Ningi Kama

Ningi Kama (c1893-1963) was a traditional highland leader, born in Gugumamp near Mount Hagen. At his first moka, the ceremonial exchange system in the Mt Hagen area, he made an eloquent speech which marked him as a potential leader. He became an outstandingly successful organizer and tribal fighter. His first white contact was in 1934 when Fr William Ross, Society of the Divine Word, came to Mt Hagen to establish a Catholic mission station. Kama and Ross formed a close relationship. Kama arranged land and food and the mission founded a clinic and a school. When an Administration post was opened in 1938 Kama cooperated with the white officials and was appointed a luluai (Administration representative). About 1940 he was arrested for being involved in a cargo cult. He was released on the understanding that he would give up cargo cult activities. During World War II he organized his people to build accommodation for refugees from the fighting zones. He learnt neither English nor Tok Pisin, but appears to have welcomed the changes introduced by the mission and the Administration. Kama is reputed to be the first highlander to plant coffee. By 1958 he owned a plantation, a Western-style house and a truck. In 1952 he was appointed the first chairman of the Local Government Council. Although he had attended church for many years he did not become a Catholic until 1962 when he gave up his six wives and was baptized by his long-time friend Fr Ross. Ten thousand highlanders attended his funeral.

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