Mekeo - History and Cultural Relations

Archaeological evidence indicates the Mekeo region has been inhabited by presumably Austronesian-speaking agriculturalists for at least the last 2,000 years. Oral traditions cite a dispersal from the ancient villages of Isoisovapu and Isoisovino—supposedly, a joke over whether a bird's screams came from its mouth or its anus led to a quarrel among the ancestors, and in anger they separated to found distinct villages and tribes. Contacts with Europeans began in 1846 and intensified from 1875 onward with the arrival of French Catholic missionaries (Sacred Heart order). British colonial agents "pacified" the Mekeo and brought them under administrative control in 1890. In the early decades, the people suffered numerous epidemics of foreign disease and massive depopulation. The waves of death led to an escalation of traditional sorcery for which the Mekeo are still renowned. Under Australian domination after 1906, villagers were often forced to carry supplies for government patrols into the mountainous interior. At home, they were required to plant cash crops, dig latrines, pay an annual tax, and clear footpaths and cemeteries. In 1929 and 1941, there were brief outbreaks of anti-European millenarian (cargo cult) activity. During World War II, many men were conscripted as carriers for the Allied forces. Since then, increased educational opportunities, the nearby growth of Port Moresby as an urban center, new local, provincial, and national policies, and rious development projects have combined to expand Mekeo perspectives well beyond the village horizon. Nevertheless, the people retain a culturally conservative outlook. PreContact relations among Mekeo and neighboring Roro, Kuni, Kabadi, Goilala, and Toaripi tribal groups concentrated on warfare and trade in traditional wealth. Since contact, intergroup hostility has been expressed mostly in terms of Sorcery suspicion and accusations. Marriage across tribal lines remains infrequent, but it is increasing. Many trade relations among the inland and coastal networks have persisted into modern times, but their importance is gradually diminishing.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: