National Geographic : 1949 Dec
844 Ned Blood from Camera Clix Feathered, Shell-bright Dandies Smile at the Prospect of Fancy Woolen Garments These young drummers, their arms and fingers entwined in good fellowship, meet at Kerowagi airstrip to lead the celebration attending the arrival of the sheep. They measure their wealth by counting plumes, shells, pigs, and wives. Their bird-of-paradise feathers, golden, orange, and apricot in color, were obtained with bows and arrows, but nowadays, with the advent of firearms, the boys try to borrow shotguns and buy shells. From forehead to nose, one boy wears a fashionable halo of pennantlike feathers taken from King of Saxony's bird of paradise. Armbands are woven from small strips of cane. Obviously, these gallants are very conscious of their appearance. They have devoted hours to primping, arranging headdresses just so, and applying face paint like fading beldams. To achieve raised tribal scars, they have endured tortures under the tattooer's knife and have suffered ashes rubbed into wounds. If born into the old days, these men would have devoted their days to training for war. Wahgi Valley communities, like nations, once were divided into hostile camps eager to throw themselves at one another's throats at the slightest excuse. Though savagery seemed dominant, actually a primitive code of chivalry prevailed. Lancers, archers, and axmen, arrayed in gorgeous plumes and marshaled five abreast, met on battlefields deter mined by mutual choice. Armies suspended fighting by night, and warriors returned to their homes confident the enemy would not resort to sneak attacks. After the battle, victors permitted vanquished to remove their dead. In less than a generation, State and missionary influence has brought tribal warfare to the vanishing point. Trial by divination, the old-style justice, is on its way out. A facsimile of Western law and order has been established. Judges and prosecutor from Port Moresby, the administrative capital, tour the hinterland at intervals, trying major cases. Lesser offenses are judged by resident magistrates. Courts honor native laws and customs lest the 20th century's impact prove too sudden and stunning to a people fresh out of the Stone Age. During World War II a dysentery epidemic, spreading from the Japanese-held coast to the highlands, laid thousands low. Community health was restored by sulfa drugs flown in by Americans. Returning the favor, Australians shipped the valley's green vegetables to their Yankee allies. Wahgi folk speak a non-Melanesian tongue divided into three dialects so complex that it takes a Westerner years to master them. Communication between races is generally carried on in pidgin English, which natives learn readily.