cases longi- 
tudinal breast cicatrices are to be seen, which, I think, 
have some connection with suitability for marriage. At 
Mubagoa I saw a large pile of billets of wood decked out 
with sago, coconuts and bananas, which I was told was 
in preparation for some festival at a time when the scari- 
fications were to be cut, probably when the girls were of a 
nubile age. 

It seems that the dead are wrapped in mats and exposed 
on platforms at a little distance from the village. Later 
on the bones are buried and the heads are removed and 
stored away. I saw such a platform once at Kerewa, and 
there is no doubt that the bones of Messrs. Chalmers and 
Tompkins had been buried, for they were recovered from 
a grave. 

The black palm bow is the usual fighting weapon and 
the arrows are well carved and painted. Some are fitted 
with a loose bone tip, fantastically barbed, which is so 
loose that it cannot but remain in the body when an 
attempt is made to withdraw it. Arrows are usually carried 
in bundles tied with string, but here at Goaribari one fre- 
quently sees a dozen or so carried in a large reed tube, the 
nearest approach in New Guinea to the use of a quiver. 
Coming eastwards one sees here for the first time the 
cassowary bone dagger, which is plunged downward into 
an enemy's gullet before beheading him. The Goaribaris 
have an extremely nasty habit of continually fingering 
1 and handling these weapons as if they were simply longing 
to have a chance of using them. 

It was my good fortune to be a member of the first party 
that undertook any systematic attempt to get in touch 
with the district since the punitive expedition of Mr. le 
Hunte after the murder of Mr. Chalmers and his party in 
1900. Dopima, the one village that had been visited, was, 
1 of course, on rather more than speaking terms, but the 
kind of reception to be expected from the rest of the delta 
was doubtful. The excitement at village after village as 


we approached was terrific. Every fighting man in the 
place had turned out fully accoutred, and all in their 
frenzy raced up and down the beach and jumped about 
waving screens of coconut leaves and the large painted 
wooden slabs which are seen in the Dubu Daimas. I have 
often seen a village panoplied for war, but I had never seen 
such numbers of warriors under such interesting circum- 
stances. Old women danced frantically on the beach 
can-cans and pas seuls that would have been ludicrous 
had the position not been so serious and every village 
was at the utmost tension of excitement. Our inter- 
preters flung themselves out on the bows of the launch 
and shouted themselves hoarse in explaining our peaceful 
intentions, and at the first moment of landing we were sur- 
rounded by hundreds of excited savages hardly yet sure 
whether to be friends or enemies until gradually the women 
and children were coaxed back and the crisis was over. 

Somehow it has always been a grey day when I have 
been in the Aird Delta and the dull skies combine with 
the natives to produce a curious effect. Pulling in my 
whale-boat from village to village I have usually been 
accompanied by a great escort of canoes which kept pace 
with the boat by the easiest of paddling. The large dug- 
outs filled with diabolically visaged, armed savages (no man 
ever moves without his bow), their shaved foreheads 
covered with a plaster of red clay, with their flowing 
capes of native cloth, croton or cassowary feather tails, 
breast and pubic shells, gauntlets and leglets, all against 
a background of dull green mangrove, made a sight not 
easily forgotten. 

In their lust for iron, the Goaribaris were among the 
most impudent thieves I have ever met, nor were their 
thievish propensities confined to iron alone. Anything, 
as long as it belongs to someone else, was welcome. Once 
they stole my coxswain's uniform when it was hanging 
out on the ship's rail. Another time when I was seated in 
the whale-boat anchored off a village and preparing to 


have some lunch, they came and stole a mug from practi- 
cally out of the cook's hands. This thieving in the early 
stages of our acquaintance might easily have fired a spark 
which would have set off a whole tribe, for one could not 
allow oneself to be robbed with impunity, and later on, 
whenever I went to Goaribari, I always took the precau- 
tion of having everything movable stowed away below, 
and strictly prohibited any native from coming aboard. 
This, of course, was all very well on a Government ship, 
but traders and others did not fare so well. I can well 
understand the indignation of one recruiter who told me 
how while anchored in his ketch off some village, the natives 
had come by night and cut off his chain plates for the 
sake of the iron. 

Although the natives were still as wild as hawks, soon 
after my first district visit round the Delta, the recruiters 
succeeded in obtaining a fair number of labourers for the 
plantations. They were brought into Daru to be signed 
on and were as wild a lot of savages as coidd well be 
imagined. I did not envy their future employers. Their 
notions of work were of the crudest, and their idea of 
amusement was to run out into the sea up to their waists 
and pelt their overseers -with stones. And yet in the short 
space of a couple of years many now swear by Goaribaris 
as the best labour in the Territory. Undoubtedly they are 
quick, intelligent and imitative just as they are among 
the best physically. 

A couple of years ago Goaribari was about the last 
uncontrolled district on the Papuan coastline, and the 
only way to remedy this was to establish a Station some- 
where in the vicinity, for the delta is too distant from 
Daru to be effectively policed from there. For some time 
a suitable site was despaired of, but eventually one was 
discovered on the Kiko at Attack Bend, where years before 
Sir William MacGregor was attacked by the natives in 
canoes. It is only a few miles distant from Aird Hill, a 
curious formation of liigh ground rising up some 800 feet 


and surrounded on all sides by arms of the Kiko River so 
that it forms an island. Government has a habit of saying 
" Here are twenty police and six months' stores. Go and 
open a Station." And pretty much the usual routine was 
followed in opening the new district. The staff landed 
in the dead of night and made their first camp on the 
Station site in pouring rain and inky darkness. It was 
all virgin forest, and a clearing had to be made and build- 
ings erected. Goaribari district was at the time still in 
the Western Division, and I spent the fii-st month or so on 
the new Station. Every foot of timber for the buildings 
was cut from the forest and adzed out by hand, and in the 
meantime, of course, we lived under canvas. Even under 
the most favourable circumstances the work would have 
been hard, but to add to the difficulties dysentery broke 
out and caused a lot of worry. I can well remember with 
what anxiety we used to line up all the men each morning 
and examine their tongues and ask how they felt for fear 
of any fresh cases. All the cases were isolated away from 
the main camp ; one policeman who had a very severe 
bout and it was a toss-up whether he recovered or not, 
complained bitterly of the devils which used to come and 
worry him. The poor chap was terribly weak and I did 
not know how to pacify him until it struck me to tell him 
I would put up a " tabu " to keep them away. He was 
quite satisfied with this, and after a few sticks and leaves 
had been tied up in the approved manner, he was not 
troubled any more, and, I am glad to say, eventually 
pulled round. 

Curiously enough throughout the Aird Delta and quite 
contrary to what might be expected, there are hardly any 
mosquitoes, at least as far as my experience goes, but at 
first the Station was plagued with swarms of flies by day. 
They gradually diminished, but their place was taken by 
hordes of crickets, who devoured clothes and papers with 


Exploration of the interior — The Kiko River — Scrub heus' nests — Kaiai 
village —People who wear dried hands — Ascent of Mt. Murray — 
Robberies by natives — Gambrigi mountaineers — Houses — Costume — 
System of drains and fish weirs — Weapons and fire-making- -Tabu-ed 
roads — The Mobi River — The descent of the Mobi — Trying to get 
through the rapids — Getting the canoes through — The place of skulls 
— A new bird of paradise — Description of the hinterland— Resem- 
blance between the natives of the interior and those of the upper 
Waria River. 

KNOWLEDGE of Western Papua has for the most 
part been confined to the coastHne, the large rivers 
and their immediate neighbourhood, and with the excep- 
tion of short journeys made by myself and others across 
country between the Fly and the sea and between the Fly 
and the Bamu rivers, until the last three years, the whole 
hinterland has been practically unknown. Of the vast 
area lying to the eastward of the Fly and Strickland 
rivers nothing whatever was known, but there were vague 
suppositions that the interior was all flat like the coast, 
and I do not think that anyone dreamed of the huge 
mountain ranges since discovered. One range only was 
shown on the charts, first noted, I think, by the Rev. 
Chalmers, who called it the Sir Arthur Gordon Range ; 

I but as a matter of fact I feel sure that this range does not 
exist as a range, but simply as a series of them, which of 

1 course would appear as one when faintly seen from the 
sea at a great distance. About five years ago a party, 
under Mr. Donald MacKay, travelled from the head of 
navigation on the Purari River some distance westerly, 
passing over rough limestone country full of huge caves. 
Natives were numerous and in the main hostile. In 1911, 
a party under Mr. W. Little, who had been a member 



of the MacKay expedition, travelled from a point on the 
Sirebi, a tributary of the Kiko, towards the Purari for the 
purpose of investigating some coal deposits discovered 
by the earher party, and in the following year the same 
route was followed by a Government party under Mr. 
Massy Baker to test these deposits and to map the country. 
Such is the exploration of the hinterland between the 
Kiko and the Purari. 

In the other direction, that is, towards the west, there 
has been the well-known expedition of the Hon. Staniforth 
Smith, at the time administering the Government, and 
a party of which I was a member followed his route. The 
last work in this direction has been an expedition from the 
Kiko across country, descending the Aworra tributary of 
the Bamu. 

It is not my intention to describe the Kikori expeditions, 
which are well known, except in so far as they touch upon 
a general description of the country and the natives. The 
adventures of Mr. Smith's party and the events leading up 
to the despatch of mine have been described so fully that 
it is unnecessary to repeat them. 

Above the site of the present Kikori Station, the Kiko 
River is a fine broad stream with high forested banks. 
After some miles it throws off two large branches, the 
eastern one being the Sirebi and the western the one 
followed on the Kikori expeditions. Both of these streams 
were first explored many years ago by Mr. Theodore Bevan. 
Some distance up this tributary the current runs very 
swiftly and in three places narrows into rapids. These are 
not bad in themselves, but when you have only a rather 
tmy launch which is towing four whale-boats one after 
the other loaded down with stores and over a hundred 
police and carriers so that there is just about two inches 
of freeboard, you begin to wonder whether anything will 
break at a critical moment and what will happen if it does. 

Mr. Smith had made his start from a point about seventy 



miles up the river and I made our base camp at the same 
place. Apparently there are natives living not far off, as 
after our start inland we met a considerable number of 
" bushmen," sturdy, light-skinned and hairy men, and 
very similar in appearance to those of the upper Vailala. 
Near the camp I found a large mound of the scrub turkey, 
which was surrounded by a low fence. It seems that it is 
the custom to build these fences in order that the chicks 
can be caught when the eggs are hatched out. I have dis- 
covered that this is a common method, but this was the 
first time I had seen it and I was at first somewhat puzzled. 
Round the base of many trees of a species of fig were also 
small fences which I was told were used to imprison 
piglets or cassowary chicks. 

From various points on the up-river journey we had 
caught glimpses of great mountain ranges. One with many 
serrated peaks lay well to the north-east, another right 
ahead proved to be the one which we had later to cross. 
As we travelled inland we met a good many natives of the 
same type as those first encountered. They came freely 
to our camp accompanied by their pigs, which followed 
them about like dogs : some which had been blinded were 
led on leashes. There is little doubt that the natives of 
Goaribari or the lower Kiko raid these inlanders, for while 
we were in the bush at least one large war party went up- 
stream, driving their canoes through the heavy rapids just 
opposite the camp with the greatest ease. 

The country between the Kiko and the big range ahead 
(Mt. Murray) rose gradually, culminating in ranges of coral 
limestone formation, and became rougher and rougher. 
So far we had only passed through one village which 
appeared to be called Kaiai. It consisted of one Long 
House of no very great size with a four-feet passage running 
down its length, and divided on each side into compart- 
ments with an entrance from the passage into each. Each 
man wore a cloak of " tappa " cloth and a small apron of 



the same material. The women were decked with a great 
deal of native jewellery and spent most of their time 
sitting on a log high above our camp apparently jeering 
at us. Most of the men carried stone clubs of the disc 
pattern, but very poor and puny and almost contemptible 
as weapons, but in striking contrast their stone axes were 
of the finest workmanship that I think I have seen. The 
stone was a milky opaque colour and looked suspiciously 
like jade. The cutting edge and bevel were as even as if 
they had been measured out with a pair of callipers. But 
what immediately struck the eye was the habit of wearing 
round the neck a dried human hand with the flesh and nails 
adhering and complete. To the touch the hand was quite 
pliable and it had evidently been smoke-dried in much 
the same manner as the Tugeri prepare heads. From the 
various signs made both here and elsewhere it appeared 
fairly obvious that these hands were those of enemies. 
At the same time I noticed many men wearing necklaces 
of human bones and jaws, which I gathered were those of 
relatives. This latter custom is quite common in the West. 
All through the hinterland from the signs made I gathered 
the impression that hands are collected instead of heads 
in battle. When making signs of hostility instead of follow- 
ing the orthodox practice of drawing a hand across the 
throat, the men here invariably did the same to the wrist. 
From this village the track led up the bed of a creek 
which was at first small, then widened and finally vanished 
altogether. Further on it reappeared and attained some 
size. Leaving the creek we ascended Mt. Murray by a 
series of broad spurs, but without being able to catch a 
glimpse of what was ahead. As we ascended it became 
bitterly cold when we were over 8000 feet and the cold 
was increased by driving rain and bleak winds. The ground 
was carpeted inches deep in moss and all the trees and 
fallen timber were sodden with damp, so that some nights 
it took hours to make a fire. On the top of the mountain 

Thb Kikofi River 


and during its descent we caught occasional glimpses of 
a great valley running from west to east and as far as we 
could see through the dense fog it was cultivated and 
inhabited far away to the eastward. This valley seems to 
have been the one, the eastern end of which Messrs. 
MacKay and Little had reached in 1909. The track, or 
what passed for one, took us down into the valley and from 
the slopes of the mountain a magnificent view was ob- 
tained. Right ahead a low range covered with cultivated 
ground and topped with villages closed the northern side. 
Beyond it rose tier upon tier of great ranges, each ap- 
parently broken by valleys which were probably thickly 
populated. To the northward towered a great mountain 
perhaps forty miles away and to the left of that another. 
The valley itself, which was apparently called Sambrigi, 
is five or six thousand feet above the sea. Some surprise 
has been expressed at natives living at such high altitudes ; 
but natives are known to live much higher on the spurs on 
Mt. Scratcliley and Mt. Albert Edward along the German 

These Sambrigi natives proved audacious and impudent 
thieves. To them, of course, steel knives and tomahawks 
proved an irresistible bait, and during the descent of Mt. 
Murray our long line of carriers, slipping desperately down 
the precipitous apology of a track, was simply ambushed 
and robbed time after time. One can hardly expect a man 
staggering under a heavy load and with both hands 
occupied in trying to keep himself on his feet to be able 
to defend himself with any success against natives who 
were quite content to hurl themselves headlong down the 
steep inclines once their robbery was accomplished. And 
the track was so narrow and so overgrown that the police 
were unable to defend the carriers ; indeed, one never 
knew there was a native about until he sprang from the 
bush and flung himself on some carrier. At first I had 
hoped to make friends with these people and gave one 


man a laiife, a present which nearly proved his undoing 
for his friends flung themselves upon him and half killed 
him in trying to wrest it away. 

