About Papua or irian jaya

Papua (Indonesian: Provinsi Papua) is a province of Indonesia. It comprises most of the western half of the island of New Guinea and nearby islands. Its capital is Jayapura. It is the largest and easternmost province of Indonesia.

The province originally covered the entire western half of New Guinea. In 2003, the Indonesian government declared the westernmost part of the island, around Bird's Head Peninsula, a separate province; its name was first West Irian Jaya and is now West Papua: the remaining part retained the name, Province of Papua.


"Papua" is the official Indonesian and internationally recognised name for the province.

During the Dutch colonial era the region was known as part of "Dutch New Guinea" or "Netherlands New Guinea". Since its annexation in 1969, it became known as "West Irian" or "Irian Barat" until 1973, and thereafter renamed "Irian Jaya" (roughly translated, "Glorious Irian") by the Suharto administration.[2][3] This was the official name until the name "Papua" was adopted in 2002. Today, natives of this province prefer to call themselves Papuans.

The name "West Papua" was adopted in 1961 by the New Guinea Council until the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) transferred administration to the Republic of Indonesia in 1963. "West Papua" has since been used by Papuans as a self-identifying term, especially by those demanding self-determination, and usually refers to the whole of the Indonesian portion of New Guinea. The other Indonesian province that shares New Guinea, West Irian Jaya, has been officially renamed as "West Papua".

Within Indonesia and West Papua itself, 'Papua' usually refers to the entire western half of New Guinea despite its division into separate provinces.Western New Guinea is generally referred to as 'West Papua' internationally – especially among networks of international solidarity with the West Papuan independence movement.



A central east-west mountain range dominates the geography of the island of New Guinea, over 1,600 km (994 mi) in total length. The western section is around 600 km (373 mi) long and 100 km (62 mi) across. The province contains the highest mountains between the Himalayas and the Andes, rising up to 4884 m high, and ensuring a steady supply of rain from the tropical atmosphere. The tree line is around 4000 m elevation and the tallest peaks contain permanent equatorial glaciers, increasingly melting due to a changing climate. Various other smaller mountain ranges occur both north and west of the central ranges. Except in high elevations, most areas possess a hot humid climate throughout the year, with some seasonal variation associated with the northeast monsoon season.

The third major habitat feature are the vast southern and northern lowlands. Stretching for hundreds of km , these include lowland rainforests, extensive wetlands, savanna grasslands, and some of the largest expanses of mangrove forest in the world. The southern lowlands are the site of Lorentz National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The province's largest river is the Mamberamo, sometimes called the "Amazon of Papua", which winds through the northern part of the province. The result is a large area of lakes and rivers known as the Lakes Plains region. The famous Baliem Valley, home of the Dani people is a tableland 1600 m above sea level in the midst of the central mountain range; Puncak Jaya, sometimes known by its former Dutch name Carstensz Pyramid, is a mist covered limestone mountain peak 4884 m above sea level. It is the highest peak of Oceania.

Ethnic groups

Papuan dance from Yapen.
Yali people

The following are some of the most well-known ethnic groups of Papua:

The Yei (pronounced Yay) are sometimes known as the Jei, Je, Yei-nan people.

There are approximately 2,500 speakers of the Yei language. 40% Ethno Religionists- animistic tribal religion 60% Catholics and other Christians (blended with animistic beliefs & customs) The Yei language is believed to have 2 dialects observed by a Wycliffe, SIL language survey in 2001. At home the Yei people speak their own language but use Indonesian for trade, wider communication and at school. Most Yei are literate in Indonesian. The Yei people have no Bible translation, gospel films or videos in their language.[citation needed]

There are elementary schools in each village. About 10-30% of children continue in middle school. Very few go to high school. The nearest high school is in Merauke city. They live primarily by hunting, fishing, and gardening short and long term crops in the lowlands. The Yei diet mainly consists of rice, vegetables, fish and roasted sago. With their land at an altitude of less than 100 meters above sea level, the Yei people can best be accessed by vehicle on the road from Merauke or by motorized canoe up the Maro River. There is no airstrip or airplane access other than float plane which is currently available from Merauke through MAF by about a 15 minute flight to Toray. The Poo and Bupul villages have a clinic but people still use traditional medicines. There is very little infrastructure in the area: no telephones or toilets. At night electricity is run from a generator. There are (SSB’s) Single side-band radios in Bupul, Tanas, Poo, and Erambu villages, mainly used by the police and military force. Most villages get their drinking water from the Maro River, but some get it from wells or by collecting rain.[citation needed]


The population of Papua province has been growing fast (2.9 children per woman fertility rate), from 1.9 million in the 2000 Indonesia Census to 2.9 million in the 2010 Census[10] Since the early 1990s Papua has had the highest population growth rate of all Indonesian provinces at over 3% annually. This is partly a result of high birth rates, but mainly due to migration from other parts of Indonesia. While indigenous Papuans formed the near-totality of the population in 1961, they are now roughly 50% of the population,[citation needed] the other half being composed of non-Papuan migrants coming from other parts of Indonesia. An overwhelming percentage of these migrants came as part of a government-sponsored transmigration program.[citation needed]

According to the 2010 census, 83.15% of the Papuans identified themselves as Christian with 65.48% being Protestant and 17.67% being Roman Catholic. 15.89% of the population was Muslim and less than 1% were Buddhist or Hindu.[11] There is also substantial practice of animism by Papuans.

