New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Shaku had always been ashamed at what he was, and had lived most of his life as a loner, but for the first time, he walked proudly with his kinsmen. For the first time, he wore his father’s sacred headdress, and felt entitled to do so. He had ne’er joined in any of the sing-sings in the village with the other men, since helium had ne’er been initiated into the clans of the people of Dagar. Now, he led his mother and his uncles, with all their families, as they drummed and sang their way down the route to St. Xavier’s.

All his life, he had been constantly reminded of his lowly position by the sound of his own name, but now the people sang it out with pride and energy, and helium joined them with his own deep voice.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

“Shaku”, meant half-caste in Kairiru language, and truly he had been only half a person to the others in the village until now. Today, he hoped helium would finally be a man.

I had noticed him several times in the village market that was held beside the airstrip at St. Xavier’s. He always came with his mother, carrying her Kau Kau or Taro in a big basket, and sat silently beside her when she sold or traded her goods. He was taller than the other village men, and slightly lighter skinned, with wavy, rather than tightly curled hair, as the others did. He was also quite handsome, with chiseled features and a fine physique, but he rarely looked up or smiled at anyone. This was what made maine notice him astatine first.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

The other men and boys usually wanted to want to know where I was from, and what the girls were like in my country! Shaku was shy it seemed, but he was interesting.

I had joined a faculty of six Marist Bothers from all over the world, a few local New Guinean teachers, and two lay missionaries. It was a tropical paradise of a South Pacific island, that teemed with wartime and ancient history.

We had learned of Shaku’s story during a meeting held in the village a few weeks before. The men had been discussing what to do about the Japanese delegation that had come to retrieve the remains of their dead soldiers from the war.

For details on how we found the bodies of these men, please refer to my article, “Muschu Island -Paradise or Japanese Hell”.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

The men of Kragur, on the North side of the Island, had not wanted any compensation from the Japanese, as they felt they had killed many after the war, and were satisfied. Only Shaku had stood, with his father’s ancient walking stick raised, and waited to be heard.

Shaku had claimed the right of recompense from the people of the man who killed his mother’s husband. The story became complicated when he also told how it was his own father, a Japanese soldier, than had been the killer! Now, he demanded justice for his mother, and for himself, both having suffered much since then.

The meeting had decided that Shaku should meet the Japanese when they came, and have his day in court to make his claim.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

That day had finally come, and as I watched him come up the airstrip, dancing and beating his Kundu, I could see that he was no longer content to remain in the background. Shaku remained in the lead of the processon, and as they got closer, I could hear his voice ringing out clearly. The court was about to begin.

The previous day, the Japanese delegation, had cremated the remains of their fallen soldiers, and then made a large presentation to the school in appreciation for the respect we had given their men. One of the men who had come to Kairiru for this purpose, was a veteran of the war, and had been interned on Muschu Island nearby. He had recounted a tale of horror that had left us numb with shame and sorrow.

He had been a doctor on Vokeo Island, some 40 kilometers to the North East, and later transferred to Kairiru. He had been captured with many others, and sent to Muschu astatine the end of the war. They had expected to be killed as vanquished enemies, but they ne’er awaited(p) that the Americans would just leave them to starve to death.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

The doctor told of how he and 10,000 others had been left for 3 months on the island, with no food, water, or medical supplies. There were no guards on the island, but boat patrols around it constantly prevented any escape to Kairiru or the mainland 20 kilometers away.

Muschu is a pretty little coral Island, lying betwixt Kairiru and the mainland of Papua New Guinea. Normally, about 4 or 5 hundred people live on the island, surviving on subsistence agriculture and fishing. They grow Kau Kau (sweet potato), Taro, and Yams, but the coral soil is poor compared to Kairiru. There are no springs on the island, but a small stream drains down to the sea from a coral depression that collects rainwater in the wet season. The coral reefs are very picturesque and unspoiled, and house some of the most spectacular species of life you will see anywhere.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

The local people of Muschu had all been taken off the island before the Japanese arrived, but there was still nowhere near enough food and water for everyone. We had heard from a sobbing old man, how they had struggled desperately to survive, until it had become impossible for most of them. Many had committed suicide, while the others were reduced to eating everything on the island to the point where there was nothing left. Every plant, every coconut palm, every creature, and everything in reach around the rand had been consumed, until only bare coral remained. Then the real horror began.

