How conservation is embedded in the Kampalap culture of Siassi | By Brendon Zebedee

Society, the spirit world and environmental protection

Pic: Siassi Island Cruz

For  the Kampalap people of Siassi, Morobe province,  hunting is one of the survival skills that is passed on from generation to generation in which they used it to search for wild meat to feed their families and relatives.

There is a traditional hunting season called Titava.  Titava in the  Kaimanga language of Kampalap people which means searching for wild pigs with a traditional net made of a special tree called kaivus barks.

The hunting seasons begins when the local people in the village want to celebrate a traditional feast called mailang. It is usually celebrated in the Christmas period where children especially boys ranging from 3 years old to 14 years old will be circumcised which signifies that this boy is from the Kampalap society.

When the time comes for their traditional occasions, especially in the Christmas period, all the elderly men and young boys from the entire clan in the village will gather in their traditional house so-called Hausman, and prepare for hunting. Before they enter the bush, each clan leader must perform the clan ritual.

Besides, the other clan leaders will communicate with their dead forefather’s spirit to give them more wild pigs that have the big tusks and has great meat. While the rituals are performing, the elderly men who own each hunting group will go for each appropriate spot surrounding the area. The young boys will start shouting in their dialogue to make the pigs running towards the net. The men and some boys will hold tight the pigs that get trapped by the net. Whatever wild pigs that are killed on this occasions can be shared with relatives and the clan members whom their sons are being circumcised.

The alternative hunting practice of Kampalap people is through setting bush especially thick grassland on fire. This practice involves all the local people specifically the men and young boys. Before they enter the bush, the clan leaders will have a traditional ritual. While the ritual is performed, the elder people will lead the hunting group into the grassland to the appropriate spot surrounding the hunting area set the bush on fire in a circular formation.

When the fire is almost complete and the bush is cleared, the hunters from all groups rush into chaos and chase any animals that they find. After they caught many wild animals, they will share the meat to each family in the village to prepare for their delicious dinner. The grassland that the local people hunt for wild animals will be left for the next three to four years. This allows the bush to regenerate or to follow the pattern of bush-fallow rotation, a system also used in gardening. Hunting alone in the bush not only helps people find wild animals for their meat but also helps to improve grass as well as introducing or promoting new plant species in that area.

Another advantage of this hunting ceremony is that the Kampalap people can maintain a close relationship with their dead spirits of their forefathers. At present, because of the introduction of modern weapons, dramatically increased in population, and easier access to more remote wildlife areas, it is doubtedly whether the animals will withstand the changes that are now taking place. Possible disappearances of hunting grounds may have destroyed the traditional practices.

In addition, there is a mystic belief that if a bird called loplop is seen in the forest, the hunter will not kill it nor shoot it with a sling. This unknown bird species is quite unique and it is different from other birds found on the island, and there is a colorful feather, and a red spot on its forehead. It looks beautiful and it is referred to as the ‘message carrier’ of all birds in this area.

It is regarded as the dead ancestor’s spirit, and that is why; the people do not kill it. If they do, they may be no luck in their future hunting ventures or they might have punished by the dead ancestors. In the past, the people especially the hunters used to ask the birds for wild pigs in the midst of the forest if they do not kill any wild pigs. Sometimes, the hunters want to impress the loplop, they will rest in the midst of the forest, and chew betelnut, and spit the betelnut in the forest. The idea was that if they spit the betelnut in the forest while the bird is whistling, and calling the hunter’s name, it is a way of barter system with the dead ancestor’s spirit in exchange of wild animals like pigs that can be shared amongst the family members in the village.

Some of the Kampalap people are very good at setting traps for wild pigs in the forest. When the hunters want to set traps for wild pigs in the forest, they have to follow a hunting ritual in which they forefathers will help them to chase the wild pigs into their trap. It is a most suitable practice where the hunter will have to wait until two or three weeks for the wild pigs to get caught in their trap. According to that hunting practice, the special bird so-called loplop played a vital role by effectively communicate with the hunter if there is a huge wild pig get caught so that the hunter will be ready to kill the pig. Otherwise, the huge pig that is caught will break the trap, and run away into the dense forest.

Moreover, masalai (bush spirit) site is a sacred site where it is forbidden to the local people to enter without any traditional ritual with the bush spirits. The people in the village strongly believed that masalai are the only spiritual beings that own a special place so-called Sekmala in which it is rich in different species of plants, special fruits, and animals. Sekmala is the homes for wild animals such as wild pigs, bandicoots, and wallabies.

According to a legendary story, the local people believed that a huge snake called aranga transformed a man named Morkok into a half human being that has serpent tail. If the local people want to hunt for wild animals, a clan leader who understand the bush spirits norms and guidelines will have a form of conversation with the bush spirit in their dreams while he is sleeping.

After he has an agreement with the clan leaders, the clan leaders will inform the hunters to search for wild animals for food. If one of the hunter in the society disobey the clan leader who usually follows the norms of the bush spirit, and goes to that forbidden place to hunt for wild animals.

During the long day of hunting in that sacred place, the hunter will see a huge snake sleeping on the tracks in the forest which signifies a bad omen. In the context of this sign interpret in Kampalap society that a hunter who see a huge snake. He will be punished by the bush spirits like this person will have a serious illness and the hunter will definitely die.

Today, this sacred site is rich in diversity of flora and fauna species that is untouched by the local people. This forbidden place is merely for the strange creatures like the flying lizards that has a green colored and big wings that owns a special mango fruit near the river bank.

The original article can be found here. 


4 comments on “How conservation is embedded in the Kampalap culture of Siassi | By Brendon Zebedee

  1. Reblogged this on Tribalmystic stories and commented:
    I love to read stories about our people (in Papua New Guinea) continuing to preserve their culture. I am especially proud because the Siassi is in my province and I have family there. Thank you Brendon Zebedee and Scott Waide for bringing us this cultural heritage story.


    • I told him this morning that his blog content was very important. In a few decades, that knowledge will be lost if we do not preserve it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m so glad you did. Tell him we can share information and help each other. I would love to work there – in Siassi. I have a lot of family members there and have discussed it with my mother to go there and visit my cousins and my aunt. Tokim em bikpla tenkyu stret. Gutpla stori.


  2. This is a great story, demonstrating the complex interrelationship between nature, people and culture, and the wealth of traditional knowledge local people have about their natural environment. Sadly, as the writer pointed out, these sustainable hunting practices together with the mostly ‘unwritten database’ of local knowledge is gradually being lost. This story resonates with many other parts of PNG. With rapid human population growth, globalisation and climate change, etc. pressure on natural resources is increasing and we need new, innovative approaches and measures to complement traditional knowledge in managing our natural environment, safeguard the products and services we extract from nature, and preserve our cultural heritage. If we lose nature, we lose our culture and the social relationships built around culture, and we lose our well-being!
    Many thanks for sharing.


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