Development and Local Knowledge: New Approaches to Issues in Natural Resources Management, Conservation, and Agriculture

By Alan Bicker; Paul Sillitoe et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Indigenous knowledge confronts development among the Duna of Papua New Guinea

Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern

This chapter will discuss the ways in which the Duna people of the Lake Kopiago district in the Southern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea are using their indigenous knowledge of the environment and their place within their cosmological framing of the world to adjust to and cope with change. Development projects are one form of change among many that the Duna have encountered over the last 60 years. The Duna had traded with neighbouring groups from different language areas in the pre-colonial past and acquired information on other places and peoples through these interactions. The first colonial explorers to enter into the Duna area were the Fox brothers in 1934 (Schieffelin and Crittenden 1991:97-100, 268-273). The colonial government administration was established in 1960 and missionaries started entering the area soon thereafter, bringing new ideas and new pressures for the Duna to confront. The state-introduced currency, the kina, has replaced cowrie shells and (to a lesser extent) pearl shells that previously served as wealth. Nowadays, young men earn cash by occasionally working for mining companies such as the Ok Tedi or Porgera mines. Although these men travel for work elsewhere they generally return to their home area. Frequently we have heard them say that while they were away they missed their hunting expeditions, gardens, and the place itself with its abundant forest. Their comments reflect the identification of these men with their landscape, rooted in their everyday activities.

The Duna people are horticulturalists who also heavily utilize their forest in hunting and gathering fruits and some vegetables. From the forest they obtain leaves, vines, nuts (i.e. nut pandanus) and fruits (e.g. Pangium edule and fruit pandanus). Marsupial meat is greatly appreciated and young men enjoy the hunting of these animals as well as participating in hunting parties that go out into the grasslands close to the Strickland river in search of wild pigs. Pigs are raised for food as well as retaining their traditionally important place in transactions, being used in compensation, bridewealth and funeral payments. The Duna groups that we specifically work with live in the Aluni valley located between the Muller and Victor Emmanuel mountain ranges. Their territory stretches down to the Strickland river and comprises at least six distinct parishes (see Stewart and Strathern 2000a, 2000b for further description of the Duna

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