Mountain Arapesh - History and Cultural Retenons



The Mountain Arapesh are bordered by the Ndu-speaking Boiken in the east, the Kaboibus Arapesh (Mead's "Plains Arapesh") in the south, the Muhiang Arapesh in the west, and the Beach Arapesh in the north. Beyond the fact that their occupation of the coastal ranges predates the arrival of the Ndu-speaking people to their south, little is known of the Mountain Arapesh prior to European contact around the turn of the century. Contact itself had an enormous impact on their life: by the time Mead and Fortune studied them in 1932, stone tools had disappeared, warfare had been suppressed for over a decade, missionaries had become regular visitors, more than 20 percent of adult males were away working on European stations or plantations, and there had been at least one cargo cult. During World War II, fierce fighting between the Japanese and Australians prompted many Mountain Arapesh to desert their villages for the bush, and the following decade saw large-scale migration out of the mountains to the coast and inland foothills. Consequently, it is doubtful if life in the few Mountain Arapesh settlements remaining today bears much resemblance to that described by Mead and Fortune.

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