Monthly Archives: February 2004

Anniversary of "Bravo" H-Bomb Test on Bikini

March 1st is also the 50th anniversary of the H-bomb “Bravo blast” on Bikini in the Marshall Islands, where the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958. The Bravo test was a horrendous mistake.

By missing an important fusion reaction, the Los Alamos scientists had grossly underestimated the size of the explosion. They thought it would yield the equivalent of 5 million tons of TNT, but, in fact, ‘Bravo’ yielded 15 megatons — making it more than a thousand times bigger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Bikini and Rongelap (100 miles to its east) are still uninhabitable.

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Photographs from the Japanese Colonial Period in Korea

To commemorate the 85th anniversary of Korea’s March First Independence Movement in 1919, the Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition) has published two articles on photographic archives from the colonial period.

The Japanese Colonial Period Through Photographs I

The Japanese Colonial Period Through Photographs II

A tip of the moja to The Marmot

UPDATE: The Korea blogs Budaechigae and KamelianXRays both offer retrospectives on the events of 1 March 1919. And the Marmot notes that South Korean President Noh took the opportunity to do a little extemporaneous bashing of Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi–to the consternation of the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

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Japan and the War, 1915

Japan and the War – From the time Japan entered the World-war last summer, down to to-day, she appears to have acted scrupulously and considerately in all her dealings with friend and foe alike.

Sympathy with Germany – The true attitude of Japan to the war has been little known and perhaps less understood, and we must wait for the close of the war before all that can be said to her credit shall be made public. There were many considerations which would naturally have strongly influenced Japan to maintain either a neutral position in the war, or to become an ally of Germany. Japan’s large trade with Germany, the fact that many of her doctors and other professional men have been educated in Germany and hence are strongly German in their sympathies, and the very important fact that Japan’s military organization is copied after Germany and many of the military leaders have been trained in Germany–all combined to produce a very strong sympathy with that nation.

Japan’s Share in War – It was no easy task which Count Okuma faced in leading the nation unitedly to support its ally, England, and to engage early in the attack upon Kiaochau and the successful conquest of that port. It is not difficult to imagine how different would have been the condition of the great port cities of the Far East, Hongkong, Shanghai, Tientsin, and others, had Japan pursued a different policy and failed to render useless for German military purposes the port of Kiaochau, with its splendid base for the German navy. Her effective patrol of the Pacific guaranteed safety and security to ports and shipping of all nations, which the British navy was entirely unable to provide. The career of the Emden furnishes a suggestion of what might have occurred very generally throughout the Eastern waters, had Japan been less efficient in protecting the world’s shipping.

Kiaochou and Belgium – Her treatment of Kiaochou stands out in strong contrast with Germany’s treatment of Belgium, and her treatment of the German prisoners interned in Japan is greatly to her credit, when we bear in mind the indignities reported as borne by Japanese at the same time in Germany, and its natural effect upon the public mind.

Troops to Europe – The Government did not approve of the project favoured in some parts of Europe, and desired by some in Japan, of sending troops to the European war. It was ready however and willing to send Red Cross nurses and to give such other practical assistance as it could.

Support of Russia – Perhaps in no way could Japan have offered a more practical support to her ally, or have given stronger evidence of her actual sympathy, than in her voluntary assurance to her recent enemy, Russia, that she was free to withdraw all her troops from Eastern Siberia, if needed for the war, without any fear of advantage being taken of it by Japan.

Japan in South Seas – The energy which Japan showed in wresting from the Germans their Island possessions in the South Pacific is further evidence of the valuable support which she is giving to her allies. Japan well knows that in doing all this she is making of Germany an implacable enemy, and is sacrificing a relationship of great possibility, both commercially and politically.

Had the designs of Japan upon China been as selfish and inconsiderate as many are inclined to suppose, it is difficult to understand why she did not, at the outset of the war, throw her lot with Germany, whose chances of success, at least at that time, gave promise of being far greater than they appeared later on, and whose support would have been most valuable if Japan had designs regarding Chinese territory and wished to appropriate a part of that country to herself.

