The wonderful Baliem Valley and the indigenous Dani, Papua are inseparable. Dani people or Ndani are the native people living in central highlands of western New Guinea, Wamena, Papua province. Other similar tribes living around Baliem Valley are Yali and Lani people. Yali tribe is one of the tribes who inhabit the southern part of Papua, between the border of Wamena and Merauke, while the Lani tribe inhabits the western part of the Dani. All the three tribes have their own characteristics in terms of culture, customs, and language.
Baliem Valley and the Indigenous Dani
The existence of Dani people was firstly discovered in 1938 by an American guy, Richard Archold noticing for something special between the particular region of Papua and the indigenous people. Dani People live in Baliem Valey, in which the area is the most fertile part of the highland covering the west of the New Guinea Island, Papua. Baliem Valley lies approximately 1800 m above the sea level that is surrounded by a crest of mountains. Some of them reach up to 4500 m. There are even some rare fish in the Baliem River flowing through the valley.
After civilization finally penetrates into Wamena, the strong influence of European Missionaries has transformed this area to be the base of Protestant mission in Hetegima Wamena, in 1955. After the Dutch build the city of Wamena, Catholics religion started to guide the civilization of the society.
The appearances of Dani people are more or less similar with Asmat people or any other tribes inhabiting Papua Island. The men wear Koteka (a shield cover for their penis made of yellow kunden), while the women wear skirts made of grass. They live in Honai-honai, a hut with thatch or reeds.
Although they embrace Catholics, the Dani still perform their traditional ceremonies living amidst their ancient heritage. The Dani people are more likely to be called as Parim people. They do pay great respect to their ancestors. Their deep reverence is usually shown through the pig party ceremony.
Before embracing Catholics, their early concept of belief was called as Atou. They believe in the power of the ancestors that inherited in a patrilineal way or to the male heirs. Those powers include strength to maintain the garden, the power to heal illness, refuse reinforcements, and enrich the fertility of the soil.
Moreover, in order to give respect to their ancestors, the Dani create a symbol called as Kaneka. Also, they have Kaneka Hagasir, a religious ceremony to enrich the family, to start, and to end the war.
In the Dani’s culture, yams and pigs become the most essential issues within their society. They use Yam as means for barter and become important thing for dowries in wedding ceremony. As well as yam, pigs also play an important role in some ceremonies. Another thing that makes the Dani tribe become famous are the several hundred years old ”smoked” mummies of famous tribesmen.
Overall, the wonderful Baliem Valley and the indigenous Dani, Papua keep their own magnificent charms. The very rich cultures of the indigenous Dani people immersing with the wondrous background of Baliem Valley make a fascinating combination that will impress anyone.