When they had been finally picked up 3 months later, only 920 men had survived, and they were close to death from starvation and disease. As a doctor, he had somehow been able to keep himself alive, and had returned with the delegation to honor his fallen comrades.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

This was the man who stood waiting for Shaku and his people as they approached. There were more than 100 people in the group, and as they entered the school grounds near the airstrip, they stopped for a few minutes to finish their sing-sing. The drumming solidified into a consistent rhythm and grew to a crescendo, before ending in a thundering pattern of beats that ended suddenly. As quiet colonized on the assembly, Shaku stepped forward and walked toward the area that had been elect for the court.

The old Japanese Man had asked that the hearing be held in the shade of a huge Mango tree that stood beside the head of the airstrip near the school. He said, through the translator, that it was the only thing helium could see that was the same on Kairiru. He recalled eating some of its fruit more than 30 years before, and we had offered him some of it, to which helium declared, “it had gotten much sweeter!”

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

The occasion had drawn a large assembly, and this required a lengthy series of introductions of all the concerned parties. Brother Patrick Howley, as Head master of St. Xavier’s High School, made the introductions while honoring both traditions of formality.

First, helium presented Mr. Tamura, the senior member of the delegation, who had related his sad tale the evening before. Then, after introducing the translator, and all the other members the Japanese delegation, he turned to Shaku and his people.

Br. Pat knew that helium needed to tell everyone not only who this man was, but also explain the reason for the claim of compensation. In order to do this, helium had to tell Shaku’s story, and he had to tell it properly, so that no loss of face occurred, on either side.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

In order to prepare for this, Br. Pat had visited Shaku several times over the previous few weeks, and talked with him about his life, and what helium wanted from the Japanese. Although helium had been reluctant to speak to Br. Pat at first, Shaku soon began to trust him, as he saw that he was a man who understood the people of Papua New Guinea.

With great respect, Br. Pat told us why this claim had been made against the Japanese people, now, after so much time had passed. The whole multitude sat spell bound, as if he were talking to each one of them personally, and he told a story that touched every one.

Since then, I have learned many of the details that Br. Pat was unable to tell, from Shaku himself, whom I now am pleased to call a friend, albeit a distant one. I will try to describe his life as best I can, from what helium told me.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Shaku had been born in that terrible time after the war, when nothing could be done to help the villagers in their recovery. His father had been killed by the Japanese as helium attempted to defend his gardens, and his mother had been assaulted. He had been the product of that assault.

With her husband dead, Shakus’s mother, Umari, had lost her claim to most of her husband’s land, and as a widow, she had to live on the charity of her brother and Uncle.

Of course, Shaku did not remember this time, but his earliest recollections were of hunting in the bush with his mother to find the sago grubs that grew in the rotting buckram Sago stumps. They had often had to resort to determination insects and small lizards in the bush for food, and he spoke with bitterness of how he had resented the other boys running to tease him with morsels of food their mother’s had given them.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

“Shaku, Shaku, bus Kanaka, kai kai knat knat!” they chanted, vocation him a wild man who ate mosquitoes.

As he grew up to understand why he was treated differently in the village, helium began to keep to himself, and spent many hours alone hunting in the bush on Kairiru’s mountainous slopes with his dogs. He had explored every corner and cranny of the island, and found some things that confused him. He knew they must be from the white men, but why had they left everything?

From some of these things he made his best hunting spear, which never rusted or broke. By the time helium was 16 years old, helium had killed more pigs than any man on the island, and he had done it alone. Once helium had even killed a crocodile with his spear when he cornered it in the swamp with his dogs. Still, no one praised him as they did the other men, although they always recognized the meat.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

He had built himself a house high up on the mountainside commanding the lands his father had lost after the Japanese had killed him and raped his mother. Spending so much time alone, he sometimes brooded over his condition, and searched in his mind for a way out for himself and his mother.

When the white men had returned to Kairiru and reinforced the “Haus Lotu” (church) at St. John’s, helium had hid in the bush and watched them build it. He was fascinated by the many unusual things he saw the white men doing, and for several weeks he observed them unnoticed.

