Lyle Scholz - Historical Figures In Oceanic Art Lyle Scholz By Michael Hamson Lyle Scholz (1933–2013) was a pioneering American linguist and missionary who took a ship across the Pacific in 1962 to spend his career living with and studying the Kalam people of the Simbai area deep in Papua New Guinea’s Schrader Mountain Range. Born on a farm in Nebraska, Scholz attended Columbia University before spending 30 years recording the Kalam language, surveying uncharted land and teaching farming, nutrition and basic medicine to the locals. His daughter, Miriam, remembers that her father’s knowledge of Kalam was such that the elders were certain he was their dead ancestor come back to life. In the end, he became responsible for teaching the younger generation their own language—sitting on the floor with a blackboard by the light of a kerosene lantern. In the 1960s, it was common for him to be invited inside the people’s houses as he walked through the villages noticing the shields were carefully placed in the rafters of their smoke-filled houses, close at hand—ready for sudden battle. He took special interest in the old war shields and recorded their carved designs. Some of the old warriors entrusted Scholz with their battle strategies and hideouts. He did not consider himself a photographer, but his images are more than competent and show a warmth and respect for his subject. Scholz left Papua New Guinea in 1994 and kept trying to return until he passed away in 2013. His daughter Miriam remembers that one Kalam leader, after hearing of her father’s death, wrote asking her to mail part of his body back to them. She recalls her father nodded the Simbai acknowledgement gesture “yes” with his chin as his last communication to her before he passed.