FIVE FAMOUS TRIBES IN PAPUA, From Finger Amputation Culture to Tree Houses


West Papua Tabloid – According to the Central Statistics Agency, Indonesia has around 1,340 ethnic groups. A total of 255 of them are native to the island of Papua. Many of these tribes also gave birth to many different languages. Amazingly, they still adhereto the values and norms of their ancestors.

Particularly for the tribes in Papua,there are five major tribes that are best known to the public, certainly with various cultural traditions attached to this day. As quoted, these are the five tribes:

1. Asmat Tribe

You must have often heard the name of this tribe. The Asmat tribe is the largest on the island of Papua. The thing that makes them famous is their wood carving product because it has a unique motif.

FIVE FAMOUS TRIBES IN PAPUA From Finger Amputation Culture to Tree Houses

The Asmat tribe really believes that the carvings they make are some sort of a sacred ritual and a way of communicating with their ancestors.

In addition, the Asmat tribe is also well known for the To be dance. In the past, the dance is performed when the tribal chief orders for war.However, the To be dance is now performed to welcome guests as a tribute.

As a war dance, To be is combined with incendiary songs and accompanied by the Tifa music. The dancers use beads on their chests, skirts from root of Bahar, and leaves tucked into their bodies which symbolize that they are close to nature.

2. Dani Tribe

Besides the Asmat, the Dani is also a fairly popular tribe. The tribe that inhabits the mountains of Jaya wijaya Regency, Papua is also the largest tribe there.

Dani Tribe

Like the Asmat, the Dani tribe also populates the area in the Baliem Valley. The uniqueness of the tribe is that many still dwell in traditional Honai houses (round houses consisting of two floors and made of wood with thatched roofs or cones haped weeds).


The Dani tribe is also famous for its extreme tradition called Iki Palek or the tradition of amputating fingers as a sign of love and an expression of loss. In addition to affection, the amputated fingers also show how many of their family members have died.Although the majority of women do this tradition, men also do it as a form of sadness over the loss.

3. Amungme Tribe

This tribe is renowned for having strong ties to the mountains. For the Amungme tribe, the mountain and its surroundings are sacred places that must be guarded.

The mountain that they truly glorify is the mountain used by PT Freeport for gold mining. They call it Nemang Kawi. Nemang means arrow, while kawi means holy. So, Nawang Kawi means holy arrow. The holy arrow is a symbol for peace and freedom from war. The area where the Amungme people live is called Amungsa.

4. Korawai Tribe

The Korowai tribe is known for its uniqueness by living in tree houses. They live in tree houses which are 15 to 50 meters high.

The purpose of the house on tree isto avoid wild animals and also interference from evil spirits. This tribe is also afraid from attacks by “laleo” or cruel demons. The Korowai tribe inhabits the areas of Kaibar and Mappi Regency, Papua.

Their current population is estimated at 3,000 people. Interestingly, until 1970, the people of the Korowai tribe did not know of the existence of other humans besides their group.Thus, this tribal community considers themselves the only humans living on earth.

5. Muyu Tribe

The Muyu tribe is one of the tribes in Papua who live in the area around the Muyudi River to the northeast of Merauke. The language they use is the Muyu language. The Muyu people also refer to themselves as “Kati”which means real humans. Even though they live in the interior, the medium of exchange they use are clamshell (ot) and dog teeth (mindit).

The barter system for goods in the Muyu tribe still exists today. The people of the Muyu tribe are also known to be hard workers and have strong determination. These traits are still possessed by the Muyu people to this day.

The Muyu tribe is considered the most intelligent of the interior tribes.They occupy the majority of important positions in the bureau craticstructure in Boven Digoel.

Read More: Getting to Know the Asmat Tribe Funeral Ritual Ceremony