HEADHUNTING SOLOMON ISLANDS MUSEUM
To Orwell Today,
re: RESCUER AARON KUMANA HONORS JFK
Hello Jackie Jura,
My grandfather Aaron Kumana is excited and always talks about his dreams/vision for his community when he heard the greetings from USA. I have a lot about my grandfather that I will link about his views and stories when I get help on the website.
We have an interest in setting up a museum in the Solomon Islands. We have a location site which was an old settlement during Head Hunter Days (HHD). The site was the area for doing sacrifices during HHD times. It has most valuable items (crafts). It was an unprotected area and these items are disappearing and getting stolen by thieves.
Attached are some of the recovered items worth of SBD$300,000.00 stolen from that area.
It's great to hear that your grandfather -- the Rescuer of JFK -- knows about the latest articles about him on the internet and that people in the world are learning news about him and his projects.
Thanks for sending photos of some of the artifacts you would display in the museum you are interested in setting up. That would be another attraction for tourists coming to your area of the Solomon Islands -- near Gizo -- in addition to it being some of the best scuba diving in the world, as described by the Ocean Swims website with the following photo:
The caption says Kumana and Gasa are sitting at the precise spot from where JFK and the PT 109 crew were rescued in August 1943. It was taken by a group of swimmers who went to the Solomons to swim JFK's swim, arranged by your grandfather's friend Danny Kennedy at Dive Gizo.
Recently I found a You Tube video taken from the perspective of inside a plane approaching Gizo island. At around the 9-second mark a person can see Plum Pudding island and the chain-and-anchor-shaped system of islands that includes Olasana and Naru -- just like on the map describing JFK's swims:
watch Flying Into Gizo, You Tube (Lucky Lady Too and her loyal servant and pilot, Bob Gannon, fly to the airstrip of Gizo Island. Gizo is the capital of the Western Province in the Solomon Islands. The island is named after an infamous local head-hunter. The small landing strip for Gizo is on the nearby island of Nusatupe. President John Kennedy's PT 109 was sunken close by.)
I first heard about Solomon Islands' history of head-hunting and cannibalism when reading the Donovan book about JFK and PT 109. Below is the excerpt from pages 56-57:
...Life at Tulagi wasn't ideal, but it was far from intolerable as war went. Japanese attacks were limited to periodic sorties by "Washing-machine Charlies", the planes whose unsynchronized engines sounded like something down in the laundry.... The comparative freedom from danger was only part of the picture. The food was monotonous. The weather was miserably hot and uncomfortable. Recreation was almost non-existent for the men, at least in the beginning.
Kennedy lived ashore in Sesape. When he had first arrived he ran into his old Melville Quonset-hut mate, Ensign Iles, who had got to Tulagi ahead of him and found an empty native thatched hut behind the Navy reefer boxes (large refrigerators). Ensign Iles suggested that they fix the place up and live in it when they were not needed on their boats. Together they scrounged some planks for flooring, cleaned the hut out, and brought in a few orange crates to put their clothes in. For an air-raid shelter whenever Condition Red was ordered they used the space between two of the reefer boxes.
Best of all, or so they thought, they somehow acquired a young Melanesian houseboy named Lami. The Melanesians in the Solomon Islands had long been accustomed to British rule, and when war descended on them, they became friendly and helpful to the Americans as allies of the British. Melanesians tend to be short of stature. They have dark kinky hair, and their skin is very black. Even their lips and eyes are black. Against such a background, their teeth seem blindingly white.
Lami proved a handy fellow, and at night he used to sleep on the floor between Kennedy and Iles. One day he confided to them that he had once been a cannibal. The two surprised officers were well aware that the Solomons had a long history of cannibalism and head-hunting. However, they were not sure whether to take Lami's claim seriously. They taught him to play catch and made a fairly good volley-ball player of him. Still his past raised some disturbing questions. Iles prodded him about it.
"Me ate the padre", he said mysteriously.
When Ensign Thom moved into the hut, Lami seemed to look very peculiarly -- perhaps hungrily -- at his massive blond frame. Then one day Lami simply vanished. Kennedy, Thom and Iles could only learn that some New Zealand authorities had come and taken Lami away.
Kennedy passed his free time at Sesape reading -- he had a copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace with him -- playing an occasional game of poker or cribbage and participating in the debates that went on endlessly on every conceivable subject...
~ end quoting from PT 109 by Donovan ~
I googled and found some websites discussing Solomon Islands cannibalism and head-hunting and I'll post them below. Hopefully they'll feed people's interest (pardon the pun) into contributing in some way toward your idea of creating a museum at the old Head Hunting sites.