Relations with America – As a result of the restless activity of Jingoists on both sides of the Pacific, it is not too much to say that at times during the past year conditions have been exceedingly sensitive and gave rise to no little anxiety as to what might follow. The attitude of the two governments toward each other has at no time been such as to occasion deep concern, but the continuous and unabating sensational reports and cablegrams which have been sent back and forth have occasioned much unrest, and there has been at times fear what thoughtless persons might be led to do under the circumstances. One must carefully consider what might follow if some reckless and hotheaded youth should lead in an assault upon the American Embassy in Tokyo, plunging his country into serious international difficulties….

Relations with China – The developments of the past year have revealed an attitude of China towards Japan, and of Japan towards China, which is the ground of great discussion and difference of opinion. It is plain to see that there is apparently a fear of Japan on the part of China, and a misunderstanding of Japan on the part of foreigners dwelling in China, which must cause Japan in any case great uneasiness.

Distrust of Japan – It is difficult to understand why China should prefer to have her territory under German influence rather than under Japanese influence, but so it would seem. Why Englishmen in China should distrust a country which has already done them such good service, as Japan has done to the foreigners in China since the war began, it is hard to explain; but if the foreign press is to be believed, and if reports which come to Japan are to be given any credit, there is certainly at present a most antagonistic feeling toward Japan on the part of very many.

SOURCE: “General Survey,” by John Lincoln Dearing, in The Christian Movement in the Japanese Empire, including Korea and Formosa, a Year Book for 1915 (Conference of Federated Missions, Japan, 1915), pp. 7-11.

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Morobe Field Diary, August 1976: Back in the Village

I couldn’t get much done yesterday because of the steady flow of lousy informants to my ‘office’. But I was given plenty of betel nut and chewed till my teeth are sore. And in the evening I did a good bit of talking in Binga Numbami that goes to show that ‘dry spells’ are often nothing but assimilation and absorption periods. I was feeling particularly dry after my weekend in Lae (actually midweek).

The Sande today started out with Yabem liturgy, including two German > Yabem hymns; Tok Pisin scripture and sermon; followed by a translation in Binga N. spoken mostly facing the women. The men were scattered all about in a widely strewn circle, the women bunched all up next to and under a house. Gilami, the speaker, feels the message is important enough to be translated on most occasions and he is a good talker though a little inclined to righteousness (ah, a kindred soul).

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Morobe Field Diary, July 1976: A Grueling Boat Trip

Travelling aboard the [M.V.] Sago is always an adventure. The last trip back from Lae on July 28 took me 24 hours almost. After 3 trips down to check on the ship I found it was to leave the next morning. So in order to not be left behind as I was before I put some cargo aboard and got up at six (without an alarm) the morning of departure to insure they wouldn’t get impatient & take off. J. was prevailed upon to drive me down by 7 am. I got there and rain was falling steadily and no one was about. I waded out to where the Sago was tied up and found the Captain just getting up. Orait, by 9:30 I had decided to eat breakfast at a small haus kaikai [‘house eat’ = ‘restaurant’]. When I came back we were ready to go.

The boat put in at Buansing and we passed its neighboring enemy Laukanu (Bazela). The Sago had just been chartered to carry a Kaiwa corpse back to his village Buansing and we had to send talk to the village. Buansing is Yuwala-(Kaiwa-)speaking and its neighbor Bazela (Laukanu) is Kela-speaking. The kiap (local gov’t official) insists upon a single kaunsil [village head] for both villages and since Bazela is more prominent & the Kelas’ claim to the area is officially recognized over that of the Kaiwas’ [who used to live inland, but most likely moved there from the coast much earlier], the former get the kaunsil. Bazela also has tin roofs while Buansing has none. I think a lumber company operates nearby and employs people from both villages so both have some board houses. I believe those were the two villages embroiled in a big fracas a while back, brought on by a combination of simmering animosities and alcohol.

