Just a short history of PNG (thank you to a previous teacher at POC who made this timeline accompanied by illustrations- below is just a summary):
A long long time ago- The first people came over the ocean to PNG most likely from Asia and slowly moved from the Coastal Regions to the Highlands.
A long time ago- People began farming in each region of PNG and trading between themselves.
Some time ago- PIGS=WEALTH in the Highlands and kaukau (like sweet ptotato) begins to be farmed and becomes the main food staple. Pig and people populations increase.
1526- People on the south coast of PNG see Jorge de Meneses on his way back to Portugal and are startled by his white skin and HUGE sailing canoe. Jorge sees the peoples “frizzy hair” and names them “Papuans”.
1600’s- People on the islands and coastal regions discover Dutch explorers. Their white skin and material possessions are very surprising so the people in PNG begin to try and explain their encounters through myths and legends.
1700’s- French and English explorers are discovered on the islands and coastal regions. The people of PNG begin to trade wood, spices, bird of paradise plumes, pearls, etc for knives, axes, beads, cloth etc.
1800’s- The “white skins” begin to stay and settle in PNG. Some of them make the people in PNG work on their plantations, others are missionaries who tell them about Jesus and try to get them to discard their PNG traditions. Some PNGers fight with the “white skins” and some are friendly. Some are kidnapped by slave traders.
1884- People in the north are told that they live in New Guinea and that they belong to Germany. People in the south are told that they live in Papua and that they belong to Great Britain.
1900’s- More “white skins” come looking for gold and they bring in amazing “cargo” (cargo refers to the possessions that have accompanied “white skins” coming into PNG- more on cargo cults in a future blog post). People in PNG continue to try and figure out where the “cargo” is coming from and how they can get it themselves.
1906- People in Papua are told that they now belong to Australia.
1914- People in New Guinea are told that they now belong to Australia because Germany started a war somewhere.
1920’s and 30’s- People in the Highlands see “white skins” for the first time and are scared and confused. They think the “white skins” are their ancestors come back from the dead but after further investigation and personal contact they realize they are only human.
1930’s- People in the Highlands are told that they must obey certain Australian “white skins” and new local leaders with foreign names taken from the PNG coastal areas and imported into the Highlands.
1942- Japanese invade and take over the North Coast and try to move through PNG to take Port Morsby. People flee into the bush and caves as their villages are destroyed and many people die.
1942-1945- As the war continues men are recruited as carriers, laborers and soldiers and begin to travel around and see more of their own country. These men continue to be amazed by the “cargo” and lose more and more respect for the “white skins”.
1945- The war ends and life goes back to normal. However, many “white skins” stay in PNG and the men who worked alongside the “white skins” are told to give back their uniforms but receive little to no thanks in return.
1949- Papuans and New Guineans are told that they are now united under Australian rule.
1950- Australia forms local governments so that PNG is ruled by its own people again (sort of).
1951- Australia forms the first Legislative Council and chooses 3 Papuans and New Guineans to be a part of it.
1961- Papuans and New Guineans are allowed to vote for the first time in a national election.
1964- Australia forms the new House of Assembly out of 38 Papuans and New Guineans and 26 Australians- some are chosen, others are elected.
1973- Australia allows Papuans and New Guineans to govern themselves (with Australia’s help).
September 16, 1975 Papua New Guineans put up their own flag and peacefully became the independent nation of Papua New Guinea.
On Tuesday September 16, 2008 Papua New Guinea celebrated 33 years of national independence. To celebrate the people up on the NobNob mountain put together a festival. This included a volleyball tournament leading up to Tuesday (a team of “white skins” from our training entered and lost all their matches but provided much enjoyed comic relief to the PNG locals). The festival began with the raising of the PNG flag and the singing of the national anthem. Then there was singing and dancing, different skits to music, various local bands playing traditional music, more volleyball and assorted concessions ice cream, popsicles etc. to buy as well. My favorite part of the day was interacting with the local children who like to come and sit on our mats and play with the white children. They are either inquisitive and just sit and stare, or they interact with you and smile and are eager to share the bugs they find crawling on the ground.