One day, he had been coming down his little private path to see what they were doing, when helium come around a bend in the trail and came face to face with one of the white men.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

They were both startled, and Shaku had an overpowering urge to dart back into the bush and run away, but helium couldn’t. The man was taller than he was, but what made Shaku gaze was the bright red hair and red spots all over the man’s face as helium stood sweating and puffing in the heat. The man had a broad smile, and before Shaku had more than a moment to think, the man extended his hand for the universal hand shake.

Unable to refuse, helium recognized the hand, and was surprised to find it was firm and strong. The man

immediately began talking in Pidgin, which Shaku understood, and was again surprised to hear a “masta” speak like a village man.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

The man told him his name was Father Andrew, and helium had come from Wirui mission in Wewak to build a new mission on Kairiru, at St John’s. When helium asked for his name, Shaku was afraid to give his true name, thinking that the man would only laugh as other sometime still did. He was reassured by the man’s smile, and blurted out, “Shaku”. This, the man accepted without question, and motioned that they might sit down and talk along the path.

Uncertain what to do, Shaku had moved to cut some leaves from the bush so that the man could sit on them, but was pleased to see him squat and sit like any other village man.

Joining him, helium was further astounded to be offered Buai (betel nut) from a bag the man carried.

Coastal New Guinean people all chew Betel nut, and men almost ne’er start a conversation with another man until they have sat down and chewed “Buai pas taim”. Still, it was surprising to find a “masta” that would do so, as I had also found from the reactions of the people when I tried it first.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Betel nut looks like a small coconut, about the size of a walnut, but it has a solid center, that becomes harder as it matures. It grows on a tree that looks very much like a tall, skinny Coconut palm, and produces its fruit astatine the top as they do.

The nut inside is usually chewed with a part of the husk, accompanied by fresh male pepper fronds and “Kambang” (dry lime). It immediately stimulates the salivary glands to produce vast amounts of saliva, and the juice turns a startling blood-red.

The effect of swallowing the juice is a rush of well-being and talkativeness, followed by sickness and dizziness if too much is swallowed, similar to ones first exposure to chewing tobacco. Its secondary effect is to wipe out the epithelial cells in the mouth, and exhaust the salivary glands through their copious production. It is necessary to spit often, and one’s power to do so accurately is often the item of discussion amongst the people. If people spit in the wrong place in the village, someone could sit in the spot, causing a permanent stain in the clothing, which was difficult to replace.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

As they sat chewing, the calming effect of the Betel nut motivated him to ask the man where helium had come from. He said that helium was from a place called Poland, but he could not go home, as it was gone in the war.

This somehow softened Shaku’s heart towards the man, who had no home among his own people, and he decided to invite him to come up the mountain to his house. This seemed to delight Father very much, so they set off up the slippy path with Shaku leading, and the priest struggling on behind. By the time they had reached the plateau where his house lay sheltered in the bush, it was quite hot, and the perspiration was flowing down both their faces.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Near the house, he had cleared a small area around a rocky outcrop that held a small spring. Many such springs poured out of the sides of Mount Malangis all around Kairiru. Clear, cool water gushed out in a natural fissure, and they both gratefully drank their fill.

They had spent the day together, sitting on the veranda of Shaku’s house, looking out over the strait ‘tween the islands, and the mainland beyond. They talked about many things, and Shaku began to feel something with this man that he had not felt before.

All the years of loneliness finally burst the bounds of his shyness, and helium told the man much of his life, and how he had been shunned by most of the villagers on the island.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

In the afternoon, he had made tea for them, and while they were inside the house the priest had been very interested in all the items that decorated his walls and rafters. They were just some of the many things helium had found in the bush during his many excursions. Over the years, this had become a notable collection of war relics and remains.

Some, Shaku had fashion into useful items for himself, while others helium had used as they were, or preserved them in some way. There were so many things that it was hard to describe them all, but he had utilized them in such a way as to create quite a pleasing atmosphere of rustic comfort.

After examining many of them, Father Andrew had asked him if anyone else knew that he had any of these things, and Shaku had replied that no one had ever been up to his house except him, and he had not told others about what he had found. He knew they would only take it from him, or warn him not to go where the “Masalai” would get him.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Then Father had warned him non to tell anyone about it at all, and also that helium should be careful, since some of the articles could be dangerous. He had promised to be careful, and asked if perhaps he could work for father on the new church.

