The Mae Enga Essay

3191 words - 13 pages

The Mae Enga

Over the centuries the Enga people of Papua New Guinea have adapted certain cultural characteristics to cope with varying environmental and social changes. Some aspects of the Enga peopleís lives that have shown the most cultural adaptation to the surrounding ecosystem are their horticultural practices, system of tribal warfare and clan organization. Through these adaptations, the Enga have gained ways to regulate their population, reduce their risk, control, communal resources, and regulate the environment through rituals. In our paper, we will look at each of these aspects of Enga culture and how they allow the Enga people to live within the environment ...view middle of the document...

Natural forested regions cover the less populated areas in the north and west sections of the Enga province. In the drier months of the year, May through August, the nightly temperatures, in area above 1600 meters, drops to near freezing. The average rainfall in the Enga province for this time of year is 3051 mm. The western highlands also hold a precious and valuable gold deposit (PNG ON LINE).

The Enga people do not live in villages: instead families live in rather permanent houses that are scattered throughout their specific clan region. This dispersal works to improve clan security. In the clan system there is no hereditary chief, rather an appointed Big Man. Males and females, even within the same family share separate dwellings. From the age of eight or nine the Enga male resides in a separate dwelling from all females (PNG ON LINE). Gender segregation is a very important part of the Enga culture and the women are considered autonomous and self-sufficient (Meggitt, 1977). The traditional origin belief held by the Enga people is that they are descendants of the sky people. The first man and woman on earth were the daughter of the moon and the son of the sun (Meggitt, 1977).

Many changes have occurred in Papua New Guinea since the end of World War II. Both educational and business opportunities rose for the Enga people. Local governments were also introduced in New Guinea, along with village carts. In 1975, national self-government was achieved (Fiel 1984). These introductions and changes to Papua New Guinea have reached all areas of the country including the Enga territories. The Enga people have been most influenced in recent years by three outside forces. These sources include the mining industry, the tourist industry and western missionaries.

The mining industry has begun to strip the Engaís land in search of the rich gold deposits. Located in the Enga province is the Porgdera gold and silver mine, which is estimated to be the largest gold mine outside of South Africa. Tourism has also become a part of the Enga province. In the capital, Wabag, a rich cultural center has been developed. This center houses both a museum and an art gallery that displays the traditional ornate sand paintings of the Enga people (PNG ON LINE). Various tourist information sites have warnings posted about the ferocity of the Enga people, calling special caution to their tendencies toward cannibalism and tribal warfare. Although in recent years many of the Enga people have adopted particular sects of Christianity, such as Lutheranism and Catholicism, the Enga people have continued to live similarly to their ancestors (Kohan, 1984). Today most Enga people still rely on subsistence agriculture and pig exchange for both their dietary and monetary needs.

The majority of the Enga people practice subsistence agriculture, relying on a long fallowing period to restore nutrients to the soil. The intensive...

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