Narrator: The Baruya must clear patches of forest land to make their gardens. Traditionally this was done using only stone tools. During the 1940's imported steel axes and knives began arriving in Baruya territory. The Baruya traded their salt bars for these steel tools, as they had done in the past for stone tools. By 1950, before the Baruya had seen their first white man, they had replaced their stone technology with steel.

Godelier/vo: I felt it was absolutely crucial, and urgent, for me to investigate the production and the use of stone tools, because in 1969, I was one of the last men of the world to be able to see the last men using stone tools. So I was convinced of the importance to record the last information possible on this topic. Warineu started himself to teach about stone adzes to the young men, passing culture from generation to generation. It was a funny story for them to use stone tools, because they have been throwing them into the bush, ten years before, and so why to use these things, because now we have got bush knives and steel axes.

Godelier/sy: But anyway, because they knew of my fancies, you know, they accepted, so we brought two bags of rice and a lot of tinned meat and tinned fish, so that was a good, funny party for them, you know. Why not? It was all paid by the white man.

Narrator: Gwataie measures off an area of forest which the older men have selected for Maurice's stone adze experiment. The older men claim that these trees are comparable to the virgin forest they had cleared with stone adzes forty years before. The women begin, clearing the undergrowth by hand. According to Baruya custom, the women are forbidden to touch the men's stone adzes. Even while working with their bare hands, the women clear 100 square meters of undergrowth in only 40 minutes. As the men begin work, they organize themselves into groups of blood relations or brothers-in-law. These are the traditional groupings for cooperative work among Baruya men. Maurice has measured the diameter of each tree and compares the chopping time of stone and steel tools.

Godelier/vo: What is not important in their culture is labor time. It's very important for us to understand that. What is important is effort, the quantity, the amount of effort and pain, to chop down a tree. It's not, for them, a matter of time. It's a matter of pain — painful activity.

Narrator: During the chopping, many of the stone blades break or come loose, and the younger men complain about the inefficiency of these old tools. The first day, 33 trees are felled in 19 man-hours of work. That first night, one of the Baruya shamans, Inamwé, had a dream. He saw the spirits of the men who were participating in the experiment fly off into the night to join the tree spirits. He warns the men of sickness and catastrophe, reminding the older men that the tree spirits have not been honored in the customary way.

Godelier/vo: So at the beginning, it was fun for them. But the second day, after the dream of Inamwé, it became very serious.

Godelier/sy: Something happened which had not been forecast by any one of us — the dream of Inamwé, during the night, between the first and the second day, you know, the night. And so the next day something has changed into, in the mood of the people, and the attitude of the people. So, they came back to the forest, and they started to have a ritual.

Narrator: Heeding the shaman's warning, the Baruya select the largest tree in the area and prepare it for their rituals by removing the moss.

Narrator: Warineu instructs the young women as they plant a ritual garden at the base of the ceremonial tree. The tree is decorated with magic leaves, black feathers from the bird of paradise, and cowrie shell necklaces belonging to the young men.

Narrator: These are all offered to please the spirit of the tree, for if the spirit is angry, it will take away the strength of the men as it falls.

Narrator: Now, following Baruya tradition, the ceremonial tree remains decorated while the other trees in the measured area are chopped down.

Godelier/sy: When they cut a big tree, they cut small trees half of the trunk, and they chop down a very big tree at the top of a slope, and so when it falls, the big tree squashes and breaks all the small trees.

Godelier/vo: So they save half of the time for each small tree, down the slope. So they have a strategy of saving time, and saving pain, at the same time.

Narrator: Warineu tells the group that it is time to cut the ceremonial tree. The young men insist on using steel axes. Maurice's calculations now show that steel axes are three to four times more efficient then traditional stone tools. The men hold sticks wrapped with magic leaves, which they prepare to throw as the tree falls, thus waging a symbolic war which will be carried to their enemies by the wind of the falling tree.

