Papuan Tribes

How do they live?

Dani Men, 1991 Baliem Valley, West Papua.
Dani Men, 1991 Baliem Valley, West Papua.
© Jeanne Herbert/Survival

West Papua (made up of the two provinces of Papua and West Papua) is the western half of the island of New Guinea and is distinct from the independent country of Papua New Guinea. It is home to around 312 different tribes, including some uncontacted peoples. The central mountainous region of Papua is home to the highland peoples, who practice pig husbandry and sweet potato cultivation.

The lowland peoples live in swampy and malarial coastal regions, and live by hunting the abundant game, and gathering.

Some of the many Papuan tribal languages are related to others, but some are unique. The people are ethnically distinct from the Indonesians who control their country.

What problems do they face?

All the Papuan peoples have suffered greatly under the Indonesian occupation which began in 1963. The Indonesian army has a long history of human rights violations against the Papuans, and the racist Indonesian soldiers generally view the Papuan people as little more than animals.

Korowai man baking sago over the fire, West Papua.
Korowai man baking sago over the fire, West Papua.
© Survival

Papua’s natural resources are being exploited at great profit for the Indonesian government and foreign businesses, but at the expense of the Papuan peoples and their homelands.

When international companies come to Papua, the Indonesian military accompanies them to ‘protect’ the ‘vital projects’. The military presence is almost always associated with human rights violations such as killings, arbitrary arrests, rape and torture.

Those Papuans who protest against the Indonesian government, the military or ‘vital projects’ are even more likely to experience abuses of their human rights.

How can I help?

How does Survival help?

Survival is supporting the right of the Papuan peoples to live on their land in peace, by exposing, and protesting against, the human rights violations they experience, and by campaigning for their land ownership rights.

A Korowai man and child in West Papua
A Korowai man and child in West Papua
© Survival International

We support Papuan opposition to any harmful projects on their land, such as the pulp plant which Scott Paper planned to build on Auyu land – the plan was abandoned after international protests.

Survival is calling on the Indonesian government to enter into dialogue with the Papuan people so that they are able to decide their own way of life and their future.