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The People with the Crocodile Skin | Travel to Papua New Guinea

My journey to discover the most interesting places and people around the world has led me to the remote, Northern jungles of Papua New Guinea. This rarely visited location is known as the Sepik River, and is home to an incredible tribe known as the Crocodile Tribe.

Why are they called the Crocodile Tribe? It’s not because they wear crocodile skin for clothing, which is true. It’s not because they eat crocodiles, which also is true. Rather it’s because as a rite of passage young boys use sharp razor blades (or bamboo sticks) to shape the skin on their backs to look more like that of a crocodile.

I know what you’re thinking…why on earth would anyone do such a thing!?

Simply put, the crocodile tribe believe crocodiles have God-like traits and characteristics, and by experiencing this painful transformation it makes you a man. They believe that if you can handle the pain from the ritual, you can handle the pains and challenges of everyday life. For the ritual, the men of the village gather at the spirit house to undergo an initiation that involves creating scars on their backs to resemble Crocodile Skin.

While this tradition seems strange and even a bit unnerving to someone not from the tribe, there are practices we have in our own cultures that to others may seem strange or even just the slightest bit odd. The Kalam People pierce the noses of their young boys as a rite of passage into manhood. The Maori People of New Zealand get tattoos as a symbol of their tribe, family, or rank (tattoos are very painful and often the tattoos are located on their face). Women (and men) in the United States undergo cosmetic surgery, manipulating their bodies to look a certain way.

We can’t judge cultures just because we don’t we understand them. And in all actuality, for everyone thing that is different, there are usually about 1000 ways that we are the same.

Grab Your Backpack, There is More to Explore!