Narrator: For the past two years, Maurice has seen the Baruya use the fallen trees to build sturdy fences around their gardens. The fences protect the Baruya's crops from their roaming pig herds. Now he asks the men to split the logs without steel axes, as they traditionally did in the past.

Godelier/vo: At one stage during the experiment, Warineu casually mentioned to me that before the arrival of steel axes, most fences were not made of split logs, but of bamboo, because in the old days there were not many pigs. I was amazed at this information. I asked Warineu why he never mentioned this before in our many interview sessions. He told me, "Well, you never asked." He told me that the steel axes allowed the Baruya to cut down more trees and cultivate more land in order to feed more pigs.

Narrator: This discovery — that the Baruya have not always kept so many pigs — is extremely important to Maurice's understanding of the Baruya Story: an understanding of how Baruya culture has changed over time. It is now clear that these sturdy fences are not traditional, but are a recent development — a result of steel technology. Since the arrival of steel axes, Baruya men have been able to clear forests four times faster than they could with stone. The men now work in small groups or alone, rather than in these traditional large groups. Steel axes have given the men more leisure time.

Godelier/sy: With more efficient tools, you need less cooperation in work, and so, in some way, a . . . one of the foundations of cooperation is shrinking, eroded, in some way, and, and so . . . these consequences they learned later, very quickly. But the . . . the society became more individualistic than before. More, you know. And relationships between men and women changed very deeply.

Narrator: Baruya women must now carry more wood, then plant and harvest larger gardens still using only their traditional digging sticks. They must now also care for larger pig herds. The women's leisure time has been reduced by the arrival of steel tools.

Godelier/vo: I tried to understand what have been the effects of the substitution ... of ... steel tools for ... stone tools on the culture. And what was very clear, the women worked more than before, because they did not benefit from the new tools. So in fact, the introduction of new productive forces had a double effect, opposite: good for men, and, in some way, bad for women.

Godelier/sy: Most of the . . . the anthropologists, they are just looking for a traditional way of life . . . the way to live before the white people came. It is very important to do that because you cannot understand the transition to a new world if you don't understand the point of departure of this world . . . of this transformation.

Godelier/vo: But to me, the influence of the army, the police, the missionaries, all these things were as important as the traditional Baruya way of life.

Narrator: The central government has built an airstrip 1-1/2 hours' walk from the village of Wiaveu. The site was the traditional battlefield used by the Baruya and their nearby enemies. Through this airstrip, the Baruya have become accessible to outside influences beyond their control. Twice a week planes arrive with mail and supplies for the German missionary and his wife, who operate the Lutheran mission and trade store. Baruya salt will not purchase anything at the mission store. Here, money from the national government is the only currency accepted.

Godelier/sy: You have to distinguish between various sorts of missionaries. You have missionaries who don't try to interfere too much, and to destroy too much. They respect the culture. You have some missions and some missionaries who despise, deeply, the religion of the peoples. They say they are pagan, they believe in wrong things, they are dark, and their skin and their heart is dark . . . are dark. Very strong effect on the culture. Because, it's worse, it's worse than a gun, you know, when you shoot people. Because you shoot their culture, their ideas. What is inside, in fact.

Title card:(weekly service in neighboring village)

Godelier/vo: During the colonial time, the missionaries had more power, much more power. They felt or they behaved as protected directly by European power. And more and more now, in this independent country, they are forced to respect the culture, because there is a sort of ideological view of Papua New Guinea as a country with roots, and you cannot dig out roots of yourself without falling on the . . . on the ground.

Narrator: The central government wants to help the Baruya join the national cash economy. At the government patrol post, which is on the edge of Baruya territory, looms have been provided to promote a local Baruya cottage industry. Programs like this enable some Baruya to become wage-earners for the first time.

Narrator: The raw wool is imported from Australia, and the blankets, once they are woven, are sent by plane to sell in Goroka — the closest major town. For Baruya men, the usual way to obtain money is to leave Baruya territory to work for a wage. The clerk at the patrol post is recruiting Baruya men to work as plantation laborers.