The densest population center, other than the large coastal cities that house Indonesian bureaucratic and commercial apparatus, is located in and around the town of Wamena in the Palim (a.k.a. Baliem) Valley of the Central Highlands. The 'extreme democracy' and ecological stewardship of the highlands Papuan society is documented by Jared Diamond in the book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.



One of Papua's potential industries is timber, as forests cover 42 million hectares with an estimated worth of Rp.700 trillion ($78 billion). "If the forests are managed properly and sustainably, they can produce over 500 million cubic meters of logs per annum."[12]

The Grasberg Mine, the world's largest gold mine and third largest copper mine,[13] is located in the highlands near Puncak Jaya, the highest mountain in Papua.


Paradisaea apoda, native to Papua, displaying its feathers

A vital tropical rainforest with the tallest tropical trees and vast biodiversity, Papua's known forest fauna includes marsupials (including possums, wallabies, tree-kangaroos, cuscuses), other mammals (including the endangered Long-beaked Echidna), many bird species (including birds of paradise, cassowaries, parrots, cockatoos), the world's longest lizards (Papua monitor) and the world's largest butterflies.

The island has an estimated 16,000 species of plant, 124 genera of which are endemic.

The extensive waterways and wetlands of Papua are also home to salt and freshwater crocodile, tree monitors, flying foxes, osprey, bats and other animals; while the equatorial glacier fields remain largely unexplored.

In February 2006, a team of scientists exploring the Foja Mountains, Sarmi, discovered numerous new species of birds, butterflies, amphibians, and plants, including possibly the largest-flowered species of rhododendron.[14]

Protected areas within Papua province include the Lorentz National Park, which is also a World Heritage site and the Wasur National Park, a RAMSAR wetland of international importance.

Ecological threats include logging-induced deforestation, forest conversion for plantation agriculture (especially oil palm), smallholder agricultural conversion, the introduction and potential spread of alien species such as the Crab-eating Macaque which preys on and competes with indigenous species, the illegal species trade, and water pollution from oil and mining operations.

Papua's ancient rain forests have recently come under an even greater threat of deforestation after the Chinese government placed an order of 1 billion US dollar or 800,000 cubic meters of the threatened merbau rainforest timbers, used in buildings for the 2008 Summer Olympics.[15]

In remote forested valleys, several thousand smallholder farmers are growing Arabica coffee in the shade of Calliandra, Erythrina and Albizia trees. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are not available in these valleys. Since there are no roads, the coffee is flown out and then exported from the port of Jayapura.[16]

Lake Sentani Festival

Lake Sentani is surrounded by beautiful hills, a perfect place for fishing, swimming, canoeing, skiing, and other kinds of water sports. Every June 19-23, Lake Sentani Festival has been held in the Kalkhote tourist resort on the Sentani lakeside in Papua's provincial capital of Jayapura. With themed 'Loved, Peace, and Harmony,' tourists first see Lake Sentani Festival and then visit villages such as Tablanusu, Bukisi, and Amay Beach before proceeding to Wamena. In 2011, the Lake Sentani Festival was the fourth event since 2008.[17]

Asmat people

Orang Asmat.jpg
An Asmat woodcarver

The Asmat are an ethnic group of New Guinea, residing in the Papua province of Indonesia. Having one of the most well-known and vibrant woodcarving traditions in the Pacific, their art is sought by collectors worldwide. The Asmat inhabit a region on the island's southwestern coast bordering the Arafura Sea, with lands totaling approximately 18,000 km2 (7,336 mi2) and consisting of mangrove, tidal swamp, freshwater swamp, and lowland rainforest. The land of Asmat is located both within and adjacent to Lorentz National Park and World Heritage Site, the largest protected area in the Asia-Pacific region. The total Asmat population is estimated to be around 70,000. The term "Asmat" is used to refer both to the people and the region they inhabit.

Culture and subsistence

The natural environment has been a major factor affecting the Asmat, as their culture and way of life are heavily dependent on the rich natural resources found in their forests, rivers, and seas. The Asmat mainly subsist on starch from the sago palm (Metroxylon sagu), fish, forest game, and other items gathered from their forests and waters. Materials for canoes, dwellings, and woodcarvings are also all gathered locally, and thus their culture and biodiversity are intertwined. Due to the daily flooding which occurs in many parts of their land, Asmat dwellings have typically been built two or more meters above the ground, raised on wooden posts. In some inland regions, the Asmat have lived in tree houses, sometimes as high as 25 meters from the ground. The Asmat have traditionally placed great emphasis on the veneration of ancestors, particularly those who were accomplished warriors. Asmat art, most noticeably elaborate, stylized wood carving, is designed to honour ancestors. Many Asmat artifacts have been collected by the world's museums, among the most notable of which are those found in the Michael C. Rockefeller Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam.

