Chapter 22: From Litali to Huraimbo

For a few years after the war, our nation grew on the remote Litali site. My father built a school there and taught basic literacy and numeracy. He taught Bible stories, “big A, small a, big B, small b”, and counting from one to ten. He had actually started this before the war. As a result of these lessons, almost all the villagers learned to read and write. There was no restriction on girls. This was the period from the 1950s to the early 1970s. However, when the school was moved from the village and relocated some distance away, either at Banak, Boikin, or Dagua in the early 1960s, our women folks dropped behind.

In the meantime, some great reform was taking place in the region. Pita Simogun, a famous war veteran, was pushing for local level government and for establishing schools and rural cooperatives. This was taking place in the 1950s and 1960s. He persuaded the inland people to move to the coast, so they could have access to health care, education, and training in cooperative agriculture. The people of Wautogig, Kotai, and practically all inland villages including Woginara, some Yangorus, Lowon, Arohʷimi-Musuwaim, and others moved down to the coast onto previously foreign lands.

At the time, the landowners freely made land available to the new immigrants. Some people traveled to Nidumin, a coastal site near Dogur where Kotai village is now located.1 At Nidumin, they took a vote on where they would prefer to stay and make a new village. It came down to a choice between Nidumin (Kotai) and Huraimbo (Bogumatai). It is interesting to note that neither the Dogurs nor the Bogumatais were asked if they would like to receive the people. It was assumed that the Dogurs and the Bogumatais had no objection and would warmly welcome them if they came.

Our people preferred Huraimbo as the new site for Wautogig. That site was accepted by all Wautogigem shortly after the war. The new head count or census took place once the people had physically moved.2 3

Early on, only small parts of Huraimbo were inhabited. Yehaipim was occupying the top end of the village. In the middle, where Kwainger and Sallun now reside, there was a pig farm owned by Nindim but actually farmed by Kwainger’s mother. Where Pilimbi and I now have our houses, all the way down to the end of the creek, the low end of the village where Felix Natukur and Joe Waɲawi are, remained unoccupied.4 Strong yagus ‘fern’ grew there. No one lived there. It was also just bush in the areas now occupied by Horiwaken, Wapiəkə, Baiwog, Numbojuor, Pukiei, and Waingaimon. Sallun lived where he now lives. And Korəkwasi (grandfather of Giamur) lived where his descendants now live.

When Wautogik moved to Huraimbo, a Catholic church was built on Kwingara, which is now the village graveyards. On the top end, on the eastern side of Kwingara land where helicopters now land, stood the government patrol officer’s house. The Kwingara land from the saddle to the east has been given to my daughter, Justina Narokobi.

In line with traditional Wautogig practice, the houses were built on either side of a main road with an open area in the center. This open space is reserved for public meetings or singsings (dances). The occupant of each house usually lights a fire and warms himself there and welcomes visits from family members or friends.

Some time later, the church was relocated to the middle of the public meeting space. Along with this church a village Haus Parlamen or ‘Parliament House’ was built. The idea was provide an office for leaders and a meeting place for the community. The idea started when we formed the Wautogig Business Group Incorporated. This goes back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. The people planted and harvested robusto coffee. With the money they earned from selling the coffee, they were able to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser. A Massey Ferguson tractor was also bought with partial financial assistance from the Australian Catholic Relief fund.

The church and the Haus Parlamen lasted some ten years. The business group unfortunately closed down because of serious internal jealousy, but the buildings were sustained. The church, made from traditional materials, was later replaced with iron roof and wooden framing and posts, though it still had a dirt floor.

The Haus Parlamen was also replaced by a much better building in front of my house. It had a speaker’s chair carved from the trunk of a coconut palm, sitting platforms on both sides, and a raised limbum floor in back for women and children to rest on. The house was built by the Wautogig boys under the direction of Jacob Sonin when he was councilor. That house was a great meeting and feasting place, a centre for meeting and rest.

Sadly, white ants chewed up this house and it collapsed shortly before 2002, when I lost the seat of Wewak open electorate in the general elections. As of this time the building has not been replaced. This probably says something about the idea of a communal house itself. It was popular and was widely used when it was open, but when it was destroyed by the ants no one had the vision or desire to rebuild it.5


1 Tony Nindim explains where is Nidumin Listen.

2 According to Julius Yehaipim, it was 1956. The local level government council called for the move of people to the coast to better access services and facilitate development. It was at this time that the Wautogigem decided to move to Huraimbo. Listen.

3 Tony Nindim and Julius Yehaipim tell how the site where Wautogik sits today was originally a pig farm established by Nindim. Julius's family moved over next. Later when the the local government council encouraged people to move, the rest of the village came along. Listen.

4 Yehaipim explains who Pilimbi was. Listen.

5 A new haus bung or ‘gathering house’ was built in the same spot when Joe Gabut ran in the Wewak Open contest in 2012.

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