Narrator: These men must sign up for a minimum of two years. Most of them will extend their contracts for longer periods. Many Baruya men are interested in learning about the outside world and want to see it for themselves. On one of Maurice's occasional trips to the town of Goroka, he invites Warineu, lnamwé, and Gwataie to accompany him.

Godelier/vo: I wanted old fellows like lnamwé, the great shaman, and Warineu, the old man, to come with me and to do just like the young men, to discover the outside world which was acting on their culture.

Title card:Goroka 1969.

Narrator: The town of Goroka is 100 kilometers from Baruya territory. For Warineu and lnamwé, this is the first trip to an urban area.

Title card:(Gwataie buying betel nut)

Godelier/vo: I think I helped the Baruya to establish themselves in a new relationship with the dominant culture. I was telling them, "Look, keep your culture, learn it, and mix what you want, you want, with what we bring you."

Godelier/sy: But we don't bring you only positive things. We bring you many negative things. For your culture, and for life, in some ways.

Title card:Government Pig Husbandry Development Center

Narrator: The central government has been promoting new and larger European pigs. The Baruya have tried these foreign breeds, but have chosen not to adopt them, since these pigs cannot find their own food in the forest, they would depend totally on the Baruya sweet potato crop for nourishment. The Baruya have learned from experience that these fully domesticated breeds would drastically upset the balance between agriculture and pig husbandry which they have achieved.

Godelier/vo: The Baruya have been very active in adapting themselves to the new life. They have selected the parts of their culture they wanted to drop, without any pressure of white people.

Title: Goroka Teachers' College

Godelier/vo: They knew that something in the books of the white people is strong. Some part of their strength and their power of domination is there, in the books. Always I was telling them that our memory, our culture, was in these books. And we, white people, we record our culture. We keep it. It's a treasure. We live with it and from it. And so I say, mine to you. I was always telling, "Mine to you. Keep, and preserve your culture in some way, at least to keep it in the memory, in your living memory. And your children are going to school, now; they know how to read and write."

Godelier/vo: I hope I shall write a book on you, on your culture, and it will be your book, too, and your children will write a book, or read my book and so on. But books are the strength of the white people. Take the strength of us, and add to your strength.

Narrator: For the past thirteen years Maurice and the Baruya have been working together to construct the Baruya Story: the first written account of Baruya history and culture.

Godelier/vo: I hope to go back many times before dying. I shall have a double experience of what is man: from my society and from their society. I think I shall go back many times to follow that, with the same people I have known when they were children.

Godelier/sy: That will be an experience like Margaret Mead before followed for forty years the same groups, and the children of the children of the people she knew. I think it's quite nice. It has to be done, anyway. Enfin, if I can do, I shall do.

The Baruya Story continues:

In 1975 the Baruya became citizens of a new independent country, Papua New Guinea.
Baruya territory has been linked by road to Goroka, the provincial capital.
Many Baruya are now cultivating cash crops, especially coffee beans.
The mission store is now one of several commercial enterprises on Baruya territory.
Western-style clothing is generally worn by both Baruya men and women.
Tourists regularly fly in to visit and photograph the Baruya.
Salt bars are still being manufactured and traded, and are now also sold outright for cash.
Maurice has returned to the Baruya four times since 1969. He now teaches anthropology in Paris.
Recently he gave the Baruya a gift: a Japanese pick-up truck.

Marek Jablonko (New Guinea)
Jerome Blumberg (Paris)

Allison Jablonko (New Guinea)
Stephen Olsson (Paris)

Written and Edited by
Stephen Olsson

With thanks to


Maurice Godelier
Pierre Lemonnier
Jean-Luc Lory
Robert Elfstrom
Lucy Hilmer
Nancy Day
CNRS Audio Visual (Paris)
Film Arts Foundation
Wenner-Gren Foundation

Associate Producers
Marek Jablonko
Scott Andrews

Associate Editor
Scott Andrews

Produced and Directed by
Allison Jablonko
Stephen Olsson

A Production of
Cultural and Educational Media

1982 Allison and Marek Jablonko

Back to PART ONE of