All the best,
First Inaugural PT 109 Swim, August 3, 2003, Ocean Swims
...Behind Lola is Skull Island. We'd read about Skull Island in the Lonely Planet guide to the Solomons. But we never dreamed we'd go there, since it's 30 miles east of Gizo. But in Danny Kennedy's twin 50hp outboard canoe, it's an hour's journey at 30 knots. After lunch at Lola, we're herded into the boats and driven around the back to the edge of the lagoon. There's a tiny dot of an island, even smaller than Plum Pudding, right on the edge of the reef. It's densely jungled.... In the middle of the island, which is barely more than 25 metres across, there's a long, chest-high midden of rough, igneous stones. One end of this 8 metre midden is flattened into an altar atop which sit three stone effigies. Two sea birds and another figure. So weathered that you can't quite tell what they are. Islanders would come here to pray before setting out on their missions, which often involved head-hunting. At the other end of the midden, stored neatly and precisely in recesses amongst the rocks, are the product of those missions - scores of skulls, some with holes whacked in their tops, some missing teeth, some positioned so whimsically that when they catch the light you would swear they're still looking at you. Scores of them. In countless recesses in the rocks. You walk along the midden, and more and more hove into view. Along one side, around the end, back along the other side. More and more. No end to the skulls. Up and down the midden, across and along. Skulls everywhere. Head-hunted Melanesians. At least, we assume they're all Melanesians. We don't recognise any so they can't be Westerners. Not like our experience in Kashmir in 1983, when we recognised many people from Australia, except they were all Indians or Kashmiris.
Atop the midden, there's a triangular prismic wooden cabinet, about two and a half feet high. Inside, there are more skulls, and on a lower shelf, there's clam money - clam shell rings that the chiefs used as money. The skulls inside the cabinet were chiefs. The skulls date from 300 years back right up until head-hunting "died out" in the 1930s. While it's barbaric to our western sensibilities, there was reason in head-hunting that was based on the Melanesian belief that one could acquire the power of one's enemies by taking their heads. So they did. Then they stored them very neatly indeed and looked after them. For the fact is that Skull Island and all its skulls stand out on the edge of the reef, on the edge of the Pacific, surrounded by reef, lagoon, ocean and other tropical islands, but completely unprotected from natural predators such as western tourists. It's a mark of where we are, and the kind of nation that the Solomon Islands is, that they remain there unplundered, or relatively unplundered. We can tell from the picture in the Lonely Planet guide that there used to be more chiefs and more clam money in the cabinet. Someone's nicked them. We hear that some local lads had the bright idea a few years back of flogging stuff to tourists, but when the local hierarchy found out, they disciplined them and it stopped....
Solomon Islands, Pacific Island Travel
...The Western Province was an area feared for head hunting in the 19th Century. The use of human heads or skulls was central in the burial customs and death beliefs of many of the Marovo Lagoon islands' people. Frequent raiding took place between islands in search of heads which were used in many rituals including burials and the launching of new Tomoko (war canoes). Raids extended not only within Marovo Lagoon, but also as far as Guadalcanal and Isabel, where the southern coast became so depopulated and terrorised that the remaining population were reduced to building and finding shelter in tree forts.
Prior to about 1850 the situation had calmed down for a long time during the so called "Great Peace"; however, the arrival of Europeans with iron axes to trade quickly destabilised the region leading to renewed raiding. Of all the Western Province, Roviana was the most feared for head hunting. War canoes carried carved figureheads called nguzu nguzu on their prows in the shape of a dog with either a skull or a dove in it's paws depending on the ill or goodwill of the mission. The headhunting was put down by force by the British District Commissioner, George Woodford, in 1900...
Gizo’s Skull Island and John F. Kennedy’s sunken ship, Community Trips
Multicolored boats sharply contrast with rusting coastal homes in Western Province’s capital, Gizo, the country’s second largest town legendary for its notorious headhunters. Gizo’s principal attraction is the adjoining Skull Island, where ancient headhunters entombed the skulls of their victim chiefs and warriors. Today, Gizo’s headhunters have long been suppressed by the friendly Melanesian and I-Kiribati people who supply the town with fresh bread, long-life dairy products and seafood, as well as ancient arts like woven baskets, bags and mats; and ebony marine carvings inlaid with nautilus shell.
Ringed by coral reefs and clear waters, the palm-tree studded Gizo is also a noted diving and surfing wonder for its submarine sights such as the PT 109, remains of the vessel that was once manned by Lt. John F. Kennedy who later became the United States’ 35th president. The shipwrecked Kennedy was rescued by two Gizo locals in a nearby island named after the former president, and their story was featured in the National Geographic Channel. Other diving highlights include the Japanese transport Tao Maru and three other World War II aircrafts. En route to Gizo is the airport of Munda, which, along with Uepi, is among the province’s best dive sites.
Seven Wonders of Solomon Islands
1) World Heritage Listing
2) Panpipe music
3) People First Network
4) Rare Art and Crafts
5) Kennedy Island
7) Head-Hunting Shrines (Solomon Islands was notoriously known for its head-hunting marauding tribes with those in Western Province the most feared. Signs, including shrines of this deadly habit, remain to this day. Quite famous is the Island of Skulls near Kundu Point and the sacred Dog Stone. Across Munda on Roviana Lagoon is Roviana island, once home to ferocious head-hunter Ingava.)
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