Reflecting back on the first patrol I read in the class I can remember having some expectations as to what I wanted the patrol reports to be about. Initially I expected the reports to be very different from what they turned out to be. For instance I was hoping that the patrol reports would be full of cultural knowledge of Papua New Guineans. I really wanted to know how the people of Papua New Guinea lived, learn more about their beliefs, social structures, what their regalia meant, and perhaps their view of the universe itself. I also wanted to know more about the plants and animals in Papua New Guinea, but my expectations were not met. I quickly began to realize that the patrol reports, kiaps, and council were not interested in such matters. Then I started to form my own opinions about the reports, I began to think, what were the real motives of Australian presence in the area of Papua New Guinea? I was quickly learning how unforgiving the environment was based on the weather reports in many of the patrol reports, and I thought to myself why would anyone want to be there? I began to correlate these feelings and observations with the first couple of videos we watched in the class titled First Contact and Colonist for a Day.
In these first two initial videos they mention that gold was discovered in Papua New Guinea, and that prospectors flooded the areas of interest. I now know one of the main reasons why the Australians were there, simply for gold. Now I wanted to understand why they sent Kiaps out into the areas inhabited by the native people. I began to realize maybe the sole reason why the Kiaps were there was to control the villagers so that they would not be in the way of Australian prospecting, I began to wonder if the whole scenario was just a form of economic colonialism. My initial thoughts about the whole situation was confirmed when reading the Naomi M. McPherson article In Colonial New Guinea Anthropological Perspective where:
The early purpose of colonial administration was to protect European, and some Asian, settlers, miners, and traders and to stop thefts and raids. Foreigners entered the Territory to explore, seeking exploitable resources. The indigenous people were a resource as laborers. When preparing for or protecting European settlement and the exploitation of resources, colonial officers acted to stop raids and fights and to arrest murders; punitive expeditions were at times considered necessary. (McPherson 16)
Early European contact in the area was obviously defined by its personal agenda’s to the areas of Papua New Guinea, that of which was purely economic, and nothing was to stand in the way of European economic colonialism. Given the European colonial history in the area, and in the world as a whole, I began to form my own biases about Australian kiap patrols even before reading through them thoroughly. Given that the history of European colonialism treated people and areas of unknown as objects for economic gain my opinion about Australian presence in Papua New Guinea was damaging to say the least. However, when the British passed administration of Papua New Guinea to the Australians Hubert Murry:
Murry disliked the Australian legacy of power and violence in Queensland and the Northern Territory for Papuans, his goal was not assimilation (which was an Australian goal for Aborigines), but association, preserving the individuality of native races while maintaining the equality and unity of the human race. He opposed the punitive expeditions that were a feature of German New Guinea and favored the British practice of indirect rule. (McPherson 12)
Given the history of colonialism Hubert Murry may seem like a person with good intentions, but his underlying motives and reasons for being in Papua New Guinea may not have been strictly for cultural preservation. It’s hard to believe that colonialism can be a good thing when reading a text written by a westerner, even if Murry’s new way of preserving individuality under the name colonialism attempts to coat over with a thin layer of western propaganda in order to justify colonialism. The perspective is always going to be western when reading western text and studying western ideology and is riddled with its own biases. Murry in this instance takes after British colonial practice, which we all know has a terrible historical reputation, and Murry see’s the people of Papua New Guinea as in need of rule. I found that in Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s book Decolonizing Methodologies Research and Indigenous Peoples she explains how dominate cultural groups represent other cultures as “needing rule”. Linda Tuhiwai Smith has an interesting way of defining constructed realities stating:
Representation is always a product of a particular discourse, but in the end, those representations associated with powerful groups are the ones that become accepted as “true.” Whether representations are in fact true or false does not matter. What matters is that they construct knowledge about particular cultures, peoples, and landscapes. (Smith 32)
My initial knowledge of Papua New Guinea was based off of these misrepresentation, or lack of representation of Papua New Guinea and the native people who lived there. My knowledge of Papua New Guinea was also influenced by the historical content of colonialism and the negative baggage that is connect to European colonialism and just the word in general. My own personal background influenced my initial take on the colonization of Papua New Guinea, as I have Native American heritage, Mexican heritage, and Spanish all coming from my family background. I also had to take note of who controls knowledge, and going by the Linda Tuhiwai Smith readings it seemed that the Australians controlled the knowledge of Papua New Guinea. I had to take into account all these initial biases and viewpoints I had before reading and analyzing my patrol volume and completely throw them out. I wanted to be able to read my volume without any initial bias, I wanted the volume to speak for itself, most importantly I wanted to form my aboutness statement based off of the information provided by the patrol volume I was analyzing, I did not want other texts influencing my aboutness statement or my key term choices. Most importantly I wanted researchers to develop their own opinions about the patrol volume I was analyzing without any outside biases, including my own.
I believe my key terms reflect the volume I analyzed and not the biases I have outlined above. Finding my key terms required me to read the entire volume all nine patrol reports with the longest patrol taking some ninety seven days. I created a spreadsheet and as I read through the reports I created small descriptions of each individual report highlighting main objectives and aspects of individual patrol reports. Out of these short descriptions I began to see a pattern in the patrol objectives, which mainly was economic development that included road and bridge construction, agriculture development, government/political education, and the construction of missions and schools. What appeared mostly was the development of roads and bridges, the kiaps were to survey lands for new roads/bridges, collect materials for the construction of these roads/bridges, and to observe the progress. Through this process of identifying key themes I then developed my key terms, which included; land survey, political education, development, economic development, agriculture, self-government, independence. Some specific key terms; tealands road, cattle project, poultry project, garden test plots, food shortage.
Using my short descriptions and key terms I wrote my aboutness statement that highlighted in three short sentences the main themes and specific themes as well. After my work was complete I had a little time to reflect on the process and the volume as a whole. I realized that the kiaps in my volume tried to remain neutral throughout their daily tasks, settling disputes without violence. I then realized this particular colonialism was very different, there was the usual overarching agenda and the overall objective of the Australian council was to develop the region and introduce western ideology and politics in a very subtle firm but fair way. The patrol reports show this type of Australian colonialism through the eyes of the West, without giving a real voice to the villagers. The patrol reports offer an interesting viewpoint and at times I felt like the whole situation for the Australians was just another day of work, the reports seemed very disconnected, and very objective oriented, almost like military reports. Almost as if the Kiaps were trying to show the world that colonialism is not a bad thing when considering the negative baggage that comes with the term. Many times it just seemed like a type of job for Australians, the whole situation was just odd. But I also realize that many of the developmental aspects may have benefited many villages, like connecting villages with each other and establishing cattle and poultry projects to solve a food shortage. Another thing I want to note is that even in my findings and research I only had five weeks to form these ideas so perhaps further investigation into Kiap presence in Papua New Guinea will make clear their real objectives/motives, and studying the after effects of this type of colonialism in the long run is another interesting route I hope to venture to.
McPherson, Naomi M. “In Colonial New Guinea Anthropological Perspectives.” Pittsburgh Pa. University of Pittsburgh Press. 2001. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1Vw11Qxhb4Dy-dtOy2238Vg6RUDs6byFH
Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. “Decolonizing Methodologies Research and Indigenous Peoples.” London and New York. Zed Books. 2012. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1fkou0C_wFly_T2roAQYzdOrrQ9ox0k4y