Chapter 9: Wautogig as a Nation and the Surrounding Nations

Before the Pacific War in 1942, Wautogig had emerged as an extension of Kotai nation. At first it was referred to as Kotai No. 2.1

Because he was the first to settle at Dagububu, Yəhələgɨr claimed authority over Wautogig. His eldest son, referred to in Arapesh with the respect term abahin, or firstborn son, founded the Abahinem clan. In Wautogig Abahinem this is the giɲau, the leading or power clan. More will be said about this institution later.

At the time Yəhələgɨr founded Wautogig several other peoples and nations already occupied the surrounding lands. Most of these people have now disappeared. Here I tell what I know of them.


Dagububu, the immediate area where Yəhələgɨr settled, was previously under the control and ownership of the Boduitem people. The Boduitem occupied lands around Boduit creek. Boduit joins Gədəgəp creek, then Urieb river, which discharges into the Hawain. The Boduitem were Buki or Arapesh speakers. They were not affiliated with Kotai.

There is no recorded history of these people. They no longer live on Wautogig lands, and no one in Wautogig today claims Boduitem ancestry, except for the first female ancestor, Swagien, the wife of Yəhələgɨr. She was a Boduitem woman.

It is believed by some that there are descendants of Boduitem still living in Woginara. But everyone the author spoke to said the Boduitem simply died out. It was recently suggested by Clemen Hayin that the Kotais raped Boduitem women and chased them away from Boduit, probably as payback for Suonu’s killing. But there is no recorded history of any warfare between the Wautogigem and the Boduitem.2


The Coduokum are recent arrivals to the Kotais and later to Wautogigem. They have no land in the Urieb and Məbəmigəs, the bush around Məbəm river.

The Coduokum were a nation of people who lived between the Guluiaim of Bogumatai and the Dogur people of the ridges above Dogur village. They lived on a place called Yəhərəgi. One day a bird known in Arapesh as kəbaun insulted them, calling out:

Coduokum Boduwokum!
Nabɨrim Hʷobɨrogem!
Kwoheik kwoheik!3

The kəbaun kept repeating these words. The Coduokum people heard this and began to fear the enemy was at hand. They fled Yəhərəgi and wandered inland, never again settling down. They are believed to have come from Matapau village in the West Sepik region.4

For their own protection, the Coduokum kept moving from place to place. Their last known home before they moved on was Yəhərəgi. Wautogig became their mother village, or in Tok Pisin mama ples, just as Wautogig’s mother village was Dogur.5 The mama ples provided protection in times of war.6

According to what I have been told, the Coduokum people have no permanent land. They became refugees when they fled Yəhərəgi.7 But today they are challenging Kotais and Wautogigem for ownership of Məbəmigəs up to Jəmaiko and down the Məbəm River. This claim has no basis whatsoever. There is no trace of their settlements. They can use the Məbəm only if the Wautogigem invite them.

We will return to this claim by the Coduokum later. For the moment it is enough to say that as refugees, the Coduokum do not have a permanent country. They have wandered from place to place, in hiding and avoiding enemies. But the Wautogigem were never Coduokum’s enemies. The Coduokum always sought Wautogig’s permission before they would fish or poison fish from Məbəm.

Beiduokum or Peiruom

These people speak the same language as the Walanduoms, Wamagap, Kwangen, Savakun, Wambia and Kumunduo. They are Abɨrasim, that is, Boikin or Sausa speakers. They lived in the lower reaches of Urieb River, below Yohwit, on both sides of the river.8 They were believed to be ferocious warriors. Their primary enemy was Walanduom.

One day the Walanduoms decided to challenge them to a battle. The Walanduoms concealed several of their warriors in a garden. They stood in the sugar-cane clumps and covered themselves up with dried leaves. The Walanduoms went to the Beiduokum and invited them to a battle in the garden. The Beiduokum took up the challenge and pursued the Walanduoms up to the designated place.

The leading warriors of the Beiduokum people were Igɨrɨmik and Yambanban. They killed the Walanduoms in large numbers as they made their way to the garden. But then the Walanduom warriors concealed in the sugar cane stands snapped the sugar cane open and attacked and killed the two Beiduokum warrior kings. The Beiduokum survivors fled the land. In subsequent warfare, they were completely wiped out.

