Making History Module Essay by: Stephanie Hill

AIH399 – Making History

Trimester 2 2020 – The IALIBU (3) Patrol Report

STEPHANIE HILL: 215103594

Word count: 2075

Submitted: 28 September 2020

IALIBU3 (Southern Highlands) 1956 – 1957

Citation: Patrol Reports, Southern Highlands District, Ialibu, 1956 – 1957. National Archives of Papua New Guinea, Accession 496.

Report Number: Ialibu 1/56-57

Area Patrolled: MONDANA and YOGERE in the KEWA Division; KAUWO, MELE, TAGURU and POROGO areas of the WIRU Division

Summary of Patrol  

The Ialibu 1/56-57 patrol report focused on its main goals of consolidating and extending administration contact and influence in the region, examining reported airstrip sites, and arresting persons involved in tribal fighting in the Porogo area. The patrol was conducted by G.K Keenan and contains his diary. Keenan gives his day to day report discussing the examination and clearing of selected airstrip sites and engagement with villages. Report discusses influence of administration in the region and the denunciation of traditional practices of warfare amongst villages.  Natives in Mondanda, Yogere, Kauwo and Mele are well settled and have accepted administration control, but natives in Taguru and Porogo have demonstrated reluctance to accept administration control. The report states that the patrol was successful in arresting 23 men engaged in inter-group fighting, serving as a warning to other villages and reinforcing administration influence. Suitable airstrip site was found and cleared. The establishment of a Patrol Post in the Wiru region is recommended to bring area under full control. Appointment of village constables and councillors was assessed for the purpose of extending administration influence. The report includes brief summaries on native agriculture and livestock, roads and bridges, health and naming conventions of the Wiru region. 

Topics:Crime; Land surveys; Law; Recruitment; Agriculture; Roads

The patrol subject of the Ialibu report was 18 days in duration, dated 1 April 1957 to 18 April 1957. The patrol was conducted by G.R. Keenan, in the Southern Highland regions of the Kewa Division and the Wiru Division. The report itself contains two letters from the Director of The Department of Native Affairs, A.A. Roberts, dated 8 June 1957 and 25 June 1957, the diary entries of Keenan for the duration of the patrol, and a detailed account of the topics subject of the patrol. As will be discussed, the patrol had three main objectives. Firstly, the patrol was aimed at consolidating and extending administrative contact and influence in the region. The last patrol in the region was conducted in December 1955, and since then there was apparent unrest in the region and resistance to administrative control. Secondly, the patrol intended to survey the land of an airstrip site in order to ensure the region would be more accessible. In assessing the area for an airstrip site, Keenan also notes that roads and bridges in the region had deteriorated due to the withdrawal of police stationed in the region. Lack of resources was common during the Australian colonial administration, as highlighted by the report. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the patrol was aimed at arresting persons involved in tribal fighting in the Porogo area, pacifying violence between tribes. The people within the area had presumably not abandoned their ‘native ways’, therefore colonial law and order needed to be established. According to J. Sinclair, within the early days of colonial administration, it was common for patrol officers to not only explore the new territory, but also pacify ‘warring tribes’.[1]

The Ialibu Patrol Report provides valuable information about the workings of Australian colonial administration in Papua and New Guinea. When looking at the role of Keenan as a patrol officer, it appears that he wielded significant influence whilst on patrol, and had authority to arrest persons seen to be creating disharmony in the region, and appoint village constables and councillors. To the indigenous inhabitants of the region, it was common for them to view the patrol officer as having ‘extraordinary powers’[2] and the ability to wield enormous power.[3] His discretion was not unfettered, however, as Keenan reported to The Director at The Department of Native Affairs, A.A. Roberts. This is demonstrated by Director Roberts stating that he wished to see the area patrolled further before supporting any appointment or removal of constables and councillors. By reading the patrol report in this way, we can understand the power dynamics that existed between the patrol officer and his superiors.[4] According to A.I. Kituai, not only does this show that the patrol officer’s power was circumscribed,[5] but that the patrol officers themselves were part of an ‘imposed political system.’[6] The patrol report also demonstrates that there was an element of colonial common sense relating to racial difference. Throughout the report, there is an assumption that indigenous inhabitants were uncivilized, particularly in the uncontrolled areas. By assuming the indigenous inhabitants were uncivilized, the colonial administration’s presence in the region was reinforced, and the work of patrol officers was validated. A.L. Stoler would contend that this assumption was unwritten because it ‘goes without saying’[7] that the ingenious inhabitants needed colonial administration to bring peace and prosperity to the region. Evidently, the report states that Mondana and Yogere in the Kewa Division and Kauwo and Mele in the Wiru Division needed little patrolling as ‘the natives of those areas were fairly settled’.[8] This can be contrasted with the ‘natives’ of the Taguru and Porogo groups in the Wiru Division that still utilized their ‘traditional violent means of settling differences’[9] and were therefore considered uncivilized.

