Chapter 11: Village-Nation Layout

The original Wautogig village runs down a small narrow ridge between Dagububu, through Kunicuaɲ, and down to Bai. The Abahinem, descendants of eldest son or abahin, settled on the top ridge, Dagububu. Lower down are the Abahinem’s ancestral rocks, the chief of which is Cokuromen, a rock that cannot be removed. Alongside it are other rocks, which together form an outcropping. Cokuromen is symbolically significant to Wautogig. How it got there is a mystery, but we know that it has always been there and will always be there. It has come to be a symbol of solidness, firmness and determination, the rock upon which everything is founded.

Further down the ridge is the site known as Polondio Songo, meaning ‘pig’s excrement’. This was the land of the Jɨbainerim clan. Two solid posts are located there. That is the place where the haus tambaran or Parliament House stood. The two solid posts are called Hoiku and Hombuai.1 One of the things they symbolise is feminine firmness. It was from this house that the Wautogik men folk planned their dances, singsings, feasts, and on rare occasions, war.

Next to the haus tamberan were the Kərapehem and the Kədaim. Down to the bottom, close to Kunicuaɲ were the Baimrɨbɨs. The Baimrɨbɨs had become a part of Wautogig, but they still retained an identity of their own.

The Kərapehem were organised into three parts: Abahinem, Kərapehem, and the Paserəhəs. They lived on Tuhurubun and Yebik.2 They would come and gather when they heard the garamuts beat. Similarly, the Jɨbainerim were physically located in Kwajebigəm.3 They too would come together when they heard the calls. The Paserəhəs Krapehem were positioned in Abogɨrip ridge. They too would come whenever there was a call for all to gather. The Baimrɨbɨs were living on Agɨranin on land they had acquired when they were favoured with an axe find.4

It is worth noting that while they shared a common headquarters, at the time of European contact, the clans were all living in their own areas, pursuing their own hunting and gathering, but coming together as one nation for common purposes. The Jɨbainerim were then living at Gɨlemeibun, lower down the Urieb River. But the Ɲumiəduokum were always considered a junior part of Abahinem, always ready to do things and ready to support Abahinem whenever support was needed. When the Abahinem were unable to provide giɲau or power, the Ɲumiəduokum Kərapehem were ready to assist. Yuram is one such example. He was able to step in and help the giɲau when the giɲau fell short of knowledge and skill in debating.5

It is clear from oral history that by the time of my father, all the land and water boundaries both between our clans and between Wautogig and other villages had been fought over and settled. There was not an inch of land or a drop of water that did not have an owner.

It is not known for how long the Wautogigem were living under this structure. Judging from the stories, the existence of coconut trees, and the family genealogy, it may not have been more than three generations from my father’s time.

It was in the ancient Wautogig village I just described that my father became the first catechist and built the first ever Catholic church on Dagububu. There he instructed the first classes of students for baptism. But the original village site was abandoned after the war. The whole village moved to a new village site at Litali. There on the new site he built a new Catholic church. I will discuss church sites and the changes in village sites later on.

Before European contact, at the height of Wautogig’s autonomy, there were two significant spirit beings that dominated the haus tambaran. These two spirits were Gisu and Yege. They were known to play beautiful but fearful bamboo flutes. Evidently these figures were real human beings wearing masks in the form of tumbuan masked men. These figures may have their origins in Murik Lakes or the island of Manam in Madang. They passed through Murik Lakes and then to Koil and Vokeo Islands, then to Wom village, down through Dogur, into Kotai and ultimately coming to Wautogig.


So at the dawn of Wautogig’s history there was one couple, a man and a woman, Yəhələgɨr and Swagien. By the height of procolonial era, Wautogig was the headquarters of several communities living and sharing their livelihood in Narowehem, in Agɨranin, in Abegirip, in Yebik, in Kwajebigəm and in Gɨlemeibun by Urieb River. Each clan had its own settlement, but they would come together at Wautogig to engage in common activities. Then they would return to their small communities. This continued until after the war, when the settlements were abandoned. That is when everyone came back and lived together as one community at the second main village site, Litali.

Around 1945, following a discussion and vote in Kotai village at Nidumin, the people made a decision to move together to Bogumatai-Kwangen lands. So, from 1949 to this day, the Wautogig people have lived together as a nation at Huraimbo.


1 According to Joseph Sallun the two posts are gendered. Listen.

2 Those present clarify which clans lived on which lands. Listen. Joseph Sallun says that Manikut and the Kadaim lived at Yebik. Listen.

3 All those present agree with Narokobi that the ones who lived at Kwajebigəm were Jɨbainerim. Listen.

4 As told in Chapter 10.(link)

5 Yuram is the ancestor of Ignas Baiwog. Listen.Joseph Sallun provides the order of siblings of the ancestors of the Ɲumiəduwokum-Kərapwehem. Jacob explains their role of backing up the Abahinem's leadership. Listen.

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