Ethnic Papua: Environmental Wisdom of Local Tribes in West Papua

Ethnic Papua

Local customs and traditions are always attached to Indonesia, especially ethnic Papua. Their traditions approach through local knowledge, and then it spreads in the local community. One of their local customs is how to prevent extinction by doing some conservation and the preservation of natural resources.

West Papuans believe that every family belongs to a village. The land where they have been living is from the Great Creator to their ancestors. This land from the Great Creator, they should take care of because this is where they live for centuries and until the end of our time. The land provides everything they need: food, waters, and safety land where they can live with their beloved family.

These beliefs are still in their memory and spread through word of mouth. Unfortunately, they didn’t write it in books. Their parents are just telling them. Ethnic Papua people are different from other ethnicities in Indonesia. They are different from their appearance, history, culture, and language.

Ethnic Papua: Ancient Way of Life

Ethnic Papua

Local tribes in West Papua are indigenous to their land, ancestors, nature, and waters. It is how they live through the local knowledge to appreciate and respect Mother Nature. They have a special attachment meaning to it because they know they live and eat from it. That is what they learned about: always maintaining a relationship with the Great Creator, traditions, customs, and nature for future generations.

Local wisdom From Ethnic Papua, Sasi

Ethnic Papua

Sasi is the local wisdom of the ethnic Papua and Maluku people that means a ban. It can also be interpreted as a tradition that applies in a local society whose purpose is to maintain the natural resource’s sustainability in the area. This local wisdom aims to preserve and maintain their land, including natural resources and populations of animals. Moreover, this local wisdom relates to the relationship between human nature and humans and still applies until now.

The ancestors inherit this local wisdom of ethnic Papua from centuries ago. Sasi has various restrictions in each area in Papua, based on the natural resources that are valued to them. There are forests and fishes.

In some places and in a specific time, you will see a sign that tells us ‘Sasi forest’. It means that people are not allowed to harvest anything in that area before a specific time. It also applies to marine products. When it comes to harvest time, natural resources from the forest and fish can be harvested.

Sasi Tradition in Folley Village, Raja Ampat

Ethnic Papua

In West Papua, there is a lot of marine territories. Underneath the water, Sasi tradition applies to preserve the marine ecosystem, like in Folley Village, Raja Ampat region. Folly Village is located in the Misool Marine Conservation Area. In this village, Sasi is a mean to manage the marine resources, and they had successfully harvested sea cucumber in 2018.

This is also supported by the government’s efforts, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and the world to integrate the marine conservation area with this tradition. The villagers should be proud of this tradition because it has been quite successful in maintaining marine preservation sustainability.

How long people are not allowed to harvest natural resources depends on the agreement. Mostly it applied for a year. Before the chief implements the Sasi, there is a discussion with the community about the number of natural resources that can be harvested, the kind of tools allowed to harvest, and the price. After that, they will hold a traditional ceremony or just pray in a church.

Usually, there is a chief or traditional village policeman to guard the land and waters and make sure that the local community do Sasi’s traditions to their life, which is called Kewang. The Kewang made social sanctions for those who violated the Sasi and fine even though they were kids. The punishment made social control in the community.


Indonesian people with various tribes and cultures play a significant role in maintaining their local wisdom to preserve and manage the environment. Local tribes in West Papua inherit their local knowledge from their ancestors and become culture as their living norm.

The tradition Sasi of ethnic Papua is actually environmental wisdom, which acts as an unwritten rule to guide the local community to preserve the environment and natural resources. It has a significant role in the community regarding culture, belief, society, and economy. Sasi is maintained until now because it is an essential value of local wisdom about belief to preserve and conserve nature.

This result from this tradition can’t be achieved in a short time because it involves human effort and thought. The West Papuans should consider how important it is to preserve nature through their local wisdom of Sasi in daily life, balanced with the legal norms.