As we pulled out of Buansing bay we could see a storm brewing out in the (Huon) Gulf. We were halfway out when the engine sputtered & died–out of gas. The fuel line has been leaking buckets or they forgot to fill up in town; I’m not sure which. It took a while to bandage the fuel line and refill. By the time we got underway again the rain & wind was upon us. We should have put in at Buansing until it passed but instead had a real rodeo ride till we reached the lee of Lababia Island off the next (Kela) village [Salus] down the coast, the one from which the original Kela apparently spread in both directions [up and down the coast].

Since I had a poncho and the ‘cabin’ was crowded I sat up on deck with my back to the wind which was coming from slitely off the port bow. Another guy was sitting next to me and in spite of my poncho I wasn’t much drier than he was. I held on for dear life until my hands were aching. Since the wind & waves were coming from the sea and we were running parallel to the coast we got broadsided or nearly so a number of times and lost several pieces of cargo overboard. The little Sago rolled, pitched & yawed to beat all. I was just as happy not to be trapped inside in case it capsized.

When we finally made it to the island we didn’t have a boat to go ashore in so we untied the liferaft and several people finally put together a bamboo raft after failing to find a canoe on the [uninhabited] island. Those few that made the slow trip to shore 2 at a time played Swiss Family Robinson while the rest of us stayed aboard debating whether to put in for the nite and risk the boat drifting onto the coral that was all about or to head out and risk another squall. We must have stayed about from dusk to midnite, no one aboard having room to sleep except some of the kids.

Finally we left and went to Kuwi and put off the parish pastor & his family. He had sat on top of the liferaft clutching his kid, a nearly useless umbrella and the raft all during the squall, shivering all the while.

We got back to Siboma a few hours before dawn. The Paiawa passengers were delivered to Paiawa that morning.

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After 500 Years: Muslim-Christian Fratricide in Central Maluku

Two earlier posts about Muslim-Christian violence in Maluku, Indonesia, have summarized a three-year retrospective on 1999-2001 by reporters for the Jakarta Post and a ten-year retrospective based on my own travels in the area in 1991. This final post in a three-part series summarizes a 500-year retrospective by Dieter Bartels in an online draft of an article, “Your God Is No Longer Mine: Moslem-Christian Fratricide in the Central Moluccas (Indonesia) After a Half-Millennium of Tolerant Co-Existence and Ethnic Unity” (2000).

In the shadow of the recent carnage of the East Timor independence struggle and the equally vicious ongoing battle for Aceh, other parts of Indonesia are torn apart by pernicious strife and the huge and populous island nation is threatened with disintegration. One of the crisis hearths is the eastern island group of Maluku where there is an ongoing internecine struggle between Moslems and Christians. Some of the most heated clashes have been occurring between Ambonese Moslems and Protestant Christians in the Central Moluccas. Beginning on January 19, 1999 Moslems and Christians, seemingly without warning [but arising from a criminal incident perpetrated by outsiders], started to attack one another, burning down each others houses and killing one another in both the provincial capital of Kota Ambon (Ambon City) and villages on the islands of Ambon, Haruku, Saparua, Buru, and Seram. Similar incidents occurred also in the Northern and Southern parts of Maluku involving not only Protestants but also Roman-Catholics. Thus far, the seemingly senseless confrontation, which became known as kerusuhan (unrest), left thousands of people dead and precipitated the devastation of property worth millions of dollars, wiping out much of the economic progress made in the province since Indonesian independence.

It’s worth pointing out that January 1999 is when former President Suharto’s embattled successor, B. J. Habibie, agreed to an East Timorese referendum on whether to accept wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia or to go for independence. The vote, in August 1999, was overwhelmingly (nearly 4:1) in favor of independence.

