National Geographic : 2012 Feb
eventually reaching the riverside village of Awim. Stepping from the dugout, we are shocked to learn that Lidia and the others are all here. e only working clinic in the region had no supplies to help her. But Lidia is still alive. Simple antibiotics have saved her. She is still weak and unable to walk, so we put her on an IV drip for the night. Michael and his son are recovering as well. By dawn, Lidia is able to smile and rise unsteadily to her feet, although she is still hacking. At breakfast, I nd Sebastian Haraha sitting by the camp re. He hands me a cup of co ee and motions for me to sit beside him. He was compelled to temporarily abandon his plan of mapping the Meakambut's caves---the goal of which is to save their habitat, and thus ensure the continuation of their culture in the future--- in order to save their lives in the present. He says the choice was clear. He is a human rst, an ethnographer second. "Protecting the caves? What does it matter--- if there are no Meakambut le ?" asks Sebastian. He is angry. Lidia's close call has shaken him. " e Meakambut are on the edge of extinc- tion. ey are dying from easily treatable ill- nesses. In ten years they could be completely gone, and their culture and language would vanish. is is one of the last nomadic people in Papua New Guinea!" He is obviously appalled, but also energized. "When I get back to Port Moresby, I'm going to walk straight into the prime minister's o ce and do something." I nod in agreement, then pass along John's message verbatim: "We, the Meakambut people, will give up hunting and always moving and living in the mountain caves if the government will give us a health clinic and a school, and two shovels and two axes, so we can build homes." j Pasu Aiyo is proud of his people's traditions, as his flower-bedecked beard proclaims. But nomadic life takes a toll, and illness often proves fatal. Many Meakambut wonder if settling in a village would offer a brighter future. Since National Geographic's visit, the Meakam- but continue to live without access to government services. But they have partly settled in homes on the ridgetop camp of Tembakapa, where Nancy Sullivan's team has provided building supplies, water tanks, and solar panels. Despite the threat of encroachment by miners, they continue to hunt and gather on their traditional land. Lidia survived.