From that time on, the Beiduokum no longer inhabit the area. The former Beiduokum land is now owned and occupied by some Walanduoms and some Wautogigem, largely those hailing from a clan known as the Jɨbainerim. It is believed some offshoots of the Beiduokum nation continue to live nearby in Boikin villages and in Wewak near Saure.

The story of the Beiduokum or Peiruom lives on in the Gumarəm dance.9 One day, some men cut a limbum palm. The land was steep with a deep pool of water in the Urieb river known as Hangureko below. The palm rolled down hill into Hangureko. The limbum broke through the roof of a spirit world house and landed on its floor.

The man who felled the limbum palm followed it down into the pool. He wanted to cut off the sheath to make mats. While in the pool he heard the song of some spirit people dancing. He saw a wirɨh, a hand drum or in Tok Pisin a kundu, and picked it up. He carried it back with him, following the limbum palm up to dry ground. One night the man used the kundu to dance the Gumarəm dance he had witnessed while in the pool. The people danced until late in the night. As they were dancing, a Hangureko spirit man heard them and followed the limbum palm up into this world. He saw the men dancing with his kundu. The spirit man caused rain to fall, and it scattered the people.10

The Kwangen-Baimrɨbɨs Land Swap

Gɨrəseŋgi, and Ɲakamarum Ɲakamarum were two brothers from the Kwangen village Ɲawia that was destroyed by the masalai Waləbələb. Gɨrəseŋgi and Ɲakamarum in those ancient times made their home in Kwangen. Huoro and Logie were Baimrɨbɨs who lived in Wɔlɨmagəm, near the Yomorita river pool.1112

One day while Huoro and Logie were out gardening their stone axe came off its handle and dropped into the river pool. They looked everywhere, but they could not find the lost axe. Their pleas for help from the masalai spirit that occupied the pool went unheard.

So they called out for Gɨrəseŋgi and Ɲakamarum to come help them to find the lost axe. Gɨrəseŋgi and Ɲakamarum came up to Wɔlɨmagəm and appealed to the masalai in the river pool. In no time the lost axe was found and returned. Huoro and Logie concluded that the Yomorita ancestor spirits had favoured Gɨrəseŋgi and Ɲakamarum because they heard and heeded their tok ples. So they made the decision to swap lands. Huoro and Logie went down to Kwangen, and Huoro and Logie took up the other men’s place in the Boiduanigəri and Wolɨmagəm regions.13

The Baimirɨbɨs clan hails from these ancestors. They identify with their origins in this Sausa or Boikin identity as descendants of Gɨrəseŋgi even today, yet they are a part of Wautogik nation.14 They now own and occupy much of the lands from Yawiɲubomet to Wolɨmagəm.15

Dr. Albert Melam was born to Cleophas Melam, son of Nimbemiə who is a Baimiribus. When Nimbemiə died, his wife, Dr. Melam’s father’s mother, married a brother of Nimbemiə and bore Dr. Weibun. Dr. Albert Melam’s mother was part Buin and part Goroka. The other members of Baimirɨbɨs clan are Yehaipim, the father of Dr. Weibun and half-brother of Mr. Cleophas Melam, Piel, Wautogik’s former Komiti John Yenduiya, the Korewagen or Horiwaken family (Taramap, Meimam, Tigeni), and the Otto Sengu family. So the Baimirɨbɨs (in Boikin language Paimur) are a distinct people. This subgroup of Kwangens was integrated into the Wautogig nation first through Meliawi, and then later through the Gɨrəseŋgi-Ɲakamarum and Huoro-Logie swap.


The Worobebʉs people are not a part of the Wautogig system. They are an independent people who have become integrated into Bogumatai. They lived on the northeast and west of Udit ridge. Udit is now owned and occupied by the Narokobi family. But it originally belonged to the Worobebʉs and the Gluiaim of Bogumatai.

The Worobebʉs people appear to have died off. Two men who maintain their ancestry with Worobebʉs now are Arnold Barijo (nicknamed “six-finger”) and Waiko. Waiko was a Worobebʉs man, but he was adopted into Gluiaim nation. The Gluiaim were the main group controlling Bogumatai lands.