The conflict can be divided into two rather distinct phases: Phase I began in January of 1999 and closed at the end of April 2000. This phase was characterized by mutual attacks of native Christians and Moslems using largely primitive home-made weapons and bombs (rakitan). Generally, there was an equilibrium of strength. Phase II, having began in May 2000, is characterized by the massive arrival of non-Ambonese, mostly Javanese, Moslem vigilante group, called Laskar Jihad (“Holy War Forces”). They brought with them sophisticated modern weaponry and allied themselves with the Moslem personnel of the military which constitutes about eighty percent of the troops. These developments totally destroyed the previous balance, tipping the scale in favor of the Moslems.

From the very beginning, provocateurs, often said to be associated with the old Suharto regime, have been blamed for the unrest. The Army also has been accused playing a key role in triggering and fomenting the fratricidal violence in order to destabilize the Indonesian state as a means of restoring its political might and economic interests. Among the accusers is the Moluccan sociologist Tamrin Amrin Tomagola who believes that continuous riots will not only upgrade once again the status of the military, and tighten its territorial grip, but also derange President Abdurrahman Wahid and the National Commission on Human Rights which has implicated five generals, including former military chief and ex-cabinet minister, Wiranto, in the post-ballot atrocities in East Timor. Tomagola goes on to state that violence in Moslem areas triggers solidarity among Moslems and heightens their negative feelings toward the President and the commission (Jakarta Post 02/04/2000). Calls in January 2000 for a Jihad (Holy War) against Moluccan Christians at mass demonstrations in Jakarta and attacks of Moslem youths on Christian churches in Lombok seem to strengthen Tomagola’s arguments. The use of automatic weapons in the January 23, 2000 attack by Moslem villagers on their Christian neighbors in the villages of Haruku-Sameth on the island of Haruku further points to military involvement.

Bartels then outlines some of the key factors that led up to the recent violence.

  • The influx of Moslems from outside the area, especially Bugis and Makasar migrants from Sulawesi into Ambon City, and Javanese settlers (‘transmigrasi‘) into rural areas. Initial Christian attacks were against these outsiders, not fellow Moslem Ambonese.
  • The failed model of religious tolerance. “As recently as November 1998, during Moslem-Christian clashes in Jakarta, then President B. J. Habibie had singled out the Moluccas as the model of religious tolerance.” Moluccan exiles in the Netherlands and elsewhere “asked what happened to the traditional Moslem-Christian brotherhood and its safeguards like pela, the traditional inter-village alliance system.”
  • Creeping religious polarization. “Actually, the only thing that should be surprising about these clashes is their vehemence and unbridled violence.” Some of this was visible even during the 1970s.
  • The legacy of different colonizers. “The successive colonizers, Portuguese, Dutch, and Japanese, all tried to manipulate Moslems and Christians, as did the latest, and current, rulers of the Moluccas, the Javanese.” However, “throughout most of colonial history, it seems that, at least at the village level, Moslem and Christians have coexisted in a climate where cooperation seems to have been more common than polarity and discord. Under duress, they have frequently closed ranks and as far back as the Portuguese period and in the early Dutch era, Moslem and newly converted Christian villages allied themselves against the foreign intruders who tried to force a spice monopoly onto them. Again, during the so-called Pattimura uprising in 1817, both religious groups were united in a last, failing effort to rid themselves of the Dutch yoke.”
  • Christian rise to superiority in late colonial period. The Dutch favored “Christian Moluccans as soldiers and administrators, allowing them a certain amount of western schooling denied to the Moslems…. In some cases, Christian villagers had Moslem children live with them in order to give them access to schools denied to Moslem commoners by the Dutch while raising them according to Moslem customs.”
  • Moslem ascendency during Japanese occupation. “During the Japanese occupation, the Christians suddenly saw the roles reversed as the Japanese seemingly favored the Moslem population. Christians accused the Moslems of collaboration.”
  • The proclamation of an independent Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS) after Indonesia declared independence after WWII. “During the ensuing struggle with the Indonesian armed forces, Christian guerrilla forces attacked some Moslem villages which were suspected of being Indonesia sympathizers. There were also instances in which Christian soldiers prevented such attacks when their home village had an alliance with the Moslem village in question.”
  • The breakdown of the pela alliance system. This is elaborated further below.

