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The migration of the Wanigela to Tufi in Oro


LONG AGO MY VILLAGE PEOPLE of Wanigela in the Central Province lived harmoniously.  They shared common bonds by living, cooperating and working together in everyday life.  But one day something happened which separated some people from my village.

Altogether there are 17 clans in my village.  One day some people from the Marugai clan went to the bush - hunting and gathering food.  On their way they came across some dead trunks from some fallen mangrove trees. 

They stopped to cut up the trunks for firewood and also to extract the edible worms.  Worms from dead mangrove tree trunks are good and tasty, either cooked or eaten raw when they have been washed and cleaned properly.

The people collected plenty of edible worms and firewood from the dead mangrove trunks and returned to the village.  They planned to return to their find and get more worms and firewood the next day.

But the news of the discovery reached some other people from the same clan and they went out very early the next day and collected the worms and returned to the village before they were discovered.

When the people who had discovered the dead mangrove trunks returned to the spot later in the morning, they discovered that the worms had been stolen and none were left.  This upset them and made them uneasy and they went home after cutting some firewood and hunting birds and animals.

Back in the village they found out who the culprits were, and a fight arose among the people within the Marugai clan.

After the fight, the original victims vowed to leave the clan and the village of Wanigela.  They began to build a lakatoi, or double hulled canoe.  It took them several months to build it and, upon its completion, they loaded the lakatoi with food, water and their wives and children and sailed eastwards, after bidding farewell to the village people. 

The village people were very sad as they watched their own people sailing away.

And so they sailed eastward towards Milne Bay Province.  When they ran out of food and water, they made stopovers at coastal villages.  They sailed close to the mainland in case the lakatoi was blown off course.

After sailing for weeks and months they arrived at Samarai in Milne Bay and, after restocking with food and water, sailed northward to Oro and Collingwood Bay.

They found this area was very beautiful with long sandy beaches and swaying palm trees and friendly locals so they decided to settle near Tufi.  The locals gave them land to settle on and they built a settlement.

The local people were very sad when they told them the story of why they left their own village and sailed away in search of a new land.

From that time the settlement has grown to become a village and the name given to it was Tufi Wanigela.

The Tufi Wanigela people intermarried with the local people and slowly the culture and language of the old Wanigela disappeared as the new culture and language was adopted.

Today the Tufi Wanigela people still look similar in appearance to those people of Wanigela village in Central Province and, wherever both Wanigelas meet in life, we call ourselves brothers and sisters.

This is how the second village of Wanigela came into existence in Oro Province in Papua New Guinea.


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Levii Iriso

This story conflicts what I know of the name 'Wanigela', as this was given by the early missionaries in 1897.

There are connections however not all the people involved were related to the Wanigela faction.

Maria Bume

It's an interesting story. Haven't heard that one till today.

I actually just call the place Wanigela (which is a newish name). I was born in Tufi.

Oreresen was the main big village at that time, as told to me by my late mother.

My grandfather is from Oreresan (mothers' father) village, approximately 2 km to Wanigela airport.

My late father has relatives from Abau Marshall Lagoon area which I am aware of from childhood. However, they interchange from the mountains with the Upper Musa people not by canoes.

Need to know more of your story about your ancestors' journey to Oreresan.

Golova Mari - You can find me on Faacebook at Bume Maria.

Owa Kuri

Thank you Mr Mari. I am from Tufi Wanigela, (Wanigera) and from what has been passed down to me I can confirm the story about the worm is true and they left.

We WSanigera have a different version of that history. Iyo an aiwab.

Lindra Onibu Mari

Well what my dad, Golova Mari, wrote was the story told to us by our grandfathers.

If Tufi Wanigela sons or daughters say they have a different version of why they moved, I'd love to know that.

FYI my dad Golova is disabled now and if you guys want to get in touch with him please contact me on my Facebook.

Sorry to hear about your father, Linda. Please give him our very best wishes - KJ

Oyan Ubir natus

Seriously! The first missionaries to Collingwood Bay were also anthropologists... and I have not come across any article such as this... I do want to know more.