They were of the regular mountain type. Sturdy 
limbed and bearded, they were rather small in stature. 
In many cases they were dark browTi in colour with an 
arched nose, but, on the other hand, there were almost 
as many light-skinned people as dark, a not unusual com- 
bination in the mountain districts. At least I have often 
seen it. As far as one could judge from very slight evidence 
I should say they were Papuans in the strict sense of the 
term and that the language was also Papuan. 

The villages were numerous, and we passed through five 
or six that contained from seventeen to twenty small 
houses, while on the northern wall I counted one with 
over twenty. There did not seem to be any regularity 
about the type of housing. In the hinterland we found 
at some places a single Long House, at others a Long 
House with small houses surrounding it, at others again 
small houses only. They were built on numerous piles 
with a low pitched roof of sago thatch, sevm in the usual 
way. The interiors were, however, very different to the 
Fly and coast houses, being divided by high partitions 
sometimes running lengthways, sometimes running across, 
with raised sleeping platforms. In every case, however, 
there appeared to be a more or less distinct separation 
of sexes. Some of the houses reminded me very much of 
those I had seen years ago in German New Guinea on the 
head waters of the Waria, and resemble very much those 
described by Mr. Monckton still further in the interior in 
the same district. With certain natural differences they 
were not unlike the houses described on the head waters of 
the Fly. 

The women's costume consisted of a tappa cloth petti- 
coat, similar to that worn on the north-east coast, except 
that it was not decorated, and a cloak of the same material. 


and both sexes apparently use a tappa blanket at night. 
There was nothing special about the cloth, which was made 
both with the wooden and the stone beater. All of us 
remarked on the amount of jewellery worn by the women, 
and in fact everywhere we went shell ornaments were 
very numerous, considering the distance from the sea. 
The men wore the usual tappa apron in front and a bark or 
plaited belt into which were stuck grasses and coloured 
leaves. The hair was cut back from the forehead and hung 
in tags behind. 

The principal, almost the only, cultivation in the valley 
was that of the sweet potato. Practically every available 
acre was under this crop, although near the villages there 
were a few gardens of banan^, sugar cane and tobacco. 
They had no pottery and all jfood was roasted. There was 
one particularly noticeable point about their garden work 
and that was the excellejit and extensive drainage system 
which was carried out with due regard to levels, the whole 
of the water emptying into thte Sambrigi Creek which 
flowed down the centre of the valley. The only other 
place where I have seen such intelligent drainage carried out 
is among the banana-growing tribes of the Fly, but here the 
system is altogether on different lines. Another noticeable 
feature was an equally fine system of stone weirs and 
channels made in the Sambrigi Creek for fishing purposes. 
The bow was the principal weapon and the arrows were 
bone and claw-tipped ; in one instance I saw a stone 
point. Flint-pointed arrows have been found in the 
Kukukuku country further to the east, but so far had not 
been known west of the Vailala. The stone clubs, as 
pointed out previously, were poor, but the stone axes 
were wonderfully good. In addition to these weapons a 
light lance tipped with bone or cassowary claw was used, 
but apparently not for throwing purposes. The bowmen 
carried a wooden shield fitting under the left arm, almost 
identical in pattern with those I saw on the Waria. The 


wearer was left free to use both arms for liis bow and 
arrows, while his body was protected by the hanging shield. 
One young ruffian, fully armed in this manner, hung round 
our camp one evening, lurking behind a garden fence with 
the only too obvious intention of trying to pick one of us 
off. He made no secret of his intention and every now and 
again would draw his arrow to the ear, but for some reason 
did not fire. 

They made fire here in much the same manner as the 
coastal people, that is, by running a strip of cane quickly 
beneath a piece of soft dry wood, using as tinder a piece 
of " tappa." The Fly people, of course, do not use tappa, 
and this constituted about the only difference in method 
that I could see. 

As we travelled through the valley, large bodies of 
natives dogged us all the while, and as the tracks sometimes 
led us near or through villages, we found the roads fre- 
quezitly blocked by placing a small screen of boughs or 
row of sticks across them. We were continually annoyed 
by the following parties, who sometimes fired arrows and 
sometimes rolled stones down on us, so I thought I would 
try and see whether it would have any effect if we blocked 
the road " New Guinea fashion." A native as a rule 
respects a " tabu " road, for fear of some misfortune that 
might overtake him, just as he will respect a tabu coconut 
tree. However, our " tabu " was respected, that is, in a 
way, for the natives, while they did not break it down, 
simply made a detour round it. At one village we found 
a considerable number of men standing behind a screen of 
boughs headed by an old man. He harangued us for 
several minutes, and then picking up two stones he placed 
them on his head and dashed them violently to the ground. 
Of course we had no possible means of speaking with these 
people, and I would have given almost any sum to have 
been able to understand what the old man was sayijig, 
whether he was cursing us root and branch or whether he 


was trying to give us some news of the party we were 
in search of. 

As we travelled west, there did not appear to be much 
change in the native type. Although I later on discovered 
that they were on friendly terms with each other, we found 
the next people we met called Paruwari receiving us very 
differently to the way the Sambrigi had done. As some 
of the police put it, " These people smell good : they have 
good skins, not like those others." One kindly savage 
in an excess of friendship insisted on thrusting a couple 
of clammy frogs into my hands with a sign that they were 
very good eating. After many days' travel to the west- 
ward across very rough limestone country we came down 
into another valley through which ran a fine stream called 
Mobi by the natives. On its western bank was quite a 
large and well-built village of one Long House and eleven 
small dwellings. This village possessed a good many 
canoes, all without the outrigger and similar to the canoes 
of the Turama or Kiko except that the ends were not 
dammed with mud. Many were painted inside with. Tur- 
ama designs. The natives possessed many pearlshell 
crescents and other marine products, so there must evi- 
dently be a good deal of communication or a trade route 
with the coast. Even so far inland as Sambrigi we saw 
occasional bits of brass and iron so that there is no possible 
doubt as to trade with the tribes lower down. The Mobi 
people knew the names of the Turama and Kiko quite well, 
but not that of the Bamu, which after all is not surprising 
as the river is only known by this name for a comparatively 
short distance. There were large sago fields along the Mobi, 
and sago appeared to be the staple food of the district, 
roasted either in canes or in leaves of the palm itself. We 
only saw one more village, many days to the north-west, 
and that consisted of a single house perched on the top 
of a steep limestone crag and approached by a ladder, a 
site most admirably selected for defensive purposes. 


On the return journey an attempt was made to descend 
the Mobi, which we took to be a tributary of the Turama 
in spite of the fact that the natives in the hght of after 
knowledge unmistakably tried to tell us it flowed into the 
Kiko. It seemed to be a placid river, but high mountains 
shut in the valley and I was suspicious that the placidity 
would not last long. The natives were mad for knives — 
they of course had nothing but stone tools — and sold us 
a number of canoes for a knife apiece and the paddles we 
manufactured ourselves. At this time the food supply was 
pretty low, and we were making sago to preserve what rice 
was left for emergencies. Among our carriers was a Kiwai 
boy who simply declined to eat sago, the food of his tribe. 
I thought at first this was just humbug, and told him if 
he would not eat sago, he could go without. It was only 
when I discovered that he went for two days without any 
food at all that I could see he was genuine, and he told 
me he had never eaten sago before and that if he did he 
would die. What the reason for this prohibition was I 
could not discover. 

During the voyage down the Mobi we passed several 
villages. At one an old man came off in a canoe and 
showed by unmistakable signs that we were going to 
come to grief in some rapids ahead, an opinion which I 
shared as I noticed the mountains closing in, but the natives 
further up had also by signs givein us to understand that 
the river was navigable. These people, by the way, had 
a very good idea of the geography of the country, and 
although of course Ave could not understand one word of 
their language the meaning was quite unmistakable. 
Taking a palm branch in his hand a man pointed to the 
main stem and said Kiko : the various offshoots he 
pointed to in turn, giving each its name and tracing its 
course into the stem. At the time we did not either quite 
grasp or believe him, but after events proved the absolute 
accuracy of his description. Near an old village site we 


passed two coconut trees, one fruiting, the other barren, 
a sight which cheered up our travel-worn carriers con- 
siderably. It was like a whiff of the sea. Some gamada 
plants were seen but the natives did not know the use of 
this plant. They grow good tobacco. 

The old fellow who had endeavoured to warn us of the 
dangers ahead proved quite correct. The river, which had 
hitherto had but slight current and flowed between forest- 
clad banks and on which there was duck and other game, 
suddenly increased its swiftness and a great gorge loomed 
up. It would, of course, have been sheer folly to have 
attempted the passage in our canoe fleet, not knowing 
what was ahead. We landed and soon found a series of 
dangerous rapids. All the baggage was portaged round, 
not without some loss, however, of the precious store of rice, 
and the eight double canoes were man-handled down the 
rapids into calm water with only a little damage. The 
Mobi natives anticipated disaster, for they gathered in 
some force near the spot, I suppose with the intention of 
looting the remains. Below, the river again ran smoothly 
for a few miles, but narrowed into a low gorge with a 
good three hundred yards of foaming rapids. The experi- 
ment of getting the canoes through by hand failed and the 
only thing to be done was to try and run them, using the 
most skilled canoe men among the carriers and police, 
the baggage of course being portaged round. At the end 
of the gorge the river bellied out in a small bay, round 
which a strong current ran forming many whirlpools. 
There was quite a lot of debris thrown up along the shores 
of this bay, broken canoes and the like. Our first double 
canoe shot through like an arrow, the second followed 
safely, but just at the end struck some stone and pitched 
the steersman, who was standing up, right into the river, 
where he was caught and spun round by a whirlpool. The 
poor chap was within an ace of being drowned when the 
third canoe came down and by shouting we managed to 


attract their attention, and by skilful management its 
crew shot it round the pool and dragged the drowning 
man on board. I was beginning to think we were going 
to get all through safely, when I saw the last large canoe 
smash on a rock, turn over and five heads go racing down- 
stream. The crew clung for dear life to the fragments 
of the canoe, an eddy took them into the bank, and all 
got ashore safely after their dangerous experience. It 
seems when the canoe struck, one half was completely 
smashed, but the crew had sufficient presence of mind to 
cling to what was left, and although it was rolled over and 
over in the turmoil, they still hung on, a course which 
probably saved their lives. However, with one large 
double canoe gone and another badly cracked the re- 
mainder of the fleet was badly overcrowded with our 
party of sixty, and to make matters worse the Mobi flowed 
through a huge limestone gorge whose walls towered up 
perpendicularly for many hundreds of feet and then flung 
itself over a waterfall round or through which it was 
impossible to go. The only thing left was to go back, 
cutting a track through the bush and abandoning the 
canoes altogether. 

Climbing through one of the gorges we came upon a 
regular " place of skulls." Stacked away in shelves in the 
limestone rock were literally hundreds of skulls and bones, 
many evidently of great age, others quite new. This place 
must be a cemetery of the Mobi people. Whether these 
people, and indeed the whole of the inland tribes, are 
cannibals or not it is difficult to say. The coastal and 
middle Kjko are, and there is no reason why the " bush- 
men " should not be also. Along the Mobi I saw small 
houses near the villages resembling dovecotes, in which 
were placed a skull or two. Just before we descended into 
the Mobi valley on the outward journey, we passed a great 
boulder under the lee of which were two skulls surrounded 
by a bark belt. It is probable that the people first bury 


their dead and then exhume the skeletons for preservation. 
Were the corpses exposed on platforms, as is customary 
among many mountain tribes, I think we must necessarily 
have seen some signs of such a practice. On the upper 
Waria corpses are exposed on a grating placed at the top 
of a funnel-shaped structure, and in due course the bones 
fall down and can be collected. Round each of these 
structures was built a low fence, and inside the fence were 
planted in each instance that I saw, a croton, a tobacco 
plant, and a species of bean. Whether these particular 
plants had any significance I am unable to say. In the 
same district I also found skulls and bones hung out on 
trees, in much the same manner as the skulls v/ere stacked 
away in the Mobi gorge. 

While we were halted at a creek on the return some bush- 
men came along to us with a little food, which we paid for 
in wax matches. These were a source of continual amaze- 
ment and caused them to click their thumb-nails against 
their teeth in the utmost astonishment. From these people 
one of my companions for a trifle bought two feathers 
which had delicate blue shell-like tips running along their 
whole length. They were quite unknown to us, but they 
were afterwards identified as the head feathers of the Duke 
of Saxony's bird of paradise, a species hitherto unknown 
in Papua. 

