Hewa Tribe: Tribal Culture Stories

hewa_04The way the Hewans view things is much different from the way we understand things to be. They only know of the way of life that has been passed down to them from generation to generation. They have no way to figure out the truth unless someone brings them the Good News.

They are in constant fear of spirits. When we first moved into Hewa and built our houses we could not detect it. We thought that they looked so happy-go-lucky. Like they had everything they wanted by living off the land and that they were at peace with themselves and others around them. It took a while for us to begin to see through the facade that they had built up. They had tried very hard to keep us from finding out their true beliefs. Everyone must have agreed before we got there not to tell us anything that might make us believe that they were not a perfect society, a sort of Eden up there in the mountains.

But slowly we have been finding out their belief system. They are terrified of an elaborate set of spirits and sorcerers.

For instance, did you know that no Hewan can ever go into the jungle to hunt alone? No way. He for sure would be eaten by a spirit and will die. Also, no one can ever sleep alone, ever, because a spirit will see them and eat them in their sleep and they will die. The Hewans believe that this is the truth. It is one of the ways that people get sick and die. If they ever go off by themselves to get cigarette leaves or to get Beatle nut, or to gather building materials, or whatever, they will get sick and die. In their minds there is plenty of proof for this. Many people have wandered too far off into the jungle and their spirit has been eaten by a bad spirit and they have gotten sick. if there was no pig sacrifice made, they died. So many people have died that there is sure proof for this theory. Once, when I was out on a trip with some guys, we were going to sleep under this huge jutting rock with a sort of hollow space. Before we fell asleep, the man who was my translator counted one by one all the people who he could remember that had died since he was old enough to remember. He named off 75 people before he was finished, and he can't be any older than I am. 75 proofs in his mind that you can never go into the jungle by yourself or sleep by yourself.

hewa_05The Hewans believe in many spirits that they have to constantly appease and deceive. They have to plant different kinds of plants in their gardens, around their houses and along the trails to keep the spirits away. They have to offer sacrifices of pig blood to the spirits. They have to wear certain leaves and paint their faces in a certain way. Their whole lives are controlled by codes of conduct to keep the spirits from bothering them.

There are four main kinds of trees that have men spirits in them. Two of them are downright evil and two of them can be evil but can also help people. There are spirits in the rocks, mountains, rivers, plants, wild banana trees, animals, etc. The most feared spirits are the woman spirits that live where rivers come together and in swamps and at the base of the huge pine trees. There are evil spirits everywhere, none of them good. As far as we have been able to discover so far not one of them is anything like the God of the Bible. Not one of them has a plan of salvation for them. Not one of them loves them and wants to take care of them. There is absolutely no way that someone in this kind of culture could ever ask God to forgive his sins because of the sacrifice of Jesus. It is impossible unless someone goes and teaches them the message of the Bible.

To read more about the Hewan culture, read the following stories.

Kalia's wife's suicide

The Hewans are not only terrified of all the different spirits that are out in the jungle, but they are also scared to death of someone that they think may be a sorcerer. If someone is about to die, people will ask that person if they have seen a dream, if they have seen a person's face, or an animal's face, etc. If the dying person says someone else's name, that person will be pegged as a sorcerer or witch, whether they had anything to do with it or not. Once a person is thought to be a sorcerer, he will be blamed for other deaths until he or she is put to death. There is no way out. The supposed sorcerer can make a payment of many pigs and a lot of money to pay for the death that he supposedly caused, but as people die from different kinds of sicknesses and he gets blamed, he eventually will not have the pigs or cash to pay for the deaths.

There is an old man named Kalia that lives in our village who is a widower, and his children were all killed also. He was married as a young man buthewa_06 after several years his wife was thought to be guilty of sorcery. If we understand the story right, he had two daughters and a son. In this culture the way someone becomes a sorcerer is as a baby drinking its mother's milk. If the mother is considered a witch, the children will also be witches because of their mother.

So in the course of time, as people became sick and died, Kalia's wife got blamed for their deaths. She could not escape the fact that she was blamed over and over and that in time she would be murdered for her supposed sorcery. She also was said to be an adulteress. One day, on a hike from one village to another, she was walking on a log, crossing a big river. She got out to the middle of the log and in despair she jumped off into the water to kill herself. Her husband Kalia tried to save her. He jumped into the river to try to get her but it was too late. She died.

On top of that sorrow, Kalia's kids were also said to be sorcerers and they were blamed for sickness and deaths. All three of them were killed by relatives of people that had died. How hopeless is that? There is no way out for these people unless someone goes and tells them the good news.



Pig sacrifice for Kweni

hewa_07I was out walking around in the jungle one day with two young men, one named Yanis and another Wanapis. We arrived at a garden down the hill but on the same ridge that our mission base is on. I knew that this garden belonged to a one-eyed man named Pol. We sat there under a small shelter and I tried to practice my language skills and learn more.

As we were sitting there, we heard yelling off in the jungle from the direction we had come. I asked who was yelling and what it was about, but because of the language barrier, I really didn't understand what was about to take place. Besides that, these two boys were doing the typical Hewa thing and trying to down-play what was about to happen. Often times, the Hewans will try to keep us from learning the parts of their culture that they are embarrassed about or that they think we will disapprove of. I did find out that it had something to do with one of the young men in our village named Kweni being very sick.

After a little while some men started to emerge from the jungle. They also would not tell me clearly what was about to take place. Eventually two boys came along bringing a pig. We got up and followed to see what was going to happen. I noticed that another old man (whom I later learned was named Faiyufi) who was carrying the smoldering coals of a fire.

After hiking another mile down to the end of our ridge we came to a place where it becomes very narrow. It is only about 10 feet wide at that point with an almost sheer cliff down both sides. We came to a place where the group left the ridge and made their way down the right hand side. It was very steep and slippery.