Some of these inter-village alliances have their origins in the distant past, long before Europeans invaded the Spice Islands in search of cloves and nutmeg. It probably started as an alliance system in the context of head-hunting, but during the Portugese and Dutch conquests in the 16th and 17th centuries, the system was utilized to resist the foreign intruders, and to help each other in times of need. As a matter of fact, quite a few of the still existing pela pacts were founded during that period, often binding Moslem and (recently converted) Christian villages together. Many new pela arose during the last desperate struggle against Dutch colonialism, the Pattimura war at the beginning of the 19th century. After this struggle was lost and the region experienced an economic depression, pela was utilized as an instrument gaining access to foodstuffs when many poor villages of Ambon-Lease established ties with the sago-rich villages of West-Seram. In the first three decades of Indonesian rule, pela was still in full bloom, mainly as a vehicle of Moluccan identity in the pan-Indonesian state and also to further village development without governmental aid….

Most alliances are between Christian villages but a considerable number are between Christian and Moslem villages, thus spanning religious boundaries. Purely Moslem pela do not exist. In contrast to Christians who use adat [local custom] rather than their common religion to establish formal ties between villages, Moslems consider themselves all part of the Islamic community (ummat) and thus find no need to further strengthen the ties among one another. However, there are a few pela, all based on genealogical ties, involving several Christian and Moslem villages and in this case the participating Moslem villages also consider each other as pela partners….

The system as described above worked still very well in the Central Moluccas from the end of World War II until about the 1980s. Attempts of the Indonesian government of political centralization and cultural uniformity since Independence led to a general fear of loss of a distinct Ambonese ethnic identity. Both Moslems and Christians had also become quite conscious about the threat that the ongoing religious polarization posed for Moslem-Christian unity. While urban politicians were fighting for the spoils offered by the new system, people at the grassroots level reacted to the twin threat of loss of identity and social disunity through placing a renewed emphasis on pela, whose dense web spanning across the islands and religious boundaries was traditionally the major force of integration. The earlier listed economic incentives, based on reciprocal mutual aid, further helped to cement the interfaith relationship.

  • Elevation of global religion (agama) above tradition (adat). Increasing Christianization and Islamization after independence.
  • Indonesization of Ambonese social system: Replacement of traditional village leadership. Globalization in a manner that benefitted the urban (often outsider) elite. Large-scale relocation of (Moslem) ‘transmigrasi’ from Java. Overpopulation, land scarcity, feuding and fission. Urbanization, with outsiders dominating commerce.

Bartels tries to find some hope for the future in his final section.

Mending the Torn Fabric

Once the fighting stops, Moslem and Christians will indeed have to come together and redefine their relationship and strive for a new intra-ethnic symbiosis in a contemporary context. First and foremost, the intertwined problems of overpopulation, land shortages, and immigration have to be solved. As a next step, it seems likely that the Ambonese in the Central Moluccas will have to do what the Ambonese exiles in the Netherlands have been doing ever since they arrived in the Netherlands in 1951, namely engage in a continuous process of reinventing adat to reflect contemporary socio-political reality. Pela on the village level can still have its uses in restoring overall harmony. Before visiting the Central Moluccas in June and July 2000, I was very pessimistic about the survival of interreligious pela. Most people who don’t have pela with a Moslem village believe that these pela are forever destroyed. However, people who do have such pacts are not as ready to pronounce their alliances dead. This was certainly the case in Haria. Villagers from Samasuru (Seram) who have pela with Islamic Iha on Saparua do not dare stay there overnight as they did before when visiting Saparua but it seems they do it more out of consideration for Christian villages adjacent to Iha but are still in communication with Iha. They had given Iha land in the 1960s which was laid to waste during the unrest by outsiders. Iha insisted that Samasuru was innocent and that their alliance is still intact. The heavy attacks and counterattacks between Moslems and Christians in North Saparua occurring between September 22 and 24 were apparently instigated by the Laskar Jihad. As a result, many villagers from Iha fled to some of nearby Christian villages, seemingly to trying themselves to escape the Laskar Jihad. Their peaceful reception in these villages is perhaps one of the indicators that not all bridges have been burned.

