"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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September 5, 1926 : Explorators Camp/Tombe Village

September 5

A large group of pygmies were around camp all day. Le Roux spent most of the day studying language while I took physical measurements and between times we traded. The exchange is going up and now we have to pay about double the price {p. 239} for the same articles we got yesterday. They are getting a little more keen in their trading. One fellow has taken quite an aversion to me. He wanted a big parang for a fine boar's tusk bag he had. I held out for his head net or his bow and arrow in addition and despite his entreaties would not give in. A little later he made the bargain with Le Roux for the boar's tusk bag alone for the parang. Now when he passes me, he turns his nose up and shows his disgust at my Shylock tactics, with no uncertain meaning in his expression. During the day two more pigs were brought and slaughtered with the usual ceremonies so for a while at least we will eat well. We ate some of the vegetables today and they were very good. The pygmies are thoroughly democratic and haven't observed any difference in caste in our groups as yet apparently. They fraternize with the soldiers, the convicts and the Dyaks and with us equally and in their giving of presents, make no distinction of persons. They are beginning to see now that Le Roux and I have the treasure chest, but they still try their bargaining with the convicts, Dyaks and soldiers. I have a new convict who is Shorty's successor. He and Sian, le Roux'[s] convict are having the time of their lives putting the pygmies to work for them. They give them their parang to use and the pygmy cuts their wood for them, getting his reward from the pleasure of using the knife. They are quite helpful however and lend {p. 240} a hand readily without being asked, to any task about camp. The Dyaks were felling a tree near the middle of camp and were a little uncertain of its falling the right direction. The pygmies on their own initiative got a long pole, leaned it against the tree and about thirty of them put their weight on it, forcing the tree to fall where it was wanted.

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