Thursday, December 1, 2011, is the fiftieth anniversary of West Papua's independence. On this day in 1961 West Papuans were granted their freedom by the Dutch – they raised a new national flag and sang a new national anthem. A year later Indonesia launched a colonial invasion, and managed to annex the fledgling nation. Since then tens of thousands of civilians – almost all of them indigenous tribal people - have been killed.
New Guinea is the second largest island in the world – about the size of Europe and stretching across the Pacific to the north of Australia. This is a land where life has proliferated and diversified: it is among the most fabulous cultural and ecological regions in the world.
Human beings have lived there for at least 40,000 years, and, in the past ten thousand years, have developed many kinds of economy, from mixed hunting/farming, to slash-and-burn shifting agriculture, to dense and complex systems of cultivation. This wide range of human economies, with parallel riches of culture and language, means that New Guinea has witnessed the great journey of human experience and the great riches of the human mind.