The following story also shows some hope, though it may not immediately apparent: After the total destruction of Christian Kariuw on Haruku in the early phase of the conflict by neighboring Moslem villages of Pelauw and Ori, their Moslem pela partner Hualoi (Seram) sent a delegation with food to the village of another partner in the same alliance, Aboru (Haruku), where many Kariuwans had found refuge. The wounds were still too fresh and the food was rejected. Hope also can be found in the example of Wayame, a non-traditional, mixed Moslem-Christian settlement across the bay opposite Ambon City, which thus far which had been untouched by the conflict until late November 2000. Even then, it was not an internal conflict but an attack from the outside by Laskar Jihad forces. However, attempts by surrounding Moslem villages to officially declare Waai, a Christian village destroyed in July 2000, as a Moslem village and the intention to rebuild the mosque at exactly the same spot where it supposedly stood in 1670 when Waai was still Islamic, will inflame passions again. The suggestion was made by the chief commander (panglima) of the Laskar Jihad, Ja’far Umar Thalib, and thus it is quite likely that this declaration was made under duress….

Perhaps, and rather ironically, the simultaneous suffering of the Ambonese Moslem community under the reign of terror of the Laskar Jihad and certain army factions, may soften the existing bitterness and hatred between the two indigenous groups and facilitate ethnic reconciliation.

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The NGO Catch 22

The November 2003 issue of The Journal of Asian Studies (vol. 62, no. 4) contains an interesting review by Salim Rashid of the book, Civil Society by Design: Donors, NGOs, and the Intermestic Development Circle in Bangladesh, by Kendall W. Stiles (Praeger, 2002).

This book is based on fieldwork done in Bangladesh between 1998 and 1999 on the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the process of economic development. In polite, academic language, it mounts a substantial critique of the hope that NGOs will be the vanguard of change in the near future. The hopes for the NGOs were based on the thought that these organizations would bypass the moribund and corrupt state institutions and infuse fresh vigor into the development process. Such change has not come about, nor is it likely to. The negative themes also come out clearly in an article published almost simultaneously in World Development (30[5][2002]:835-46).

Kendall W. Stiles coins the word “intermestic” to describe the new incestuous relationship that develops between domestic and international organizations. The requirements imposed upon NGOs to maintain this relationship serve in the end to stifle effective action. Critics from the Left believe that such organizations can only effect cosmetic change in an exploitative system and hence serve only to dissipate radical energies in wasteful directions; those from the Right applaud volunteerism and benevolence, but they want all recipients to become self-sufficient rapidly. Well, if the NGOs really do espouse radicalism, neither the Government nor the foreign donors will tolerate them for very long; on the other hand, if the NGO projects really were sustainable–a cute euphemism for “financially viable”–then the market system should suffice to do the job.

These are systemic problems.

No kidding. One of the central questions facing the international community in this era of rapidly multiplying failed states is whether national sovereignty is (a) an inalienable right, (b) a revocable privilege, or (c) an impediment to economic growth. The EU seems to favor (c), but only for states that have already passed the entrance examinations. The IMF seems to favor (b), but only for states that have some chance of passing their remedial classes and rejoining the mainstream. The only thing that everyone appears to agree on is that national sovereignty conveniently trumps every other consideration when failed states are beyond hope, especially if they were once colonies, because the psychic pain of being colonized is worse than the physical pain of bleeding to death or starving to death. In such cases, the NGOs are little more than international hospice workers.

If only failed states could outsource their governments, as some wag in a comment thread on the libertarian blog Samizdata once suggested.

