MELBOURNE - We have recently published three short articles that may be of interest to PNG Attitude readers.
They draw on the archive of patrol reports that, with permission from the Papua New Guinea National Archives, has been provided online here by the University of California at San Diego.
These reports are a major source of information on PNG’s colonial-era history. For understandable reasons, however, they were prone to error. They must be read with care.
Our aims in writing these articles were threefold:
- to help untangle the whereabouts of people of several Western Province language groups (Konai, Febi, Kubo, Bogaia) in the years of earliest contact by officers of the Australian government
- to think about the kinds of factors that shaped the knowledge produced by those early patrols;
- to encourage more attention to the extremely valuable historical records provided by the archived reports – valuable to historians, both national and expatriate, and ultimately valuable to rural Papua New Guineans as they explore details of the earliest intrusions by outsiders onto their lands
The articles are based on patrols from Kiunga, Kopiago, Koroba, Olsobip and Nomad. The first is subtitled ‘South of the Blucher Range’, the second ‘Travels in East Awin’ and the third ‘Burnett River People’. They are well illustrated with maps.
The following people are mentioned in dispatches, some at length, some just briefly. A number have embarked on their last patrol:
Kiaps: JC Baker, Robin Barclay, Leo Bera, Mike Briar, CR Brillante, Rhys Carpenter, W Cawthorn, Des J Clancy, Bob Hoad, Jim Hunter, John McGregor, Bill Paterson, JW Ransley, James Sinclair, James Taylor, Peter Turner, Bill van Rikxoort
Interpreters: Imbum Tiape, Hinube Pogoba;
Administrative officers: KA Brown, Jack Worcester;
Teachers: David Eastburn;
Anthropologists: Frederick Barth
And, not to be forgotten, one kiap dog
The articles have been published by the Journal of Pacific History. They are available on-line at https://tandfonline.com/loi/cjph20 but it is not open access. We can provide copies to anyone who sends a request to firstname.lastname@example.org
And, borrowing from one of our articles, a brief note on river crossings.
In 1964, returning to Nomad from Tari, and patrolling via Lavani valley, Bob Hoad photographed his crossing place on the upper Burnett River, a river that is known locally as Nali.
He wrote: “This small stream crossing was extremely hazardous. The constant roar in a confined space was far from comforting. I had not seen anything so challenging.”
In 1968, Jim Hunter, coming from Koroba crossed as the same place: where “the river surged around one main massive boulder in the centre of the stream”.
In 1970 and 1972, respectively, WA Cawthorn and Robin Barclay, patrolling from Nomad Station, also crossed the Nali at this place.
More than 45 years later, as seen in Jeremiah Kakara’s photograph, the same crossing continues to link people of the upper Strickland tributaries with people of what is now Hela Province.
Just looking at Jeremiah’s photo brought back memories of past crossings we have made and induced a tightening of the stomach muscles and a rush of adrenaline.
We would both have wanted a handrail or, at the least, a guiding hand.