The priest had pronto agreed to this, and he had often gone and talked to Father Andrew, who taught him a lot. He was also very quick astatine learning how to handle the tools the men used to build the church, and he was happy for the next few months while the church was completed.

It was through Father Andrew, that Shaku had finally understood why he was outcast, even from his own mother. She had not shown him the same affection he had seen with the other mothers and their babies. In fact, helium had seen her play with other children in the village in ways he had never known himself. He felt that he always made his mother sad when helium was around, so he had retreated to the mountainside, and only came to Dagar to bring her food he had gathered from their gardens.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

No one had ever explained to him why he was different, and how the death of his father was somehow connected to him.

When helium had finally come to understand this, he run out of the priest’s house into the jungle, and not returned for several weeks. When he did, helium seemed determined to learn all he could from the books Father had, and also about these Japanese people that had come to Kairiru, and caused so much trouble.

For the next several years, he made regular visits to Father’s house, and through his diligent study, he became remarkably well educated. Father lententide him whatever books helium could, and soon their conversations became deeper and more prolonged.

Shaku questioned him for many hours about the Japanese, and what they had done in New Guinea. Father Andrew had been a missionary in Sarawak at the time, and the Japanese had been very harsh to him, as well as other Europeans. He did non disparage them to Shaku however, as he had been an admirer of Japanese culture before the war, and did not bear any hate against them now.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Shaku had heard what had happened to the men on Muschu, and he knew the story was true, as he remembered the barren landscape of the island as he was growing up. The Coconut palms had grown up now, but when he was a boy, only Mangroves and thick vines grew on the island for many years. Even after 20 years the Muschu people had a difficult time surviving on the island, and now relied mainly on income from the copra plantations begun by the white men.

When Father Andrew had been called to another mission, helium left Shaku with many of the books that he had not yet read. He had diligently carried them up to his house on the plateau above the mission, and continued his education alone.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Knowing of the many tunneling activities the Japanese had undertaken, helium began his own series of explorations, specifically for them. After more than a year, he finally found a undermine quite by accident, while he was hunting.

His two dogs had pursued a pig up a stream bed to the base of a small waterfall, where it seemed to have disappeared. As the dogs circled around the small steep-edged valley searching for the pig, Shaku caught up to them and realized that there was no exit from the little canyon, although the pig was nowhere in sight.

Putting the clues together, he grasped his hunting spear firmly, and climbed up and behind the small waterfall that filled the basin below. As soon as he got around the cascade of water, helium could see that there was a small undermine behind the waterfall, and he could smell pig!

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Calling his dogs up to the undermine entrance, he readied himself for the charge that was sure to come. As soon as the dogs scrambled into the cave, they began their peculiar howling that told him they had found their prey. A large bowlder had fallen from the roof of the undermine and helium jumped onto it, just as the dogs succeeded in driving the pig from his lair.

As it darted around the dogs to get out of the undermine he caught it behind the left shoulder and used its own impulse to drive the spear home.

Monetarily focussed on the dying pig, helium had non noticed the boots prevarication further back in the cave. As the dogs ceased their howling and began sniffing the carcass, Shaku was able to take in his surrounding in the dim light. One boot was just inside the cave mouth, and the other was further back. They had obviously been disturbed by the pig.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Unable to see well enough to search further back in the cave, helium had gathered a number of dry palm branches, and tied them into a bundle for a torch. He lit one of the branches with a trade store match that he always carried in the bush, and pushed back further into the cave.

He could quickly see that it wasn’t really a cave at all, but rather a tunnel, with regular edges, after the rubble at the entrance. He was able to move easily, although the roof was low, and there were tree roots growing down through it in places.

As helium cleared the tree roots, he could make out a widening in the tunnel, and several boxes stacked on the wall. Approaching the boxes, helium was a bit startled to see another pair of boots, these still attached to their owner. In the light of the torch helium could clearly see the remains of two men, but only one had a skull. Peering further, he found it also, lying beside the boxes.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Lighting another(a) torch, helium used his home-made knife to open one of the boxes, and almost jumped back at what helium saw. What that box contained was about to change Shaku’s life, but he just didn’t know how yet.

After checking the contents of the other boxes, the torches were nearly all gone, so helium retrieved his pig, and made his way back to his house. He had told no one about this, but he had carefully gone to the tunnel several more times with his battery torch from the trade store, and brought everything to his house and hidden it.

