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Oceania Newsletter 15, March 1995


Peter Jan Margry

At the request of the Dutch province of Franciscan mendicant friars I visited (as historian and archivist) the mission territory of the Franciscans in November-December 1992 in Irian Jaya, former Dutch New Guinea. Until 1986 this mission territory was directly governed by the Franciscans in the Netherlands, after which the mission in Irian Jaya became the responsibility of the Indonesian Franciscans. Because of this change, the Dutch Franciscans came up with the plan to mark this turning point by giving way for writing the histories of their presence and activities on their different mission territories all over the world. For some of these territories historians could easily begin with their work. But for New Guinea, it wasn't clear which written sources existed and could be used. So they asked me to make a survey report on the existence of archival material and other historically relevant sources. Secondly, they wanted consultancy on the way these sources should be treated in the future: i.e. conservation, restoration, inventarisation, the possibilities for safe storage and the accessibility of the material for researchers. This report1 was handed over for execution to the 'definitorium' (direction) of the Franciscans in the Netherlands.

Protestant missions and Roman Catholic MSC, Augustinians and Crutched Friars were also active in Dutch New Guinea, but the Franciscans played the major role in terms of dimensions of territory and practical influence. They played an major role in the discovery and opening up of the 'terra incognita' which New Guinea was until the fifties. The presence in famous sites as Paniai (Wisselmeren), Nalum-territory and the Baliem valley etc. had great influence, not only because of their missionary practice, but also for their research in languages and customs of the different tribes, and their influence on education and daily life.

Because the diocese of New Guinea grew out of the Franciscan mission or 'Franciscan Custody' these archives form one archive from 1946 until approximately 1973. After that year two separate administrations emerge.

For the period before 1973, the archives are dominated by material concerning the discovery of the country, and the building up of knowledge of many tribes. Great efforts regarding religious mission and education directly followed. The politics of education was an important issue during the sixties, unlike for the government and other religious orders and churches.

The year 1973 is also an important turning point in linguistical way. After that year less and less letters and reports were written in Dutch, and Indonesian became more important. A major change in the work of the missionaries during these years meant an enormous increase in administration. During the seventies many social-economic projects were created. There was less occupation with mission activities or the exploration of the interior and more contacts with the Indonesian government and other institutions, resulting in big financial, committee and realisation/execution administrations.

The Franciscan Custodt records after 1973 contain material mainly directly related to the presence of the order and its individual members in Irian Jaya.

Apart from the diocesan and custodian archives, archives of parishes and deanery's have also been examined. Specially the 'kevikepan' (underdiocese) archive of Paniai/Mimika was interesting for its early education dossiers2, as well as for the anthropological fieldwork done by its missionaries and their reports on the revolts of the Ekari's in 1956 and 1969.3 Several accounts of exploration to unknown territories such as the Ungundini and Baliem were found in the records. The archive of the deanery Jayawijaya (Baliem/Wamena) was less complete, but was enriched with the early Baliemparish archive of Jiwika with its material on agricultural experiments. The Jayapura deanery archive on the contrary, documents Franciscan activities in a more socially mixed and urban part of the country.

The following archives have been surveyed at the end of 1992. They are described in the appendices of my report.

Archives in the Franciscan monastery at 'APO' Jayapura:

Archives at the diocese of Jayapura, Dok II, Jayapura

Archives at Argapura (near Jayapura)

Archives at the subdiocese, Enarotali

Archives in the Franciscan monastery in Wamena

Peter Jan Margry, Dept. of Folklore, P.J. Meertens-Instituut (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) PO Box 19888, 1000 GW Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Fax: +31-20-6240639


1) P.J. Margry, De archieven van de Franciscaanse Kustodie en het bisdom Jayapura e.a. in Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Rapport naar aanleiding van een onderzoek in November-December 1992 (Jayapura/'s-Hertogenbosch 1992). Copies of this cyclostyled report, with global inventories of the mentioned archives, can be examined at the office of the Franciscans in Jayapura and in the Netherlands in the libraries of the Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (KIT) in Amsterdam, General State Archives in The Hague, and the KDC (Catholic Documentation Centre) in Nijmegen.

2) For the history of education in Irian Jaya the records of the YPPK foundation are also very important. This foundation had the joint supervision of all school activities in the four dioceses.

3) Several Franciscan missionaries were also anthropologists, which resulted in important studies. For example: H.L. Peters, Enkele hoofdstukken uit het sociaal-religieuze leven van een Dani-groep (Venlo 1965) en S. Hylkema, Mannen in het draagnet. Mens- en wereldbeeld van de Nalum (Sterrengeberg-te) (Den Haag 1974). Hylkema works nowadays on a big corpus of detail studies on the Ekari's (Paniai).

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