Over the last hundred years, the Worobebʉs held much of what is known as the butogigəs (‘hinterlands’) between the main road leading from Urumi past Udit and entering Huraimbo, the present site of Wautogig. The Worobebʉs were Buki or Arapesh people. They spoke the Buki language and moved between Bogumatai and Kotai. Their two ancestors were reputed to have had the command over wind, rain, and hailstorms.16

Along with the Bogumatai people, the Worobebʉs became a part of the Rohwim alliance. As such, they were close associates of the Kwangens and the Walanduoms. Their enemies were the Dogur and Kotai people, whose alliance was Cemaun. Banak village joined the people of Dogur, Kotai, and Wautogig in the Cemaun or ‘shark’ alliance.

At the time the village was forming the Wautogig people had no reason to be enemies with anyone, not even the Bogumatais or the Walanduoms although they were Rohwim. There would later be a civil war between Wautogig and the Walanduoms, but that was much later.


The Warepim lived on the other side of Boduit creek in the Məbəmigas, as the lands along the Məbəm river are called. They occupied the region from Ɲabɨlokopit creek down to Korua utom(Arapesh for stone), a huge boulder in Məbəm river. Their lands climbed into the Jəmaiko region and down the Məbəm river, along the Jəmaiko in the Bərəgəm-Yabues region and down the riverside at Wamaibonin. Their lands went through the Tuonum-Bauwiowom purupur, a stretch of rapids with no pool, and down further still to Woguba, some distance down from Ɲabɨlokopit and the Ɲidime-Ɲatukurəgəri pool where the Ɲidime pole stands today.17

The Warepim were Buki or Arapesh speakers. They lived along the Məbəm and were neighbours and relations of Kotai people. The last Warepim man died of an incurable disease. Before he died, he transferred the land to his relatives in Wautogig. It was my mother’s grandfather Bablis who buried the last Warepim man, and he gave my grandfather all the land and water of Bərəgəm-Yabues down to Məbəm.

After the war, around 1949, my parents made gardens near Ɲabɨlokopit by the Məbəm river. My father planted coconuts, one of which still stands. I was a small boy at the time, but I still remember the events.

Further down the stream, on the northern side of Məbəm river, and below where Ɲabɨlokopit meets Məbəm, Peter Kwainger and his father Ɲakakawa, then the paramount chief of Wautogig, made gardens. Peter Kwainger planted a clump of bamboos which still stands there. Lower down again, on a flat piece of land, coconuts were planted.

At about the same time my father made gardens, Mr. Joseph Nɨmbojuwor, who became the next paramount chief of Wautogig, made a garden from Beisam pool up to the Jəmaiko boundary.

All that land once belonged to the Warepim nation. When they died, the land was passed on to their relatives in Kotai and Wautogig. By long and continuous use and by common heritage, these lands have come into the control and ownership of the Wautogigem.

Other Nations in the Region

At the time what is now known as Wautogig was settled, there were other people as well. They occupied the lower parts of Urieb and Məbəm rivers. They were Boikin or Sausa speakers and practised that culture. These people include the Savakuns and the Wambias. In the Urieb river area below Meɲowim and Hangureko, these people share boundaries with the Walanduoms. The Savakuns and the Wambias still exist today.

In the Məbəm river region, they share boundaries with the Wautogigem, especially with the Jɨbainerim and the Abahinem-Kərapehem clans. The Savakuns and the Wambias are very small in numbers. Today, they are counted among the Walanduoms, just as Wamagap, another people with a separate identity, is counted with Walanduom. They are included in the Walanduom census.18However, each nation continues to maintain its own history, identity, lands, and waters.


So it was that at the time of Wautogig’s settlement from Dagububu several nations asserted ownership and exercised influence over the land and water through hunting, gathering, and fishing.

As I mentioned earlier, the Coduokum were nomads or wanderers. They moved from one location to another hiding from their enemies.19 When they ran away from Yəhərəgi following the kəbaun’s curse, they found protection with Wautogigem. They call the Wautogigem yamo ‘mother’ or mamokibʉr ‘mother village’ because they benefit from Wautogig’s care and protection. The Coduokum hunt, gather, or fish in the Wautogig and Kotai land and water with the express approval of these villages. There is a story about the Coduokum. Some of their men hid themselves by Cuworiwom pool and tried to trap Dogur women who had come to fetch water. Citing the kəbaun’s curse as their excuse, they ran away deeper into the jungle. But this was long after the Wautogigem had settled in.