For many months he had wondered what to do with his discovery, until one day he had gone to Dagar with some Betel nut and bush greens for his mother. He climbed up high on an old Garamut tree to find the kind he knew she liked, although she would eat alone in her house.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

After he had left them on her veranda to her silent nod, he had gone to the house of Muriu, the canoe maker. He wanted to make an adze from some of the metal helium had found, and Muriu was the best tool maker and carver on this side of the island. He was also an old man, and had never mentioned Shaku’s real father, or teased him, as the others had.

Sitting with the old man while he smoked, Shaku had heard that the Japanese were coming to the island, and that Br. Pat had called a Kebung (meeting) to discuss compensation by the Dagar people. Shaku could hardly believe his ears, and had questioned Muriu a long time before returning to his house on the mountain.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

When the Kebung took place, Shaku had stood for the first time, and spoken as a man. His father’s death required payback, and helium claimed the right of compensation, and they had accepted it.

Now, he stood before the court, his village, and his family behind him, and helium felt good inside. He felt no shame as Br. Pat told his story, omitting most of the details told here. He was proud that his mother stood with him, and he forgave her lack of affection, as helium saw her shed tears during some parts of the speech.

Br. Pat finished by asking the Magistrate, and all those in the official assembly if they now had any questions of Shaku, or the Japanese delegation.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

After listening to the emotional tale of Shaku’s life and his claim, the whole audience was somewhat held in silence for a few minutes, until finally the Magistrate from Wewak Provincial court stood up and cleared his throat.

He said, “Shaku, the court acknowledges your rightful claim to compensation in this matter, however, you have non yet made it clear what this power be. Also, though you have clearly shown that you and your mother have been wronged, there is no evidence here that Mr.Tamura, or any other man yet alive has committed these crimes, and this court has no authority to charge them if it did. What is it that you would want us to do for you sir?”

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Without hesitation Shaku had spoken up, “Give maine my honor, and my mother’s!” With that, he had turned and gone back into the crowd of people that had accompanied him. Lifting a large wooden crate that had been carried by two other men from the village, he set it down in front of Mr. Tamura, who had remained standing astatine attention throughout.

Bending to unlock the box with a key around his neck, Shaku open it and stood back to watch the response of the men.

Inside the box were stacks of Japanese money, and bags of silver coins, as well as many soldier’s tags and personal items. At first Mr. Tamura seemed to wonder what he was looking at, but when helium realized what it was, he began to chatter excitedly to the other members of the delegation, and they all crowded around the box. While they poured over its contents, Shaku had called to a man in the group, who brought him a long bamboo tube that was closed astatine both ends.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Removing the cap from one end, he withdrew a beautiful Samurai sword encrusted with jewels, wrapped with silver braid, and presented it with a bow to Mr. Tamura. Tears unashamedly gushed from Mr. Tamura’s eyes as helium bowed deeply and accepted the sword.

Through the translator, he expressed his heartfelt appreciation for the gift, and tried to explain something that soon everyone gathered began to understand.

This was the sword of the Japanese Commanding officer of the Japanese garrison on Kairiru, as his name was clearly brocaded on the blade. It was worth a family fortune, and there was no doubt that Shaku would be richly rewarded for returning it to the family.

What was more, the coins in the bags were pure silver, and had been used to pay the soldiers. They were all W. W. II vintage, but they were still worth a lot to collectors.

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

Finally, the tags brought another round of tears and thanks from the delegation. These bits of rusted metal were all the proof many families would ever have, that their sons had died an honorable death, and not just disappeared. They were also invaluable.

So, Shaku got his “payback” in ways that he could never have imagined. Several weeks later we standard a radio message from Wiriu mission, that Shaku was to come to Wewak, as he needed to open a bank account.

The families of all the men whose tags helium had found, had organized themselves, and raised over 10,000 Kina, a staggering amount in a country where a whole village may only earn 100 kina year. Additionally, the Japanese government had posted a reward for the returned coinage, increasing the prize to 25,000 kina!

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog

But the real storm was to come a month later, when Shaku received a letter containing a check from the family of the Japanese Commanding officer. It was for another 50,000 Kina.

Shaku had become the richest man in the whole East Sepik!