Manus - History and Cultural Relations

Earliest European contact with the Manus mainland was in the sixteenth century, but first substantial contact was in the nineteenth century, with pearlers, whalers, and bêche-de-mer fishermen. Germany annexed Manus with the rest of German New Guinea in 1884 and was replaced by Australia in 1915. Colonial administration was based on appointed village headmen. Resistance to colonization was fierce in some areas: control was not complete until about 1920. A few copra plantations were established by 1910 and mission activity began shortly after. However, relatively little land was alienated for plantations. By World War II, most Manus were Christian—primarily Catholic, Seventh-Day Adventist, or Lutheran—but Christianity supplemented rather than displaced Indigenous beliefs. After World War II, there was agitation for social, economic, and political improvement. Partly as a result, education provision increased, village officials were elected rather than appointed, and there was encouragement of village cooperatives. Public services expanded through the early 1980s, when government financial difficulties led to slight contraction. Shortly after the independence of Papua New Guinea in 1975, the province acquired an elected assembly.

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