When the Netherlands East Indies won freedom in 1949, the Dutch kept only Papua of their once vast Pacific Empire. Prior to the hand-over of Papua to Indonesia in 1965, the Dutch endeavoured to help the Melanesians of Papua progress to a point where they were able to determine their own future.

A 1961 map of Netherland New Guinea.

Asmat people believe that a mythological hero once travelled their land building men's clubhouses. He filled the halls with wooden figures and then brought them to life by beating a drum, thus peopling the region. The eithteen-inch carving above made to decorate a men's house, belonged to a medical missionary at Pirimapoen.

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The late Michael Rockefeller, son of the then New York Governor, tried to buy the figure for the New York City's Museum of Primitive Art.

Living exhibits in a museum of early man, plumed Asmat warriors sweep the Zuid Eilandem River in dug-out canoes. Long isolated by swamps, jungles, gorges, and mountains, many Papuans now face civilization for the first time. Head-hunters and cannibals until recently, these tribesmen stand to paddle craft so unstable that white men may tip them over even when sitting. A bold Asmat wood carving like those sought by Michael Rockefeller on his ill-fated expedition ornament these canoes. Less than three weeks after this photograph was taken at Atsj,
Mr. Rockefeller disappeared while on his way to the same village.

A Casuarina Coast family returns to Pirimapoen after visiting a neighbouring village.
Youngsters attend school in the building on the left.

Asmat bone dagger, Irian Jaya (Papua)

Asmat greenstone adze, Irian Jaya (Papua)

Asmat warrior

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