I have seldom come across anything in the nature of 
a belief in omens among the Western Papuans, but I 
noticed something very like it on this return journey. 
A party was to come to meet us from the base camp with 
fresh supplies, and I had arranged a date and a meeting- 
place. We were very many days overdue and there was 
a little anxiety as to our non-arrival. Near where this 
party was camped was a tree on which as it happened a 
couple of small birds came and roosted for seven or eight 
days. The police sergeant had quickly noticed them, and 
one day when they failed to appear, he at once passed the 


word round that we would return that day. As it hap- 
pened we did arrive that afternoon, and he told me next 
day that he was quite certain about it because of the 

The far interior of Western Papua between the Kiko and 
the Purari is now known to be an upraised plateau, con- 
sisting of coral limestone ranges with a general north-west 
and south-east trend and broken into alternate valleys 
and ranges. On the western side these limestone ranges run 
towards the head of the Strickland ; but between the head 
of the Kiko and tliat river due west it seems probable that 
there is some extent of flat country. On the eastern side 
the limestone belt is known to extend across the Purari 
to the head of the Tauri River. Geologically speaking, I 
believe, it is quite recent. It is all horribly rough country 
and bad travelling, and the whole plateau is covered with 
masses of coral and limestone boulders. The most be- 
wildering thing about the whole district is the huge under- 
ground river system, the country being of course quite 
porous. Frequently we saw creek water disappearing into 
the ground before our eyes. The Sambrigi creek, down 
which we had great difficulty in travelling, suddenly 
vanished, leaving a dry bed, only to reappear a mile or 
so further on. Then again it vanished into the heart of 
a mountain and was seen again a day or so later pouring 
out in great volume on the other side. The surface gener- 
ally of the country held no water, and at times we ex- 
perienced great difficulty in obtaining sufficient for camp 
and cooking purposes. It is not often that one has this 
trouble in New Guinea. One night we descended into a 
small valley absolutely choked with masses of limestone 
rock so that it Avas hardly possible to find a place to pitch 
camp. No water could be discovered, and as darkness 
came on I thought that we were going to have a hungry 
night. A couple of men were still out searching with the 
help of tiny pieces of candle and they discovered a trickle 


that gave just enough water to cook a meal. The rough 
country and other reasons made it extremely difficult to 
follow Mr. Smith's tracks. On one occasion we lost them 
altogether for two days, and then by an extraordinarily 
lucky chance we blundered on to a potato garden, in which 
was found a label from a patent medicine. As the local 
natives could not possibly have gone in for concentrated 
drugs, we knew we were on the right track. 

Taking them all round, I was greatly struck by many 
points of resemblance between these people of the interior 
and those of the Upper Waria. Both use the bow and, 
what is more important, the same type of wooden shield. 
Both live at high elevations and eat sago. Both show 
signs of the Jewish arched nose and have many simi- 
larities of physical appearance. Mr. C. A. W. Monckton, who 
followed me on the Upper Waria and penetrated much 
further to the west and north-west, drew attention to 
this Jewish type in that district, and as he penetrated 
further west suggested at one point an appearance of 
fusion of races between the lighter-skinned mountaineers 
and the darker people of Jewish type. Of course this is 
all the merest theory, but it may possibly be found that 
the mountaineers of the western hinterland connect with 
the tribes of the Upper Purari and Vailala and through 
them \nth the Waria. The actual geographical distance 
is not great and the theory may not be so very fantastic 
when it is remembered that there is now, I think, held to 
be a possible connection between the Ravis (Man Houses) 
of the Papuan Gulf and the warrior-faced houses of the 
Sepik or Kaiserin Augusta River. 


Ownership of land generally — Tribal boundaries— Individual property in 
land —Held by right of occupation and cultivation— Common land- 
Trees and crops on private lauds— Descent of property— ^Vomen's 
riglits — Hunting and fishing rights — Private agricultural magic — 
House sites — Purely personal property. 

TT seems to me to be more convenient to set out the 
J- various questions of the holding and transmission of 
real and personal property among the Western Papuans 
in one separate chapter instead of treating them district 
by district. The general trend of custom is so similar 
that it is sufficient to state only the broad rule, noting only 
particular cases where a deviation from it occurs. A set 
of questions on Papuan land tenure was laid down many 
years ago, and the results relating to two or three western 
tribes have been published in various Government Annual 
Reports. Having been interested in the subject I have 
during the past few years continued gathering information 
on the subject until my collection embraces examples 
from as far west as the Morehead River, as far up the 
Fly as Pisarame, as far east as t}ie Bamu, and from the 
Girara district, while a recent addition from the Aird Delta 
has been made by Mr. H. Ryan of the Papuan Service, so 
that the total data on the system as it exists, at any rate 
in the West, is fairly complete. 

The question of native land holding is important both 
from the native point of view and from that of the Govern- 
ment and through the Government of the public generally. 
The Proclamation of Commodore Erskine, which is taken 
as a recognition of native rights in the soil and a con- 
firmation of them, was of course communicated at the 



time to but a very small proportion of the inhabitants of 
the country, but that has made no difference in the 
accepted policy of the administration. But the recog- 
nition of native rights to the soil does not necessarily 
postulate that the whole of New Guin ea is actually claimed 
by native owners. Such is far from being the case. There 
are many large areas which are either unclaimed by any 
tribe at all or whose original owners have died or been 
killed out, and such tracts may after due enquiry be 
declared the property of the Crown. Among such for 
example is Bristow Island, near Daru, whose shores are 
fished by at least three tribes in the neighbourhood, but 
which is not claimed by any of them, and there are many 
large areas on the Morehead and between that river and 
the Mai Kussa whose owners have been exterminated by 
the Tugeri pirates. Apart from lands which are waste 
and vacant, all other land which is required by the Crown 
in Papua is acquired by purchase by the officers of the 
Government and the acquisition of land by any member 
of the public direct from the native owners is not per- 
mitted. The settler deals solely with the Crown. 

Broadly speaking, every tribe in Papua has well-defined 
tribal lands with definite boundaries such as certain trees, 
or natural features such as rivers or small creeks. I have 
known conspicuous rocks to form a boundary point and a 
clump of bamboo or coconuts may be planted to define 
tribal limits. I know of no definite instances where stones 
have been deliberately set up for this purpose ; but on the 
elevated grass plains on tiie Waria River I saw small 
cairns which were obviously tribal boundaries and which 
looked suspiciously as if they had been carried there, 
although they may have been natural. On the mainland 
between the lower parts of the Fly and the sea there are 
small packs of people who roam over many miles of country 
and by no stretch of imagination can they be said to have 
tribal lands or perhaps even lands at all. The district is 


very sparsely populated and the season's gardens are made 
at whatever spot happens to be fertile or convenient. 

It is, however, the tenure of land within the tribe that 
is important. Almost every tribe, whetlier correetly or 
no, of course makes it a point of lionour to claim to be 
the aboriginal owners of its present holdings. Should you 
be trusting and unsuspicious you will probably be told 
that " our fathers lived here and their fathers before 
them," but as a matter of fact there are several well- 
known instances of either invasion or occupation of 
vacant sites. The Turituri and the amalgamated villages 
of Mawatta and Kadawa emigrated westward to their 
present sites. Sumai after its split from lasa on Kiwai 
Island is said to have absorbed or killed out the Wimaridai, 
the original owners of the lands now occupied. I have 
several times come across distinct attempts at " jumping " 
lands to which there was really no shadow of a claim. 

The whole tribe holds its unoccupied land in common 
subject to the condition that anyone may take up a patch 
for cultivation. Among the small Aripra bush tribe, on 
the other hand, there appears to be no common land left, 
even hunting grounds being held privately and descending 
under the ordinary customs of the tribe in the male line. 
Among the Wabada people and among the villages of 
the eastern bank of the Fly and lower Bamu estuary, all 
country available for hunting, even gardens, when so 
used, are regarded as common to all, but game caught in 
a garden is shared between the hunter and the o^^'ner. 

Land can be held everywhere as private property, but 
the underlying basis of all tenure is that of occupation 
and cultivation. Indeed for a people among whom com- 
munal ideas even still are in many respects strongly in 
evidence it is perhaps a trifle surprising to find such 
definite expressions of private rights as are found in 
matters of property. Any unoccupied tribal land can be 
selected and held individuallj'^ by virtue of occupation and 


cultivation. I have, however, frequently been puzzled 
when buying land on behalf of the Crown from native 
o%vners to find very large areas o%vned by a single person 
and much too large to conform to this rule ; but I have 
come to the conclusion that in such cases an owner, when 
there is no special reason such as his tenure by virtue of 
being a chief, holds possession by inheritance from various 
members of the family, and the tenure is supported by 
the fact that it has been at one time cultivated. At the 
present time a very large portion of Strachan Island is 
owned by one man only. He permits several of the Buji 
people, with whom he lives, to make their gardens on it, 
but they would make no claim if it came to the question 
of a sale. At Mawatta and Turituri the land is held 
solely by the descendants of the two original chiefs. In 
the former case the land was given to the chief by the 
Masingara people. The villagers may plant and cultivate 
where they please, but the final ownership remains as 
stated. This rule in recent years is being resented by some 
of the more advanced tribesmen, and in one specific case 
where a small quarter acre block was required by the 
Crown, the so-called owner strongly urged that he had a 
perfect right to dispose of it without reference to the chief, 
Gamea. Gamea, on the other hand, just as strongly 
combated this view. He had no objection to the sale, but 
maintained that it was his right to be consulted. When 
I purchased the Mabudauan lands, mentioned in a previous 
chapter, the only persons paid were Gamea and his brother, 
and no one raised any objection or made any demand for 
a share in the payment. Among the semi-nomadic 
Bamu tribes who do not cultivate but depend principally 
upon supplies of wild sago, each man has his sago patch, 
but I am not clear how he originally acquired it. In the 
main, however, he holds his sago by right of making it. 
Planted sago palms are, of course, easily accounted for. 
I do not think that planting is ever carried on com- 


munally in the West. For the sake of convenience a 
number of people may decide to plant together in one spot, 
but each man's garden is worked and tended quite dis- 

Among the big banana-growing tribes of the Fly there 
appears to be some tribal arrangement whereby all the 
people or a number of clans plant in one spot or in a num- 
ber of spots. This arrangement is dictated by the con- 
venience, and in fact the necessity, of a common irriga- 
tion and drainage system, which is very extensive. This 
work is carried on communally. When forest land has 
to be cleared it will often be found that a number join 
together to do tliis work and then all plant in the area 
thus cleared. Individuality in regard to the gardens is, 
however, always maintained, and it is obvious that one 
man may be more industrious in his planting than another 
and devote more attention to his garden. Sago-making 
is carried on individually, although a number of women 
may decide to work together in the same place for the sake 
of the company. Fencing is usually carried out by parties 
who have a number of garden plots together, and repairs 
to fences are equally communal. The individual garden 
plots are always clearly defined by certain marks. 

While I wish strongly to emphasise the absolute right 
of private property in land and its underlying basis of 
occupation and cultivation I do. not msh to convey 
the impression that, wherever you see a garden, it 
belongs to one particular person, land and crop, or that 
each person whose individual plot forms a part of the 
whole garden is the actual owner of it. The whole area 
may be the property of one man and the ground may be 
planted by the others with his permission. They have, 
however, only a right in the crop, not the land. On the 
other hand, of course, both land and garden may belong 
to the same person, but the point is that it need not 
necessarily be so. A man often allows a friend or a num- 


ber of his fellow-tribesmen to plant on his land, and it is 
a very common form of mutual obligation. I do not know 
of any instances personally where anything in the nature 
of a rent is paid, but Mr. Ryan states that at Goaribari 
a certain portion of the produce may be paid to the actual 
owner of the ground. I believe that land as land has very 
little actual value in the eyes of the Papuan. It is only 
regarded as valuable as a source of potential crops ; thus 
in planting, the crop is or may be the property of the 
planter, while the land remains the property of the owner, 
who, as I have pointed out, need not of necessity be the 
same person. And this brings us to what is the most 
striking feature of Papuan property custom which 
differs most widely from our own. We can grasp the idea 
that a temporary crop may be planted on another man's 
land. But with us, if a man plant fruit trees, which are 
permanent, on another man's land, he has no claim to 
them. In Papua, on the other hand, a man may perhaps 
at times wrongfully plant coconut trees on someone else's 
ground, but that does not mean that he thereby parts 
with his rights in them. The trees are his, but the land 
is not, and by virtue of owning the trees he has, I suppose, 
a right of way to them. In fact the coconuts are held 
in higher value than the land itself. Generally, like 
ordinary garden crops, permission is given for the plant- 
mg, but the custom is often in after years a fruitful source 
of discord. A few years ago there was a long standing 
dispute between the coastal villages of Parama and 
Katatai, where the land in question belonged to one 
village and the coconuts to the other. The dispute 
centred round the possession of a young girl, the offspring 
of a mixed marriage between Katatai and Parama people, 
and was not a little complicated. The matter was finally 
settled by the outright purchase of the trees in hard cash. 
At Turituri the tribe gave land to the Kunini people, 
upon which were many coconuts, but it retained its 


rights in them, although I am given to understand that 
the Kunini may use the fruit. The latter, however, have 
a couple of immense coconut groves of their own in the 
bush and are in no actual need of the nuts. Among the 
Kiwais, where sago is planted and cultivated, all sago and 
coconut palms are privately owned, quite apart from the 
ownership of the land, and the same rule applies to all 
fruit-bearing trees and to palm used for building. I have 
had several times to settle the ownership of sago palms, a 
matter which is invariably complicated by intermarriages 
and by the fact that the original planter is dead. At 
Masingara the right of using fruit and sago trees descends 
strictly in the various families and each holder has his 
own private mark, quite distinct from the ordinary 
" sabe " or tabu. Among the Girara the thick groves of 
fruit trees and betel palms round the Long Houses are all 
individually owned, although I suppose anyone but a 
Papuan would have some difficulty in being able to point 
out who owns each tree. 

The balance of custom inclines to the rule that real 
property descends in the direct male line in equal shares, 
although this sharing out I have generally found to be a 
matter of arrangement between the heirs. Among some 
tribes all the children irrespective of sex take a share. 
Failing children, a man's brothers inherit his property, 
but curiously enough the widow seems to be excluded from 
any participation in the estate. It is the duty of her 
children to support her or her relatives. On the other 
hand, among the Masingara where the property would 
descend in the collateral line, the heir allots the widow 
a portion of land until her remarriage. At Turituri and 
Mawatta it must be remembered that all inheritance of 
land is subject to the rights of the chiefs, but it must 
equally be remembered that sago, coconut and other 
economic trees are divided according to ordinary rules, 
as they do not of a necessity accompany the ground 


rights. In all cases they should be regarded as personal 
not real property. 

