Murik - History and Cultural Relations

Recent archaeological evidence suggests that the mangrove lakes are the result of the river filling in an extensive inland sea 1,000 years ago. The Murik origin myth describes an extensive migration from Moim, on the Sepik River near Angoram, to the coast and offshore islands, eventually settling in the Murik Lakes at least 400 years ago. During the migration period, the Non-Austronesian or Papuan people from the Sepik Basin had extensive contact with Austronesian-speaking peoples who inhabited the offshore islands and some regions of the coast. Murik culture thus became an integration of Austronesian and Non-Austronesian cultural features. The first recorded mention of Murik is in 1616, when they visited a Dutch sailing vessel piloted by Jacob le Maire. Subsequently, German survey expeditions of the Sepik River collected artifacts from the region. Because the land was unsuitable for establishing copra plantations, this area was little influenced by traders and planters during the years of German colonial administration (1884 to World War I). By about 1913, a German Catholic missionary, Father Joseph Schmidt, S.V.D., had established a mission station at Big Murik. He remained there until 1942. German New Guinea was placed under military occupation by an Australian military force from 1914 to 1918. During this period German troops landed at Kaup and proceeded through the Murik Villages, burning the men's houses and destroying many sacred objects in punishment for a Murik head-hunting raid. This event was followed by a long period of relative quiet during which the Murik extended their trade network and some took up work in towns, on plantations, and in various branches of colonial government. In 1942 the Japanese occupied the Murik Lakes for approximately nine months, followed by a bombing raid by Australian and American forces in 1943. Many people were killed and injured and the rest fled to the mangroves. Under Australian administration, the Murik took advantage of opportunities for education and employment. During the transition from colonial to independent government, Michael Somare of Karau village became a national Political leader and was elected first Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (1975). Mission influence since 1942 has been mainly through the Catholic mission at Marienberg. In 1952 a Seventh-Day Adventist church and school were established in Darapap village.

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