Dani Tribes – Beliefs – Traditions – Cultures

The Dani tribe is a tribe that inhabits a region of the Baliem Valley that has been known for hundreds of years as a tribe that has skilled farmer and has used complex tools such as used stone axes, knives made from animal bones, bamboo and also spears made using well-known quarry that is very strong and heavy.

Meanwhile, the Dani tribe still wears a ” koteka ” (male genital cover) made of pumpkin and women wear wah clothes from grass/fibers and live in “honai-honai” (hay-roofed huts). They still also conduct major and religious ceremonies, though mock tribal wars are still carried out while not as great as before.

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Back then, many explorations in the upland plateau of Papua are conducted. One of the first was the Lorentz Expedition in 1909-1910 (The Netherlands), however they did not operate in the Baliem Valley.Then, an American investigator named Richard Archold, and his team member was the first person to make contact with a native who had not been in contact with another country before. This happened in 1935. European influence was brought to the missionaries who built the center of the Protestant Mission in Hetegima around 1955. Then after the Dutch established the city of Wamena then the Catholic religion began to arrive.

1. Beliefs

The basic beliefs of the Dani tribe still adhere to the belief in respecting the spirits of the ancestors. The ceremony was held with a pork feast. The concept of beliefs is called Atou, the powerful rule of patrilineal descendants. These powerful rules include:

  • The strength in keeping the garden.
  • The power of curing diseases and preventing outbreak.
  • The strength of fertilizing the soil.

As a sign of respect for their ancestors, they also made the symbol of an ancestor called Kaneka. In addition, there is also a religious ceremony called Kaneka Hagasir to achieve prosperity for families and to initiate the start and the end of the war.

2. Dani Languages

Dani tribe has 3 sub family of language, that is:

  • Sub families of Wano in Bokondini.
  • The Dani family sub-center of the West Dani’s accent and the accent of the Great Dugawa valley.
  • Subfamily Nggalik and ndash.

Dani’s tribe includes the family of Melanesian and central Papuan languages.

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3. Kinship system

There are three categories for Dani family system, namely:

1. The smallest kinship group in Dani society included several families. This extended family consists of three or two large families inhabiting together a housing complex enclosed by a fence.

2. Paroh society. Dani’s community structure is a combination of a few small clans called ukul oak (big clan)

3. Territorial groups. The smallest territorial integrity within the Dani tribe community is the housing complex (uma) occupied for the patrilineal broad family group.

4. Economic System

The economic system of the Dani ancestors arrived in Irian as a result of a very ancient process of human migration from the Asian mainland to the Western Pacific islands of Irian Jaya.

The possibility at that time was that their society was still pre-cultivated, that it was only beginning to plant crops in very limited quantities. Continuous innovation and cultural contact led to a very simple planting pattern that developed into a system of sweet potato plantations, as it is today.

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5. Politics and Simple Society

According to the mythology of Dani tribe, it is said that they come from the descendant of a husband and wife who inhabits near a lake around the village of Maina in the South Baliem Valley. They have the children named Woita and Waro.

Then, based on the rules by the elders, the Danis is prohibited from marrying relatives of the Moety tribe so that their marriage is principally the exogamy of Moety (the marriage with those outside Moety). Dani people always live side by side and help each other, Dani life has the following characteristics:

  • Dani society has a fixed and always cooperative activity.
  • Every house-building plan is always preceded by deliberations led by a tribal chieftain.
  • Community organizations in the Dani tribe are determined by family and hereditary relationships and by territorial unity.
  • The Dani tribe is led by a great chief clerk called Ap Kain who leads the main village watlangka, besides the chief there are also three other chiefs whose position is under Ap Kain and holds their own field and lands. Namely, they are called: Ap. Menteg, Ap. Horeg, and Ap Ubaik Silimo that commonly inhabited by ordinary people and headed by Ap. Waregma. In Dani society, there is no system of leaders, except the term for men which means strong, clever and honorable.
  • At the uma level, the leader is an old man, but still able to manage his affairs in one set of his household and his village. These matters include the maintenance of the garden and Bahi as well as solving the argument.
  • The leader of the federation is authorized to signal the start of the war for other parties. The battle is led by the win metek. Confederate leaders usually also become win metek, though not an absolute requirement, a requirement to be a community leader in Dani tribe included to be good at farming, friendly and generous, good at hunting, physical strength and courage, clever diplomacy, and good combatant.

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6. Livelihood

Basic livelihoods for Dani tribes are farming and raising pigs. The common plants they grow are the sweet banana, sugar cane, and tobacco. In addition to gardening, Dani’s livelihood is raising pigs. Pigs have an important role in the daily life of the Dani tribe. The pig pen is named wamai (wam = pig; ai = house) is a rectangular-shaped building that looks almost the same as hunu.

Purposes of Pig for Dani tribes:

  • The meat is for consumption.
  • The blood is used in magical ceremonies.
  • The bones and the tail are used for decoration.
  • The ribs are used as blades for peeling potato.
  • As a tool for exchanging or barter.
  • Preserving peace when there are disputes.

Dani tribe trades with their surrounding community through traded goods such as stone to make axes, wood, fiber, animal skins, and bird feathers.

7. Custom home

The traditional house of the Dani tribe is called Honai and Ebe’ai. The size is small with a round shape and with hay as the roof, with wooden walls hold together by rope and thatched roof. However, there is also a rectangular house. This type of house is called Ebe’ai (Honai women). The difference between Honai and Ebe’ai lies in the sex of the inhabitants. Honai is inhabited by men, while Ebe’ai (Honai women) is inhabited by women.

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8. Cutting Finger Traditions

One of the unusual traditions of the Dani tribe is the finger-cutting tradition. The tradition is done by showing sadness and grief left by family members who had died. They cut a finger to symbolize the pain of loss. Not only one finger is cut, sometimes even until all the fingers are cut. But from some sources, this tradition only applies to women only. As the age and the influx of religions grow, this finger-cutting tradition is almost abandoned now.

For the Dani tribe, the finger can be interpreted as a symbol of harmony, unity, and strength in human and a family, although it’s regarded that the thumb is the symbol of the whole family.

However, if we look at the differences in each form and the length of the finger then there exists a unity and strength of togetherness to alleviate the burden of all human efforts. Fingers work together to build a harmony so that our hands can function perfectly. Losing one of the sections then can result in a not proper function of our hand’s ability. So if one part of it disappears, then the components of togetherness disappear and less power can be produced.

Other Traits of Dani tribe

There are some traits of Dani Tribe which is still exist until now, as follows:

  • Education: similar to the other inland Papuan tribes, then the Dani tribe are generally low level in formal educational system and their awareness in knowledge is also lacking. However, since the reform era some twelve years ago many Dani tribes who are studying outside the region can now read and write
  • Art: Dani society has a distinctive craft art, woven pockets of headgear and ax pegs. In addition, there are also some tools made of brick like Moliage, Valuk, Sege, Wim, Kurok, and Arrow.
  • Wedding: Dani marriages has the inclusion of polygamy among them polygyny. This family unit lives in one unit of residence called silimo. A Dani village consists of 3 and 4 slimos inhabited by 8 and 10 families.

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Dani tribes are one of the old tribe that needs to be preserved so as to appreciate the diversity that exists in Indonesia. The unique culture and history that this tribe has required a deep understanding of learning and ensure that they receive the same attention as the rests of the tribe that resides in Indonesia.