Frederick Edward Pietz: Mission Work among the Adzera Frederick Edward Pietz: Mission Work among the Adzera By Crispin Howarth A surprisingly strong collection of Markham Valley and Huon Gulf art was collected Frederick Edward Pietz (1896–1975), the first American missionary to work in New Guinea. The majority of this collection is held at the Papua New Guinea Mission Museum in Fritschel Hall of the Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. The origin of this collection lies in the colonial history of New Guinea. The German Lutheran Neuendettelsau Mission established itself in Deutsch-Neuguinea (German New Guinea) in 1886 and operated until the outbreak of the First World War, when the German protectorate was taken over and controlled by the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force. In 1921 Deutsch-Neuguinea was renamed the Mandated Territory of New Guinea and its administration entrusted to the government of Australia. With the New Guinea Act of 1920 came a concerted push to expropriate and remove what remained of the German plantation owners, traders and missionaries. Pietz trained at the seminary until 1921, when he volunteered in response to a call from the Neuendettelsau Missionary Society for Americans to continue their work in New Guinea. Arriving in 1922, Pietz and his family were first stationed at Bukawa among the Yabim people on the coast near Lae. Some eighteen months later he moved about 75 miles inland to Kaiapit village in the upper Markham Valley. The Markham region was still at that time quite remote and little influenced by the colonial German or Australian administrations. Here Pietz, his wife and his two small daughters lived and worked until 1929. By 1925 the Pietz family had built a large and impressively well-made house and even ordered from overseas a piano specially made to withstand the environment. The piano, perhaps the largest object imported to the Markham Valley during that era, took five days for native carriers to bring it through the jungle. Pietz’s wife, Adina, was a trained musician and noted that the music of the Laewomba “head-hunters” was surprisingly non-aggressive sounding in its own melodious way, smooth and soft, sung in two-, three- and four-part voices to a five-tone scale. Kaiapit village is part of the Adzera-speaking region, and it was the experience of Pietz that cannibalism and intertribal warfare were accepted parts of cultural life. The rationale behind cannibalism was similar to that in other parts of the world—they believed that by eating an enemy, their strength would be increased as a result of absorbing their enemy’s energy. Bodies were divided up and shared throughout the community; the right arm would be reserved to be eaten by the chief. Adina Pietz noted that during times of famine, infants and children were sold as food, as one could not eat their own kin. Such an environment would have made the missionary endeavour to reach out and contact communities fraught with potential danger. When Pietz sent word to people of the Kratke Range to the east that he would like to visit them and bring the teachings of God, the reply he received was “That’s fine. We will cook and eat your native carriers, but you, white man, we will eat like a ripe banana.” The renunciation of cannibalism was an important factor in the adoption of Christianity among the people of the Markham Valley. It was not unusual for male converts to make confessions of killing and eating thirty to eighty enemies before taking their baptism. The men would use small sections of coconut frond ribs as mnemonic devices to recount the names of their victims. Another aspect Pietz worked tirelessly in breaking down was the acceptance of sorcery. One example was the use of magic in killing. A substance would be made of tree bark scraped with a coconut shell then mixed together with a red clay. This was then painted onto a spear tip to bring an instant death to an enemy. If the magical assistance did not work as expected, the sorcerer would say to their intended victim, “A flock of birds is suddenly going to fly in front of you and you will be so frightened that you will forget who tried to kill you.” The collection of the Dubuque Mission Museum was in all probability built through gifts offered to Pietz by the converted, but it would seem that much more was lost as a result of baptisms, as all the participants would assist in building a fire on which to burn their artefacts once used for sorcery and other unchristian practices. Pietz returned to the Markham Valley for a second stint between 1934 and 1938. During World War Two, around 1940, he returned again to work in Lae; however, he, along with many others, made the long trek to Port Moresby to be evacuated in 1943. From 1946 until 1949 Pietz moved his work to the Mt. Hagen area before returning over a decade later to the Markham Valley in 1960, before his retirement in 1966. After some many years as a missionary working in the field, Pietz continued as a teacher at the Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, during the 1970s.