From the Kundiawa News Special Goroka Show issue of 29 August 1964
MUCH of the early history of the Chimbu lies unrecorded in the memories of the men who explored and subdued the warlike Chimbu who dwell in one of the most mountainous and densely populated areas of the Territory.
A little more can be found in dry official reports and academic publications. I have before me a nineteen page essay on the history of Chimbu prepared by Patrol Officer [Pat] Dwyer last year, but this gives but a brief coverage.
In an article such as this I shall briefly touch only on the salient points of the last thirty years and hope that one day, whilst most of the pioneers are still alive someone will devote the time and research required to write a full history of most interesting region.
My first introduction to Chimbu was from an old Qantas DH84 early in 1949 when I flew in from Goroka to take up duties as a Patrol Officer under ADO JE Wakeford. JL Taylor was District Officer of what was then called the Central Highlands, and the entire area was still classified as Uncontrolled. But let us go back a decade or so to when Chimbu was unknown to the world.
In 1930 Mick Leahy and Mick Dwyer, whilst prospecting through the Purari to the Papuan Gulf, noticed bodies with axe wounds being carried into the Purari from a large river entering from the west - and rightly assumed that a large group of uncontacted warring peoples lay to the west.
In 1931 Fr Kirschbaum noted what appeared to be a pass in the mountains of the Sepik-Madang region. In 1933 Mick and Danny Leahy, whilst prospecting in the Elimbari area, looked through a gap in the range into the Wahgi Valley and Later the same year both flew with Major Harrison of NGG [New Guinea Gold] and pilot I Grabowski in the first flight over the Chimbu and Wahgi valleys.
This was followed by a flight by pilot T O'Dea with ADO JL Taylor and surveyor K Spinks. In March that year·a patrol led by JL Tay1or, and including the two Leahy brothers and Spinks, left the Bena Bena Post to explore the Chimbu/Wahgi and prospect for minerals, mainly gold.
They entered the Chimbu in April and were warmly greeted, being regarded as supernatural beings. Pushing on to Mt Hagen, they returned to Chimbu in August, but now the Chimbus, regarding them as humans, attacked but were repulsed. Later in September, Taylor again returned to Mt Hagen, but without incident.
In early 1933 Fr Schaefer opened Bundi and in October was brought by Kawagl, an upper Chimbu leader, into the Chimbu and Wahgi valleys. The following year Fr Ross travelled through to Hagen from Bundi. Close behind Taylor into Chimbu were the Lutherans led by the Rev W Bergmann, who established themselves at Ega (Kundiawa).
The responsibility for the exploration and development of the new inland areas lay with the District Officer Salamaua, headquarters of the Morobe District, and the initial probes into the Chimbu and beyond had been made from the Bena Bena Post.
In 1934 Catholic missionaries in the Central and Upper Chimbu River Valley were attacked. Fr Morschheuser was killed, stores stolen, and natives shot. A little later, Br Eugene was wounded and later died at Salamaua and there were more killings and woundings on both sides.
The Administration immediately sent in strong patrols led by ADOs Alan Roberts and Jim Taylor accompanied by Patrol Officers John Black, George Greathead and others.
Danny Leahy was sworn in as Special Constable and accompanied the patrols. The area was subdued and Taylor walked some seventy odd prisoners out to Salamaua. Roberts remained and established a station at Kundiawa, adjoining the Lutheran airstrip at Ega.
Until the outbreak of the Pacific war the Kundiawa Post - manned by various officers, to name a few: Bates, Cahill, Downs, Shand, Noakes, Skinner and Viall - was concerned with pacification and consolidation; mapping of tribal boundaries; establishment of police posts; construction of bridle paths; appointment of Native Government Officials; etc.
The area was isolated, communications very limited and by the standards of today, very poor, but by the outbreak of war the central Chimbu had been subdued and controlled and the area mapped. By mid-1940 Downs reported: “The deaths by violence are one a month, some years ago it would have been fifty a month.
With the outbreak of war all missionaries were interned as were all German nationals and Mission activity ceased until they were allowed to return in 1946. During the war period the area was administered by ANGAU which, although stiffened by experienced field officers, comprised many new inexperienced men. During this period the existing status quo was maintained and existing controlled areas and spheres of influence slightly extended.
The main activity of the ANGAU Administration was the construction of a vehicular road linking Kundiawa and Mt Hagen. This was only a jeep track and much of it later fell into disuse to such an extent that by 1949 Nondugl could only be reached with difficulty.
Health services, which pre-war were extremely limited, were improved during ANGAU. In 1944 dysentery, probably brought in by the Army, swept through the area. Swift action by ANGAU brought the outbreak under control, but not before many thousands had died.
