Local Acculturation in West Papua: The Forms and Challenges Faced by Local People

West Papua

With more than 250 tribes, West Papua is rich in cultural aspects. These cultural aspects are so close to society’s life. No wonder these aspects tend to become their daily habits consciously or unconsciously. 

As many ethnic groups reside in this province, the process of local acculturation gradually occurs in society. The acculturation does not only happen between the ethnics groups but also takes place between the locals and the immigrants. As a result, acculturation leads to a gap and social diversity. 

The acculturation in this northern province in Indonesia comes in different forms: Origination, substitution, addition, deculturation, syncretism, and denial. These forms of acculturation exist in this province. Therefore, this article highlights the forms of local acculturation and the challenges the local people face. 

Forms of Local Acculturation 

West Papua

The acculturation happens in many forms, like origination, substitution, addition, deculturation, syncretism, and denial. Let’s find out the explanation about forms of local acculturation below.

  • Origination

As many immigrants reside in West Papua, many new rituals also come up. The immigrants bring a new culture to this land and result in a sudden change in the culture. Immigrants carry out their culture and habit as well as perform their religious practices. Those rituals grow fast as the immigrants come and live in society. This acculturation is called origination.

  • Substitution

Local people face substitution in their cultural aspects. Substitution undergoes the process of acculturation tradition, including in folk costumes and habits. You can see the substitution in folk costumes of Kokoda and Fakfak Tribes.

Kokoda and Fakfak tribes used to wear clothes made of loin and grass. Now, many Fakfak and Kokoda tribes wear them on special occasions or during the rituals. They also complete their costumes with other garments to cover up their bodies.

  • Addition 

Another form of local acculturation in West Papua is addition. You can look at the example of this type of acculturation from the interethnic marriage. As an example, when a man from Fakfak Tribe marries a woman from Ambon ethnic. The man is not obliged to perform a traditional ritual from his tribe. He is allowed to do the marriage tradition in Ambon. The addition of a new culture to the old one will give more value to the people.

  • Deculturation 

Deculturation may happen when a cultural habit is no longer relevant to this era. As a result, the old cultural elements become extinct and bring in the new culture. One of the cases of deculturation is about traditional agricultural practices. The old tools, like mortar and pestle for pounding rice, are slowly replaced by a modern rice milling machine. 

  • Syncretism 

The process of syncretism acculturation brings about the change of the culture. The old and the new cultures are perfectly combined so that it forms a new system. Syncretism is easy to find in the kinship system in West Papua. The use of clan names becomes an identity of local people, including Kokoda tribes. 

Two people with the same clan name are not allowed to get married. If they get married, they will have bad luck. To avoid marrying the close kinship, Kokoda people will trace the kinship of the persons they are going to marry. If they don’t share close kinship, they can get married.

  • Denial 

Some local people oppose the occurrence of the local acculturation in West Papua. This acculturation form is called denial. When they are in denial, they will oppose establishing a building in a modern way. They will perform the cornerstone ritual by inviting the tribal elders. They will keep holding on to the ancestral traditions.

Challenges Faced by Local People 

West Papua

When it comes to the local acculturation, local people face some challenges. Some of them can adapt to the changes. Some of them find it hard to acculturate with a variety of challenges that happen in society. Here are some challenges that local people face amidst the acculturation. 

The Preservation of Wisdom and Norm of Local Culture

The acculturation the local people experience may affect the wisdom and norm of local culture. Amidst the cultural onslaught from the immigrants, keeping the local culture wisdom in West Papua is quite challenging. The locals try hard to adapt to society and accept the change without getting lost toward it. They try to be more open to other cultures and still keep and apply their cultural values and local wisdom in their life.

Acculturation Gap

Another challenge that locals face toward the acculturation in West Papua is the acculturation gap. Some local people take a long time to acculturate with the changing of cultural aspects. They try to embrace their own culture and heritage even though the acculturation is inevitable. As a result, it may lead to acculturation stress and pressure toward the locals.


The local acculturation in West Papua is inevitable. Some people may be open to the change in culture and values. Some others find it hard to acculturate with the new cultural aspects. Therefore, all people need to live in harmony and keep preserving the value of unity in diversity.