Korowai Tribe of West Papua: Uncontacted, Highly Skilled Survivalists

Korowai Tribe of West Papua: Uncontacted, Highly Skilled Survivalists
Sumber: Flickr

Indonesia is a culturally diverse country. There are hundreds of tribes scattered in Indonesia, and most of these tribes have been able to adapt to modern life. But some still maintain old traditions and live far from civilization. 

One that is quite famous is the Korowai Tribe of West Papua. This tribe has members of up to 3,000 people. They live in West Papua, Indonesia, close to the Papua New Guinea border.

The Korowai Tribe of West Papua has Inhabited the region for 10,000 years

Before outsiders established contact with the Korowai in the 1970s, they thought they had no idea that anybody else existed. According to a group of scientists, the world first discovered West Papua’s Korowai Tribe in 1974. This lost scientist accidentally enters the territory of the Korowai tribe.

The Korowai people occupy a forest area about 150 kilometers from the Arafura Sea. They are hunter-gatherers with survival skills. Until about 1975, Korowai had almost no contact with the outside world. They only know each other.

Between 1978 and 1990, the Korowai still occupied the river’s lower reaches. They open gardens and hunt. Additionally, the government introduces them to health healing methods. However, despite knowing the outpatient clinic in Yaniruma, many still use traditional methods of curing pain.

The Korowai Tribe of West Papua

is still largely independent. They made stone axes, made salt, and many others. The first money introduced came from missionaries. They also help church planters and are paid rupiah. 

With this money, they can buy goods at local shops, such as salt, clothes, and razors. In 1990, Korowai began working on forestry projects for foreign companies. They are employed as tour guides and boat drivers.

Although many of them did not finish elementary school, some managed to attend secondary education in Kouh, Boven Digoel Atas. Now, Korowai youth can study in Jayapura.

Traditionally, the Korowai Tribe of West Papua lives in isolated conditions. They built tall houses to protect families against attacks by wild animals and ward off evil spirits. 

The Korowai were considered highly resistant to religious conversion for a long time. However, in the late 1990s, they began to be baptized.

Korowai Tribe Conflict

Adultery, theft, murder, and turmoil brought on by the employment of dark arts used to be the leading causes of disputes between tribes in the past. It is thought that ritual cannibalism occurred as a form of revenge and punishment for evil shamans. Once killed, people’s body parts would be divided between clans and eaten.

A 60 minutes television show in 2006 showed the killing of someone from the Korowai community convicted of being a khakhua (witch). He was tortured, executed, and eaten. In the process, pregnant women and children are not involved in becoming cannibals. 

Whatever happens, the killing of a clan member usually demands revenge. Relations between groups often dominate hostile to each other for a long time.

Marriage is also a source of conflict. Mistreatment of a woman in the family triggers revenge, as does adultery. Exchanges of goods are the most common way to resolve family matters. It is also common for men to take away women from their families by paying them a dowry.

Wrapping Up

During the 90s, outsiders began to exploit the Korowai Tribe of West Papua region in search of aloes. In 1997, 1 Kg of gaharu collected by residents, and sold to traders, had a value of around Rp. 4 thousand.

When agarwood is sold to European and Middle Eastern markets, its price jumps to $1,000 per kilogram. Gaharu usually triggers rapid trade and leads to prostitution in the forests. As a result of free sex, the AIDS epidemic began to increase. The end of this trade faded in 1999.