Among the Kiwais an unmarried woman may take up 
and hold a patch of garden land by right of cultivation 
and on her marriage she retains her rights in it. At 
Masingara she may hold land either by inheritance or 
cultivation, but if she marries it goes to her father or 
brother, and similarly, if she marries out of the tribe, 
it reverts to the family, for the husband does not acquire 
any rights by marriage, and the children are in a similar 
position, belonging to the father's tribe. In the Bamu 
estuary a single woman may acquire land in the usual 
manner, but it becomes her husband's property on mar 
riage. In the Upper Bamu, where there is no cultivation, 
obviously this rule lapses and indeed I am very doubtful 
whether it descends in the female line at all. On the 
Morehead a woman may hold land by inheritance and by 
cultivation, but the latter is very infrequent. Among 
the Girara I have not found any female rights at all. In 
the cases of Mawatta and Turituri, if the present chiefs die 
without male issue or heirs, I suppose their rights would 
descend in the female line. All round it will be seen, 
therefore, that with a few exceptions the Papuans are a 
trifle behind the times in regard to Married Women's 

A stranger settling in the tribe, usually at the invitation 
of some leading man, may be given a plot of land suffi- 
cient for his support, but in all cases it reverts to the 
original owners should the visitor leave the community. 

When a woman marries outside her tribe, her family 
takes all her landed property, but if her husband settles 
in the tribe the case is different. On the east bank of the 
Fly the woman seems to be allowed to retain possession, 
however, even if she lives in her husband's village. Among 
the bushmen, to retain any rights, the husband, if he be 
a stranger marrying into the tribe, must remain in it, but 


there have been few instances of strangers marrying and 
remaining in the wife's tribe. - 

With few exceptions there is no private property in 
hunting or fishing country, but the exceptions are interest- 
ing. In regard to hunting the only district I know of 
where there is a private right in hiuiting lands occurs 
among some of the small Dudi bushmen ; but the rule 
among them, while acknowledged, is far from being rigidly 
observed. Strictly speaking, however, a man should not 
hunt on another's land without permission, and a portion 
of the kill — usually kangaroo, cassowary or lizards — 
should be given to the owner. Elsewhere a man may 
hunt where he pleases. Fishing rights are more compli- 
cated. Among the villages on the eastern bank of the 
Fly, waterholes and creeks on individual property are 
regarded as privately owned and also the fish in them. 
The same custom is found among some of the Dudi tribes 
and in the country towards the Morehead. One can 
quite appreciate the necessity for this custom in certain 
districts where waterholes are scarce and become dried 
up at certain times of the year and where fish is by no 
means plentiful. The case is, however, different in respect 
of the coast and river peoples. Crab and fishing country 
generally is free to all, but it should not be forgotten that 
every tribe has jealously defined fishing limits. 

No Bamu man would dream of fishing outside his tribal 
area — except, of course, at his own risk. He runs far too 
big a chance of losing his head, should he happen to be 
caught. The people of Parama appear to claim the sole 
right of fishing on the reefs off Bampton Island. The 
Mawatta and other coast people fish on the reefs adjacent 
to New Guinea, which, by the way, belong to Queensland, 
and the former claim fishing rights along the coast for 
some twenty miles, but I have some suspicion that the 
majority of this is " jumped." As far as Mawatta is con- 
cerned, the Masingara tribe has free rights of fishing 


wherever it pleases, owing to the ancient friendship 
between the two peoples, but as a matter of fact the right 
is a harmless one, as Masingara has no skill in fishing. 
A peculiar feature in regard to dugong is that certain 
patches of dugong grass along the reefs where the animals 
feed are regarded as strictly private possessions by at 
least three of the coast tribes, and these patches descend 
according to the ordinary rules of inheritance. I am not 
aware what happens when a dugong is caught on one of 
these patches by a person not the owner of it, but I expect 
a proportion of the catch would be paid by the fisherman. 
In the Fly River certain islands are regarded as strictly 
tribal property as against the rest of the district for fishing 
purposes, and, curiously enough, even in travelling on 
ordinary journeys particular routes are followed by 
different villages, avoiding these islands. 

It is, of course, well known that most tribes carry out 
certain ceremonies at stated times for the purpose of en- 
suring a general good crop to the community, whether 
it be sago, taro or bananas. But individuals have also 
their personal agricultural charms which are applied to 
their own particular garden plots and have no effect upon 
other people's and similarly there are private charms 
which are used to produce a bad effect on a neighbour's 
crops. I have in my possession two very ordinary look- 
ing pieces of wood, one of which is stated to be a very 
powerful producer of taro and the other is believed to 
exercise a baneful influence. The owner of the former 
used to hire out his charm — for a suitable consideration 
of course. 

In districts where the Long House is found, the actual 
site of the house may be the sole property of an individual 
although the community of the clan occupying the house 
may have a kind of interest in it. On the other hand, the 
site of the Long House may be the general property of the 
clan. Where a village consists of a number of family 


houses, as for instance at Tabaram, the house sites may 
be either the property of the individual householder or 
of one man. In fact, the custom is identical with that of the 
ownership of trees. Among the Girara I found in several 
villages that the Long House was built on land which was 
the property of the chief. When the house is shifted (the 
life of a house is about eight years) in one particular case 
I found that the new site was also the property of a chief, 
the same individual as owned the previous one. 

Personal property, including dogs, pigs and canoes as 
well as weapons and other belongings, is naturally in- 
dividually owned. The very large drums used on cere- 
monial occasions in the Girara district appear to be excep- 
tions. On death the property is shared out in the family, 
the eldest son allotting the gear, but more often than not 
he reserves the lion's share for himself, especially such 
articles of value as dugong spears, ornaments and canoes. 
In fact, canoes are almost invariably taken by him as 
well as the largest pig or pigs. I cannot recollect ever 
having come across any disputes about the disposal of 
purely personal belongings. 



Disadvantages of the West — Early attempts at settlement — Pearl shelling 
— Beche-de-mer — Agricultural development — Lack of suitable lands — 
Coconuts and copra — Banana cultivation — Nipa products — Mangrove 
and sago — Tobacco — Timbers — Mineral discoveries — Native labour. 

DEVELOPMENT must, I suppose, be necessaril}^ 
preceded by exploration, and the exploration of the 
immense area of Western Papua has been so slow that it is 
not surprising that, handicapped by its many natural dis- 
advantages, it has hitherto been amongst the most back- 
ward parts of tlie Territory. Add to these the evil reputa- 
tion that New Guinea as a whole possessed as to its climate 
and the fact that even at the present day many of those 
who know Papua well still look upon the West as the death- 
trap of the country and you will not wonder that it has 
been given rather a wide berth. As a matter of fact 
Western Papua can by no means compare with the rest 
of the Territory in fertility nor perhaps in ths variety of 
its natural resources. At the same time we do not know 
a great deal about them, for, as I have remarked, the dis- 
trict is still barely known. Ignorance of what is well 
known, however, has been the chief drawback and the 
more attractive East end has drawn attention away from 
the West, which is mostly regarded as merely a place from 
which an unlimited supply of labour may be obtained. 

It is not my intention to write of the land and labour 
laws of Papua or the attractions of the country to the 
settler or to eulogise the " boundless possibilities of the 
West." The two former have received their full share 
of attention ; the latter, I am afraid, only the most optimis- 



tic can perceive, but, nevertheless, there are many sources 
of development which offer themselves were they knoAvn 
to more tlian the score or so of people who are acquainted 
with the district. Any important mineral discovery 
would unquestionably alter its destinies and that lies quite 
within the bounds of possibility, if not probability, as the 
far interior becomes explored. 

Years before the proclamation of the Protectorate there 
were traders on the coast of the West, and that capitalists 
or, if you prefer, adventurers were ready cnougli to try their 
luck in any new distant green fields is evident from the fact 
that as soon as reports began to reach Australia and England 
of the travels of D'Albertis, MacFarlane, and Everill, 
applications for land began to pour in on anyone who could 
possibly have anything to do with New Guinea. Sir Peter 
Scratchley on his arrival found several demands for 
leases based on the grounds of original discovery from 
persons, some of whom were already in occupation, among 
which were applications for D'Arrow (Daru ?) Island, 
held, I fancy, by cedar cutters for Deliverance Island, 
which, by the way, is included within the boundaries of 
Queensland, for Bramwell Island opposite the Fly River, 
and for a large tract of land on the Chester River. A 
syndicate calling itself the New Guinea Company had 
also applied for a lease of a large area on the coast up to 
the southern bank of the Fly and including either Bampton 
or Mibu Islands, upon which it was proposed to erect 
stores, schools and workshops and also a large area on the 
Baxter River (Strachan Island district), including Talbot 
Island, to be used for the same purposes as Bampton or Mibu 
were required. All these applications died a natural death. 
In various articles in the press and numerous lectures were 
glowing accounts of the future commercial prosperity of 
the West, to which attention at the time was directed. 
One of the members of the " Bonito " expedition 
despatched by the Royal Geographical Society of Australia 


expressed hopes of a somewhat ambitious colonising 
scheme, but more cautious persons urged that it was 

Actual settlement in the West has proceeded slowly. 
I have pointed out that the district has many natural dis- 
advantages. The coastal portions are swampy and low- 
lying and agricultural land of good quality is difficult to 
find, and the settlers themselves have in many cases been 
hampered by want of capital. A few coconut plantations 
are under way, but hitherto the principal form of develop- 
ment has been trading with the natives, that is, selling 
European goods to them for cash and buying copra or 
other produce. 

While the numerous navigable rivers are sources of 
potential trading possibilities, owing to the immense 
volume of dirty water poured out, they are equally bars 
to any extensive sea industries. Papua generally and the 
west end in particular has suffered severely owing to the 
conditions of the boundary line between the colony and 
Queensland. The boundary excludes from Papua almost 
every island (certainly few are of any value) with the 
exception of Daru, and deprives the West of its natural 
fishing grounds. Were the boundary a more equitable 
one it would have given to Papua a share at any rate 
of the valuable pearl-shelling industry and employment 
to large numbers of the population. As it is, the only 
spot where M.O.P. shell can be obtained at all lies in the 
channel between Daru and the mainland, and then only 
during the clear- water north-west season. A small amount 
of beche-de-mer {Holothuridae) can be obtained on the 
Parama reefs, but it is not of the best quality, and while 
the first-class varieties of " fish " for the China market fetch 
a high price, such as comes from Papua brings in a com- 
paratively low figure — not more than £40 a ton — in Aus- 
tralia. Towards the western extremity where a certain 
amount of shell, beche-de-mer and turtle shell might have 


been reasonably expected, the water is so muddy that 
these marine products are entirely absent except of course 
in Queensland waters. 

Shut off from practically all participation in industries 
of the sea, it is to agricultural development that future 
attention must be directed. And there are many diffi- 
culties in the road. As far as I have seen there are no 
large areas of first-class planting land. There may be 
patches up the rivers of the extreme w^est, but were I a 
selector this would be the very last district I should desire 
to settle in. On the mainland at the heads of the Oriomo 
and Bina Rivers and in the back country behind Mawatta 
there is a certain amount of decent country, and on the 
Bina there is a good coconut country, but unfortunately 
not too much of it. The late Mr. B. A. Hely, R.M., was 
very enthusiastic about the Kuru Downs. He refers to 
the district as " the finest known to me in the Possession, 
all rolling ridges perhaps 500 feet above-sea level, lightly 
timbered, red loam, covered with sweet grey grass quite 
unlike the sour grasses common to most parts of New 
Guinea. I should think that 20,000 acres could be easily 
acquired about Kuru alone on which the plough could be 
put without having to use an axe. Some of the gullies 
between Jibu and Itia are heavily scrubbed, well watered 
and have splendid soil." Similar good country is reported 
by the same officer inland from the Fly in the same direction. 
I can only say that in my opinion the superlative soil 
is patchy, and one planter has proved by experience that 
the Kuru land is not as good as supposed. Sir William 
MacGregor was equally enthusiastic about the possibilities 
of the Upper Bamu and Wawoi for settlement. He 
described the banks as " ten or twelve feet high and the 
soil undoubtedly rich alluvial and easy to work." 

Coconuts thrive wonderfully well on the mud shores 
and islands of the Fly. Indeed, were the country not so 
unsuitable for European habitation I should say that this 


district would be the best coconut district of all. The 
possibilities and profits of coconuts are now well recog- 
nised and their cultivation forms a tolerably safe and secure 
investment. The great drawback in the Fly is the fact 
that the river is continually eroding its banks and washing 
away the islands. One planter made an endeavour to 
settle on the western mouth of the estuary, but when he 
found the tide taking his seed nuts and his water tanks 
into the bush and a couple of feet of water under his 
house at high tide he thought it time to give up. Such 
drawbacks are not so much in evidence higher up the 

The number of native-owned and planted trees, how- 
ever, is very considerable. A very large proportion is 
consumed for food, but nevertheless the trade in purely 
native copra is assuming fair proportions. The average 
amount shipped a year during the past two or three years 
has been in the neighbourhood of a hundred tons, and this 
trade is likely to increase. The price has risen within 
a few years from 6s. to lis. a bag, and the price, due 
to the increasing value on the market, is at the present 
time probably even higher. I look on a trade of this kind, 
where the article is produced by the natives themselves, as 
a most valuable and true development of the country. 

It has been recently discovered that there are on the 
Upper Kiko quite large tracts of good planting country 
whose existence was previously unsuspected. As this land 
is situated on a good navigable river and in the heart of 
an excellent labour district, it is by no means improbable 
that some planting developments will take place there. 

Whether the upper regions of the Fly and Strickland 
contain good land or not they are too far distant from 
civilised centres to be regarded seriously at any rate for 
the present. Their immediate future to my mind depends 
chiefly on whether payable minerals are found. 

