"By Aeroplane to Pygmyland" Accounts of the 1926 Smithsonian-Dutch Expedition to New Guinea

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Journal of Matthew Stirling
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August 1, 1926 : Brown River

August 1

We departed downstream this morning without having seen any more of our neighbors. During the morning the Dyaks hauled the canoes over the logs in the narrow stream. Coming downstream on a log barrier, they paddle as fast as they can and slide the canoe up on it as far as it will go. We came upon a Papuan house suddenly in which were some women and children. They fled precipitately into the jungle. Later we came to the house with the fifteen canoes. There were a number of men there who disappeared behind the village but kept shouting as we approached. Le Roux and I went ashore and after much coaxing managed to start trading operations with 5 men after we had sent our canoes to the opposite shore. They were very nervous and excited, but also very anxious for trade goods. For 3 beads they readily parted with a net bag {p. 201} or a feathered bow. We acquired many fine articles from them and when we had finished trading I tried to take a picture. I succeeded but also frightened them almost to death. We continued downstream a short distance until we came to a high bank on the west side with two houses on it. Here we ate lunch. Here Le Roux and I made camp intending to remain over night while Stan and Dick[,] in the big canoe with our collections[,] continued on and will arrive at Motor Camp tonight. Ipoei, Saleh and 4 Dyaks are with Le Roux and I. Ipoei and Dick are both sick; Ipoei has malaria. On our trip downstream today we went into several houses that were deserted but had smoke rising from them. In each instance a frame was built over the clay hearth, on which a huge pyramid of breadfruit was roasting. At this time of year at least, this appears to be their staple food.

"Here they seem more timid and more friendly when they overcome their fears enough to approach."

The people on the lower part of this river seem a different tribe from the ones we met near the foothills. Here they seem more timid and more friendly when they overcome their fears enough to approach. The "trophy" bags diminish in number as we come downstream. The houses of this region are similar to those of the Rouffar, but have a characteristic bowed ridgepole {*} which gives them a hump-backed appearance. The people of the foothill region evidently have a culture of their own, the influence of which is felt to the mouth of this river. They are inclined to be hostile, whereas these people are like those of the Rouffar and {p. 202} their natural attitude seems friendly, but they are difficult to approach. They have dogs of a reddish yellow color, short haired, quiet, friendly, mistreated, and have great climbing ability, like those of Bisano. They are used for hunting pigs. The foothill people also domesticate the pig. We saw them around the houses and met one big tame hog in the jungle on our overland trip yesterday which followed us like a dog. This evening Saleh and I went out in the canoe and in an hour had about twenty fish. There are two kinds, large catfish and a sort of small perch with a red tail. Both are excellent eating.

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