Trobriand Islands - History and Cultural Relations

The origin stories for each matrilineage describe how different groups arrived in the Trobriands from under the ground or by canoe and claimed garden and hamlet lands as their own. These claims were often contested by others who arrived later, so that subdivisions of matrilineages occurred. American whalers were in the northern Massim during the 1840s, and twenty years later Queensland's blackbirding ships made frequent kidnapping excursions to other islands in the vicinity. In the 1890s, Germans periodically sailed from New Britain to purchase tons of Trobriand yams, while wood carvings, decorated shells, and canoe prows were already becoming part of museum collections. The turn of the century marked the establishment of the Methodist Overseas Mission (now the United Church Mission) on Kiriwina, followed in 1905 by the arrival of Dr. Rayner Bellamy, the first Australian resident government officer. Bellamy spent ten years in charge of the government station on Kiriwina and assisted C. G. Seligman with ethnographic information during Seligman's Massim research. Following his mentor, Bronislaw Malinowski stopped on Kiriwina and then stayed for two years between 1915 and 1918. The Sacred Heart Catholic Mission arrived in the 1930s but during World War II all resident Europeans were evacuated. Australian and U.S. troops set up a hospital and two airstrips on Kiriwina. Although no battles were fought the area served as a staging ground for planes en route to Rabaul and the Coral Sea. In 1950, when Harry Powell arrived to undertake ethnographic research, surprisingly few fundamental cultural changes had occurred. Even in 1990, kula, the interisland exchange of arm shells and necklaces, was as intense as ever, while yam harvests and women's mortuary distributions remain as politically dynamic.

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User Contributions:

There was a chief named Toliboma who ruled Mulosaida in particularly Watu In those times but all my internet searches have been in vein.Being from this matralinial decendancy i'm very interested to read if you would send me via email any information in the books of Toliboma.
Trobriands who were said to arrive from underground were the original race that settled on the island, mostly in and around so-called inlanders "Kilivila Olakewa". Then they gradually moving westward and southward, they claim to the land where they settle. The underground or rock shelters that is refered to are just shelters to hide from enemies during those "hunters and gatherers" era. They live in those places in groups, like today where people claim to land they walk on, similarly in those early days. Until the 3 wave of people who landed on Labai beach in canoes, as they make their journey southward "The Begin of Land Grabbing". The original race were out numbered by the new arrival of boat people and they were huge and more chiefly decorated race. From then on, customs intergrated so as the language and the whole new culture begun to evolve.
Yes, It would be quite interesting to find out the true descendants of the first inhabitants of the island. However, because of the limited and or restricted access to certain caves (on the island) that may hold vital clues and even evidence of who these people really were and where they came from, we may never know. I've been trying to gather some information but a lot of the people I have approached seemed hesitant and even feared for their safety.
harry lasania
Its quite interesting to understand some significant events about the beautiful island of Trobriand Island in fact i am interested in knowing more on the first people who moved to Kitave Island.

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