In order to induce development the Royal Commission 


on Papua in 1906 recommended that special concessions 
be offered to large syndicates, regarding the West as only 
to be properly worked on a large scale. I cannot think 
that such recommendation need apply to coconut plant- 
ing, but there are one or two products which appear to 
me to be eminently suited to the district and would prove 
highly payable if worked on the proper lines. Of these 
the principal is the banana. This fruit is largely planted 
on the Fly and flourishes abundantly, and I can see no 
reason why, given the proper shipping facilities, varieties 
suited to the Australian market could not successfully 
compete with the Fijian product. The Fly is navigable 
right into the heart of the banana country : there is ample 
land suitable for its cultivation, if one is to judge by the 
native plantations, and the fruit could reach Sydney in 
the same time as it takes from Fiji. 

Other products that of course can only be worked on 
a large scale are rice and sugar, and I am informed that 
there is no reason why sugar could not be successfully 

Whether it could be turned into a commercial product 
or not is perhaps uncertain at present, but there is one 
natural product of which the supply is unlimited. I refer 
to the nipa palm {Nipa fruticans). I understand that a 
low grade sugar known as jaggry can be obtained from 
the sap, which does not require an expensive machinery 
outfit and for which a market exists in the East. A crude 
spirit can be obtained from the by-products, and the nipa 
pulp and leaves can be used for manufacture into paper 

Besides nipa there are two other natural products 
which might be turned to commercial advantage, the supply 
of both of which is more or less unlimited. I suppose 
mangrove is as plentiful as nipa, and, as the bark contains 
a fairly high proportion of agents suitable for tanning 
purposes, I believe there is a considerable market for this 


product. The world's supply of wattle bark, which is 
principally used in the trade, is far from adequate. The 
West contains immense areas of little else but red man- 
grove and the product could be cut and marketed with 
a minimum of expense owing to the fact that the supply 
is almost entirely situated on navigable waterways. In 
addition to the bark, I do not know if it is generally 
realised that red mangrove forms a splendid timber for 
many kinds of building purposes and could even be utilised 
for railway sleepers, for which there is an almost unlimited 
demand. I do not know of any part of Papua where red 
mangrove exists in such quantities and in such straight 
and fine lengths. I have frequently cut sticks twelve or 
eighteen inches through and ranging up to sixty feet in 

In addition to mangrove the supply of wild and culti- 
vated sago, while perhaps not so large as that in the 
Purari Delta, extends over a much wider area, and al- 
though a great deal is required for local consumption 
there is a considerable annual surplus which I suppose 
could be put to some commercial use, provided the cost of 
production were not too high. The whole of the sago 
consumed in Australia, for example, cannot be entirely 
composed of tapioca or other adulterants, and the supply 
must be drawn from somewhere, so it is reasonable to 
imagine that Papua should be able to compete in the market. 

Whether the cultivation of the smaller varieties of 
jungle produce such as ginger, turmeric and various 
fibres which the natives manufacture from various 
sources, such as banana fibre and pandanus fibre (this 
latter is of excellent quality), would prove profitable, 
depends chiefly on the quantities available, and I am there- 
fore not greatly inclined to put much faith on any great 
industry in each ; but there is one native-grown article 
which seems eminently suited to the district for cultiva- 
tion on scientific lines and which is one of the most profit- 





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able of tropical industries, and that is tobacco. This is 
largely grown by the natives in certain districts, and even 
as prepared by them in a very rough and ready way is of 
high quality. It is well known that certain tobacco was 
found in the gardens by Sir William MacGrcgor some hun- 
dreds of miles up the Fly and was valued in London at an 
extraordinary price as cigar wrapper. Extensive native 
cultivation of any product should be a fair criterion of the 
suitability of the soil, and in that case certain of the 
western districts should be among the best tobacco lands. 

I am afraid I cannot write in glowing terms of the 
western timbers. Were the forests sufficientlv large the 
numerous navigable rivers would make the timber industry 
an easy one, but with the exception of mangrove and the 
paper bark ti tree {Melaleuca leucadendron) I have not seen 
any extensive forested tracts. This ti tree, however, is 
found in considerable quantities along the Morehead and 
other rivers and is a really fine timber and has the added 
advantage of being able to resist to a great extent the 
ravages of the white ant and the Teredo navalis. As far 
as the Fly is concerned I have seen nothing to wax en- 
thusiastic over during the first couple of hundred miles 
from its mouth. Beyond that point I have no personal 
experience, nor has anyone penetrated sufficiently far from 
the river banks beyond that distance to be able to give 
a reliable opinion. It is all very well to be jubilant over 
a couple of good trees on the banks of a river, but that 
hardly justifies a belief that the interior is sufficiently 
forested with valuable timbers. On the upper Kiko I 
saw considerable quantities of a light timber known, I 
fancy, as crowsfoot palm, and when we were clearing for 
the Station site on this river there was a good deal of heavy 
hardwood on the land. I daresay the Kiko offers good 
timber possibilities. 

One thing needed to give a fillip to the advancement of 
any country is the discovery of payable gold or, in fact. 


any mijieral. Colours of gold have been found some five 
hundred miles up the Fly, and in 1911 Mr. Massy Baker 
found faint indications in the Strickland, but so far there 
has been no discovery of the precious metal in any payable 
quantity. I have already referred to the discovery of the 
Rev. S. MacFarlane of what he took to be gold in the Mai 
Kussa River, but from the nature of the country it is very 
reasonable to suppose that the reverend gentleman was 
mistaken. That payable gold wdll be discovered in the 
mountains of the interior may not be improbable, but as 
far as it has been examined the country apparently con- 
sists of limestone formation which is not one in which 
this mineral occurs. 

Coal has been found in the far interior in the region 
between the Purari and Aworra Rivers, but none of it is 
of commercial value, being too recent and too full of mois- 

The recent discoveries of petroleum indications in the 
adjoining Gulf Division give birth to the thought that the 
oil belt may extend across the Western Division also. 
Should this prove to be the case the value of any dis- 
covery will be greatly enhanced by the existence of navi- 
gable waterways running far into the hinterlands and the 
close proximity of a suitable port. One of the chief diffi- 
culties anticipated in connection with the finds on the 
Bailala is the bar-bound river, rendering shipping a matter 
of extreme trouble. The oil-fields of the East Indies he 
between ten degrees north and ten degrees south of the 
line and it is now a matter of fact that oil exists, whether 
commercially or no, along that line in the Gulf, and it has 
been suggested that indications of oil might be looked for 
on a line running through Kiwai Island, the head of the 
Oriomo and across the flat interior between the southern 
side of the Fly and the sea. 

So far then the possibilities of the West are for the 
future. With the exception of a few coconut plantations 


and a small export of copra, the principal production has 
so far been labour, for which there is a keen demand. It 
is not so very many years ago that a Resident Magistrate 
lamented the lack of openings and employment for the 
Western population, but there can be no complaints on 
this head within recent years. With the opening up of 
other parts of Papua there arose a cry for labour, and the 
W^est has been freely drawn upon to supply the demand. 
The number of men who signed on yearly for some years 
past has been considerably over a thousand — I have not 
the exact figures by me — and these men have been almost 
entirely drawn from the comparatively small district that 
is known and effectively controlled. But valuable as this 
supply of labour is to the colony at large, the recruiting 
and export of labourers solely is a poor sort of develop- 
ment of a district, if indeed it can be considered a develop- 
ment at all. To be sure, the labour, less a proportion 
which has died, returns and spends its wages, but even that 
fact does not increase or make for permanent prosperity. 
Those who have the best interests of the district at heart 
will be anxious to see local industries absorbing a fair 
proportion of the labour which is at present employed 
in other parts of the Territory, 



AMONG primitive races custom is law, and as far as 
its relations with the native population are con- 
cerned the Government has not interfered with native 
custom where it is not repugnant to ordinary justice or 
morality, and in some particular cases it has even recog- 
nised native custom by legislative enactment. Papua is 
not a country with a homogeneous population. Its in- 
habitants consist of many widely scattered tribes, differing 
from each other almost as much in custom as they do in 
language, and to lay down a written series of regulations 
on custom would be an impossible task. To wear the 
beak of a hornbill in one district signifies that a man has 
taken a life ; in another the same decoration is without 
meaning. The Native Regulations now affecting the 
natives were in the first instance based on those of Fiji, 
and as time went on have been added to or altered accord- 
ing to circumstances ; but in general native custom has 
been let severely alone and the Regulations are confined 
to providing for the common offences of native life and to 
dealing with the sanitary condition of villages, making 
of roads and the like. Various native customs such as 
polygamy are more or less tacitly recognised, and even in 
the case of serious offences the higher courts are inclined 
to admit custom as a plea for mitigation of sentence. 
For instance, in a case where it was proved that it was 
established custom for a man to kill a particular female 
relative if she married without his consent, I believe the 
plea was taken into account when passing sentence. At 
the same time I do not wish to imply that the Government 



sheds any halo of romance over homicide or man-eating 
(however interesting both these subjects may be), even 
though the former may be, as it often is, a sacred or 
social duty and even though the latter may be equally 
demanded by custom. The homicide is charged with 
murder, and the cannibal, if he cannot be brought in as 
an accessor}'', is indicted as " having indecently inter- 
fered with a corpse." 

The Papuan has his own ideas of justice and naturally 
he persists in measuring things by his own standard of 
what is fitting or unfitting. And just as much as it is 
only very slowly dawning on him, if indeed it has dawned 
at all, that there is another point of view, so in turn it 
must be realised by the European that to understand 
things Papuan in a true perspective he must endeavour 
to consider matters from the standpoint of how the native 

Collective responsibility was, and still is, to a very 
large extent the key-note of native life. Where an offence 
was committed, the family or clan or tribe assumed equal 
responsibility, and it was one of the first efforts of the 
Administration to teach individual responsibility for 
individual crime. The lesson is not fully grasped even 
to-day among more civilised tribes ; among the wilder ones 
it naturally has not been. I have frequently known a 
village constable or even a regular constable, who should 
have known better, arrest a father or brother if he has been 
unable to catch the real culprit, thus exemplifying the 
statement that it is pure Papuan to punish a murderer 
by hanging his cousin. It has always been the fixed 
policy of the Government that the actual offender or 
offenders must be arrested and punished, no matter how 
long the task takes. In the case of wild tribes when a 
crime was for the first time brought under notice, the 
community probably took up arms when it was sought 
to arrest the offender or else took to the bush, acting very 


much, I suppose, on the principle that he who does not 
fight but runs away may live to run away on some future 
occasion. Now the natural government of tribes in New 
Guinea generally is not carried on by any definite execu- 
tive, but in the West at any rate the peculiar social system 
of clan houses and leading men of clan houses, while it 
offered some difficulty in another direction, brought into 
prominence a number of men whose opinions were listened 
to with respect and carried weight. When this gerontoc- 
racy has been won over, as far as crime is concerned, 
deahng with it from the individual point of view is a 
fairly easy matter. 

Still, even in the most civilised villages there is a strong 
communal feeling. The Papuan has a very different view 
of personal property to the European ; he is ready to 
share his possessions with another and it is the most 
natural thing either to give or to receive. When a village 
sends a body of young men to work, it is mainly for the 
community, not for the individual, and a large proportion 
of their wages may be taken over by the clan or family. 
The people of Mawatta wished to purchase a cutter which 
they proposed to have built to their own order. Sufficient 
funds were not available at the time so a batch of young 
men engaged themselves for work and the whole of their 
wages went to the boat fund. The older men remained 
at home, but the vessel belonged to the whole community. 
It may be well asked what effect has civilisation upon the 
native race, a question that I suppose it is really impossible 
to attempt to answer fully as yet. Beyond a substitution 
of individual for communal responsibility, there has 
really been so far no general breaking down of custom, 
although it is impossible to blend the principles and 
refinements of modern civilisation with native customs, 
and some of them have to go, leaving the question whether 
we are destroying too many or not enough. 

One effect, perhaps an unavoidable one, of civilisation 


has been the development of a criminal class distinct from 
the ordinary native offender. To this class belongs the 
man who commits burglary and offences of what might be 
termed an imported or exotic nature and which were 
practically unknown in the old days. Such people can 
only be dealt with by the methods usually employed 
against dangerous criminals, namely, the certainty and 
severity of punishment. As a set off, civilisation can point 
to a general condition of peace and to the ending of con- 
tinual and sanguinary warfare. 

An important factor in the Europeanisation of the Fly 
and coast men has been their work in the Torres Straits 
pearling fleets. For many years every young man has 
been in the habit of signing on at Daru for his nine months' 
term with the utmost regularity, and considered it as much 
a part of his education as his initiation in the Darimu. In 
fact his age was often reckoned as so many " times along 
diver boat." The civilising effect of this employment has 
been very great — although the same might be said of any 
regular employment with Europeans — and the work has 
turned the coast and Fly River men into a body of skilful 
sailors. It has introduced new wants and ideas and pro- 
duced a distinct change in physical type. It may be 
accepted that any regular work improves physical con- 
dition, but the change in this particular district is most 
marked and, what is more, it appears permanent. On the 
other hand, it is doubtful whether the moral tone has been 

Among all the native races of Papua I have met none 
that assimilate European ideas with greater facility. The 
Papuan does not stop to argue or seek for the reason of 
things ; he simply takes things for granted. This may 
account for his unreasoning adoption of novelties and the 
graft of " foreign " on purely native reasoning shows itself 
sometimes in ludicrous forms. However, the West is not 
yet an Arcadia of semi-civilisation, and one must not be 
surprised when a Fly River village bolts to the bush and 


waits to be coaxed back with a coyness that would be 
exaggerated in a school for young ladies, or a Bamu tribe 
with three-quarters of its men just back from work on 
the plantations breaks out into some of its old-time 

Civilisation is rather strong meat if given too freely and 
in too large doses, and one of its effects has been a decima- 
tion of the native race. Speaking generally I do not think 
there is any rapid or visible decline in numbers, although 
specific instances have been known which, however, are 
not necessarily to be attributed to contact with whites. 
Abortion is much too common and infanticide is far more 
so than is usually supposed, and other causes, both natural 
and artificial, may be detected, but none are direct conse- 
quences of civilisation. On the contrary, both abortion 
and infanticide have been checked. But it is undoubted 
that civilisation has introduced many diseases into the 
country, measles, whooping cough, and probably venereal, 
to mention only a few. The Administration, of course, 
does its best to cope with any form of disease and to pre- 
vent its introduction. Not long ago a start was made 
to vaccinate the natives against small-pox. At first I felt 
doubtful how inoculation would be regarded, and I was 
inclined to anticipate a little difficulty. Rather to my 
surprise after I had explained matters, the villages in the 
districts where vaccination was to be carried out came 
in freely. In fact, not to be vaccinated was looked upon 
as rather unfashionable, and I fancy the whole thing 
was looked upon as some wholesale Government charm 
against disease of all kind. The enthusiasm was not so 
pronounced about four days after inoculation, and I scarcely 
think we were regarded as such public benefactors after all. 

