National Geographic : 1962 May
CIVILIZATION CHALLENGES THE STONE AGE Australian New Guinea Australianadministratorshelp primitive Papuans preparefor their great leap into the future By JOHN SCOFIELD Photographs by the author THE DUTCH must often look wishfully east toward Australian New Guinea and wonder why nature didn't divide the assets of this enormous island a little more fairly. For on the Australian side lie richer soils, more people, and a political future un marred by anything like the quarrel between Indonesia and the Netherlands. Yet, essentially, the halves of the island are alike, for the Australians, too, are working 604 toward exactly the same end - eventual free dom for their half of New Guinea under a government of the Papuans' own choosing. But where the Dutch, mindful of an explosive political future, are hurrying to give their wards as much as possible while they can, the Australians, goaded by no such spur, take a longer view. Give us more time, they say. Don't force independence on these people be fore they are ready for it. This is no plea of a greedy co lonial power eager to hold a rich possession as long as possible. Despite eastern New Guinea's exports of copra, coffee, rubber, cacao, timber, and gold, Austral ia, thinly populated herself, goes into the red nearly 40 million dollars a year supporting the economy of this vast territory. New Council Hall Echoes Maprik's Spirit Houses Winds of change ruffle east New Guinea, where Austral ian administrators train Pap uans for eventual self-gov ernment. Once Maprik life centered in spirit houses (opposite), with their facades of masks painted on bark. There youths endured coming-of-age cere monies and elders debated village affairs. Today, elected representa tives from many communities meet in the hall at left to con fer on such problems as spear carrying and village sanita tion. Armed with long knives, the men will cut grass to keep down insects. KODACHROMES@ N.G.S.