During the ANGAU Administration Chimbu was under control of an ADO stationed at Minj, responsible to the DO at Mt Hagen. With the re-establishment of Civil Administration in 1946, Chimbu became a sub-district with, an ADO responsible to the District Officer, Central Highlands, stationed at Goroka.
The Chimbu area then stretched from Faita below Bundi in the north to Lake Tebera in the south; and from the Elimbari Divide in the East to approximately its present western boundary, but including all the Upper Jimi River.
General conditions were still primitive. Lieutenant George Tuckey, who is buried at Kundiawa, died of tetanus following goring by a cow. There was no doctor and by the time anti-serum could be got in it was too late. The immediate post-war years were associated with the re-establishment of administration on a civil basis, consolidation, and some extension into new areas.
The next significant period is that of 1949-50. 1949 saw the main road pushed through from Kundiawa to beyond Chuave; the Upper Jimi and Bomai areas were pacified; the last attack on a patrol in the Chimbu occurred in October1949. The native hospital at Kup was transferred to Kerowagi; the old hospital at Kongoru on the Chimbu River collapsed and, in the space of a week, a new 100-bed hospital was constructed on what is now the Kundiawa airstrip; the first permanent buildings were erected in Kundiawa; the Supreme Court made its first circuit to Chimbu,
The following year was narked by the completion of the census for all but the Upper Jimi and south of the Marigl/Monulo Rivers Divide. By the end of 1950 some 106,000 names had been recorded. At the same time the majority of the population was Mantoux tested and injected with BCG against tuberculosis.
In conjunction the first recruiting of Chimbu labour for coastal work was undertaken and some thousands of young Chimbus left the area to work in other parts of the Territory. Consolidation continued in the south and the initial mapping of the far southern area was completed. Nomane airstrip was surveyed and the road link to Koge almost completed.
The following years showed further development under the able direction of ADO's Kelly and Mathieson. The road link to Goroka was completed in 1953 and the nucleus of the coffee industry began in 1955. Money was still relatively scarce but by the late fifties there was sufficient to attract European traders.
Prior to this trading had been left mainly in the hands of the missions. At the same time new stations were opened at Kerowagi, Gumine, Chuave and Gembogl, reflecting the increased importance of the area. In 1949 the Administration staff had comprised an ADO, a PO and two EMAs.
The Bundi area had been taken over by Madang, the Upper Jimi River by Hagen, and the far south had been split between Mendi, Kikori and Goroka, whilst the Nambaiyufa area, formerly administered by Goroka; had been added to Chimbu. The road links were extended and by mid-1964 all but the far south of the Gumine area is covered by a road network which is still expanding.
1958 saw the establishment of the first Native Local Government Council at Waiye and in the ensuing years Councils have. been started at Koronigl (now Kerowagi), Chuave and Yonggamugl. In 1961 Kondom Agaundo, President .of the Waiye Council and a former luluai of the Naragu group, was elected the first native member of the Legislative Council. 1961 also saw the crash education programs commence, with a pronounced expansion of educational facilities which hitherto had been very limited.
Pyrethrum has been introduced and is now becoming a significant economic crop for the higher altitudes of the Division. 1964 saw the inauguration of the Kundiawa Coffee Society, the first co-operative society in the Highlands, which purchased a modern coffee factory from locally subscribed share capital. Local coffee production is now some 15% of the Territory production.
Four members from the Chimbu, three of them indigenous, now represent the Chimbu in the House of Assembly.
Thus, in three decades, the Chimbu has progressed from the savage warlike stone age to the modern atomic age, managing big business assets and taking his seat in the forum of the nation. A remarkable achievement, but let us not forget that the veneer of civilisation is still only a thin veneer and the warrior of yesterday is still present, a little older, nostalgic in memory, but still able to erupt with violence with axe and bow, old animosities and feuds lie just below the surface.
Many decades more of firm and sympathetic guidance will be needed. The challenges of the thirties and forties have changed, the fifties sowed the seeds for the future and the challenges for the sons of the pioneers.
Geoff Burfoot, Acting District Officer Chimbu Division, first joined the Provisional Administration of New Guinea as a Patrol Officer in 1946 He had brief service at Moresby, Lae, Kaiapit, and Higaturu before going to Tufi for 17 months thence to Iona as OIC. Following leave he served a term as Patrol Officer at Chimbu. He was recalled from his next leave to the Mt Lamington disaster and was associated with that calamity for 9 months then transferred as a/ADO Abau and some four months later to Port Moresby. Before going to ASOPA he served at Kikori then as ADO at Wewak, Aitape, Goroka and Chimbu