Tribes in West Papua, New Guinea Island, have distinct and unique practices or traditions attached to their tribal name. One example of such an amazing practice is headhunting. This practice is defined as hunting humans and collecting severed heads after killing the victims. West Papua headhunters took the severed heads, which were considered trophies.
Headhunting and cannibalism point to two different things. Not all tribes of headhunting history are cannibals. They have other motives and goals for killing humans. Meanwhile, cannibalism is the act of eating the same species, in this case, humans. Headhunting was a renowned culture tens of years ago on the island of New Guinea.
Some of the local people considered this practice to hold a high value in determining the journey of manhood. However, this peculiar practice is a thing of the past. No tribes have continued the tradition of headhunting anymore since the start of modern civilization on the island. What are the two indigenous tribes that have a headhunting history?
West Papua Headhunters: 2 Indigenous Tribes with Headhunting History
The members of the Kombal tribe live in high tree houses or huts. Living in clans, they occupy the area of the Buzza river. The way of life of the Kombai tribe is quite similar to the Korowai tribe since they are still relatives. Men and women have different roles in tribal society. Women are in charge of making food and taking care of the children and husband. Meanwhile, the men are tasked with protecting the tribe, hunting for food, or leading the tribe.
The men of the Kombai tribe must possess excellent hunting skills to be considered an adult. The same goes for hunting their enemies. They usually take the organs, drink the blood, and stuff grass and leaves into empty bodies. The people of Kombai believe in animism. It is thought that the surrounding objects or creatures possess a strong spiritual soul or essence. One of the reasons why they are the West Papua headhunters is to lessen the remaining enemies’ power by taking out the spiritual sense.
The Kombai Tribe also practices cannibalism, known as endo-cannibalism. It is a ritual in which cannibalism occurs within their tribal community. The Kombai people believe they can get some of the abilities or qualities of the person if the family members kill, eat the organs, and drink the blood.
The Korowai Tribe was known to the world when Johannes Veldhuizen accidentally encountered the tribe’s members in 1978. The Korowai people live in the inland of Papua, in the territory of Yaniruma. The total number of tribe members is 3,000 people. Their survival depends significantly on forest products such as Sago and animals.
The tribe people build houses in high and sturdy trees. The places are 8 to 20 meters above ground, but the people also build houses 45 to 70 meters above the ground. The local people believe in evil spirits that live on the land. Thus, to protect themselves and their families, they make high treehouses. Such houses can also protect them from enemy attacks.
The Korowai people are believed to persist in the practice of cannibalism. However, the difficult access to their living quarters makes it hard to confirm or deny this suspicion. The locals are called “Bedouins of Jungle” as they keep moving from one place to another. Since their livelihood depends on forest products, they must move to find, gather, or hunt food.
West Papua headhunters refer to the indigenous tribes who have a headhunting history. They might also practice cannibalism but for another purpose besides consuming the meat. The Kombai and Korowai tribes are two indigenous tribes with these peculiar practices.