Chapter 18: Some Wautogik Women - Part 1

Anthropologist Margaret Mead stated in her findings that Mountain Arapesh women were a strong force, rendering their men folk subservient or passive. I cannot make the same assertion as a general rule. It is true, though, that there are or were some strong female personalities in Wautogig, even though the village is generally male-dominated. Men dominate life in the village, but education is slowly changing this scene.

This history of Wautogig nation is characterised by both Buki/Arapesh women and Sausa/Boikin women marrying Wautogig men to give birth to Wautogigem. The women of old Wautogig came from Kotai, Woginara, Kwangen, Bogumatai, Walanduom, and Howanɨmbo. They married into Wautogig and bore the sons and daughters of Wautogig.

When I was growing up as a small boy, many families could trace their mothers or grandmothers to some village other than Wautogig. I will briefly touch on how this happened in some families.


Little is known about this woman who was the first female ancestor of the Wautogigem through her marriage to Yəhələgɨr. She hailed from Boduit creek in the land of Boduitem nation. Yəhələgɨr was a man of Yomunihi, an area now known as Kotai.

Clearly Swagien was quite influential. Following her husband’s conflict with her brother-in-law, Suonu, the couple fled to Dagububu in what is now Wautogig. Her husband was scared. They hid among thick clumps of bamboo, known in Sausa language as tangu and in Buki language as dagu. It was Swagien who knew these lands, as she had grown up there and they belonged to her brothers. So she was able to lead her husband to establish a home on what were to him unknown and presumably enemy lands.

Swagien played a key role in the founding of Wautogig village. It was an argument about her that first got her husband Yəhələgɨr to move away from Kotai, and then it was on lands belonging to her people, the Boduitem, that she and Yəhələgɨr took shelter, land, water, and culture, enabling Wautogig to grow into what it is now.

Swagien was instrumental in getting her brothers to make yam and taro gardens. She got her brothers to make her and her husband a ɲɨbɨrap (‘slit gong’ or Tok Pisin garamut) from a tree trunk.

Swagien was with Yəhələgɨr when Meliawi of Kwangen and his son first encountered Yəhələgɨr at Horonin near Dagububu. She welcomed the strangers into her new settlement with her husband. She bore children who married Meliawi’s son and so the Wautogik nation grew until this day.1


Teibunar was the wife of John Nindim, first councilor of Wautogig nation and father of the diplomat William Nindim and his brothers and sisters. Teibunar hailed from Kubəren village in the region now known as Woginara.

Kubəren was then an enemy village of Kotai and hence of Wautogig, because until the late 1930s and early 1940s Kotai and Wautogig were one nation. Teibunar was betrothed to a Wautogig man as a “ransom” in exchange for peace between Kubəren and Wautogig. But Teibunar later married John Nindim and not the man she was originally supposed to marry.

Nindim and one part of the Kərapehem clan trace among their ancestors a woman named Weingamon who came from Kowanumbo in Boikin territory. Their marriage created a close exchange relationship between Kowanumbo and Wautogig, known to the Kowanumbos in their language as horaipie. Weingamon married Nɨmbəmia and bore Krapehem. Nɨmbəmiə was Abahinem.2


Joseph Numbojuor, the father of Jacob Sonin, was the paramount chief of Wautogig. His mother was an Abahinem woman. Numbojuor’s father was a man from Kotai, a nephew of the Abahinem who was adopted into his mother’s clan and conferred the giɲau.

Numbojuor’s wife was Bakicho. Like my mother, Mukoi, Bakicho was a strong and hard-working woman. These women knew the customs and traditions and would often guide the menfolk in public debates and speeches. When the menfolk became violent as they often do, these women would resist and fight back. They were strong, proud, and generous to their last taro or banana. Bakicho came from the Jɨbainerim clan.

Of these women it has often been said of their generosity that they hid nothing except their pispis na pekpek, nothing but their urine and excrement. They did not eat their own smoke.3 They were loyal to their husbands and lovingly raised their children, working sago, catching fish, making gardens, cooking, and when dancing time would come, dancing from dusk to dawn. They held their village nation together.


Undumari was another strong soul of Wautogig. She was one of four sisters of Peter Kwainger, who became the home-based paramount chief from the Abahinem clan. Undumari married Nimbəmiə and went with him to Manus to work in the modern economy. This was before the Pacific War, making her one of the first modern Wautogik women. Undumari was the mother of Mellam, one of our first professional teachers. Mellam married Lucy, of mixed Buka and Goroka parentage, and bore Albert Mellam. After her first husband died, Undumari married Yehaipim and bore Dr. Weibun and others. Undumari was also a strong and generous woman. Her voice in dancing was powerful and penetrating, especially when singing Mawon and Mendep.

Maria Mukoi

My mother was Maria Mukoi, of Abahinem Kərapehem, the clan of Matthew Rahiria and Andrew Yauieb. But her mother came from Kotai. My father, Anton Narokobi, was adopted into the Abahinem clan from Jɨbainerim. His mother was Kohar, a woman from Yeminip in Woginara. Kohar was born of a woman called Morikowambɨlu, also of Yeminip. My father’s father’s mother, Umanepen, hailed from among the Gluiaim of Bogumatai.456

Maria Mukoi was another generous Wautogik woman. She was also powerful in debate. She was among the first generation of women of Wautogig to enter the convent in Boikin before the war. She went with Bakicho and together they learned to read and write. In this the two women actually followed Mutuwaruwin. Mutuwaruwin was the mother of Narina of Bogumatai. She married Pukiei of Abahinen Krapehem and carried Alex Ulanji.7 She also bore Bernard Narina from her previous husband. Bernard Narina died without leaving any offspring.


1 According to Jacob the name of Meliawi's son was Nambina. Listen.

2 Jacob and Sallun say that Weingamon did not marry Nɨmbəmiə, she married Sakagu. Listen.

3 This expression seems to mean that they give what they have rather than keeping it for themselves. Listen.

4 Joseph Sallun, an Abahinem clansman, tells a more elaborate story about Bernard's genealogy. Listen.

5 Sallun explains in further detail all the generational steps between Kohar and Narokobi's father. Listen.

6 Tony Nindim supports Sallun's version of the genealogy. Listen.

7 Narina's mother is Mutuwaruwin. Listen.

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