UPDATE: Seems The Duke of Edinburgh Did not Return!
The Yaohnanen living off the land for thousands of years on the island of Tanna have long had a belief that their god, the Duke of Edinburgh will return to them once again on June 10, 2010. The tribe is one of the oldest in the world, and its history stretches back thousands of years, yet it strongly believes that one of the descendants from their spirit ancestors, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is a godlike figure of supernatural origin who will return to the tribe on his 82nd birthday to live among them and hunt wild game.
The remote tribe is largely isolated, and considered an “uncontacted” tribe. But the Vanuatu nation, of which the Yaohnanen are a part is expected to take the Duke into their tribe on his 89th birthday, June 10, 2010 as he said he would on that day 30 years ago.
“We know he is a very old man,” Siko Nathuan was quoted as telling the press, “But when he comes here he is going to be young again, and so will everyone else on the island.” The Duke promised the Yaohnanen people that he would return, but there has been quite a bit of creativity over other things he may have promised over the past 30 years. In return, the tribesmen promised to earmark several pigs for the duke to be slaughtered once he arrives. The Yaohnanen have been writing songs and choreographing elaborate dances for the celebration when the Duke arrives.
The impact can be quite profound on a tribal community when a person possessing technology and incredible gifts arrives to greet the local people. And if he doesn’t appear? The elders of the village have planned for that possibility, and have expressed such failure to appear will not destroy their beliefs. The photograph the Duke sent to the Yaohnanen still hangs in a permanent shrine dedicated to the man. With little to no outside contact with the world beyond their village, the Yaohnanen are thought to be one of the few groups in the world to have completely isolated themselves from the outside and maintained a lifestyle that is based on thousands of years of tradition.
Reality TV shows have visited the village in recent years to take Yaohnanen away from their village for the purpose of entertainment, but it’s unknown if this exploitation has led to a “contamination” of their cultures or if the Yaohnanen will be able to weather the threat of reality television the way they have weathered thousands of years of outside influences. Only time will tell. In the meantime, the people of these villages are awaiting the arrival of their God-Duke with anticipation. It is unknown if the Duke intends to take a trip to the village in his old age or not. He will be 88 years old on June 10th. And how will the Yaohnanen culture change, regardless of whether the visit takes place or not? Only the passage of time will reveal how this village, and its people will react.