About half way down that steep descent, the two boys tied the pig to a small tree trunk with a homemade rope close to where there were some very tall pine trees growing. Then they cut branches and stabbed them into the ground to create sort of a blind, or a wall of branches.

hewa_08The old man that was carrying the fire then broke off some chunks of coals and smeared the black ash on his temples. He gave some of the ash to the two boys who also decorated their faces. The old man then began yelling out in a language I could not understand. He began a high-pitched half-chant half-yell. Someone beside me told me that he was calling out to the spirit nearby called Yamanye who had supposedly stolen Kweni's spirit that had made him sick. I found out later that they fully expected Kweni to die and this was the standard way to heal someone who they suspected had lost his spirit to an evil spirit.

As the man was chanting or yelling, he motioned for the boys to bite off bits of bark off of a certain chunk of wood he had brought with him and they all began spitting the little bits of bark in every direction around themselves.

After a little more time of yelling the man gave the word for the two boys to kill the pig. They shot arrows from their bows through the wall of branches that they had made. The old man continued with his yelling as the pig fell down and began to die in his own blood.

After the pig had apparently died, the old man got some leaves and whipped the blood off of the bamboo arrow heads. Some guys lashed the legs of the pig to a pole and they carried him up the bank while the old man began to build a fire on the spot that the pig's blood had soaked into the ground. He also burned the leaves that he had used to wipe the blood off the arrowheads in that same fire. We all left the scene.

The Hewans were very reluctant to explain to me what we had just witnessed, but because I had seen it with them, I was able to get bits and pieces of the story from different people. We found out later that pig sacrifices to the spirits just like this one are a very common for healing sick people.

It is believed that no sickness just happens, and for that matter, no death just happens. People get bad sicknesses when they come in contact with an evil spirit. The spirit will often appear to them in the form of some animal or even person and will eat their human spirit before they know what's going on.

hewa_09The person with his spirit eaten will return to the village not knowing what happened but will gradually begin to die, first by becoming sick. Since it is believed that his spirit is gone, there is no chance of him surviving unless the evil spirit in the jungle will give it back. Even if us missionaries give the sick person medicine, he will not recover until the problem of the missing spirit is dealt with.

In order for the people to help the sick person get his spirit back, they believe that they have to kill a pig in the area where the spirits live and offer the blood of the pig to the spirit as a sacrifice. If the sick person recovers, then the people will know that the evil spirit gave the person's spirit back. But if the sick person dies, then they figure that someone else worked witchcraft that caused his death. In the case of witchcraft or sorcery, there has to be a repayment of a different kind. The sorcerer has to die, but that is a different story.

The Hewans believe this. They believe it because it was taught to them by their ancestors. They had not heard another point of view till different religious groups started showing up in their areas. There are still a lot of different tribes all over PNG that still believe these kinds of things. They are in fear of spirits and are enslaved to harmful habits that have kept them in bondage for years.



All men are murderers

hewa_10It became evident that some of the guys in our village were guilty for a murder and that the family group of the person that was killed was demanding some sort of payment settlement. We asked a lot of people to explain what was going on but it took quite some time to get the whole story since people were trying to keep things hidden from us.

We found out that our people believe that any time someone dies, it is always thought to be caused by evil spirits or sorcery. When a person is very sick and about to die, other family members will ask that person if they have seen a dream of a person or an animal. If they have seen a dream with a person's face, the family will ask whose face they saw. If the sick person says someone else's name, that person is thought to be the sorcerer that brought about the sickness and death.

As soon as the person dies and is buried, the men of the family will get together and head off toward the village of the supposed sorcerer. They will sleep in the jungle and plan their trip in such a way so as to arrive at the house of the supposed sorcerer before daylight, about four or five in the morning.

At that time, some of the men will surround the house in order to kill anyone that may try to flee from the house. The other men break down the door and go inside and subdue everyone till they are able to find the person that caused the death of their relative. When that person is spotted (often a woman or girl), they will ask them if and why they did sorcery to kill the other person. Then they will kill the accused sorcerer and flee from the house for fear of retaliation.

After the raiding party has gone some distance, they will find a spring or creek and wash the blood from their axe, or machete, arrow or whatever they used to kill the accused sorcerer. Then they will run downstream and drink the water that is polluted by the blood.

We now know that this is not an unusual occurrence. Since there have been so many deaths by sickness in the history of the Hewa people, many people have been proclaimed sorcerers and have been killed by raids such as the one I just described.

hewa_11At first, when we heard this story and knew the names of the guys that had murdered this lady in her house before daybreak, we were a little shocked. How could Seven, Foko, Lobet and the others have done this? They were our friends, living together, eating together. Seven was actually the one who had repeatedly asked that New Tribes Mission would send missionaries into Hewa in the first place. He appeared so peaceful, loving, caring--could this story be true? We have found out since this incident that a lot of the men that are in our tribe, maybe over half of them, have been on these midnight raiding and killing trips.

Right now we know of one man that is being hunted from village to village because he supposedly worked sorcery on seven different people. We hear that he claims that he is innocent but people think that he is the one causing deaths so they won't quit chasing him till he is dead!

These people are in bondage to Satan and his ways. They are doing what they have been doing for centuries without the influence of the Gospel message. Don't believe what people tell you on TV when they say to "leave the natives alone, they are happy the way they are." We as a church need to reach out to these people groups all over the world with the freeing message from the Bible.

You can be a part of Jonathan and Susan's work. They can be helped by your prayers and interest and financial support if you are led to help in that way. It is a trying and stressful ministry at times and they would deeply appreciate your involvement in their lives.

Their e-mail address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

New Tribes Mission address is 1000 E. First St., Sanford, FL 32771-1487.

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