Stanley Puka

Thank you author for this significant and insightful history. I believe it is important for our young generation to know our history and preserve our identity wherever we are.

As a member of Marugai clan of Wanigela Village, Central Province, I found this article deeply moving knowing that this particular group of people came out from my clan.

On the contrary, a sense of guilt was felt as well because the dispute occurred within my clan over edible worms (food) and, as per the story, we know who caused this dispute. I hope the elders will sight this story and make clarification accordingly.

Thank you Golova Mari.

John Vegogo

I am from Tufi Wanigela and from what I heard from my elders is slightly different but is still the same as your findings. Hope we get this sorted out but I already met some of my families from Koki Wanigela already.

Find me on Facebook as Jay Vergs.

Alford Gafem

I am from Tufi Wanigela and am very interested to know more.

I also have similar little story about this migration but I have to get more from the elders. And, yes, Liz was in Wanigela living with my relatives.

You may contact me on Facebook, name Fordy Gafem.

Philip Fitzpatrick

That's really interesting Lola. Where exactly is Koke Island located?

Lola Kemu

There are 17 clans of Wanigela registered and recognized today, all made out of 4 main clans and another one just recently added as part of the main clans making the number up to 5 main clans.

All 17 clans came out of these 5 main clans. The number of population increased in the early 1920s driving the clan leaders to increase the number of clans by family ties ending up in sub-clans.

If we carefully look at the way our ancestors behaved in finding family roots, there will be more than 17 clans in today's setting.

This modern setting of Wanigela did not carter for the need of populated clans like Kwaligivua, Lovowani, Marugai, Ravalogo and Imilakele, all have claims in the court of Justice over land disputes.

But I strongly believe that all Wanigela people are peace loving people, and settle all disputes in their pure Melanesian way where Chiefs takes a role solving disputes.

Though the village is made out of all different people from various tribes in distance land, they formed a village much stronger today.

To define the village in more detail is a risk to those who do not come out from our ancient lands where our people fight to live throughout the ages.

Our Koki Wanigela Village is made out of Wanigela people of Marshall Lagoon in Abau District of Central Province, Papua New Guinea. We lived in an island called Koke Island and develop it with the help of our government to improve the quality of life through its development programs.

Fiinally, Koki Wanigela was recognized by the government of the day when Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu officially opened the ground-breaking ceremony to build SDA Church in Koki Hill.

I believe that Koki Wanigela people will change their village settings into a suburb as planned by the government of the day.

Francis Isara

My great great grandfathers were among the tribesmen who discovered the village of Tufi Wanigela.

I have a different version of history that was passed on to me about Tufi Wanigela but no such history was mentioned before.

It's good to know now so we, the people of both Wanigela villages, can do a proper history research with our fathers to find out the truth about Central Wanigela and Oro Wanigela.

Lisa Verefu

I always wondered why there were 2 Wanigelas in PNG after I first heard of the one in Tufi as my mum's from the Wanigela in Central. This kind of answers my question. Would love to know more though.

Peter Kranz

Come on guys. These are people who believe that the second coming of Christ is dependent on us believing in the entry of Christ into the second sacred sanctuary in heaven.

Check out the SDA history. Metaphysical rubbish. As Des Ford said. this is an argument about changing chairs in heaven - or the Titanic.

God help us.

Methangie Ulea | Pacific Adventist University

Very interesting story. Can't believe my clan Marugai is mentioned in this story. While reading this story, I had a mixed feeling of happiness and sadness.

Felt happiness because my clan Marugai is mentioned in the story. Sadness was also felt because we have lost some of our brothers and sisters who should have make significant contributions to our community.

I am a proud member of Marugai Clan in Wanigela Village, from the Central Province of Papua New Guinea.

Willie Charles Leva

Hi Bart Ray, We need to talk about this... it is very interesting to know about our history.

I am from the tribe and family that is mentioned in the story....

Can you email me on: [email protected]

Willie Charles Leva

Hi, the uploader of this brief history.

Thanks for posting what Golova Mari has written. I appreciate what he has written and am happy that it was uploaded so that the world is discovering the facts, the migrating of Wanigelas to other parts of Papua New Guinea.

