‘Cold enough for you over there?
I too have a fair amount of nostalgia for the Huli’s. I was at Koroba (Noel Cavanagh – ADC) 1971-72, Komo (Noel Wright – ADC Tari) 1973-74 and Lake Kopiago (Laurie Bragge – ADC Koroba) 1975.
Lake Kopiago consists largely of Duna people. Close cousins of the Huli’s but not quite as demonstrative.
My first solo patrol at Koroba (after a weeks patrol into the Paru (Hidden) Valley, one of the two northward roads leading to Lake Kopiago, and a few days into the Lavani Valley (Shangrilah), with Noel, was over the hill from Koroba to the Mogoro-Fugwa census division, where the Wesleyan Mission had a station.
My job was to measure up completed roadwork on the Fugwa loop road and make payments for completed work. Fugwa was one big swamp until Laurie Bragge drained it in 1976 and it is now some of the richest farmland in the Southern Highlands. Mind you, the downside was that the drainage ditch became a torrent which ate quite a bit of the Mission’s airstrip, before the spate abated.
Well the five Fugwa village census units had each been allocated a section of road to shape, put in drains (usually humongous ditches) and surface about 2.5 – 3.0 metres on the top with crushed coronous material (limestone). I think the pay was K100 for 100 yards of completed road. The funds came from what was called the Rural Improvement Program (RIP) in those days. Noel had provided me with several large heavy bags of “mark - mark” or “shilingi” for this purpose.
After arriving one fine afternoon I set up camp at the first village on the loop road, bought some lovely fresh vegetables and that rarity, English potatoes, and had a halting yarn with the Councillor and his Committees (in my very halting and malformed pidgin) and then asked my “tanimtok” to send out the message for the roadworkers to bung on the morrow. Well I rose from my bedsail at about 0600 to be greeted by a low susurration of movement and murmurings. ‘Peeking out through the Rest House doorway I noted that there were more people surrounding the Rest House than the South Wales Borderers had to deal with at Rorke’s Drift.
After hurried ablutions, I set off with the Councilor and his three Committees and about 1500 Zulu’s to inspect the road works. This having been done and a measurement agreed upon, we returned to the Rest house, where I set up the folding patrol table and measured out the “shilingi” into rolls of $4.00 for the amount of money due for the amount of work completed.
When this was completed, I sat back in my folding patrol chair and invited the Councilor to take the funds and, with his Committee’s dole it out to whomever had worked on the road.
The Councilor looked at the relatively small amount on the table, $500 - $600 if I remember correctly, surveyed the army standing expectantly around and politely declined. After some discussion, I agreed to divide the money up into so many “haus-lain”. This I did, which meant unrolling much of the coins and stacking the money into a myriad of small piles of moolah.
When this was done, the mob were getting a little restive and it was clear that the funds offered did not come up to the expectation of Councilor Cetewayo’s mob. Murmurings turned into quite voluble protests, which then became greatly agitated screaming and shouting.
My single Policeman, an elderly Sepik man with a .303 rifle and no ammunition chose to disassociate himself from the transaction and remained apart from the scene, gazing serenely into the distance, no doubt thinking “Well manki, how are you going to handle this one?”
My interpreter, Hetawi, who still loyally serves “Gavman” at Koroba District Office argued with the Councilor and his impi to no avail.
I sat motionless in my chair, imitating the Sepik kopral. The screaming, hooting, howling, racing up and down twanging bowstrings and swishing the air with long handled tomahawks and bush knives continued for quite while but eventually abated to the point where everyone sat down quietly while I had further discussions with the Councilor. To no avail. Yes, he agreed the contract had been for “wok mak” not on a per person employed basis. Yes he had made that agreement with “No. 1”, but what could he do, there were so many people and so little mani. Putting on my most sympathetic demeanor to mask the cold sweat that was pouring down my spine, I spoke at length on the necessity, in Nation building, to make sacrifices, sometimes accepting a pittance for the amount of labour involved, but pointing out that the Councilor and his Local Council had set a head tax that had to paid and where were they going to get the money to pay the tax if they didn’t accept what was on offer.
Councilors’ turn to have the cold sweat running down his spine. More discussion, ‘louder discussion; back to the screaming and yelling and hooting and hollering and rushing up and down.
It’s getting close to lunchtime and the old patience is wearing thin. Confronted by a wall of aggressive, screaming, angry warriors, something snapped and I booted the folding table into the air, with the mak-mak scattering all over the place.
Total shocked silence, as I walked back into the rest house and pulled the makeshift door into place.
Well, now you’ve done it, I thought. Good work Kiap. Noel will no doubt be furious that I couldn’t even make some road payments without stuffing up. What are you going to do now? What any Jack Hides would have done. I lay down on my bed sail and read my paperback for a while, before nodding off.
I was awoken by a tap tap on the doorpost and Corporal Iagumani called softly “Kiap, oli laik lukim yu.”
Ok, now go and no doubt have another screaming match! I walked outside to find the patrol table set up again, and the mak-mak lying in neat rows, just as it was until I had launched the lot into orbit.
“Late now, oli laik go long haus” said the Councillor. “Yu ken sikalim nau.” Which I did, quick smart and within minutes the place was deserted.
As I returned to the rest house, the old Corporal confided to me, “Masta, oli laik traim yu tasol”
By the way Art, Hewa has nothing to do with Huri, Huli or Hela. The Hewa people inhabit both shores of the Lagaip River north of Lake Kopiago.
Gavman used to call Hela's Huri’s, the missions adopted the more correct pronunciation of Huli, but the “elite’s” have decided that it is now going to be Hela.
Shades of Popongo-ta (Place of the Popongo (Rosewood) Tree) turning into the gibberish Popondetta.
As the Huli’s re-invent themselves in order to justify their claims to owning all the land and subjugated peoples from sea to shining sea, they have “re-discovered” a lost heritage in which the Huli’s are only a part of the Pan-Hela nation. Thus, we are now all Hela’s.
It is also interesting to note that there now exist “tuguba-this” and “tuguba-that Landowner groups in the various lease areas. “Tuguba”, in Huli, means “lowland cannibal savage” and was what the Huli’s called all the people in the lowlands to the west and south (‘still do as far as I know!).
They are great travelers however and no doubt have a wife in every Port. Whilst doing a small field job for Garamut Explorations in the Bosavi area, a while back, I found that most of the Onabasalu, Orogo and Etoro census divisions of the Mt. Bosavi area, south of Komo, had been heavily intermarried by Huli’s. So I guess Pebe and a few others sent their son’s off to “take over” the “Tuguba’s”, who seemed to be happy enough with their “protectors”.
They are a tough, boisterous and aggressive mob, but loyal.
In many a tight situation, confronting a howling mob, as a Reserve Copper in Port Moresby over the past 20 years or so, I found that the use of a few choice Huli swearwords resulted in Huli’s coming out of the woodwork to protect me, their “honiebi hamone”, redskin brother.