BY KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN
THE UNIQUE GALKOPE CULTURE HAS CRUMBLED. Structures like men’s huts, informal education, initiations to define manhood or womanhood, skills of dressing someone in traditional regalia, traditional rituals in warfare and the symmetry of combat, respect of neighbour, reverence for nature, sheer hard work, name and identity and the thousands more elements that made the Galkope a unique people in the universe have vanished.
The Galkope have vacated the land that their founding ancestor Alai Bia gave to them.
It is evident that, after many decades in far off lands, many Galkope have not found what they wanted. In fact, they have encountered in those places the very things which made them leave their traditional territory in the first place.
None of the Nimai Kane and Sipai Gauma people at Ganige and Wara Nomans have become successful businessmen. The Yuri, Dom, Erula Kunana Ku, Erula Nagen Ku and the Erula Nauro have had a similar fate.
They have yet to build permanent houses and find the peace and wellbeing that they crave. Instead, they have surrendered to the mercies of the landlords, becoming their virtual slaves, acting to protect them and voting for whom they are told.
The relationship of the landowners and the Galkope of the diaspora are like the feudal systems in Europe of centuries ago. The Galkope of the diaspora have traded their identity for a dream that will never come true.
The signs and symptoms of hatred between the Galkope of the diaspora and the landowners who prey on them is already manifest. It is most evident in the highlands provinces but also in the New Guinea Islands, Momase and the Papuan regions.
The appeal of the Roman Catholic Church has been short lived as well. People no longer flock to the Church and actively participate like they used to do between the 1960s and the 1980s.
Since the 1990s most people, particularly the young, prefer to spend time in sporting activities, drugs, sex and other pursuits. Going to church is considered old fashioned and is a pastime reserved for the poor, elderly and the sick.
The second biggest church in the Simbu Province was located in the land of the Galkope. By the mid 1990s it was only ever half filled on Sunday. The numbers of children in the school has also dropped dramatically, and only five to ten patients attend the health centre each day. These services have diminished simply because there aren’t enough people in the area.
If Alai Bia is watching from somewhere he would not be impressed to see the church, school and health services not being used to their fullest extent.
On the other hand, the last 50 years of Christianity has left indelible cracks in the once solid Galkope culture.
Many families live amorally because Christianity melted the cornerstone of the Galkope culture. Christianity condemned the initiations that imparted wisdom and knowledge to the youths. These initiations shaped and moulded the youths to be responsible for every action they undertook.
The priests made matters worse by refusing to baptise people with traditionally meaningful names. The children and parents were seduced into rejecting names like Sil Olmi, Drua Ku or Kua Galmai, which were associated with their surroundings.
The Church, sorry to say, insisted on baptising the children with European names, which in reality were just alien and meaningless. In such a way, the church milked all the goodness out of a cohesive and well defined society and imposed something that has become meaningless.
The Galkope who migrated to other districts in the Simbu or into the other highlands provinces now have a decision to make about their future. They must decide whether to stay in their ghettos and remain under the dictatorial leadership of their landlords or return to the Galkope territory and live with their heads held high again.
The Erula Nauro people should, for instance, reclaim their land from the Yuri, Bari and the Dom tribes and return to Nin-Gorma and benefit from the services provided by the Catholic Church at Neragaima. The old sages know that the land was taken from them unjustly through unwarranted tribal warfare.
Sadly some Galkope don’t even know how to erect a simple hut to house their families. These people live like the small blackbird that hovers in the sky all day long. They choose to be nomads, spending a week in Lae, three months in Kimbe, a year with a tribesman in Madang or forever at Wara Maket among the vegetable and betel nut stalls where the pick pockets and prostitutes ply their disreputable trades.
The Galkope once lived in an egalitarian society where all men were equal, honest and hardworking. Now they live in a stratified society divided by wealth and knowledge, just like the Australians. In such a society most Galkope are worse off.
The generations of the 21st century are devoid of traditional Galkope values. The new values are that of putting their stomachs and wallets first.
This is never more evident than during the issuing of writs for the national elections. People converge on the hapless candidates seeking gifts and money. They are not interested in issues; all they want to do is milk other people’s pockets. They seem to forget that all good things come from toil. These people should study how the ants live and change the way they live their life.
The Arabs, Jews, Asians, Latin Americans, Indians, and many other ethnic groups in the world held onto their cultural values even as they progressed. On average they have prospered; perhaps the influential people in the Galkope need to do a post mortem on their progress since the arrival of the white man.
If the promise of democracy had come true, the Galkope would be living at ease and peace on their lands with many good things. They would be rich in animals and loved by God.
Instead the Galkope of the diaspora, as well as their tribesmen back home, live in an age of dread and sorrow; where men and women never rest from labour by day and from perishing by night.
They live in times of tribal warfare, drug abuse, pilferage, white collar crime, demagogy and an HIV epidemic which is forecast to get worse: soon children will be born with grey hair on their heads.
Neo-liberal globalisation with its obsolete democracy and cynicism rules the world and the Galkope are ill-equipped to deal with it.
The Galkope are in need of someone who is strong and has civic virtues like Yuri Alai Bia, who governed and protected the entire Galkope nation during its inception.
If builders, not wreckers, emerge soon rather than later they might be in time to restore the Galkope’s cohesive social structures.
The Church and other duty bearers must rethink their approaches and be strategic by taking a reasoned middle path. The God-given culture and the lands of the Galkope that enabled them to become a closely knit nation that endured for ages must be respected at all cost.
To return to a biblical theme, the Galkope culture is presently treading the same path that Adam and Eve chose and they are well on track to becoming history, just like the Garden of Eden.
The Galkope must take heed of the old sage’s words in Proverbs 22:28, which say: “Do not remove the ancient landmarks which your fathers have set”.