IRI (IRIMAULE) is a hamlet beside the fast-flowing River Maril in the rugged terrain of Yuri in the Digine and Kumai-Bomai Local Level Government of the Gumine District in Simbu Province.
For those who do not know, Iri was known as the site of the Omdara Community School, one of the first schools in Yuri, until 1993, when tribal fighting amongst the Yuri people destroyed it.
The resource centre of the tribal organisation, YAKA, has been built at Iri and is now in operation. The Yuri people have decided that all major events of the tribe shall be hosted at this place. Irimaule is the recognised centre of Yuri.
Historically, Iri was a venue chosen by Alai (Alaibia), the great ancestor of the Yuri people. On an expedition through the area, Alai advised his two sons, Nombri and Kepa, to establish their home there in the future.
Some time later, Alai was murdered by a Baimane tribe at Ole-Kaipil close to Neragaima Catholic mission station. Nombri and Kepa had to carry his body for burial at Balkilma-nule in the Dom Nulaigauma tribal territory.
The two sons fled to Iri in fear of further attacks. They could not carry their father's corpse with them because he was so heavy and the walk would take six hours even without a load.
When Nombri and Kepa buried their father, a cane rope was tied around his head and hooked to his jaws with one end of the rope sticking out of the grave. From time to time, they would visit the grave to pull the rope.
Eventually, when they pulled the rope, the head was clipped off the body. They then bagged the skull and took it to Iri (Irimaule) to preserve it in the hollow of a cliff beside the Maril River.
There, Nombri and Kepa made a permanent home, protecting their father’s grotto and cultivating the vast land around them.
Eventually, Kepa took the upper land, Nil-giplin (Upper Maril), while Nombri took the lower land, Nil-kaun (Lower Maril), for hunting, gathering and gardening.
Neither would interfere with the other's territory but, after each day's activities, they would return to their hausman (men's house) at Iri. So the two brothers each claimed a portion of the Marilnule (Maril River), able to multiply with their vast arable land and their respective progeny
As the population increased, they moved further to the other side of mountains, gullies and ravines of Pildimina, Oldale, Sipilpaunan, Gurnil-tapwala, Molgime, Dekawi, Digineguri, Omdara, Dia-Palma, Gomgale, Digine-nule, Dimla-kua, Kuabala and so on.
The Yuri people now occupy the biggest part of the political territory of Digine and part of the Kumai-Bomai areas. There are still huge tracts of land untouched.
In 2013, when the Yuri Alaiku Kuikane Association (YAKA) was launched, it coincided with a major peace and reconciliation ceremony. All the Yuri tribe gathered at Iri to observe and contribute in one way or another.
At the time, the elders performed the ritual of Ipal kian diunguwo (calling for the spirit of dead), in particular calling for Alaibia who was believed to dwell in a sacred place beside the Maril River cliff.
The dead were called to come forth and settle at the public gathering place, Irimaule. Some remains of Alaibia’s skull and pieces of rocks were found in a hollow at the cliff beside the river. All the Yuri elders and sons then led a procession to Irimaule the day before the launching and reconciliation where the remains were to be buried.
One old Yuri man, Toya Wambre, uttered in the Yuri dialect, “Alai kian gala di isuna erpinge kene noneh Alaiku papinga kura bole, ekil ekil warpingra kere, ere mala ure wu tenan nala di elpingi, Yalmain Alaibia wu suna molang kene kalkal i elpinge wu wai namiyoo” (The ritual is observed so the descendants of Alai, who gathered to reconcile after decades of warfare and disintegration, may embrace the presence of our father to celebrate the reunion of his multitudes).
The old man’s explanation may not be true but it instilled a sense that all Yuri men and women felt obliged to participate in the ritual and reunite.
Every clan and sub-clan of Yuri agreed that there would be everlasting peace with pigs slaughtered and their blood shed on tanget (cordyline) and stones which would be buried with Alai's remains as a peace monument at the entrance to Irimaule. The stones covered in pigs' blood represented the different clans of Yuri. The tanget and other graveyard plants around the monument have now taken root.
Iri is the most appropriate customary location for any common event, meeting and forum for Alai had chosen this venue for his descendants. Iri is the promised land of the people of Yuri, morally constituted by the great ancestor for generations to come.
Those of us residing on this land are the custodians to ensure it is protected against invasion by foreigners.
Every Christmas break, a YAKA anniversary celebration is celebrated at Iri with various educational programs in which youth and citizens participate. YAKA’s resource center was erected there at a cost of over K100,000 and more developments are expected in the near future.
All in all, Iri or Irimaule is a place never to be demeaned, exploited and used with oversight for personal gain but to be revered with high regard for common good.