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Morobe Field Diary, July 1976: Village Party

Last Friday, Daniel/Sigo paddled in at dusk, beached his canoe and calmly lifted a 6 ft, 50 lb or so sailfish out of the hull. He caught it on a handline and he siad it jumped and jumped and pulled the canoe a ways before giving out. It filled the whole front end of the hull. The whole village came down to admire; they cut it up after dark on the bed of the canoe by lamplite; and I had a piece the next morning for breakfast. It was a catch any Kona Coast cabin cruiser fisherman would be proud of. Makes me think Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea was a bit overdramatized.

Some of the fish was saved for a wedding party the whole village waited for from Fri to Sun nite when the overdue [M.V.] Sago came back from town with 10-12 cases of beer. The party got started about midmorning Monday. I drank a beer or two with the crowd at my end of the village, mosied off with the kaunsil to the far end where one guy had a bar going selling gin at 20 toea a capful along with enough Coke to barely color it. He made his 6K [= Kina] overhead and 4K profit. I was treated to a double shot and quickly retreated to beer only (about 4).

Well on my way to oblivion and having turned my skin black (or so many people assured me), treated others to gin and cigarettes, and tried my best to refute notions of how civilized the drinking habits of whites were, I careened back to my own end of the village with the intention of napping a few hours of the afternoon in preparation for the evening session.

But upon my return I was offered a COLD beer (thanks to some of the boat’s crew having snitched a bit of the block ice for keeping the fish catch fresh) and perhaps another. Some people got out handdrums and started a rather loose ‘singsing‘ which I was urged to join and which, after some hesitation, I did join.

I must have performed about 1.5 hours, beating on the end of any empty plastic jug along with the other men and one or two females who danced on the periphery from time to time. The kaunsil’s wife then called me for tea; her husband was already done for. I drank tea with biskits and went to my house, lay down without making the bed and was out for the rest of the evening, missing the nitetime guitar playing and dancing Western style and never really paying respects to the couple (a local woman and a Wain man–an area inland of Lae).

I awoke about the time everyone was going to sleep (probably about 2-3 am) and had a sleepless nite after taking two aspirins, two antacid tablets and making my bed. The next morning the whole village was pretty subdued and I sat at my desk the whole day finishing a paperback Adventures of Sherlock Holmes that had enthralled me for two days.

My mother sent pictures of the family which I showed around and cited kinship terms for. That is the magic trick for getting onto the mess of kinship terminology. Later in the evening I drew out the triangle and circle and line chart of all my relatives and now I feel I’ve pretty well got the meaning of each term down but finding out who’s whose what is quite another matter, especially since the names of the in-laws are tabu. But I’m working on it.

Indications are that the Numbami used to be matrilineal but due to European influence (possibly local non-Austronesian influence as well) have begun to reckon by fathers rather than by mother’s brothers. The kaunsil said the party was rubbish and that when we threw one there would be enough booze for the women to ‘spark’ as well.

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Morobe Field Diary, July 1976: Village History

In the beginning the Numbami inhabited the ‘inside’ (leeward) of Awayagi Island (toward Morobe) and Ulingi Point (across the present cove from Awayagi toward Kuwi). All Sibomas will cite these as their asples [‘seat-place’ = homeland]. When they were living there is not clear. It is not within the living memory of any Siboma and preceded time of contact with records-keeping Europeans. I estimate 1850 or so.

At this time they were in the path of raiders from Morobe in the south and Lababia in the north. The Siboma court against Paiawa hinged on testimony from Morobe that Siboma were who they ran into when they came north. Paiawa at that time were ‘man bilong bus’ [inlanders] and did not live on the sea. Even now the [non-Austronesian] Paiawa are regarded as close relatives (thru intermarriage) but rather of the country-cousin variety. To the north the Kela were at Lababia though they apparently traded widely and that place was the site of a (yearly?) pig festival, called bada by Siboma & possibled related to their verb -bada ‘to distibute’, and called a sam by I don’t know who [Jabêm-speakers]. Sam is what the yearly church meeting to be held in Kela this September is called.

