By Lucy Kerex
The first decedent of Kia tribe came to settle in Omkolai in Gumini District of Simbu province around 1800 AD. In Omkolai, the Kia tribe is now has the population of over 4000 people with three ward councillors; Tayla ward one, Irai Dai ward two and Nulmugale ward three. Tayla ward one has more than 900 people, and Irai Dai ward two has over 1700 people while Nulmugale ward three has 1400 plus people in Gumini LLG. About 50% of the population are literates and other 50% still maintained village standards or farmers.
The first missionary that came to Omkolai village in 1945 was Reverent Bilande, an American missionary who build school and airstrip. Their airstrip has become the cheapest and easiest to transport goods and other materials from overseas to other parts of PNG.
During this period, there was no road link from the village to Kundiawa town. Many villagers became Patrol officers, carrying goods from Kundiawa town to the villages. The villagers did a lot of heavy work to help the missionaries spread the good news. They were very excited when going from one village to another distributing salt while basing at Omkolai village.
The missionaries built large Lutheran Churches and their German-style residential homes. The missionary family lived happy life every day because people come to visit and gave them local food. Every Sunday, everyone goes to church to listen to White men’s voice and see their little children playing with them.
The life in the village was so quiet and peaceful. The word of God has changed the lives of many people. They respect the leaders, the young people in the village and go to school every day because of the white people were teaching them. On the other hand, the missionaries imported fresh fruits from overseas and more foreigners poured into the village. The villagers were so proud that they never violated any of them.
In 1979, the Local Government decided to set up a Primary and High school right where the mission station was, now both schools have turned into a large Primary and Secondary schools.
From 1990 and upwards, the missionaries were deported to their country. The great lives they experienced were gone and left with their remains. The buildings, mission churches, and other machines they brought all the way from America left ruin and rusted. However, the services they provide to the government are well preserved.
In the early 1980s, the airstrip was closed due to road development. Many things were no longer to be found again and airstrip has turned into garden site for local landowners. Kia people speak Kia dialogue which is called the kia-ka. Due to social changes, many young generations do not speak kia-ka now. Many people have adopted the new maril language. Most people speak Tok Pisin, the official language of PNG and about 28% speak English.
Some transitional lifestyles have changed, such as bolo maige, the man’s house, where men no longer sleep in a man’s house, the act of killing pigs every Christmas were neglected, traditional costumes turn to modern clothing, the rise of childhood marriages between the ages of 16 and 23 in the Kia tribe. Today, some traditional marriages still exist in Kia tribe. They use shell monies, pigs and other valuable items while modern marriages use money, commodities and other materials as dowry.
Kia people grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables because the land is very fertile. Kaukau, the sweet potatoes is the everyday staple food. Sometimes they eat proteins in the store, such as frozen meat, fresh beef and pork or lamp flaps, veggies and beans.
Law and order problem has raise in recent years. So far, they have placed village court, mediators and police residences. Sports like rugby league, volleyball, soccer, touch rugby and basketball are commonly played every weekend. Nearly 75% of the people watched and entertain themselves in the village. This has brought many changes to many young people engaged in alcohol and drugs, and seventeen main stream and local churches have helped these young people become Christians.
Now, the Omkolai village has become a model village and many people have got good jobs, for example: lawyers, politicians, doctors, teachers, carpenters and others are business people who make sure their business are flowing in Omkolai village of Gumini District.