Traditionally, many Asmat men practiced polygyny by marrying more than one woman. In many cases, men were expected to marry a male relative's wife if that male relative died (otherwise the woman and her children would be left without a source of protection or economic support). Schneebaum reported[1] that many Asmat men had long-term ritual sexual/friendship relationships (mbai) with other men, although the prevalence of this practice has been disputed by others. In the mbai system, male partners were also known to share their wives in a practice called papitsj.[1] It is probable that missionary influence in the last several decades has reduced the occurrence of both mbai and papitsj.

Language and ethnic sub-groups

Linguistic classification of the native language(s) of the Asmat people is somewhat problematic, but is generally characterized as being a group of closely related languages or dialects (most mutually intelligible to some degree), known as the Asmat family, which is a sub-family of the Trans–New Guinea language phylum. However, some ethnic groups who speak languages in the Asmat language family, such as the Kamoro and Sempan peoples who live adjacent to the Asmat, are ethnically distinct from Asmat.

Asmat may be thought of as an umbrella term for twelve different ethnic sub-groups with shared linguistic and cultural affinities and sense of shared identity. These twelve Asmat groups include Joirat, Emari Ducur, Bismam, Becembub, Simai, Kenekap, Unir Siran, Unir Epmak, Safan, Aramatak, Bras, and Yupmakcain. Further complicating the issue, these groups speak approximately five dialects (Casuarina Coast Asmat, Yaosakor Asmat, Central Asmat, North Asmat, Citak). However, at some important level these groups share a sense of identity and would likely refer to themselves as "Asmat".


Until the 1950s, their remote and harsh location isolated the Asmat from other peoples. It was not until the mid-20th century that they came into regular contact with outsiders. Initially, the Asmat had a reputation as headhunters and cannibals, and were left undisturbed.

Asmat on the Lorentz River, photographed during the third South New Guinea expedition in 1912-13.

The first apparent sighting of the Asmat people by explorers was from the deck of a ship led by a Dutch trader, Jan Carstensz in the year 1623. Captain James Cook and his crew were the first to actually land in Asmat on September 3, 1770 (near what is now the village of Pirimapun). According to the journals of Captain Cook, a small party from the HM Bark Endeavour encountered a group of Asmat warriors; sensing a threat, the explorers quickly retreated. In 1826, another Dutch explorer, Kolff, anchored in approximately the same area as that visited by Cook. When the Asmat warriors again frightened the visitors with loud noises and bursts of white powder, Kolff's crew also rapidly withdrew. The Dutch, who gained sovereignty over the western half of the island in 1793, did not begin exploring the region until the early 1900s, when they established a government post in Merauke in the southeast corner of the territory. From there, several exploratory excursions with the goal of reaching the central mountain range passed through the Asmat area and gathered small numbers of zoological specimens and artifacts. These artifacts were taken to Europe where they generated much interest, and probably influenced modernist and surrealist Western artists such as Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso.

The first colonial post was established in the Asmat area in Agats in 1938. This small outpost was closed in 1942 due to the onset of World War II. After the war, Father G. Zegwaard, a Dutch Missionary, began patrols into Asmat from the Mimika area to the west. In 1953, Zegwaard re-established the post in Agats, which was to become the government headquarters and the base for Roman Catholic missionaries. It was not until Catholic missionaries established the post in 1953 that significant interaction with the Asmat people began. Catholic missionaries, many with degrees in anthropology, were successful in persuading the Asmat to stop cannibalism and headhunting, while encouraging the continuation of other important cultural cycles and festivals such as shield and bisj ceremonies, which were incorporated into an adapted Catholic liturgy.

Asmat was the launching point for an arduous joint French-Dutch expedition from the south to north coast of New Guinea in 1958 to 1959, which was documented by the team and resulted in a book and documentary film, The Sky Above, The Mud Below, which won an Academy Award in 1961. In November 1961, the 22-year old Michael C. Rockefeller, son of Nelson A. Rockefeller who was then the Governor of the State of New York and member of one of the wealthiest families in the United States, disappeared in Asmat when his boat overturned while on an art collecting expedition. His disappearance, followed by an intensive and ultimately unsuccessful search by the Dutch authorities, has been the source of much speculation as to Mr. Rockefeller's fate. In 1962, the Indonesian government took over administration of western New Guinea.

After a short period under the new Indonesian administration from 1964 to 1968 in which Asmat cultural ceremonies were officially discouraged. Local Bishop Alphonse Sowada was instrumental in facilitating the revitalization of woodcarving and other festivals, which remain strong today. The church, along with Tobias Schneebaum and Ursula Konrad, established the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress (AMCP) in the local town of Agats in 1973, to maintain local pride in Asmat cultural traditions. Each year in early October, the church sponsors a woodcarving competition and auction to recognize outstanding carvers.