Education has so far been in the hands of the coloured 
teachers of the London Missionary Society, who are 
located at several villages in the Fly River Delta. Some 
years ago an amusing incident occurred at Turituri. The 
people were willing enough to send their children to school, 


but the Samoan teacher insisted that they should wear 
clothes. " Very well," said the natives. " You provide 
the clothes." This the teacher refused to do and then 
followed a deadlock, the teacher declining to teach any 
but children clad in the orthodox manner, and the parents 
just as steadfastly declining to see why clothes were a 
necessity to education. I should not think that what 
might be termed a classical education would be altogether 
the best for the native, and I think it is recognised nowa- 
days by those best qualified to judge that the general 
education of the Papuan native should be on such lines as 
will assist him to raise himself above the Stone Age and 
as will help to create a good type of landed peasant pro- 

Deputations from the villages of Parama and Mawatta 
once waited on me and subsequently on the Lieutenant- 
Governor with requests for European schools. It would 
be nice to think that here was an earnest desire for know- 
ledge, but I fear the real reason was the fact that all the 
Torres Straits islands have European school teachers, 
and a Mawatta or Parama man reckons he is just as 
good any day as a mere Islander. If Saibai, for instance, 
has a teacher, why should not Parama ? 

There are a great many people who accuse the Papuan 
of being a lazy loafer round his village. " The natives," they 
say, " are reluctant to work and in particular to work 
regularly." It is to be presumed that they are to work 
for the planters and others. It might be said that so far 
as the employer of labour is concerned the accusation is 
not justified, and up to the present the supply of labour has 
met the demand. But even if it were true that the Papuan 
is indolent, why should he work for others ? Nature 
provides for his ordinary requirements, and he can go 
about his business while civilisation gives him justice and 
opens up the country and protects him from his enemies. 
Well, even granting that the Papuan nonchalance or 
improvidence, if you like to call it that, is a result of 


environment and that European hurry to make prepara- 
tion for the future is per se a moral virtue, it is not a good 
thing to be idle and each man is bound to take up his o^vn, 
if humble, share of the world's work. It is undoubted 
that life was infinitely more strenuous in every way for 
the Papuan in the old days, but even so the Western 
native is not now really an idle person ; naturally, as 
among Europeans, you will find a percentage of loafers. 
And he has now so many acquired wants that can only 
be gratified by the possession of money, and to obtain 
money he must perforce work in some form or other. 
Thus the average amount of cash paid over in wages at 
Daru has been between four and five thousand pounds 
per annum, and this takes no account of money earned 
casually such as by the sale of native copra or other 
industry. That the Western man is intelligent and can 
be capable of sustained effort is clear from the fact that 
the people of Turituri took up as a village contract from 
a planter the clearing of one hundred acres of land on 
very remunerative terms. The job was properly carried 
out although they lagged at the last acre or two. On the 
other hand, the natural apathy and lack of energy of the 
native mind must be recognised. On one occasion the 
Parama natives bought a cutter and commenced with 
great talk and much enthusiasm to dive for pearlshell in 
Daru Roads. The enthusiasm lasted about a week and 
the actual work about the same time. 

It has been pointed out that the Kiwai-speaking peoples 
in particular are keen traders both among themselves 
and among Europeans. A good deal of copra is made from 
native-owTied trees, and there has seldom been difficulty 
in enforcing the Native Regulation as to the planting of 
coconuts. The Mawatta men frequently go to Kiwai to 
buy nuts, which they turn into copra themselves for the 
market, and the craze for copra-making has extended even 
to the Bamu. On the other hand, the small Kunini 
bush tribe at one time adopted an attitude that almost 



makes one despair. It neither made copra nor would it 
sell the nuts even though the crop could not possibly be 
consumed, and as a consequence thousands of nuts were 
left rotting on the ground. 

The coconut offers the native the easiest opportunity 
of becoming a worker and producer on his own account, 
of supplying his own wants and at the same time in- 
creasing the wealth of the country. The economic value 
of the native is probably very high if allowed or forced to 
till his own lands with commercial products. There is no 
native taxation in Papua, but it must not be forgotten 
that every native who works or sells some product for 
money, since money is only of value to him for what it can 
buy, pays taxation indirectly in customs duty. The 
drawback to this form of indirect taxation is that it touches 
not the loafer but the industrious man. 

There are people who accuse the Government in its 
dealings with the natives of being not only a paternal 
Government but grandmotherly as well, and there have 
been and still are people who, on the other hand, regard 
most of the vital problems of Papua — and they are in- 
extricably involved with the native question — from one 
point of view only, namely, that of the native. There 
have been people who have considered that Papua should 
have been preserved solely for the native race, but, 
whether their views were correct or not, they have passed 
out of the realm of practical politics. Civilisation and 
development must remain in Papua, and, while both civilisa- 
tion and the Stone Age have their rights and demands, 
often perhaps opposing, it is the function of the Adminis- 
tration to hold the balance between the two, giving justice 
to both. A keen regard for native welfare is justified, 
leaving all other considerations aside, by the purely utili- 
tarian view that the future development of the colony is 
dependent on the physical and mental health of the 
native, and that very little economic life can exist and 
certainly no economic enterprise can succeed without him. 



By Gunnar Landtmann, Ph.D., 
Lecturer in Sociology at Helsingfors University, Finland 

THE Kiwai people inhabit Kiwai and some other 
islands in the delta of the Fly River, a few villages 
on both banks of the river, near its mouth, and the coast 
westward, including Mabudavane village. These Papuans 
have a wonderful power of imagination, which particularly 
appears in their ideas regarding the supernatural world. 
It is perhaps in their magic that we meet with the richest 
and most fertile manifestations of native thought, defining 
magic as the employment of supernatural mechanical 
power without appeal to any supernatural being. But the 
same imaginative mind also makes itself felt in their 
religion, i.e. their relation to the spiritual and mysterious 
beings by which they think themselves surrounded. Their 
beliefs and practices connected with these beings will be 
dealt with in the present paper. 

In speaking of religion among the Kiwais we must, how- 
ever, bear in mind that they represent a very early and 
primitive form of belief and cult, in fact conditions 
in many respects characteristic of the very beginnings 
of religious life, and that consequently we have to eliminate 
many factors from the idea of religion in a higher sense 
in order to understand this early stage. The Kiwai 
Papuans have no systematised belief in gods and no 
organised worship, no public offerings are made and no 
public prayers said. They have no temples and no priests. 
Every grown-up man performs for himself the various 



rites for ensuring success in garden work and other matters, 
sometimes under the guidance of some old practitioner of 
his group, and the methods used vary to a great extent with 
different groups and even among individuals. 

Dr. A. C. Haddon states that the Torres Straits Islanders 
had no conception of a Supreme God {Reports, Cambr. 
Antrop. Exp., Vol. V, 378), and this also holds good as 
regards their neighbours on the mainland of New Guinea. 
In studying the beliefs of the Kiwai Papuans we hardly 
even find any scope for the idea of a Supreme Ruler, as the 
following instances will show. No reward or punishment 
is allotted to good or bad people after death, although, 
as we shall see, they believe in the continued existence of 
the soul after death. In their legends the natives tell how 
various things in nature have originated, but in none of 
these can we trace the personality of a divine creator. 
For instance, the rivers to the west of the Fly have been 
made by a mythical crocodile which cut its way through 
the country. The creeks characteristic of one of the 
islands in the delta are produced by a legendary woman 
who fought the people with a paddle from her canoe. 
Wherever the paddle fell a creek was made. Certain rocks 
and reefs in the sea are the skulls of slain enemies thrown 
overboard by certain heroes when they returned from war 
with a booty of captured heads, and certain sandbanks are 
the flesh and skin of such heads. Nor do the legends of 
the origin of the people themselves suggest the idea of 
a creator. The Mawata tribe of the Kiwai people, accord- 
ing to one of their secret folk-tales, lived at the beginning 
in the stem of a creeper, until a man came and split the 
creeper ; that is why even now they consider themselves 
of the same family as certain sylvan beings of their myths. 
The Masingara tribe has developed out of the worms form- 
ing in the body of a dead kangaroo. 

But although, among the Kiwai people, we look in vain 
for the idea of a Supreme God and other attributes of a 


higher reHgion, yet there are a great number of super- 
natural beings providing us with material for a study of 
beliefs. One group of these comprises the spirits of the 

Formerly the people used to dispose of their deceased 
friends by putting them on open platforms erected on 
posts where the body was left to decay until only the 
bones remained. Afterwards the bones were buried in a 
garden. This custom has been abandoned in Kiwai within 
the memory of people still living, but prevails among the 
tribes on the east bank of the Fly and further east along 
the coast. Nowadays the dead are invariably buried in 
the ground, and over the grave a small hut is erected. 
Some weapons and implements belonging to the dead 
person are hung up on a stick on the grave together with 
presents of food, and a fire is kept burning for some time 
at the foot-end of the grave. The body is often carried 
to the burial ground on a piece of a broken canoe, which 
is afterwards left on the west side of the grave, representing 
the canoe in which the spirit may go to Adiri, the land of 
the dead. The situation of Adiri is taken quite geographi- 
cally, it lies far away in the west, where the sun and moon 
go down. All the dead people follow the route of a mythical 
hero, Sido, who was killed by another man. That was the 
first death ever to occur and, as we see, was also a murder, 
" and," my informant added, " the two men fought over 
a woman." 

In Adiri there is a Long House, several miles long, in 
which people from the same villages live in groups together 
just as in real life. They occupy themselves much in the 
same way as living people, but life there is much easier. 
The language spoken by the spirits is the same as that of 
the living. 

The natives stand in great dread of the ghosts of the 
departed, and for a few nights after a death has occurred 
in one's own or a neighbouring village all the doors of the 



houses are kept carefully closed, and nobody cares to go 
out in the dark. The spirits are supposed to remain for 
some days in the neighbourhood of their homes, as if 
uncertain about the right road to Adiri ; once they have 
found the way they do not come back any more. During 
my stay in those parts I heard of many instances in which 
the spirits of newly departed persons had been seen, 
causing great terror among the people ; there were also 
cases of people having had a narrow escape from being 
caught by ghosts. 

New-born children and sick people are in particular in 
danger of being abducted by spirits of the dead. The 
dead fathers are " sorry " for their young children, wonder- 
ing, " Who will take care of them ? " so they carry them 
off, taking away the soul and only leaving the body 
behind. For this reason mothers will often hide their 
little children at nightfall. One child in a village where I 
was staying died because its soul had been carried away 
by the spirit of its grandfather. The baby had been left 
out of doors in the dark, and after the soul had been 
taken away, life lingered on for a few days in the body, 
until death came. A dead father is also often supposed 
to be longing for his son to join him. At times he pur- 
posely allows his son to live on for a while in order that 
he may get some work done before he is taken : "I leave 
him boy little time. Who look out coconut ? Let him 
make plenty pickaninny first time. By and by I take 
him," that is sometimes supposed to be the thought of 
the father. In a similar way the souls of sick people may 
be carried off by spirits, and it happens in some cases of 
serious illness that the friends of the sick person watch 
outside his house in order to frighten away any spirit 
which may come near the house, for some men are able to 
see spirits. 

Presents are sometimes given to the spirits, and here we 
have a beginning of the very simple form of offering met 


with among the Kiwai people. Sometimes after a death 
the people in a house may hear at night a low whistling 
outside or a tapping or scratching at the wall, and they 
conclude, " Oh, ghost he outside," and begin to wail. 
The dead person has come to see his children and friends, 
and also to find some present. The people put some food 
outside the door, saying, " You go back, you no come, 
you dead man, no good you come." The spirit takes the 
present of food, but if they do not give it anything, it will 
not go away but walks round and round the house all night 
until daybreak, when it disappears. 

A hunter once killed three pigs in the bush, after which 
he lost his life somehow without ever being found. The 
people carried away two pigs but left one for the dead 
hunter, thinking among themselves, " Ghost belong him, 
5^ou me (we) no savy, him he kaikai (eat) ; poor fellow he 
hard work, no good people take him pig altogether. Ghost 
belong him he look round, by and by get nothing, by and 
by hard up." Out on the reefs, too, when the people are 
spearing fish, a man will sometimes throw away a piece 
for a dead relative, irrespective of where the death has 
taken place. The people think, " No good I kaikai good 
kaikai (food), I no savy, poor mother, father he alongside 
that time I spear." 

That the spirits of the dead are fond of food is also seen 
from a method used to find out whether people who have 
been missing for a few days, out in their canoes, really have 
perished or whether they have been only temporarily pre- 
vented from coming home. Their friends tie some food 
at the end of a string, the other end of which they fasten 
to a long stick. After sunset a man goes a few steps out 
into the sea and holds out the stick over the water, like 
an angling rod, with the food hanging a little above the 
surface. He calls out the name of the missing man, 
saying, " Suppose you proper lose, you take that kaikai, 
suppose you no lose you no take kaikai." If the man 


is drowned, he will extend his arms out of the water and 
take the food. The man with the rod carefully notes the 
aspect of the arm ; if it is covered with seaweed like a log 
of wood which has been a long time in the water, the arm 
belongs to the spirit of somebody drowned long ago ; if 
it is free from weed he concludes, " Oh, that man, true he 
been lose." If even after long waiting no hand comes up 
from the water and takes the food, this is a proof that the 
man is not dead, but that they can expect him to return. 

