A Summary of Ethnic Groups that Define West Papua’s Current Population



Meta description: Who knew that West Papua province in Indonesia may have the largest number of ethnic groups in the whole country. What are the groups that live there?

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West Papua’s Current Population

If you’re somehow familiar with Indonesia’s population numbers, the nation consists of so many ethnicities that are spread across the country. According to official population numbers, the country’s population centers are most commonly centered in Java and Sumatra, with major cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, Bandung, Palembang, and Tangerang being the primary examples. Conversely, further Indonesian provinces such as West Papua and Papua are the less-crowded provinces compared to those in Java and Sumatra.

In case you’re wondering why Papua is relatively underpopulated compared to the rowdier Java and Sumatra, the reason is that so many of the national development centers are mainly situated in those islands. However, over the past few decades, efforts have been made to populate West Papua and Papua to ensure a balance of population in all provinces of Indonesia.

In 2020, the total population in West Papua was 1,134,068 persons. The majority of these numbers are commonly situated in the province’s major population centers like Bintuni Bay, Wondama Bay, Raja Ampat, Sorong, Kaimana, South Sorong, Manokwari, and many others. Considering that Bintuni Bay is also the largest regency in the province, no wonder that many populations live in the area.

Ethnic Groups in West Papua

In fact, the province arguably possesses the highest number of ethnic groups in Indonesia until today! Since the island itself consists of numerous tribes across the whole island, there are distinctive tribes that live in each regency across the province.

Apart from the local tribes, other minority ethnic groups came from other provinces in Indonesia, where they came gradually during the Transmigration (Transmigrasi) eras in the 20th century or after that.

So, what are the ethnic groups that define the province’s population? Well, here it is!




Arfak tribe is one of the largest tribes in the province, with an approximate population of 100.000. Their tribe’s name is derived from the mountains within their territory, Arfak Mountains. Although the tribe itself is commonly known as the Arfak tribe, the tribe itself consists of four subtribes, such as Hattam, Meyakh, Sough, and Moile.

Traditionally, the Arfak tribe is renowned for traditional dances like Tumbu Tana Dance and traditional houses like the Thousand Feet House (Rumah kaki seribu).




While the tribes in the province commonly live in the high mountains, some live close to the sea, like the Doteri tribe. Originally coming from Numfor Island in the coastline of Wondama Regency, this tribe lives along with other Papuan ethnic groups who live near the sea as opposed to the ones in the mountains.




Previously, we’ve mentioned that Bintuni Bay is one of the most populated regions in the whole province. In this bay alone, there is the Sumuri tribe, who have been living in the region since the 20th century. The unique thing is that the tribe has been moving from one place to another in the 1960s before eventually settling in the bay permanently in the 1970s.




Not only is Irarutu tribe one of the largest ethnic groups in the province, but they are also famous for their traditional tolerance towards any ethnic and religious differences within their tribe. Living on the shores of Arguni Bay, Bintuni Bay, and Fakfak, the tribe is renowned for their traditional house, Sirus, used for educational and religious purposes for hundreds of years.




Compared to other Papuan tribes who live in the mountains, the Biak tribe, much like the Doteri tribe, commonly lives in Biak Numfor Regency that is mostly dominated by waters compared to its landmass. Since the Biak tribe lives on the sea, their seafaring skills have become renowned in many places. Because their original living place doesn’t have many resources, they make their living by seafaring to neighboring regions to find sago, massoi wood barks, and other economic commodities.




Living in the Meybrat Regency in the center of the province, the Meybrat tribe lives in Manokwari and Sorong Regency. A unique part of this tribe is their cultural richness ranging from their traditional Yefun (The Great Creator) religion to srar and bosuah dances commonly done to find love partners.

Other minorities

Other than the traditional Papuan ethnic groups in the province, some newcomers have arrived on the island since the pre-20th century Dutch colonial times and the Transmigration eras. In 2010, the minority ethnic groups in the province were Javanese (11.47%), Moluccans (10.47%), Sulawesi people (7.98%), Bugis (5.32%), Makassar (2.26%), and many others who have settled permanently in the province.


With the abundance of ethnic groups in West Papua, we can slowly understand that it is indeed out of the question that the province possesses some of the largest ethnic groups in any province in Indonesia. We hope that you can learn so many things from this article!