Kono [pictured right with Kariango and me] wants everyone to understand that the Highlanders never considered themselves poor. Their interpretation of wealth was far different from that of Westerners.
The Highlanders have always measured their wealth in the amount of land the clan owned and what their share of this land was.
This land provided food, water, building materials and a source of supply for bilas and objects for traditional ceremonies.
Their wealth was measured by the number of valuable feathers the family owned and these would be proudly displayed at every opportunity. Pigs were also an important indication of wealth.
A large number of pigs was an indication that the owner must have the use of a lot of the clan’s land on which to grow food for the pigs. Some pig owners even had more than one wife so their pigs would receive the attention they deserved.
The rainforests that belonged to the clan were divided, with each family allocated an area. My family had the use of large areas of rainforests in the Daulo area which was a source of the beautiful feathers that everyone treasured.
The rainforest also supplied us with unpolluted water for washing and drinking.
Our children were also part of our wealth. We treasured them and this was shown at our ceremonial singsings when each family would try to outdo its neighbours in decorating and showing off the children.
Each clan fiercely defended itself, its property, and its families. This gave each clan a sense of community which was another form of wealth.
It was not until outsiders entered our domain and brought with them disease and the idea that money was real wealth that I saw problems arising. New diseases, corruption and a breakup of the family unit as our children left home to chase the almighty kina.
The villagers’ real wealth is still their land, as is their rainforests and the clear water that flows in the streams.
My concern is about the lack of knowledge and understanding of the leaders of my country, Australia, and many of the large mining companies.
To send in troops to enforce these new laws shows a complete disrespect for my people’s traditions and customs their rights and their belief in their entitlements as citizens of Papua New Guinea.
PS, Who is Bob Carr?