Patrolling in the Southern Highlands commonly had the purpose of surveying land. This was a key function of the Ialibu Patrol, in order to identify land that was suitable for an airstrip site. The patrol spent 6 days examining sites, selecting the best site and commencing on clearing the land. In doing so, we can see the operation of Cohn’s investigative modalities, specifically ‘the survey modality.’[10] According to Cohn, surveyance of land included a wide range of practices, with the intention of collecting information that was to be used to facilitate colonization.[11] Keenan indicates in his diary that the terrain of the land was diverse, from ‘swampy grass country’ to ‘timbered hills’.[12] By gathering this information, and transforming it into ‘useable form’, Keenan is facilitating the collection and distribution of information. Within the context of Australian colonial administration in Papua & New Guinea, such information was needed to build roads and airstrips to ensure the land and patrolled areas were accessible and under control. The report further provides details on agriculture and livestock in the region, specifically in relation to what crops were thriving and what protein source indigenous inhabitants were relying on.[13] Keenan states that the climate in the region would be good for the introduction of other European vegetables. According to the Tok Pisin Encyclopedia of Papua New Guinea, the adoption of new crop species would have a profound impact on agriculture in the region.[14] In addition to surveying the land, knowledge was gathered about the construction of roads and bridges in the region. The roads had become overgrown since the last patrol, and this was identified as a shortcoming that needed to be rectified.  Keenan states that without active police presence in the region, maintenance works on roads and bridges had ceased.[15] While knowledge processes were integral in colonial administration, according to R. Roque & K.A. Wagner, they were not the whole picture.[16]

As mentioned above, the pacification of warring tribes was a key function of patrols, needed to bring law and order to the regions. Pacification can be seen in the larger context of colonial administration in that it was used to stop native tribal warfare, rebellion and resistance to government control.[17] The Ialibu patrol investigated murders in the region which were attributable to acts of sorcery.[18] The patrol arrested 23 men, who were sentenced to ‘Three Months Imprisonment with Hard Labour for Riotous Behavior.’[19] Keenan reports that the Porogo group had resumed practices of sorcery and witchcraft because the group believed that the administration had forgotten about them, and they could revert to such practices without fear of retribution from the administration.[20]  It was a trend during the colonial administration that acts of sorcery were to be punished in order to bring a savage and barbarian society into civilization.[21] In punishing traditional practices of indigenous inhabitants, however, there was a colonial common sense that Western ideals and concepts of law and order were superior and more effective than presumed anarchy in the region. M. Keenan speaking to the Papua administration of Sir Hubert Murray, states that the practice of sorcery led to disorder, and therefore had to be suppressed without equivocation.[22] By analyzing the patrol report, we can see that this approach continued in practice up until independence in 1975. What is unusual about the patrol is the lack of violence that occurred, either from the patrol itself or from the indigenous inhabitants. Keenan was praised for his ability to resolve the conflict without resorting to violence.[23] According to Kituai, this was uncommon in the period prior to the 1960s when regions like Taguru and Porogo were still considered ‘uncontrolled’ and violence was needed to enforce colonial rule.[24] The lack of violence speaks to the power relations that existed between the patrol and the indigenous inhabitants.

