MORISSET - There remains a long-standing dispute about the number of local people slain in the first explorations into the highlands by white expeditions, but no account denies that some dozens were killed.
There are many accounts from the point of view of those early expatriate pioneers; but I have gathered from existing records some first-hand accounts by Simbu people.
“When the kiaps and policeman came they did shoot people and animals and I saw them,” said Mondo Ola of Ombondo in the Simbu Valley. “They shot one of our leaders by the name of Kapaki Degba Mondia and from my clan they shot a man named Waugla Sungwa” (interview by Paul San).
The first kiaps were so rough that the natives were very scared of them and they never came close to hear what they were saying,” recalled Mrs Nukama of Womai village. “The first kiaps did their best to tame them by showing them axes and salt.
“Some of the villagers tried to steal the things which the white men showed them so that's how the shooting starts. There were about five people killed at that time” (interview of women from eastern Simbu by Moro, 1985).
A man named Dage described an incident that may have occurred on 19 August 1933: “We brought food and got girigiri, salt and beads. Then we heard some were coming from Hagan. Some said they would kill them and take their cargo and their women tied up in tents. They were going to attack Jim Taylor.
“People of Siku, Kamanegu and Dage put on grass, black paint and took spears. Taylor shot three of Dage Duglkane – blew off their heads. We were afraid; didn't know about guns. This was down at the Kerowagi bridge where a Siku had a garden and was shot and killed” (interviewed by Paula Brown, 1987).
And at Kunabau in August 1933: “They shot a lot up because a bush knife was stolen at Kunabau. We tried to kill the kiap with our spears, but he shot his rifle at us” (interviewed by Paula Brown, 1987).
Taylor stopped at Kunabau, went to the west and returned,” said Taya, an elder of the Gamgani Naregu tribe. “Dege took a bush knife. The policemen shot many Wauga. Then they came down to Wahgi and up to Pinga.
“Gege of Kunabau said to kill him and take his cargo, Took a bow and arrow and shot him. Taylor took his gun and killed plenty of men at Kunabau.... Taylor said he could not be killed. We heard him and went away. They were told that he had killed some men at Kunabau with his gun. Then he went on to Kundiawa (interviewed by Paula Brown, 1958).
Stories of conflicts with kiaps and police and of shooting and killing in eastern Simbu have also been reported by Warry (1987) and Hatanaka (1972) for Simbu groups east of the Simbu river.
The official reports recognise fewer casualties than do the stories of Simbu eye-witnesses, but in an interview many years later Taylor admitted that his figures had been “modified” (Connelley and Anderson, 1987).