One of the great ceremonies of the Mawata tribe has 
reference to turtle spearing, and at the time of this cere- 
mony the people carefully clear the burial-place of their 
departed fathers, put presents of food on the graves, and 
pour out the contents of two coconuts over them, asking 
the dead persons to help them to spear many turtle. On 
one occasion the grave of one man only, named Bidja, was 
neglected. When afterwards the villagers went out to the 
reefs in their canoes, everybody speared many turtle 
except Bidja's people. In the night his spirit appeared 
and spoke to them, and they heard a voice without knowing 
whether it came from the canoe or from under the water, 
it said, " Oh, my friend, no fault belong me ; you no been 
make my burial ground good, you fellow no can find him 
turtle, you fellow nothing go back. Next time you fellow 
look out my burial ground good, next time you see." 
The people returned to the village and did as they had been 
told. When they went out again they speared a great 
number of turtle, and afterwards were careful not to 
neglect the graves of their dead parents. 

Various offerings of this kind are common, but hardly 
ever seem to have been carried on regularly for a long 
time. They represent, so to say, an experimental appeal 
to a supernatural being ; the people do not believe in 
them for certain, but think it worth while to try their 
effect ; and when no longer thought useful such appeals 
are abandoned for something else. 


Useful knowledge of various things is often imparted by 
dead persons to their li\'1ng friends, and this generally takes 
place in dreams. Here is one reason why the ideas of 
different people regarding many matters vary to such a 
great extent. Particularly in the case of departed parents 
a man may sometimes com.pel the spirits to appear to him 
in a dream so as to get their advice. Many Papuan folk- 
tales tell us how a man will dig up the skulls of his dead 
parents from the grave and sleep close to them in order that 
the parents may come to him in a dream when their •vs'arn- 
ing or instruction is required, and not infrequently when 
doing so the man will provide himself \\'ith a stick, threaten- 
ing to break the skulls if the parents do not put in their 
appearance promptly. 

Spirits of the dead are sometimes appealed to through. 
the medium of a certain beverage called gdmoda. It is 
apparently the Piper mcthysticum, the kava of the Poly- 
nesians. The root and stem are chewed and then strained 
through a coconut leaf into a small bowl. This liquor 
produces a narcotic effect. When the natives want to 
invoke the help of a spirit for instance for their garden 
work, they dip a twig of the plant into the bowl and 
sprinkle a little of the contents in the direction of the 
garden, calling out the name of the dead man and saying 
some such words as these, " What place I go make garden, 
before you been make garden that place. All same you 
been plant him before I make him all same ; old mother, 
father, you help me fellow." The practice of sprinkling 
gdmoda and invoking a supernatural being is called karea, 
and is also resorted to for hunting, fishing and many other 

In the great tdera or hbribmu ceremony, one of the most 
important of the ceremonies of the Kiwais, spirits of the 
dead are supposed to play a prominent part. The cere- 
mony can best be compared to a pantomimic performance 
in which the men representing the spirits of the dead dance 


before the women. There is a kind of stage arrangement 
consisting of two screens with the ends towards tlie 
middle overlapping, so one cannot see into the shrine, and 
through this opening the performers go in and out. The 
women's place is on the one side of the screen at some 
distance from it, and groups of men come out in turn 
through the opening and dance, after which they again 
retire behind the screens. The men represent different 
kinds of spirits, there are about a dozen different groups 
of dramatis personce, and the women cannot recognise 
their features because of the masks or leaves with which 
their faces are covered. The women believe that the per- 
formers really are spirits of the dead and weep when they 
think they recognise some departed friend or another 
among the dancers, they also give them presents of food. 
The ceremony lasts for a few weeks, and during that time 
a great variety of dances and pantomimes take place. 
Even to the men the ceremony is by no means a mere 
play, on the contrary, they always regard it with great 
veneration, and real spirits are thought to take part 
although invisible. The ceremony also has reference to 
the garden work and dugong fishing of the people. There 
are many devices by which the men contrive to keep the 
women in ignorance that they themselves act as the 
spirits. For instance, on the last day the spirits, in full 
view of the people, leave the place on their way back to 
Adiri, while at the same time all the men of the tribe 
dressed in ordinary attire join the women. This is achieved 
through the help of a large number of men from some 
neighbouring village, who are summoned in secret to repre- 
sent the spirits on that particular occasion. 

There are certain classes of dead people who become 
malignant beings and consequently are much feared among 
the people. A man who has been killed in a fight and 
whose head has been cut off becomes an uiumu, a highly 
malevolent ghost. The blood which has spurted out from 


the gash in his neck shines like fire at night, and people 
are known to have become the prey of the 'dtumu through 
mistaking this light for an ordinary fire. The utumu 
devours the bodies of its victims except the heads, hands 
and feet, which it leaves untouched together with the bones. 
A bow-shot cannot hurt the iltumu, but some people 
believe they can frighten it away by rattling with their 
bundle of arrows when walking in the bush after sunset. 
The cry of the Mumu is a roar from its gaping throat. 
Some people believe that the utumu is continually seen to 
fall down and rise up again like a man who is being killed 
in a fight ; they also think that the light does not always ; 
emanate from its neck, but when seen it is an omen that 
somebody will be killed. 

Another group of evil beings is constituted by people 
who have been killed by a crocodile or snake and also 
those who have hanged themselves ; these beings try to 
lure friends into a death similar to their own, and the same 
is true, although in a less degree, of other people who have 
suffered a violent death. In the same group may also be 
reckoned women who have died in childbed ; like the 
ghosts just mentioned they cause great dread among the 
people. Some women in childbed are believed to run 
away into the bush and become evil beings even while 
alive. In order to lay the ghost, for instance, of a man 
taken by a crocodile the people will sometimes make a 
small hut at the place where the accident has happened, 
similar to the hut erected over a grave, and inside they 
put a little food. Their object is to keep the spirit con- 
fined to that spot, and they address it, saying, " You no 
come where people he stop, you devil (ghost) now. House 
belong you here, you stop here." 

On turning our attention from the spirits of the dead to 
other mythical beings, we shall find that practically all of 
them are of a more or less malevolent character, although 
some may prove useful to the people, and may even help 


them by giving them advice on various matters if properly 
approached. On asking one of my informants wlxcther 
he could not remember any good being, I was answered, 
" He no good thing no plenty (there are only few good 
beings) — too much trouble all time." 

In large hollow trees, in wells or swamps, or in the 
ground there lives a kind of spiritual being called in 
Mawata itengena. In the daytime they appear in the shape 
of snakes, pigs or birds, but at night they are men. There 
is also a very similar group of beings, the same, who in fact 
are identified by some people with the etengena, although 
some keep them distinct. The same in their human shape 
are very small men with short legs and grey hair, they seem 
to live by preference in the water, while the real etengena 
inhabit trees and holes in the ground ; I was given a 
description of the same when I asked my informants 
whether they had heard of manikins and dwarfs. 

When clearing the ground for a new garden the natives 
1are afraid to cut down any big tree in case it should be the 
dwelling-place of an etengena. A large tree growing near 
a garden, which one's parents have made, will never be 
touched. " You cut him down," said one of my informants, 
" that's body belong you you cut him. That tree he dry, 
you dead too." Sometimes a man, who wants to cut down 
a tree, first asks the etengena to leave it and go and live 
somewhere else. When doing so the man fills his mouth 
with water and squirts it out over the tree, this practice 
is also called karea, like the sprinkling of the gdmoda. He 
says to the etengena, "Me fellow make friend now, you no 
kill me. I make garden, you leave that tree ; you go stop 
along ground, look out garden." If the etengena has been 
disturbed it becomes angry and brings harm upon the 
man, who will be bitten by a snake or meet witli some 
other disaster. It bears ill-will particularly to strangers, 
and that is one reason why people do not like to go alone 
to each other's gardens. A father will from time to time 


bring his son with him to his garden and take him near the 
tree of the etengena so that the spirit may learn to know 
the boy and become kindly disposed to him, it will under- 
stand, " That ground belong that boy, when father he 
finish, that boy he look out ground." 

As in the case of the spirits of the dead the natives also 
sprinkle gdmoda when invoking the help of the etengena, 
they say, for instance, " I plant him garden first time, you 
fellow go put ' medicine ' behind (afterwards), make plenty 
kaikai (food). Next time I kaikai plenty, plenty garden 
by and by ; you fellow sorry me, you cut him plenty 
head," which last expression means, " you cause plenty 
taro to grow." Sometimes they put their garden tools 
together with a heap of food close by, and sprinkling 
gdmoda over the tools ask the etengena, " You no break 
tomahawk, you no break knife, you no make him toma- 
hawk go cut me fellow ; me make him big garden." The 
food put out represents a fictitious present to the etengena, 
calculated to dispose him favourably, but the food is after- 
wards taken away by the owners. The first fruit of any 
kind is put as a present near the tree where the etengena 
lives. Sometimes the etengena may gradually become 
quite attached to the owner of the ground, and when the 
man dies, the people can sometimes hear the etengena 
crying in the night near his garden. 

Many folk-tales tell us how the etengena appear to people 
at night and impart to them in dreams useful advice 
regarding their garden work and other pursuits. Some- 
times in the daytime too, when they are in the shape of 
snakes or other animals, they make signs which the people 
try to interpret. One of my informants had once been 
asked by an etengena in a dream to go the next day to a 
certain place where he would find the etengena in the shape 
of a snake. He was requested to put the snake round his 
head ; then the etengena would assume its human form. 
The man went to the place indicated, where he found a 


snake. Time after time the poor fellow tried to force 
himself to take hold of the reptile and put it round his 
head, but always shrank back for fear, until the snake dis- 
appeared in the bush. But ever since he regretted his 
cowardice, thinking of all the desirable gifts he expected 
from the etengena. Sometimes the etengcna or other beings 
when giving advice to people in dreams will hand them 
some object representing a medicine in the magical sense, 
which the men may find on waking. More than one quarrel 
has been caused in a house by somebody being wakened 
a little too early when a spirit was just in the act of giving 
him beautiful things, for which he looks in vain afterwards 
round his bed. 

There are some other classes of mythical beings, which 
v/ill be mentioned here in a few words. 

OrigoriXso, or driogor'dho, is an evil character, the name 
of which has reference to its custom of eating everything 
raw. It has a figure like a man, but the legs are very short. 
It is provided with long claws and protruding tusks, and 
devours people. The ears are enormous, and when it 
sleeps it uses the one as a mat to lie on and the other as 
a cover. The favourite story about origoruso tells us how 
all the inhabitants of a village once ran away from such 
a beast which had killed many of them. Only one man 
and his wife for some reason stayed behind and were 
found by the creature. They succeeded in appeasing it 
by giving it many pigs to eat. It ate and ate and drank, 
until at last it fell asleep, and they could escape. 

Oboubi are mysterious beings who live in the water and 
cause people to get drowned. They are the guardians of 
all water animals, and when for instance a crocodile has 
been speared they will appear in a dream to the man who 
performed the act, asking him why he has killed their 

Hiwai-dbere are female beings who live in the bush ; they 
kill people and otherwise cause them harm. Sometimes 


they appear as real women, and in the folk-tales it often 
happens that a Mwai-dbere at a marriage or some other 
occasion takes the place of the bride or another woman 
without being detected for some time. Other female 
beings are the besSre-besere, or behere-behere, unmarried 
girls who haunt the bush and are ready to marry any man 
whom they may come across. 

Maigidubu is a male being which generally appears as 
an enormous serpent, but at times has the shape of a man. 
It comes into the houses at night attracted by some woman 
it has seen during the day, and may even carry her away 
into the bush. Although it kills people it is sometimes 
quite friendly, particularly to women, and helps them when 
they are in distress. 

There are no giants in the Kiwai folklore, only a man 
who could extend his arm many miles and at night used 
to send out his hand in that way to steal from other 
people's gardens and houses. Earthquakes are caused by 
one kind of beings, lightning and rain by another. On the 
whole many aspects of nature are in some way or another 
connected with mysterious beings. There are mythical 
animals living in the bush and in the sea, not as mere 
fabulous monsters but with existence in the flesh as wit- 
nessed by many people who have seen them. And above 
all there are local spirits and creatures which inhabit 
certain reefs, rocks, capes and rivers. We hardly find any 
conspicuous point in a New Guinea landscape which is 
not represented as the abode of some local being. None 
of all these mythical characters are made the object of 
any form of actual worship, some of them, however, par- 
ticularly the local spirits, appear to men in dreams and 
tell them of useful things in return for occasional presents 
of food or other things. In this respect there is some degree 
of specialisation ; one spirit will only appear to a certain 
man or his kin, not to everybody, and people can generally 
tell the special dream-apparition of some man or another 


The following story gives an instance of the belief in 
guardian or tutelary spirits among the Kiwais. A bush 
boy and girl from the coast were both adopted by a bush- 
man, and for some reason the boy shot the girl and killed 
her. At night her ghost appeared screaming and falling 
down just as she did when murdered. The next night the 
adopted father put the boy to sleep on that same spot in 
order that the ghost might enter his body, and so it hap- 
pened. Afterwards the ghost passed out of the boy and 
appeared as a woman in the flesh. Many people have seen 
her although only at night. The man could send her away 
to perform anjrthing he wanted. He summoned her by 
burning a part of her grass-skirt in the fire, and the people 
could hear her whistle outside the house when she arrived. 
The man was told by her of anything he wanted to know. 
He had two similar spirits at his disposal. Such spirits 
are said to be common among the bush-tribes, who are 
distinct from the people on the coast, and those few Kiwai 
men who had a spirit attached to themselves had come 
into possession of it by being taught by bushmen. 

Dr. Haddon, writing on the religion of the Torres Straits 
Islanders, includes the " hero cults " of the people {Reports, 
Camhr. Anthrop. Exp., Vol. V, 367). Some of the heroes 
mentioned by him from Torres Straits are also known to 
the Kiwai natives, for instance, Kwoiam (Kuiamo), the 
hero of Mabuiag, who is, how;ever, represented by the 
Kiwai people as rather a wicked character from his early 
boyhood. But none of these heroes of many folk- tales are 
connected among the Kiwai people with any form of 
worship. A few of them, who are still believed to exist in 
some particular locality, may appear in dreams to certain 
people, giving them adAace. Otherwise these so-called 
heroes and heroines approximate very closely to any 
other personages mentioned in folklore with little or no 
relation to cult. 

