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26 June 2014

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Aaah... such a wonderful insight into my culture and heritage. Thank you for sharing Chris.

Having lived in Oro Province (or the Northern District as it then was) for 3 years in the early 1970's, I am impressed by how Euralia's article so vividly describes the impressive traditional costumes, body art and dancing of the Oro people.

Gary Juffa is correct to describe Oro culture as being based upon a warrior tradition.

So fearsome was the reputation of the Orokaiva that at the turn of the 20th century the colonial administration felt compelled to take firm action to bring them "under control".

To this end, one Charles Arthur Whitmore Monckton (1873 - 1936) was appointed as Assistant Resident Magistrate, based at Tufi.

Monckton, born in New Zealand, was a former gold prospector and plantation manager who, thanks to making some good connections in the colonial administration of Papua, secured the job bringing law and order to the Oro people.

He was intelligent, tough, resolute, organised and exceptionally ruthless. In Monckton, the Oro warriors came face to face with their nemesis.

While genuinely interested in Oro culture and traditions, Monckton was perfectly willing to use lethal force to crush the merest hint of resistance to the colonial administration.

During his wide ranging patrols he and his police unhesitatingly killed anyone who attempted to harm or obstruct them. Even by the standards of the day, his willingness to resort to rifle bullets to suppress resistance caused considerable unease in some circles.

Eventually, he over reached himself and found it necessary to leave the colonial service, going on to become a successful author of books about his experiences in Papua.

His immediate legacy was a long trail of bodies and a very subdued Oro population.

In the longer term, the ability of the Oro people to rapidly adapt to the changed circumstances allowed them to take full advantage of some of the positive things that the colonial administration offered, notably access to education.

This is probably explains why, as Euralia points out in her article, Oro people are more likely to speak fluent English as a second language rather than Motu or Pidgin.

Happily, the underlying pride and self respect of a warrior culture still lives on, albeit without the incessant bloody feuding and warfare that characterised pre-colonial Oro life before Monckton brought it to such an abrupt and brutal end.
_________

A great value-adding comment, Chris. Many thanks - KJ

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