"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 22, 1926 : Explorators Camp/Tombe Village

September 22

This morning Saleh planned to cross the rattan bridge and climb a peak on the east side of the Rouffaer. We asked Igoon for a pygmy guide whereupon the pygmies replied that the bridge had been cut away by the men from the other side of the river; that it had been done only yesterday and was cut from the east side. Saleh and I went down this morning to investigate. The river was very high indeed, but the bridge was standing (or hanging) in its usual place and far from being cut away, had strengthened somewhat since I last saw it by the addition of a few new cables of rattan. It was then too late for Saleh to make his patrol, so we returned to camp; whereupon the pygmies tried to explain what they had said was that the bridge was in a dangerous condition and was apt to fall if anyone crossed it. It is evident that they want us to stay here where they can get our precious trading goods, and later can themselves trade them to the outside peoples. We then tried to promote a guide for a trip farther up the river on this side and they explained that there were many people there of a warlike disposition, and they all exhibited scars on their bodies as relics of past excursions into their territory. We then tried to get a guide to Agintawa {p. 259} and they said that the men from Agintawa are at present scattered all over. Better wait until they all come here, then we can go together. However, Saleh started anyway this afternoon with two Dyaks, two soldiers and a convict, leaving 10 men here counting le Roux, Jordans and myself. Of these ten, five are in bed with malaria – {*} Sergeant Cottrell, one soldier, two convicts and a Dyak. {*} Shorty and one soldier are the only healthy ones besides we 3. The chief from Agintawa, Igoon and an old fellow from Agintawa whom none of us like, are up to some sort of conspiracy, but what it is we don't know. The relationship between the people of this village "Tombe" and those of Agintawa is a peculiar one. The people of the two villages have entirely different languages but each (even the children) understands the language of the other quite well. The people here, [at] Tombe, are real pygmies, while those of Agintawa are much taller and more of the type from the lake plain. The people from here are rather afraid of the Agintawa men (this was especially evident at first) but our presence here as armed neutrals has evidently brought about a truce. That they intermarry one with the other they have explained, and the results of this admixture can be seen especially plainly among the Agintawa men, many of whom have tall statures but pygmoid features. Most of them are physically of the Lake Plain type. Although these men, stronger physically and numerically than the pygmies of this region, dominate the latter, it is a peculiar fact that they seem to have taken over entirely the material culture of the pygmies, retaining meanwhile their {p. 260} own language. It would be interesting and most valuable for comparative purposes to get a vocabulary from the river "B" to see if their language is really related to those of the lake plain.

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