Korowai Tribe, an Isolated Tribe in the Inland of Papua

There are many tribes in Papua, every tribes have their own language, culture, and tradition. One of the most unique tribe that many have not heard of is the Korowai tribe in Papua. The tribe was first encountered by the outside world by the Christian missionaries in the 1970’s. The Korowai tribe in Papua lives in the remote inland of Papua and has isolated themselves from the rest of the world until being found by the Christian missionaries.

The Korowai tribe in Papua, have traditions, language, and cultures that are completely different from other more well-known Papua tribes such as Dani, Asmat, and others. For instance, they do not use koteka, one of the most iconic item from Papua. Instead, they only use clothes that are being made from leafs. Not only that, the Korowai tribe in Papua build their houses at the top of the tree, with the height that can reach around 50 meter above ground level. These houses are called Rumah Tinggi or the High House. These houses are designed by the Korowai tribe in Papua to protect them from flood, wildfire, and wild animal attacks.

Korowai Tribe in Papua
The house on the tree on the Korowai Tribe in Papua. Via simomot.com

The Korowai tribe is also known as great hunters who hunts for their food. They usually hunt for wild animals like boars, cassowaries, snakes, lizards, and deer. There is however, a misconception that the Korowai tribe also included human in their food chain. True, that the Korowai tribe practices cannibalism. But, they do not consume human out of hunger or feeding necessity. They consume human as a form of punishment for those who are deemed guilty of practicing witchcraft (khuakhua). Yes, you read that correctly. Cannibalism in Korowai tribe is a part of their judicial system. The meat of the khuakhua is usually shared to all of the village members in their tribe. However, along the the time, and the Korowai tribe is becoming more and more open to the outside world, this tradition of cannibalism slowly diminishes.

Because of the isolation and the uniqueness of their culture, many scholars have come to Papua to study them. The first case of Korowai tribe study was in 1979 by the dutch missionaries. Later on he built a settlement that is being called Yarinuma. Since then, the Korowai tribe in Papua has opened up to the outside world. The team from Human Planet documentary, BBC, have even came and visited them in January – February 2011, to record the unique culture. One Anthropologist from Reed College, Oregon, Rupert Stasch, has even lived with them for 16 months to study and observe their culture.


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