7 Largest Tribes in West Papua



West Papua is known as a culturally rich region in Indonesia. Find out the 7 largest tribes from Papua itself.


West Papua, formerly known as West Irian Jaya, is located on the farthest east side of Indonesia, on the island of Papua. It was established as a province by the Indonesian government in 1999 and was given a special autonomy status.

One of the most interesting things about West Papua is its cultural richness and carefully maintained traditional customs and rules. Also, it has a large number of tribes, approximately 24 tribes residing in West Papua until today. Uniquely, each of them has different languages and practices different customs.

Here are the largest West Papuan tribe you should know:

  1. The Asmat Tribe


The largest tribe of West Papua, the Asmat Tribe, is notable for its traditional cannibalistic customs. The tribe mainly inhabits either the coastal area of Arafuru or deep into the forest mountain of Jayawijaya.

Its traditional weapon is an axe made of greenstone in 45 cm length. The stone is particularly precious for the tribe that it is often used as a dowry. The Asmat Tribe is still living the traditional way of hunting, fishing, and farming sago. Despite their considerably sadistic tradition, Asmat lives harmoniously with nature and still strongly believes in magical power.

  1. The Amungme Tribe


Occupying mostly the highlands in Papua, Amungme Tribes consists of nearly 13,000 members. In this modern era, Amungme Tribe maintains the traditional way of living by practicing hunting and farming exactly like the prehistoric age. They also live as nomads, constantly changing their residence in the mountainous area.

Amungme Tribe keeps their ancestors’ beliefs, such as worshiping Nemang Kawi mountain, which they consider as sacred and mighty.

  1. Dani Tribe


The Dani Tribe is often said as the third largest tribe in West Papua. They live in the mountainous area, scattered over the District of Jayawijaya. But most of them reside in Baliem Valley, where the tribe was first discovered hundreds of years ago.

The valley itself is notorious for its ancient farming methods, using stone axes, knives made of bone, bamboo, and wood. However, the tribe is well-off by leveraging all natural resources in their land. Not only is their farming still traditional, but also their clothes remain so. If you have ever heard of Koteka, it is the main clothes worn by the tribe until today.

  1. Korowai Tribe


In the southern area of Jayawijaya highland, the Korowai Tribe inhabits swamps, mangrove forests, and wetlands. Unlike the first three tribes, Korowai lives in a lowland. This tribe is also more modernized and civilized since they have long left Koteka and clothed themselves with modern outfits, even though they still wear their traditional customs during special rituals and ceremonies.

The Korowai Tribe is notable for its excellent hunting skill and resides in treehouses in the forests. This tribe has one common trait as Asmat: consuming human meat. But the practice is not done on a frequent basis but rather serves as a punishment for wrongful deeds called khuakhua.

  1. Muyu Tribe


Muyu Tribe is one of the indigenous Papuan tribes residing in Boven Digoel Regency. The name was derived from the place where their ancestors had lived, Muyu River in the northeast of Merauke.

Anthropologists call Muyu Tribe as Primitive Capitalists for their intelligence. They occupy several important government posts in the Boven Digoel bureaucracy. About 45% of the tribe members are civil servants in the area.

The Muyu Tribe is notable for its frugal living, hard-working nature, and respect for education. The tribe called it Kati, meaning the real human.

  1. Bauzi Tribe


As the sixth-largest tribe in West Papua, the Bauzi Tribe lives in an isolated area in Mamberamo Raya. Hence their way of living is far from modernization and even more ancient than any other tribes in West Papua. They have almost no direct contact with any kind of modernization and still practice the nomad life. 

But now, some schools and adult literacy classes have run well in their environment. Most of those are held by volunteers. Since they live in remote forests and villages along the banks of Mamberamo River, they are famous as excellent hunters. The Bauzi usually hunt crocodiles, giant tilapia fish, and other animals.

  1. Huli Tribe


This tribe occupies the highlands of the southern part of West Papua. Their main living is hunting, while the women practice farming in a traditional way. One of the most unique traits of the Huli Tribe is they paint their faces in yellow, red, and white color with clawed axes as a part of their daily accessory.

Another interesting costume of the Huli is their dramatic wig. This headgear is usually worn by men. It is made from their own hair with several months in the process. A boy who is growing hair must undergo a restricted diet, special magic, and taboos.

West Papua is undoubtedly a place with many fascinating cultures, not least its tribes. Getting to know the uniqueness and traits of each tribe makes us fall in love even more.


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