Wautogig is perhaps the strongest of all the villages in the region. Because of its origins in Kumunim and Kotai, its people primarily speak Buki and practise Buki or Arapesh customs. But because of the very early contact with Walanduom and the creation of the Yaimbon-Hula road, the friendship Yəhələgɨr made with Meliawi of Kwangen, and later through the Kwangen-Baimrɨbɨs land swap, Wautogik’s Sausa instinct remains firm and strong. The people of Wautogig also dance and sing Sausa dances and speak Sausa language. As a result, Wautogig people are often referred to as Pugio-Sausa or Buki-Abɨrap. That is their cultural or ethnic identity. In today’s system of categorization they are But-Dagua-Boikin people.

At the time Wautogig nation was formed, the surrounding Boikin nations were Walanduom, Savakun, Wambia, Kwangen, and Peiruom or Beiduokum. The Buki or Arapesh nations were the Boduitem, the Warepim, the Kotais, the Serebʉs, and the Nabɨrɨm or the Bogumatais. The refugee people, the Coduokum, came later. The Kubarenim, were much further up Məbəm River and were cut off by the Kotai people. The Kubarenim were more at war with the Kotais, and hence Wautogig, than they were friends at that time. The Coduokum were not present at the time. They came much later.

The positioning of people within the village can also be understood on ethnic lines. The Buki speakers were on the north and the southwest of the original Wautogig village and upstream of Urieb and Məbəm rivers. The Sausa or Boikin speakers were on the lower parts of Urieb and Məbəm rivers to the north and southeast.


1 Jacob Sonin and Tony Nindim say they have not heard of Kotai No. 2. They only know about “Kotai tasol”. Listen.

2 Jacob Sonin and Tony Nindim disagree. They say that the Boduitem moved inland and are now affiliated with Urip. Listen.

3 The kəbaun mischievously manipulates the name of these people, Coduokum, and the name of their village, Nabɨrim. Kwoheik is a rendering of the bird’s call.

4 Jacob Sonin and Tony Nindim give a slightly different version of what happened to the Coduokum. Listen.

5 In 1998 Christopher Ɲibekop of Dogur village told how in pre-colonial times the surrounding villages called Dogur mother village. Listen.

6 The Coduokum are Wautogik’s liklik ples or nɨgabɨr, and Wautogik is their mama ples or mamakibɨr. Listen.

7 According to Jacob Sonin and Tony Nindim, the Coduokum now live at Woginara 1. Listen.

8 Narokobi describes their location as from “Yohwit to Kwajepit” creeks. Jacob Sonin disagrees that this is the right area of land, but he cannot remember what it should be. Listen. Later he identifies the location as Gugumet to Wogepit. Listen.

9 A version of this story was dictated in Arapesh by Pita Kwainger in 1998 and inscribed by Lise Dobrin here [Notebook a.38-9]. There some of the lands along this section of the Urieb are also named in order.

10 Jacob Sonin describes the Gumarom dance. Listen.

11 Yomorita is the name of a river pool. Listen.

12 Narokobi mentions the location name Gori. Prior to the bulldozing of the area to quarry gravel (limestone, Tok Pisin gori) for the road this area was referred to as by its proper name Urumi. Listen.

13 Narokobi associated these events with Abəgərip but those present agree it was really Boiduanigəri. Listen.

14 It is thought that that Ɲakamarum did not have children. It is not known what happened with Huoro and Logie. Listen.

15 Narokobi mentions Krake creek but everyone present agrees that is wrong. Krake is owned by Walanduom. Saying otherwise in the text could create political problems. Listen.

16 The Worobebɨs were reputed to have magic that allowed them to control the weather. Listen.

17 A kwila tree fell into the Ɲidime-Ɲatukurəgəri pool and is still there today. It has been there as long as anyone can remember. Listen.

18 The Arapesh name of the Walanduom people is Waladuokum. Listen.

19 The Coduokum are enemies with Kubaren. Listen.

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