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West Papua

Speaking about West Papua Culture is a very difficult job, since they almost have no culture, every group, or every clique has their own specific behavior or customs that is not related, even between house to house. There are a great variation, of culture from those having slight relation from one to an other up to those having definitely no observable relation. Their relation is basically based on genealogy relation which is mostly also disordered. This is added again by the dozens of different languages spoken by each clique or group, as a real big stone block to understand the whole situation.
Among those there are some simple cultures already well known such as Baliem tribe, Dani tribe, Yali tribe, and Agat tribe. But almost all of them physically have the same characteristics. In the past most of them were living deep in inner land and on foot of mountain, some of them build their nest on the trees. With the unity of West Papua into Republic Indonesia, government have tried to persuade them to live a more settled manner with cultivated land, so some of them went down to the open areas and more cultivated areas, and adjust themselves to the new life which is pioneered by the migrant from other parts of Indonesia, such as around North coast, cities and centers of local governments.

The people of West Papua shows a great variety of culture and languages, although physically the whole ethnics that live today look the same, that they show Melanosoid Characteristics. Seen from the variety of their culture the whole people of west Papua can be grouped very roughly based on the area such as ; Cendrawasih area, Cendrawasih beach and it's islands resident of North mangrove area, resident around Jaya Wijaya high land, people live on Savannah of South area. Among them some ethnic have been given the name and known well such as the Dani, The Agat and the Yali. The variation of their culture can be seen from their living or economy, art, and social system besides there are a great variation of language. In General the variation of language shows the group of Melanesian family and there are specific of West Papua languages which among West Papuan language itself showing a further great variation. The Melanesian language is part of a widely spoken language called Austronesian. This group of language is spoken on area from Madagascar to Paas island on Pacific ocean and to the north in bordered by Taiwan. An inventory of West Papua languages which are not grouped as Melanesian languages has been reported by faculty of Anthropology, University of Indonesia in 1963, edited by Prof. Koentjaraningrat and Harsja W. Bachtiar. The area of Cendrawasih Bay and along the northern shore of West Papua are known as the areas having various languages groups with small number of speakers, the member of a certain language group can be 100 persons or even less. This extreme variation can be traced back into prehistory when their time of migration from one place to their current resident. Since then a condition of isolated life among each others continues until the independence of Indonesia . Linguistic theory of isolation has been explaining about similarity of main words and development to further variation of most of the words. Even an Indian and linguist used a theory of geometry to estimate the time of a language start to break into different group by analyzing the basic 200 vocabulary. Along the northern coast of West Papua flow some rivers such as Woska, Tor, Bier, Biri, Wirowai, Toarim, and Semowai. The rivers originate from goutier mountain, Karamour, and Bonggo.

Multi various ethnic groups now living along the shore of West Papua originated from highland deep at the river sources. The started to migrated around 300 years ago, and some started 2 generations ago. The phenomena of moving from highland to the beach is still continuing. They built their settlements behind the sand beach on the marshy area. In 1920 there were around 24 settlements and relocated by force by the Dutch to settle on the beach with the health reason and control facility. For 24 settlements by language can be grouped into 7 languages which were belong to Melanesian group. During the period of observation between 1940 to 1963 the birth rate was very low with the migration of people to the town, the number of population on north shore had been decreasing their houses are built on wooden poles with total height around 4.5 meters, and 4x5 meters wide. A house consist of 2 or 1 rooms for sleeping, and another standing house for cooking the material for making house are wooden lodges, tied with rattan, wall mode of palm leaves, floor is made of mangrove skin, and roof is from palm leaves and branches of mangrove which is filed beautifully. In the phrases of constructing a house a big feast is needed, and exchange gifts for those who assist in the building is still a hard part of the process.

