Mandak - History and Cultural Relations

Little is known about the Mandak before Western contact. Present coastal populations include, either by village or intermingled within a village, people who claim to have originated in their present locations and those who relocated from inland settlements at the urging of German and Australian Colonial governments in the early twentieth century. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, New Ireland was visited by Dutch, English, and French explorers and blackbirders. Germany claimed New Ireland as a colony, renamed Neu Mecklenburg, between 1884 and 1914. In the early 1900s, German and English colonists planted coconut plantations on land taken from the local people for minimal recompense. During this period, the German administration used local labor to build a road along the east coast for almost 200 miles from Kavieng in the north to Namatanai in south central New Ireland. At the outbreak of World War I, Australia took over New Ireland, administering it as part of a mandate from the League of Nations from 1921 to 1942, when the Japanese invaded and occupied New Ireland. Australia again resumed control in 1945, with New Ireland becoming apart of the Territory of Papua New Guinea in 1949, administered by Australia under the United Nations. In the 1950s, the Mandak began planting their own coconut plantations for the copra market, adding cacao trees a decade or so later as a second cash crop. The Mandak have been part of independent Papua New Guinea since 1975. Christian missions have exerted a strong influence among the Mandak. Methodist missionary work in New Ireland began in the late nineteenth century, followed by Roman Catholics in the Second decade of the twentieth century.

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