Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/370

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152
BRITISH NEW GUINEA.

degrees in which various members and chiefs of tribes are interested in the tribal lands, I may give the following:—

There was a small piece of land at Port Moresby for which thirty or forty members of a tribe alone claimed payment. These, however, were not the whole of the tribe but only a part, and their apparent right to receive the money was acquiesced in by the rest of the tribe. At South Cape, however, the independent right of one individual, and he was not a chief, to dispose of a large area of land was recognized by the whole tribe — no one, not even the chief of that tribe, putting forward any claim for payment; while again, for the land adjoining, there were many owners out of the tribe, each of whom, including the chief, would have had to receive payment in settlement for any land sold. At Kabadi, a piece of land belonged to a family group, of which the district chief was not the patriarchal head, and he was consequently, on the sale of the land, only able to veto the transaction, but could not stop the transactions in connection with the sale of the land.

Although it is probable that the confidence of the natives would best be gained by avoiding for the present any attempt to purchase land, yet this course is now hardly practicable. It is, however, evident that with all these different and conflicting interests in any one piece of land, it is absolutely necessary that there should be one recognized source and channel from which a good title could be drawn, otherwise it might be that two or three members of one of the groups might pretend to have authority to sell land to any purchaser, but in reality they would have only a small interest in the purchase-money, each of the other members of the group having an equal right to their share in it. The conditions for bringing about a war in connection with land, similar to that which occurred in New Zealand, are abundantly present in New Guinea, and unless the land transactions are controlled by Government, complications with the natives must arise. It is not easy, however, to define in what most practical and economical manner this control could be exercised. One means towards this end would be the creation of an official tribal chief, through whom theoretically the title would issue. No title would be valid without his assent, but this assent must be certified to by the Sub-Commissioner in charge of the district, and, if necessary, receive the approval of the Special Commissioner. Transactions for land, however, under a certain defined area, might, under special conditions, be made directly with the natives. Other means might also be devised on the spot for ensuring a good title to lands.

The London Mission Society commenced to work in New Guinea in 1871. In its constitution and principles it is unsectarian, but for many years it has