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Asmat Ethnic

Written By Rio Gonzales on Monday, January 16, 2012 | Monday, January 16, 2012


Asmat tribe which numbered approximately 65,000 people and inhabit swamps in the southern province of Irian Jaya is one of the indigenous Papuans. They live in villages which vary from 35 to 2,000. Until about the year 50's, before a number of outsiders arrived, warfare, headhunting and cannibalism were part of their everyday lives. Their house was built in the bends of the river so they can know early if there is an enemy attack. In the 20s century, their homes are located in coastal areas average is built on top of a tall pole about 2 meters or more, to protect residents from flooding by the overflow water from the river. In the foothills of the mountains Jayawijaya, Asmat lived in tree houses that used height of about 5 to 25 meters above ground level. At some point, they also built observation post on top of a tree whose height is about 30 meters from the ground.
Asmat is basically the nation's hunters and gather their food by taking flour from the sago tree, with a regular fishing or hunting wild pigs, cassowaries and crocodiles. Although the Asmat population steadily increased since contact with missionaries and government health workers, but the amount of forest inventory as

dwindling food supplies in the early 90s. According to anthropologist Tobias Schneebaum, some of the Asmat have learned to grow vegetables such as beans and some of them also began to raise chickens. With the introduction of money that can be obtained from the wood processing industry and sale of sculpture by outsiders, many Asmat now needs food as rice and fish, most have also become accustomed to Western-style dress and started using metal tools.
The Asmat believe that death is coming unless the age is too old or too young, is caused by malicious acts, either of magical power or act of violence. Confidence they demand vengeance for the victims who have died. Ancestral spirits, to whom they dedicate themselves, represented in a spectacular wood carvings on the
canoes, shields, and wooden poles carved human figure. Until the late 20s, young Asmat fulfill their duty and devotion to fellow members, to the ancestors and to prove his masculinity by bringing the head of an enemy, and offer the body to be eaten by other members in the village.
Although the Dutch colonial government did not Asmat territory until 1938, and a Catholic missionaries started their mission in 1958, the pace of change in this region after the 60s. In the early 90s, Asmat began to follow the educational program of the government and began to embrace Christianity. When the wood processing industry and oil companies expanded into the region, environmental conditions are fragile and
mangrove forests in coastal areas were threatened by the disposal of waste and soil erosion. Although the Asmat tribe has managed to achieve national and international awards for their artwork, this fame does not provide significant inputs for the Indonesian government in making decisions that affect land use in traditional Asmat territory until the early 90's.

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