The perspectives of indigenous inhabitants have been left out of the patrol report. We can read against the grain of the text to understand why the patrol was not met with acts of violence or resistance from indigenous inhabitants. According to the oral evidence of Tawi (1985), a local villager of Papua New Guinea (as recorded by A.I. Kituai),[25] many villagers showed no signs of resistance as they feared colonial officer’s demonstration of strength and force of character. The demonstration of power by patrol officers and police officers meant that the majority of indigenous inhabitants accepted their subordinate position and the dominance of the colonial administration. The Ialibu Patrol Report further states that ‘natives’ assisted in clearing airstip sites, and providing information about the murders that had occurred. R. Roque and K.A. Wagner contend that colonial administration ‘implies indigenous involvement, exchanges and interferences’,[26] and this is demonstrated by the Ialibu patrol report. The active participation of indigenous inhabitants sustained colonial administration in the Southern Highlands, as indigenous inhabitants often supplied data, and translated cultural information.[27] It is therefore important to consider the role played by ‘natives’ in colonial administration, and what effect their roles had on the viability of colonial rule.

When looking at the role of indigenous inhabitants as agents of colonial administration, the patrol report also notes that Keenan was looking to appoint new village constables and village councillors as many of the existing village officials had a ‘hazy idea of their duties and obligations.’[28] Throughout colonial administration, village officials and councillors were appointed to act for the new government, creating a group of people who would work with the colonial state, rather than against it.[29] The village officials were effective in bringing breaches of the law to the attention of patrol officers on their visits,[30] as demonstrated by the patrol report where it states that village officials arrested a man involved in the murder of his wife.[31] The presence of the administration in the region during 1957 was sporadic and disjointed. Whilst the Kewa Division of the Southern Highlands was presumably under control, the Wiru Division was not. It was believed that the appointment of well-trained village officials would cement the presence of the colonial administration in the region, as well as increasing patrols in the region. Whether Keenan’s recommendations were adopted is unknown, however, the letter from Director Roberts suggests that the area would receive more patrolling attention and regular visits from Keenan.[32]

The Ialibu Patrol Report of 1956 to 1957 provides insight into the workings of the Australian colonial administration in the Southern Highlands during the 1950s. The patrol had the purpose of extending administrative influence in the region, and it appears that this was achieved by appointing village officials and denouncing inter-group warfare. The approach of the administration in the Wiru Division demonstrates the prevailing belief that Western ideals of law and order needed to be introduced to bring civilization to the region. Keenan’s patrol report highlights the investigative modality of surveyance which was commonly used in colonial empires to gather knowledge and effectuate the colonial administration. Additionally, elements of colonial common sense are present, which informs how we read and interpret the report. While the perspectives of indigenous inhabitants are seemingly missing from the patrol report, reading against the grain of the text provides useful guidance concerning the behaviours of indigenous inhabitants. 

Bibliography

Borofsky, R. ed., Remembrance of Pacific Pasts: An Invitation to Remake History, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 2000.

Brown, P., ‘Colonial New Guinea: The Historical Context’, in N. McPherson, ed., Colonial New Guinea: Anthropological Perspectives, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 2001, pp. 15-26.

Cohn, B.S., ‘Introduction’, in Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: The British in India, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1996, pp. 3-15.

Hawksley, C.M., ‘Administrative colonialism: district administration and colonial ‘middle management’ in Kelantan 1909-1919 and the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea 1947-1957’, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Wollongong, 2001.

Keenan, G.R., Ialibu Patrol Report, no.1 of 1956/57.

Keenan, M., ‘The Western Legal Response to Sorcery in Colonial Papua New Guinea’, in M. Forsyth & R. Eves, Talking it Through: Responses to Sorcery and Witchcraft Beliefs and Practices in Melanesia, ANU Press, Canberra, 2015, pp. 197-211.

Kituai, A.I., ‘Deaths on the Mountain: An Account of Police Violence in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea’, in R. Borofsky, ed., Remembrance of Pacific Pasts: An Invitation to Remake History, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 2000, pp. 212-230.

—— My Gun, My Brother: The World of the Papua New Guinea Colonial Police, 1920-1960, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 1998.

Murray, J.H., Native Administration in Papua, Government Printer, Port Moresby, 1929.

Nelson, H., Taim Bilong Masta: Australian Involvement with Papua New Guinea, Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sydney, 1982.

Roberts, A.A., Letter to The District Officer, 8 June 1957.

—— Letter to The District Officer, 25 June 1957.

