Aboutness Statement for Patrol Reports of East Sepik District, Yangoru 1950’s

Aboutness statement of volume: The patrol reports from this volume discussed census information and revision, routine administration and medical inspections in the villages visited, and enforcement of hygiene practices, as observed by Officers W.M. Stokes and F.S. Martin. Agriculture and livestock management were reliable in the region, though fertility was greater along the slopes of mountains and near the Sepik River, and common crops like taro, yams, pitpit, coconut, and sago were grown while projects of growing rice and other experimental foods like tomatoes were also encouraged where possible. The officers discussed livestock presence in and though there was little presence of fowl and other livestock, villages had pigs that were typically consumed in ceremonies, while communities situated closer to the Sepik River also harvested fresh water lobsters, fish, and crocodile flesh. Infrastructure in the area was generally well-maintained; jeep roads were dry and safe between heavy rains, police stations were in good condition, and agricultural connections were possible due to accessibility to other villages and posts, while the general health of the villages in this district was good, and medical inspections were carried out in Nindipolye and Yangoru. Illnesses that were common include dysentary from the large outbreak in December of 1950, pneumonia, and scabies, but efforts were made by the officers to aid villagers in keeping areas clean, building and maintaining latrines, burying bodies away from houses, and raising cemetery fences.

I found it difficult in using controlled language in my aboutness statement and keeping it concise, for there was so much interesting information in the patrol reports on my district. I centered the structure of my statement around how the officers divided the reports into categories of health and hygiene, native affairs, agriculture and livestock, villages and housing, roads and rest houses, and schools/missions. In order to control my vocabulary used, I used the exact words in the reports, and tried to streamline my vocabulary to match the terms in the reports. I analyzed my sources with an open mind, and read them thoroughly, categorizing and taking notes on a spreadsheet and in my notebook. I then constructed my statement from the key terms and observations that I made. I encountered some difficulty in reading the last of my patrol reports due to what could be light spots or wear and tear on the scans of the documents, which made me have to make educated guesses as to what certain words were or what was being said. However, my reports were consistently routine and discussed many of the same issues, so I was not held back significantly by the process of viewing them electronically.

I did not find myself forming opinions while reading, but rather trying to filter out my own experience and view the records from an open eye. I imagined how the natives and officers had differing experiences, and kept in mind that a non-native perspective was likely biased. Though the officers in these reports did not display a lot of blatant bias, it was clear that the lack of knowledge that the natives had of concepts like hygiene, disease, and illness made the officer view them as needing assistance and lacking agency.


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

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Hello Margo, good job on your aboutness statement. I found it very hard to narrow down topics as well, there is just so much information in these reports. I like how you broke your aboutness statement down in small sections trying to touch on several themes. I guess I may have been too narrow in finding topics in my report after reading yours, it was great to see how another student tackled the problem of forming an aboutness statement, thanks for sharing.

  2. RUKMINI RAVI says:

    Hi Margo,

    I thought you did such a great job of really digging through your report and finding vast, unique pieces of information regarding our region! I’m sure this is going to be of great benefit when we work together to go back and analyze external (external to the patrol reports) sources and find connections between these external sources and the information we find within our patrol report volumes. You definitely found a lot more fruitful information than me in terms of the local wildlife and conditions. For this week I really reflected more on my aboutness statement as opposed to finding fruitful details like the ones you found through your thorough search within the patrol reports you were assigned – this will really help when we work together so thank you for conducting such great research 🙂

  3. Rachel Hicks says:

    Hi Margo, Great job highlighting lots of important details. This turned into a great summary. You mention at the beginning of the post that this is based on the last 5 reports. Would this aboutness statement be consistent with the rest of the volume? For the final project, be sure to construct a concise aboutness statement about the volume. In addition to the summary, try to write a concise 2-4 sentence statement focusing just on what it is about. Good job being objective in this process!

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