Coincidence or Planned. Is Pandora from the movie Avatar really West Papua whre the fate of the people formally living in what was rumored to be Shangri-La was altered forever with the crash of an American C-47Dakota in their valley on May 13, 1945.
Whatever Happened To Shangri-La? By Rosemary I. Patterson, Ph.D.
For an astonishing forty thousand years, or so the anthropologists tell us, civilization flourished in the Baliem Valley on the largest island in the world, namely New Guinea. Sweet potatoes, yams, taro, spinach, beans, cucumbers and bananas were grown with the help of carefully tended irrigation ditches. Pigs as well as Cassowary birds were raised in the vast, plateau areas. Zen-like, imitative dances to the exotic birds and other wildlife of the surrounding forests were danced by the people of this Valley. They were sheltered by round huts made out of lumber.
When this rather idyllic valley and its thousands of inhabitants became known to the Western world on May 13, 1945 as an Army C-47 Dakota crashed in one of its mountain passes, the Baliem Valley was dubbed Shangri-La. Once the three survivors of the crash, Lieutenant McCollam, Sargeant Duke and WAC Corporal Hastings were rescued by a glider the occupants of Shangri-La went back to their age old traditions. Nothing much out of the ordinary occurred until 1954 when American missionaries landed on the Baleim River in an amphibious plane. The Dutch colonial masters of New Guinea established a government post in Shangri-La in 1956 and Dutch, Franciscan missionaries followed in 1958. Dutch and missionary plans to civilize the Dani were interrupted by an Indonesian invasion of New Guinea in April-July of 1962.
American efforts to keep Indonesia from forming an alliance with Russia led to the U.N. handing over the entire country of Dutch New Guinea, including Shangri-La, to Indonesia. The Dutch reluctantly left and at that point the Baliem Valley became very definitely other than Shangri-La for its Dani tribespeople. Indonesians were after New Guinea's resources (oil, gas, copper and gold) and saw the inhabitants of Shangri-La as merely impediments to the Indonesianization of the entire country. Dani culture, traditions, land ownership and even the right to some control of their existance were totally put down and ignored. An ambitious transmigration program transferred people from Bali and other over-populated Indonesian areas to Dani land and sparked Dani rebellion, deaths of Indonesian immigrants and massive reprisals on Dani villages and Dani tribespeople. Currently, as goes Indonesia so do the residents of Shangri-La. The unending repression of Dani culture and theft of Dani land somewhat lessened under the reign of Suharto's democratically elected replacement, Wahid, who promised regional Autonomy and freedom to fly the West Papuan, Morningstar flag.
Unfortunately Wahid's successor was more heavily indebted to the same Indonesian military responsible for the slaughter in East Timor when it wanted independence. West Papuans have been shot waving the Morningstar Flag and the country is now threatened with division into three provinces, a move that would dilute the strength of any West Papuan lobby group. It seems incredible that in the Twenty-First Century one of the last Indigenous contact groups would be treated with exactly the same methods that befell the Sixteenth Century Mayans and Incans (theft of land and resources, cultural and actual genocide). One can only hope that world opinion, opinion of the shareholders of American mining interests in West Papua, and changes within Indonesia itself will result in at least some consideration for a people who managed to flourish for forty thousand years in a rather hostile environment without so-called civilized help.