Roque. R & Wagner, K.A., ‘Introduction: Engaging Colonial Knowledge’, in Roque and Wagner (eds), Engaging Colonial Knowledge: Reading European Archives in World History, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2011, pp. 1-32.

Sinclair, J., Kiap: Australia’s Patrol Officers in Papua New Guinea, Pacific Publications, Sydney, 1981.

Stoler, A.L., ‘Chapter One: Prologue in Two Parts’, in Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2009, pp. 1-15.

Tok Pisin, ‘History of Agriculture in Papua New Guinea’, Tok Pisin English Dictionary, 2015, <https://www.tokpisin.info/history-agriculture-papua-new-guinea/>, accessed 28 September 2020.


[1] J. Sinclair, Kiap: Australia’s Patrol Officers in Papua New Guinea, Pacific Publications, Sydney, 1981, p. 7.

[2] H. Nelson, Taim Bilong Masta: Australian Involvement with Papua New Guinea, Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sydney, 1982, p. 35.

[3] A.I. Kituai, ‘The Role of the Patrol Officer in Papua New Guinea’, in My Gun, My Brother: The World of the Papua New Guinea Colonial Police, 1920-1960, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 1998, p. 19.

[4] A.L. Stoler, ‘Chapter One: Prologue in Two Parts’, in Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2009, p. 1.

[5] Kituai, ‘The Role of the Patrol Officer in Papua New Guinea’, p. 34.

[6] Ibid., p. 40.

[7] Stoler, ‘Chapter One: Prologue in Two Parts’, p. 3.

[8] G.R. Keenan, Ialibu Patrol Report, no.1 of 1956/57, p. 1.

[9] Ibid., p. 5.

[10] B.S. Cohn, ‘Introduction’, in Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: The British in India, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1996.

[11] Ibid., p. 7.

[12] Keenan, Ialibu Patrol Report, p. 2.

[13] Ibid., p. 8.

[14] Tok Pisin, ‘History of Agriculture in Papua New Guinea’, Tok Pisin English Dictionary, 2015, <https://www.tokpisin.info/history-agriculture-papua-new-guinea/>, accessed 28 September 2020.

[15] Keenan, Ialibu Patrol Report, p. 8.

[16] R. Roque & K.A. Wagner, ‘Introduction: Engaging Colonial Knowledge’, in Roque and Wagner (eds), Engaging Colonial Knowledge: Reading European Archives in World History, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2011, p. 10.

[17] P. Brown, ‘Colonial New Guinea: The Historical Context’, in N. McPherson, ed., Colonial New Guinea: Anthropological Perspectives, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 22.

[18] Keenan, Ialibu Patrol Report, p. 6.

[19] Ibid., p. 7.

[20] Ibid.

[21] M. Keenan, ‘The Western Legal Response to Sorcery in Colonial Papua New Guinea’, in M. Forsyth & R. Eves, Talking it Through: Responses to Sorcery and Witchcraft Beliefs and Practices in Melanesia, ANU Press, Canberra, 2015, p. 203.

[22] J.H. Murray, Native Administration in Papua, Government Printer, Port Moresby, 1929, cited in Ibid., p. 205.

[23] A.A. Roberts, Letter to The District Officer, 25 June 1957.

[24] A.I. Kituai, ‘Deaths on the Mountain: An Account of Police Violence in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea’, in R. Borofsky, ed., Remembrance of Pacific Pasts: An Invitation to Remake History, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 2000, p. 223.

[25] See A.I. Kituai, ‘Perceptions of the Police by Gende Villagers, New Guinea’, in My Gun, My Brother: The World of the Papua New Guinea Colonial Police, 1920-1960, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 1998, pp. 223-243.

[26] Roque & Wagner, ‘Engaging Colonial Knowledge’, p. 23.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Keenan, Ialibu Patrol Report, p. 9.

[29] C.M. Hawksley, ‘Administrative colonialism: district administration and colonial ‘middle management’ in Kelantan 1909-1919 and the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea 1947-1957’, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Wollongong, 2001, p. 32.

[30] Ibid., p. 370.

[31] Keenan, Ialibu Patrol Report, p. 2.

[32] A.A. Roberts, Letter to The District Officer, 8 June 1957.

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