The main subsistence of the people on the north coast of West Papua is the Sagu (the essence of palm trees). Their sagu farm is the natural sagu forest located 4 to 5 kms deep inland. Each family do not have clear border of the farm where they have their own area or where is belong to others. Sagu tree with the age between 8 to 12 years is ready to be harvested. On the northern coast the work of harvesting sagu is both for men and women, while at the area of the river's source this is exclusively the work of women, while men are hunters and land cultivators. They hunt various animal such as mouse, pigs, casuary birds, kangaroo, snake, and lizards. Very small wish from them to cultivate land in more systematic way. They just plant in no good treatment among forest area, then leave the area untreated to open other places, the neglected land will not be taken over by other people although after long time the land get back it's fertility. This is probably the choice is still to big, and for them cultivating land is not interesting on not important. Coconut meal or copra is one product of Northern shore which was started in 1920 when Dutch government took the resident of Masimasi island as volunteer of growing coconut which resulted thousands of coconut trees decorated the shore. In the course of time this big plantation continuously degraded until 1962 it has been really in trouble and disappeared their kinship system is almost the same as other Indonesian society, with the smallest unit is family and their children an average of 4 person per family. Some family is a big family where the grandparents are living also in the same house. Their naming tradition got the influence of Dutch Christian so they used convert name beside family name which is taken from his/her father's name. Before the conversion into Christian the original kinship must had been exist proved by the terminology of "Auwet", within an auwet there were names showing the similarity. Most probable that this auwet kinship system was a patrilineal system. Marriage even also has introduced exchange gift as other Indonesian traditional ethnics, especially the family of the youth must give an exchange to the girl family. Feasts during social events are also known just like many traditional area of Indonesia. These auwets are said to have specialization such as the auwet of Bagre and Maban have members who were skilful in warfare. Auwet Kibuan and Abowei who lived on high dry land were skill in cultivating land. Each auwet had their big house on poles where the important and relic of the family were preserved such as flutes. During relocation in 1920 from the marshy area to the beach all their houses were burnt, and the tradition of auwet and their heritages become disappeared during registration by the teachers from Ambon, it was found that certain group bearing the similarity of name and this group was called "fam". The preparation of a youth to merry a girl is the collection of shell arranged into a decor of big shell called "krae" a necklace arranged from dog teeth, belt made of jewelry, and rope made of wood skin. In the present of imported goods which are sold by Chinese, they also collect plates, kitchen tools, foods, especially canned and others. All these material will be used in exchange to the girl. It is a big and hard thing to do, that is why a youth got aid from the brother of his mother in collecting this gift and often need a long time. This wealth is given to the family of the girl after the marriage ceremony is completed and followed by special feast. After this traditional feast there is one ceremony again in the church. According to the tradition a new wedding couple should build a new house, but this something that too hard, beside the cost of building also the feast that is needed is a hell. So in the fact to many new couple live verilocally (stay with husband family), yet some are living uxorilocally (with wife family) which actually uncommon among the society.

Social life on the whole villages of Northern coast is really very weak and like there is big aphatism among members. Government instruction for the maintenance of village environment, economic life and social are considered already completed when it have been announced. No further self initiative of better life. There is no leader arising among them. Most leaders that could mobilize them are ambonese, Chinese, and other people from central Indonesia who work there. This is indeed a great barrier to develop the society. They do not respond to the modernization planned by the government. This is indeed they will be very easy to be provocated by person or countries to insert their interest in West Papua.

Some United State Congress members that do not know about what development in West Papua used this situation of their moves, as if they are savages of the provocated West Papua resident. Besides that the separated groups that might descended from the same ancestor which numbers are quiet plenty now have always been prone of war. In the past the wars were so many, and after independence of Indonesia the army suppressed them not to play warefare, as the war always causing many deaths. Thier war system is that if 1 group lost 1 person, then the war will continue without end until their opponent also lost 1 persons. If the balance of lost is not reached than the war can be very severe. In 2006 and 2008 at least 5 wars happened again among those groups, and the army and the police of Indonesia did not suppressed them because they affraid of being blamed to put the local people under violation by some countries and persons who do not like Indonesia. If the balance of lost can be achieved that the peace gathering will be done by burning stones.

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