However, as a person from the affected tribe, I have read and understood that the terms used in the story, highlighting the events that took place are incorrect.

Eg: the name lakatoi is a name of a big canoe for the Hiri trades by the Motuans and the Gulf people. We have a name for that.

Also, Jan Hasselberg from Norway asked where the original Wanigela land is. Well, its my tribes history and migrating pattern. It can be revealed right now but today many are illegally claiming land from fake documents or from informations of other people.

Moreover, as Titipune Atani from Pacific Adventist University said that he is happy with the posting of the article but it is still incomplete and he is correct.

Today, my tribe stands hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, in the Marshall Lagoon Bay, in striving to gain what we always believe is ours culture, tradition, vegetation and land.

We, the Marugai Tribe of Wanigela Village, in Abau District, Central Province of Papua New Guinea still look forward to that day when all families, who left us, will be reunited on that great reunion day.

For more information (contact us): Email - [email protected]

Bart Ray

Mr Golowa, thanks for the very interesting history regarding Tufi Wanigela. I'm not sure whether I should believe you or not because I have a different version of the same issue which was passed down to me and my generation by our great grandfathers.

Titipune B Atani | Pacific Adventist University

To God be the glory, it's good news and I personally thank the author of the article. As a saying states, "the past will shape the future."

Are there any aspects to communicate with our own country men living in Tufi? I am trying to focus our mindset from the biblical perspective.

It's already a barrier between two families and the current generations have to think more seriously and come up with a solution.

Hence, we have to re-establish our intimate relationship again with our families before Jesus comes.

I am happy about the article but more than that is still incomplete.

Rayleen Skyler Manu McFee Genomalu

Thank you very much for this story. I have heard that Tufi Wanigela were part of us but didn't know how it happened.

Knowing about this while I am in a foreign land is very fascinating. I hope there are many stories so I can know more about my place Wanigela which I am proud of.

But sad to say I never knew more about it because I keep travelling and living elsewhere.

I am so thankful for you and bring this stories of our place. thank you very much and keeping doing what you are doing.

Chris Luxton

Thank you, Golova Mari - this is a fascinating insight, which I've only just spotted.

I know people who hail from both Central Wanigela and Oro Wanigela, and I remember posing the question to a PNG UK domiciled person from Central: "Why are there two Wanigelas?" She didn't know.

Liz Bonshek, anthropologist (at the British Museum in London for a few years, but now back at Canberra Uni) might know more re the dates/timing, about which Jan, Norway enquires - thanks to Jan for a link to his beautiful pictures on Flickr.

Liz Bonshek lived in Wanigela, Collingwood Bay for a while when the late Sister Helen Roberts (Co-ordinator of the Anglican Medical Division for many years) was still there.

Indeed, Liz Bonshek's 2005 PhD thesis, which I've not read, is entitled: "The struggle for Wanigela: representing social space in a rural community in Collingwood Bay, Papua New Guinea”.

John Numa

Very interesting read. I am interested in the history of the Rigo people especially Hood Lagoon and the Vulaa people.

Torina Bane

Thanks Mr Mari for the information shared to remind our upcoming generation that we do have our brothers and sisters also from Wanigela in Tufi.

I believe that there are also other interesting stories similar to the one that has been shared.

How each of the clan names came, how they were they first settled and why they choose Wanigela village as their permanent place to settle apart from other village in the Marshall Largoon area.

Please can someone from my village Wanigela (Kavela Naura) write many more fascinating stories about our village - ''The Floating Village in the Lagoon''. Gera Banua Miamia.

Lola Kemu / London, UK

The people of Wanigela is also made up of these strangers in your land.

If they are given land to settle, I don't see any problem why they can be treated as second class people.

Give them another chance in life, they will change to help you as well in future.

Jan Hasselberg / Norway

Hi Gollova - This was very interesting to read. I guess this migration must have taken place a long time ago since the Wanigela name was present in the Collingwood Bay area in the latter part of the 19th Century. Do you know how long back it was?

And where was the original Wanigela land? I have been to Koki Wanigela, but I guess that might have come about through migration as well.

Cheers from Jan in Norway

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