To escape the raids the Numbami moved up in the hills above Karsimbo River and apparently were as mixed up with the Bapi people, all mountain people, as they are with the Paiawa now. Probably moreso; the ‘two’ groups were described as being really one by S., and the old kaunsil, who must have been born about the turn of the century or about a little before contact, says he is really a Bapi man. Since they had to have some time to get this mixed up with the Bapi (non-Austronesians like the Paiawa) they must have left Ulingi and Awayagi around 1850. When some Europeans came to this village, called Yawale, the Bapi refused to carry for them and apparently were massacred in retaliation. They fled farther up into the mountains (they now live on the Waria River) and the Sibomas came down to Karsimbo where they were living at the time the mission contacted them and (presumably) named their harbor Braunschweig Harbor. Karsimbo is a good defensible, deep-bayed place.

Apparently due to mission influence or maybe just the cessation of fighting they moved to their present location at the Sayama River (or creek really) in the shallow harbor situated between their old Ulingi Point and Awayagi Island. Apparently these old villages were abandoned so long ago that the old tall coconut trees have fallen down or broken. Now only young trees show where the old villages used to be. Karsimbo is still marked by tall old trees and still has a habitable shoreline whereas Ulingi (and probably Awayagi as well) have lost theirs.

The story with the Buso [up the coast toward Lae] and Kuwi (which also probly matches the court record) is apparently that at some time in the past a dysentery epidemic hit Lababia and everyone fled to their kinsmen all over the Huon Gulf (which may speak for how widely they traded since trade was mostly between kin). A Siboma man asked the Sibomas if he could settle some of his kinsmen at Kuwi (Ya to the Sibomas). Another group apparently established themselves at Buso (two coves up toward Lababia) independently at around that time. Well, later the Kela and allies–mainly, I take it, Kuwi, Buso and Lababia (all Kela wantoks [speakers of the same language])–planned a great raid on the Sibomas living at either Karsimbo or Yawale. They snuck up, surrounded the village during the nite and, at dawn, attacked the unprepared Numbami, reducing their number considerably. A while later the Siboma undertook a similar counterattack against Buso (or Kuwi?) and only desisted from slaughtering them all because they had a relative in the bunch. So, according to S., they killed one Buso for every Siboma dead in the darlier attack and called it even. Whether good sense or colonial rule put an end to that feud I don’t know but it seems to have ended there.

The [Austronesian] Kaiwa were perhaps earlier pushed back by the Kelas and now considerable bitterness and fighting mars the relations between the two language groups. But S. thinks the Kaiwa, like the Paiawa, were earlier man bilong antap long bus [‘people from up in the bush’] and that it was only with Kela evangelizing that they came to the coast.

A final point: the money paid by South Pac. Timber to the Sibomas was split 3 ways among the Paiawa, Bapi and Siboma–I think on a 3:3:4 (or 2:2:6?) basis.

P.S. No one knows how and why the name Siboma came to be applied to the Numbami.

SOURCES: Sawangga Aliau, kaunsil, and ‘Abu Bamo’ [‘grandfather big’], former kaunsil, both of whom were involved in successful land claim court cases involving Siboma claims against Paiawa on the one hand and Kuwi (and Buso?) on the other.


Filed under Papua New Guinea

Early Russian Ethnographer in New Guinea

AnthroBase contains the following profile of an ethnographer who beat Malinowski to New Guinea by several decades.

Miklukho-Maklai, Nikolai Nikolaevich (1846-1888)

Russian anthropologist and explorer, acknowledged as the father of Russian ethnography. In 1871-72, Miklukho-Maklai did 15 months of continuous fieldwork on the Northern coast of New Guinea [in present-day Madang Province], where he pioneered methods that would only gain wide acceptance 40-50 years later, after Malinowski’s fieldwork. Throughout his life, Miklukho-Maklai identified strongly with the people he studied, and he several times spoke out in their defence against colonialist powers. He laid the groundwork of the rich tradition of 19th century Russian ethnography, which continued well into Soviet times–until it was destroyed in Stalin’s purges in the 1930s-50s.

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Filed under Papua New Guinea, Russia, scholarship