pgs. 154-156 [2nd ed.]|
By the 1900s, Presbyterian missionaries dominated Tanna's religious and
political life. The church people had their own courts, with Christian
offenders having to perform menial tasks for the missionaries as punishment.
There were official moves against Tanna's Presbyterian theocracy in 1912,
with attempts by the Condominium staff to restrict its excesses. But after
WWI, Presbyterianism again flourished, leaving custom worshippers numbering
only 25% of the island's population.
By the late 1930s villagers were feeling cheated. Europeans, whether church
people or planters, seemed to have everything they wanted. Islanders had
only their pigs and gardens.
A home-grown cargo cult, called the Jon Frum movement, emerged on Tanna in
1940, blossoming during the Pacific war. By the end of WWII there were three
major parties on Tanna; Presbyterians, custom people and Jon Frum worshippers.
In the early 1970s as the call for national independence grew louder, Tanna
became highly politicised. Jon Frum supporters and a Tannese custom group called
Kapiel allied themselves in 1979 with the secessionist Nagriamel group in Santo
and the Modérés in the rest of Vanuatu. The Modérés were
especially active after the late 1979 election. They alleged electoral fraud when
their party narrowly missed winning the majority in Tanna by 2% of the votes.
Galvanised into action by the Santo rebellion of late May, Tannese
Modérés struck. They seized two British government staff, who were
freed by police action two days later. Although many Modérés were
arrested, many Protestant islanders, fearing a civil war, hid in caves, or
in Tanna's thick bush.
On 10 June 1980, 300 Modérés attacked Isangel where their friends
were being held prisoner. In the ensuing shoot-out a Modéré leader
was killed. Arrests were made and the Tannese insurrection fizzled out soon
The Jon Frum Movement From the 1850s onwards, Tannese people were
fascinated by the local Europeans' varied and seemingly endless supply of
possessions. The missionaries attributed this wealth to regular prayer and
the renouncing of traditional customs, such as kava drinking, dancing,
sorcery and the wearing of penis sheaths. So most islanders became Christians.
Yet the planters and traders seemed much more prosperous than the church
people, though they seldom bothered about prayer. They claimed it was all
due to hard work. So the Tannese went to work for the planters.
The Jon Frum Movement During the 1930s considerable resentment had
built up among Tannese people over the arrogance of European planters and
the rigid rules of the local Presbyterian church. In 1936, people in western
Tanna began talking about a mysterious person called Jon Frum (or Frumm). He
was claimed to be the brother of the god of Mt Tukosmera.
The story said Jon Frum had come from the sea at Green Point and had
announced himself to some kava drinkers there.
He told them there would be an abundance of wealth and no more of the
epidemics that had killed so many people. However, all Europeans had to
leave the island before this would happen.
The Pacific War Soon after, US troops, including Blacks, landed in
Efate and Santo and many Tannese went to work for them, including a number
of Jon Frum worshippers. They saw that the troops had hugh quanities of steel
ships, jeeps, aircraft, refrigerators and radios as well as endless supplies
of Coca-Cola and cigarettes. But most of all, the Tannese saw how generous
the US Servicemen were, especially Blacks, who were surely Tannese in
disguise. Jon Frum must certainly be from the USA.
Shortly after WWII, dozens of small red crosses were erected all over Tanna.
To the islanders, the red-cross sign in WWII meant expert medical treatment
ant, free of charge. So villagers began putting up red-crosses, hoping this
would bring free medical attention to their island too. Nowadays red crosses
remain a feature in Jon Frum villages.
Europeans and Americans explained there was no Jon Frum. This was interpreted
on the island to mean that foreigners were still trying to deprive the
Tannese of their rightful wealth.
For a long time after the Pacific war, cultists would examine any plane they
saw, in case Jon Frum was inside. Any Americans they met were asked if they
had any messages from him.
Jon Frum Prophets Several people have claimed to be Jon Frum's prophet
or even Jon Frum himself. To justify their claim, they've recited details of
dreams they've had about their god, their revalations often leading to a
fresh revival of the faith. At times these testimonies have produced an
alternative interpretation of the religon's basic principals, yet this has
been no obstacle for it's many belivers.
The movement has at times been virgoursly opposed by missionaries and
officials. Even now, cultists won't pay any taxes or use government schools.
Waiting For Jon Frum Over the years, some JF supporters, keen to hear
his latest message, have made imitationradio aerials out of tin cans and
wire. Others have built an airfield in the bush and constructed wooden
replica aircraft to entice his planes full of cargo to land on Tanna. A
third group has erected wharves where his ships can berth.
Some cultists recommend a return to a totally traditional lifestyle,
including wearing nambas. Others continue to
wear European clothes, feeling this will be more to their messiah's liking
and therefore hasten his arrival.
When will he come? His followers have waited since the early 1940's and
nothing has happened yet. 'How long have Christians waited?' they ask.
'Nearly 2000 years, yet we've waited only 50!'
Jon Frum's Name Who was Jon Frum, anyway? No-one knows for sure, but
there are at least six possible explanations.
The first says the name stand for 'John from America'. The second claims
that a US medical corps member called John, with a red cross on his sleeve,
laned on Tanna during WWII and handed out large amounts of free medicine.
A third tells how Nampus, and early Jon Frum leader, returned from prison in
1951 wearing a US medical aide's discarded jacket with red crosses on it's
sleeves. He apparantly told villagers that Jon Frum had told him that this
was to be the cult's insignia.
Some cultists say Jon Frum is a mispronunciation of Jon Broom. He is the
broom that will sweep Tanna clean of Europeans and their influences.
A fifth story claims that either wartime Black US troops or pre war
abolitionists told the Tannese about John Brown's fight against slavery in
the USA in the 19th century. Some cult members claim that John Brown visited
Tanna prior to the US Civil War in the early 1860s.
Lastly, it's said that Jon Frum stands for John the Baptist, the baptiser of
Jesus Christ. Jon Frum people respect Jesus, but John the Baptist was clearly
senior to him., so that's why they worship Jon Frum, or John the Baptist