Cultural Context of the East Sepik District, Yangoru from 1949-53

I was very excited to begin my research of my assigned patrol report volume, which is that of the East Sepik District, Yangoru from the years 1949 to 1953. I was intrigued whilst reading the actual patrol reports from the collection, for they are valuable primary sources from eyewitnesses of the actual colonization process. However, when I branched out to research the region more broadly to find specific dates of contact, information on the region, and its historical events, I was met with difficulty locating reliable, or academically-focused works. I anticipated an array of research papers or online library collections of sources similar to that of UCSD, yet it seemed youtube videos, blog posts, and even websites promoting tourism were commonplace over such sources. This lack of quality, educational, and unbiased factual accounts of the region left me disappointed, and led me to conclude that this lack is likely due to the more recent colonization of Papua New Guinea.

Since I do not often conduct research outside of creative or literary criticisms, I believe I was slightly less prepared to hunt down incredibly detailed sources, but I did read a summary of the history of the East Sepik, which explained the events that lead up to my given time period. The summary stated that before the mid 1940’s, the district was actually occupied by Japan for most of World War II, which ceased further development of the region until it ended (Lonely Planet). Pressure and expansion westward by Australia in Papua New Guinea led to the eventual surrender of the Japanese General Adachi during 1945 (Lonely Planet). Though the exact years I am focusing on were not outlined in the source, it did not that the region has been quite “volatile” from after WWII until present day, most notably for government corruption, attempts at invasion from other countries, and immigration struggles (Lonely Planet).

An article specifically about the Sepik River entitled “Sepik River Facts,” was rich in information on the prominent geographical feature, which “flows 700 miles through Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and was untouched by Europeans until 1885 when Germans began to explore its region” (Sepik River Facts). The river is clean and undeveloped due to little industry in the area, and it has a watershed of 30,000 square miles (Sepik Facts). According to the article, “There are no large cities or industry along the Sepik River, which contributes to its pristine state” (Sepik River Facts). However, currently, threats of “proposed mining, invasive species, and industrial logging” are present in the area (Sepik River Facts). The Sepik River includes a variety of different ecosystems, such as mountains, tropical rainforests, and swamps (Sepik River Facts).

As we have mentioned in class, the same article also mentioned that historically, indigenous cultures have practiced cannibalism in the region, and though currently Christianity is common amongst villagers, many superstitions and rituals are still maintained (Sepik River Facts).

Though context of this only lightly-developed and until quite recently untouched region is difficult to encounter, I am eager to delve further into the physical patrol reports and Melanesian Archives to increase my breadth of knowledge.

Lastly, here is also a link to a helpful map of the exact region I am researching, it offers a helpful interactive visual of where bodies of water and established provinces are located:


PNG Patrol Report: East Sepik District, Yangoru, 1949-1953



Lonely Planet Travel Information (N/A) History of the Sepik. Retrieved from:

Maplandia (N/A) Yangoru Map- Satellite Images of Yangoru. Retrieved from:

N/A (N/A) Sepik River Facts. Retrieved from:



5 Comments Add yours

  1. JIA LI says:

    I also found it extremely hard to find professional analysis and article s about my assigned area at the beginning, but then after hours of struggle, i finally found some digital books about Port Moresby (recommend and Google Books). I really love reading your blog for the cultural context of East Sepik . It seems pretty fascinating as both an acdemic article and a tourist magazine. By the way, the map link at end has been very helpful for me to know more about East Sepik geographically.

  2. VIDAL ESPINA says:

    I ran into the same thing regarding finding a lot of information that led up to my time period.

  3. I was very interested in tourism while studying anthro as an undergrad, so I find the type of information and how a country/people/place is characterized in travel books as interesting and informative.

    To find more academic sources, it’s good to look at some of the databases listed in the Pacific Studies Libguide or try the library catalog:

    Web of Science lists articles from journals like Oceania and Papua New Guinea Medical Journal. Many of the articles are by Dr. Paul Roscoe, who worked in the area.

  4. Rachel Hicks says:

    Hi Margo, I am glad that you did not give up in your search, but still found some interesting background to this area of the Sepik. Related to tourism, a cruise ship used to go up part of the Sepik (though I’m not sure which part) and stop at a village for people to experience “indigenous life.” I don’t know if it still runs. I also believe there have been various forms of mining and some types of fishing in that area. Cristela suggested some good sources if you want to explore things on a more academic level. Also, that’s great you found the village on a map!

  5. Bevan Kuaisombi says:

    I was amazed on social mapping based on the Yangoru- Boiken anthropology which clearly defines the cultures. Thus explaining alot on human behaviour and environmental conditioning.

    Bevan Honjikieng Kuaisombi
    Karapia/Howi Village
    East Yangoru
    East Sepik Province

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