It remains to say a few words of the use of human effigies 


in the rites of the Kiwai Papuans. Human figures or parts 
of them, particularly faces, are a very common motive in 
the decoration of many of their implements, ornaments, 
and weapons, and in two cases effigies play a part in actual 

In addition to their dwelling-houses, of the Long House 
type, the Kiwai natives have or had men's houses of a 
similar construction — ^there are only one or two left now 
in the district — in these the men lived, although the 
married men could also stay and sleep in the dwelling- 
houses whenever they liked. These men's houses were the 
scenes of practically all the indoor dances and ceremonies 
of the natives, and had particular reference to their war- 
fare. The rows of perpendicular posts supporting the roof 
of a men's house were carved to represent human figures, 
male and female. The place in front of the central carved 
post was reserved for the performance of the most impor- 
tant part of their ceremonies. Close to that post they kept 
their weapons and other things connected with war, 
skulls of slain enemies were hung up there, and no young 
man might touch the post. The building of a men's house 
was occupied by a continued series of magical rites, some 
of which had particular reference to the posts. At several 
stages during the building the men went to kill some 
enemies and bring home some blood in bamboo tubes with 
which to smear the posts. Under the eyes on the posts, made 
of pieces of shell, they put parts of the eyes of slain enemies, 
they also cut from their enemies the eyebrows and upper 
lips with the moustache on and pasted them in their 
respective places on the figure. Human hair covered the 
head of the effigy, and the rib of a pig was used for a nose- 
stick. When the men returned from a fight they used to 
knock the heads they had taken against the posts. 

The natives could give no information as to what these 
posts really represented, one man would mention the name 
of one mythical hero, another man would give another 


name, and it was evident that they did not know them- 
selves. Nor had these effigies any name in general use 
other than sdro, or hdro — wliich only means post ; most 
of the names used were kept secret from the women. 
It seems certain that the effigies did not represent any par- 
ticular being or person, no actual worship was offered them, 
but they acted through their own power and that of the 
" medicines " applied to them. 

The other kind of effigies are named mimia, or mimia 
dbere, and the ceremony in which they are used is also 
called mimia, or mimia mogiiru. The central part of that 
great ceremony is as follows : The m^imia figures are set 
up in a row along one of the side walls in the men's house, 
sometimes along both side walls. A great number of 
torches are prepared with " medicine " by the oldest 
people. The fire burning on the fireplace in front of the 
central carved post is considered to be particularly " hot " 
on account of the many " medicines " which during various 
ceremonies have been put into it, and no young man may 
take fire from there. The ceremony constitutes one of the 
many initiatory rites which the young men have to undergo. 
They are brought into the men's house and while the cere- 
mony is in progress some old man lights his torch at the 
central fireplace and puts the burning torch down for a 
moment on some of the mimia figures. All the men then 
light their torches from that of the first man, or at any of 
the fireplaces except the central one, and begin to fight 
each other with their burning torches. The novices have 
the worst of the fight and sometimes get badly burnt, but 
the grown-up men also take an active part in the affray. 
This ceremony purports to make the young men " warm," 
as the natives say, strong for fight and for withstanding 
sickness ; they must never again be afraid of anything. 

On the coast west of the Fly River the natives instead 
of wooden figures used natural or worked stones, crudely 
representing the upper part of a body. In that district 
the ceremony was performed in a slightly different way. 


It is to be admitted that the true character of the 
effigies in the Kiwai men's house and the carved wooden or 
stone figures still remains somewhat obscure and is so to 
the natives themselves. I am, however, of opinion that 
in the first place the natives make use of them in a magical 
sense. At the same time one cannot help noticing a certain 
tendency to regard them as animated, and thus the posts 
and figures give us another interesting instance of the first 
development of religious ideas among these Papuans. 


Abortion and infanticide^ 296 

Adui-u, 144 

Agibi, 247 

Agricultural charms, 280 

Agriculture, 207 

Aird Delta, 244 

Aita, 81 

Ambushi, V.C, 34 

Ants, 25 

Arifera village, 87 

Arrows, Papuan, 95, 126, 140 

Attractions of Papua, 18 

Awoto masks, 227 

Babiri tribe, 109 

Badu village, 79 

Bagi, 109 

Baii the Sorcerer, 136 

Bamboo bows, 125 

Bampton I., 56 

Bampton and Alt, Capts., 43 

Bamu, The, 210 

Bamu, Drums and canoes of 

Banana, The, 19 
Banana-growing, 287 
Bananas, 142 
Baramura, 138 
Beche-de-mer, 284 
Beer tribe, 108 
Beetles, 25 
Bensbach River, 114 
Besai's drum, 104 
Betel-nut, The, 205 
Betrothal, Early, 82 
Bimarami, The, 217 
Bina, 223 

Birds of Paradise, 143 
Birds, Numerous, 112 
Birth, 68 
Birtli-rate, 96 
Blackwood, Capt., 44, 129 
Bligh, Capt., 42 
"Blocked" roads, 205 
'' Bouito " expedition, 283 


Bores, River, 229 

Bows and arrows, Bamu, 218 

Bridges and ferries, 85, 163 

Bnji, 106 

Bungalows, 23 

Buniki, 'I'he, 226 

Buniki canoes, 226 

Burial, ]26, 176 

Busli tribes, 86 

Bushfolk, Decreasing, 95 

Bushman dwellings, 84 

" Bushmen,'' 79 

Cannibalism, 225, 249, 257 
Canoe-building, 139 
Canoes, Girara, 207 
Canoes, The price of, 164 
Canoes, 'J'rade in, 76 
Carriers, 86 
('arstenz, J., 42 
Carved furniture, 185 
Charms, 134 
Charms, Garden, 89 
Clav, Edible, 144 
Climate, 19 
Clothes, Taste for, 217 
Coal, 290 
Coast, Flat, 112 
Coconut, The, ] 60, 276, 285 
Cpconut dance. A, 136 
Commercial and trading dis- 
advantages, 284 
Communal feeling, 294 
Constabulary, The, 27 
Cook, Capt., 42 
Cookery, Native, 21 
Copra, "298 
Corpse-eating, 83 
Courts, 28 
Courtship, 64 
Crabs, 214 

Crime, Tlie detection of, 35 
Crocodile, The, 91 
Cuscus, The, 1 15 
Custom and Law, 292 




Dabu tribe, 99 

Dampier, 42 

Dances, 180 

Darimu, or Man-house, 183 

Daru Is., 48 

Daudai, or Dudi, 78 

Daumori, 147 

Dhobie, 25 

De Saavedra, 17 

Dead, Ghosts of the, 176 

Death-rate, Heavy, 160 

" Devils,'^ Tree and Stone, 50 

Diet and health, 20 

Dimiri tribe, 107 

Dirimo tribe, 85 

District Officer, Duties of the, 29 

Divination, 63 

Divisions, 26 

Divorce, 66 

Djibu, The, 87 

Dogona, 191 

Dogona, Long House at, 203 

Dogs' teeth, 229 

Doropo, 155 

Double outrigged canoes, 77 

Drums, 178 

Drums and canoes of the Bamu, 228 

Dugong, The, 69 

Dugong fishing, 280 

Dutch explorers, 41 

Ears, Piercing the, 168 
East India Company, 42 
Education, 296 
European fashions, 60 

Fever, 25 

Fighting, 172 

Fire, 69 

Fire, The origin of, 175 

Fishing, 63 

Fishing rights, 279 

Fly River, 118, 129 

Fly River bore, 144 

Fly River men as sailors, 295 

Food, 19 

Fresh water. Problem of, 227 

Fruit, 20 

Gaima, 188 
Gaima tribe, 108 
Gama River, 233 
Gama, Houses on the, 235 
Gama people, 233 
Gamada, 92, 171 

Game, 89 
Game trap, 89 
Garara mask. The, 51 
Garden work, 90 
Gardens, 275 
Gebarubi, The, 55 
Gecko lizards, 24 
Gerewa, 246 
Ghosts of the slain, 1 74 
Girara, The, 201 
Goaribari, 243 
Goaribari burial, 251 
Goaribari canoes, 250 
Goaribari thieves, 252 
Goaribari women, 251 
Gobi rapids, 266 
Gold, 111, 290 
Gowabuari, 151 
Grave stones, 59 
Grijalva, 41 

Haddon, Dr., 45 

Hair, The, 168 

Handcuffs, 32 

Hands, Dried, 258 

Harpoon, The, 70 

Head-carriers, 219 

Head-hunting, 173 

Head knife. The, 219 

Heads, Manipulating the infants', 

Helmets, 130 
Hiamu. The, 49 
Horiomu ceremony, 73 
House-boy, The, 22 
Hunting rights, 279 

Immorality, 158 
Infanticide, 96 
Inheritance, 277 
Initiation, 73, 185 
Initiation, Girara, 208 
Interpreters, 38 
Irrigation, 275 
Itch, 25 
Iwi tribe, 148 

Jaggry, or Nipa palm sugar, 287 
Jarisz, W., 41 
Jnanita, The, 54 
Jungle produce, 288 

Kangaroo, Hunting the, 89 
Kauwai mask, 227 
Kiko River, 256 



Kiwai canoes, 142 
Kiwai Island, 153 
Kiwai, The, 164, 301 
Kiwai women, 167 
Kondua, 128 
Kunini, The, 62 
Kuria tribe, 227 
Kuru, 87 

Labour, 291 

Land tenure, 271 

Lang-uag-es, 39 

Leeches, 25 

Long House, Dedication of a, 248 

Long Houses of Goaribari, 247 

Long House, The, 46, 182 

Mabudauan, 102 
MacFarlane, Mr., 130 
Madubu, or bull-roarers, 186 
Mai Kussa River, 110 
Maipani, 212, 224 
Mamoose, 31 
Man-house, 91, 185, 247 
Mangrove, The, 287 
Manioc, 124 
Marukara Island, 103 
Masingara, The, 90 
Masks, 227 
Mata, 125 
Matrimonv, 64, 181 
Mawatta, The, 56, 60 
Melanesians, 45 
Mibu Island, 131 
Mobi River, 265 
Morality, 63 
Morehead. The, 114 
Mourning^ 74, 87, 175, 177, 203 
Mud of the Gama River, 236 
Musical instruments, 178 

Native Court, The, 29 
Native idea of justice, 293 
Nose ornaments, 126 
Nose, Piercing the, 168 

Outrigger canoes, 226 
Out-station life, 20 

Paho Island, 104 

Paho River, 98 

Papuans, The, 45 

Papuans as servants, 22 

Parama, 55 

Paths for men and women, 86 

" Paying back," 194 
Pawpaw, The, 19 
Pearl fishing, 284 
Personal property, 281 
Petroleum, 290 
Pigeons, 53 
Pigs, 100 

Pigville, Long House at, 216 
Pipes, Tobacco, 171 
Pipi dance, Tlie, 174 
"Place of skulls," A, 207 
Platform fishing, 71 
Podari, 81 
Poisoned arrows, 79 
Police, Native, 33 
Polygamy, 96 
Pool, T., 42 
Primitive races, 45 
Private property, 275 
Prostitutes, Professional, 150 
Pubic shell, 115 

Quarantine, 90 

Ray, Mr. S., 46 
Relationship, 67 

Relief to one's feelings. Native, 159 
Religion, 300 

Resident Magistrate, The, 26, 35 
Responsibility, collective and indi- 
vidual, 293' 
Retes, Ynigo de, 41 
Ringworm, 25 

Sabe, or tabu, GG, 178 
Sago, 52, 161, 277, 288 
Sago swamp. A, 222 
Sago worms, 215 
Saibai Point, 102 
Sa^nbrigi natives, 260 
Sambrigi women, 260 
Sarina, a curious custom, 145 
Scarification, 82, 169 
Scenery, 18 
Scrub turkey, 257 
Ship, An ancient, 132 
Sisiame, 220 
Skull collecting, 218 
Skulls, Preserved, 62 
Skulls, Smoke-dried, 122 
So-hup, a curious custom, 160 
Sorcery, 83, 97, 133, 225 
Sorgal or Sogaru, 81 
Spanish explorers, 17 
Spirits of the dead, 303 



Station, Opening a, 254 
Stockaded villages, 108 
Stone axes, 187, 258 
Stores, Laying in, 21 
Strachan, Capt., 110 
Strachan Is., 110 
Strickland, R., 151 
Sucker fish, or gapu, 58 
Suicide, 177 
Sumai, 167 
Suwami, 145 
Swamp fish, 206 
Swamp plains, Immense, 
Swamps, 194 
Sweet potatoes, 161 


Tabaram, 123 

"Tabu," 66 

'•'Tabu" roads, 263 

Tall hats, 202 

Tapamone, 144 

Taro, 88 

Tattooing, 169 

Ti tree, The, 289 

Tidal rivers, 229 

Timl)er, 289 

Tinned provisions, 21 

Tirio village, 133 

Tobacco, 125, 171, 289 

Togu tribe, 99 

Tonda village, 1 1 5 

Toro Passage, The, 55 

Totem clans, 72 

Totems, 107 

Totems, Kiwai, 180 

Traders and adventurers, 283 

Trading, 75 
Tribal lands, 272 
Tribes, Movements of, 47 
Tricks with string, 150 
Tugeri, The, 117 
Turama, People of the, 241 
Turama, R., 238 
Turituri, 60 
Turtle eggs, 58 
Turtle fishing, 56 

Umbrella, An, 191 
Underground rivers, 269 
Urio people, 147 

Vegetable life, 19 

Vendetta, The, 172 

Village constable system, 30, 157 

"SVabado tribe, 149 

Wadoda, 213 

Wages, 23 

" "Walk-about" or patrol, 36 

Wassi Kussa R., 110 

Weridai, 147 

Western Division, The, 44 

Widows, 177 

Wife, The price of a, 65 

Women fighters, 123 

Women, Inheritance by, 278 

Women, The position of, 65 

Women's dance, 208 

AV'omen's fashions, 138 

Yam frame, A huge, 116 
Yaukona, or Kava, 94 


^- 1979 



DU Beaver,, Wilfred N 

74.0 Unexplored New Guinea