The Lost Tahibati Tribe of New Guinea


Legend has it that there existed a powerful tribe that ruled the world’s second largest island before the time of written history.  The Tahibati tribe was one of many warring factions that existed on New Guinea or Papua as it was called the natives.  According to the oral history of Papuans passed down through the generations, the Tahibati tribe rose to power when they formed a coupe with the most numerous tribe on the island, Loki-Nuaha tribe of the north shore.  The Loki-Nuaha outnumbered every other tribe on the island; for every tribe member another clan had, the Loki-Nuaha had three.  The Tahibati people were known as the fiercest warriors on the island.  Mythology claims that the rite of passage that all adolescent warriors had to endure to be considered men was to last five minutes with a woven glove filled with poisonous wasps.  Being able to endure this excruciating pain proved that the warriors were ready to face any challenge they may come across in the battlefield.  The tenacity of the Tahibati warriors, coupled with the sheer number of the Loki-Nuaha, forced every other tribe on the island to submit to the newly formed alliance. 


The chiefs of both tribes decided that the prince of the Tahibati and the princess of the Loki-Nuaha would be married and become the new rulers of the island of Papua.  This marriage marked the beginning of what would become dynasty that lasted for 250 years.  The island was unified and the tribes experienced peaceful prosperity for over 2 centuries.  Sadly, the dynasty came to an end when the royal bloodline ceased to exist.  Historians believe that the royal bloodline came to an end through a ritual practice that only the royal family was allowed to honor to participate in.  The warriors of the Tahibati believed that their strength came from the ingestion of a metal that was liquid in moderate temperatures.  Modern day scientists have strongly suggested that the metal substance of legend was most likely mercury.  There are many areas of modern day New Guinea that have evidence that may point to an abundance of mercury from the earth.  It is believed that the last living member of the royal bloodline was a boy-king named Tahiko Tahibati.  He was said to have risen to power and became king after his older brother hung himself.  The people of Papua believed that it was the island god’s will that the older brother became mad, as punishment for his abusive display of monarchial power.  Science would have modern day historians believe that this was an effect of mercury poisoning.  Tahiko Tahibati was said to have been found dead in his throne room, with no one knowing where the boy-king had been for seven whole days.  Clutched in his hands was a note that said, “Without family, there is nothing.  I leave this world as I came into it: alone.”

- Thomas Nguyen

San Jose State University