Dutch New Guinea...For centuries, the Beliem-valley has been there, in all its mighty splendour, embraced?
Dutch New Guinea...For centuries, the Beliem-valley has been there, in all its mighty splendour, embraced by peaks of the mountainous highlands, untouched by history shaping the rest of the world. The tribes of the Huwikiaks, the Mukokoks, the Wellesies, the Lomabels, the Ohennas, living their lives in the unchangeable stone-age. Waging war, growing sweet potatoes, having pig-feasts, stealing women, burning their dead, cutting the fingers of their women in mourning, believing in the bad omen, conspiring with the devil.
5,000 feet above sea-level, with a population of at least 50,000 (approximately 7% of the total population) this most densely populated region of New Guinea was discovered in 1938 by the Archbold-expedition, and that was when the Dani (Baliem-Papuan) saw a white man for the first time. This acquaintance was renewed only when in 1945, a Dakota of the American forces, on a pleasure-flight, made a forced landing on the border of the valley. The experiences of the survivors in "Shangri-la", the mysterious valley in the heart of Central New Guinea became known far and wide.
The cultural focus of the Danis could be symbolized by the pickaxe and the spear. The pickaxe is the tool to till the ground with, and is to the fore in the rainy season. But in the dry season the spear is to the fore - thus war. They are very interested in the use of arms and it is known that they do not set about it gently or meekly. It is noteworthy that the Danis do not make war because of a certain matter. Wars are considered to be a natural course of events.
Enmities with neighbouring tribes are traditional, and the children grow up with it as they grow up with the sun or with the rain. A war very seldom results in expansion of a territory. By tradition the borderlands are the set areas where the Danis make their wars. These wars have a religious and magic background. The Danis are convinced that war is inevitable and necessary for the vital power of the group. They say: "If we are not allowed to make war, we shall die." American missionary, Bromley, who published a scientific article on the Danis, last July, estimates the annual amount of war victims at 1% of the total population - totalling 500 dead a year.
The first mission station was established by Americans in 1954. Next were the Australian mission, the Dutch mission (assisted by the Deutsche Rheinische Mission) and the Roman Catholic Mission - all working in the Baliem valley. Main aim of the Administration is to bring the Danis to negotiate peace. Once peace has been achieved, it will be sealed by the Government with a guarantee. This guarantee will promise that possible transgressors will be punished.
It is the task of a scientifically trained ethnographer to gain a thorough knowledge of the structure of the Dani-world, and to put his results at the disposal of the Administration and missions. Mistakes could thus be prevented and the Government knows how difficult it is to put mistakes right. Wamena, population approximately 100, has two centres. The so-called Government-settlement "Wamena Post", established in December 1956, is built along the Baliem river. A road - more a rut - forms the connection between Wamena Post and the airfield where a new settlement is being built. Kingstrand houses are set up there and the place is nicknamed "Silver City." As frequent as possible building materials and other needed articles are flown in by Dakota from Hollandia.
The civilised world knows that the Baliem is the stronghold of the stone age. Soon the last traces of this age will only be found in the remotest of the dense jungles of the central mountains.