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Amung Tribe of Central Papua A Tribe Known for Their Strong Ties to the Mountain

by Senaman
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CENTRAL PAPUA – The Amung tribe also known as Amui, Hamung, Amuy, Uhunduni, or Amungme is an ethnic group with a population of approximately 17,700 people living in the highlands of Central Papua Province, Indonesia, the word Amungme means “Amung people”.

The Amung tribe lives in several valleys in Mimika Regency and Puncak Jaya Regency, such as:

  1. Noema Valley,
  2. Tsinga,
  3. Hoeya,
  4. Bella,
  5. Alama,
  6. Aroanop,
  7. Wa.

As well as in the lowlands:

  1. Agimuga,
  2. Timika.

Some groups who live in the Beoga valley are called the Damal tribe (as the Dani tribe is called).

Their language, Uhunduni, has several dialects, with the southern one called Amung-kal and the northern one called Damal-kal (spoken by the Damal tribe). In addition, they also have a symbolic language called Aro-a-kal and Tebo-a-kal. Tebo-a-kal is only spoken in areas considered sacred, and it is known that “Damal” is a term given by the Dani tribe, while “Uhunduni” is a term given by the Moni tribe. There are several leadership models in the Amungme tribe such as:

  1. Menagawan,
  2. Kalwang,
  3. Customary Council,
  4. Wem-wang,
  5. Wem-mum.

The position of leader is not inherited by lineage, but rather naturally by the process of time and the social situation and ecological environment.

The traditional beliefs of the Amungme people are local animism and the Amungme people do not have the idea of a deity separate from nature where the spirits and nature are one and the same, although the Amungme have the belief that they are the firstborn of the firstborn of the human race, the conquerors and rulers of the Amungsa land from Nagawan-Into (God).

They practice shifting agriculture, supplementing their livelihoods with hunting and gathering, the Amungme people are deeply attached to their ancestral lands and hold the surrounding mountains sacred. Amungsa is the residential area of the Amungme tribe derived from two words, namely amung and sa, Amung means “expanse” and sa means “territory”, this means that Amungsa is the expanse of the customary territory of the Amungme tribe.

Based on the Extraordinary Meeting of LEMASA on February 2-4, 2007, it was determined that the Amungsa territory consists of east, west, north and south, the eastern Amungsa territory borders Mbrum-Mbram. Mbrum-Mbram is the Amungsa territory bordering the Nduga tribe, while the western Amungsa territory is Janama Tagal. Janama Tagal is the Amungsa territory bordering the Mee tribe, to the north, Amungsa borders the customary lands of the Dani and Damal tribes, while in the south the Amungsa territory borders the Kamoro tribe.

This struggle over customary land has caused friction with the Indonesian government and the Freeport-McMoran company, which wants to capitalize on the vast mineral deposits found in the vicinity. Major changes have been brought to the highland Amungme and lowland Kamoro lifestyles by the Grasberg mine, located in the heart of Amungme territory and owned by Freeport-McMoRan, which is the largest source of livelihood for the region. Gold and copper have changed the natural landscape of the region, and the presence of the mine and infrastructure has attracted many other economic migrants from various parts of Indonesia including from other parts of the island of Papua, some of whom have tried to settle on traditional Amungme land. This has resulted in land disputes over customary land rights between the Amungme community and the migrants and the Freeport Indonesia mining company in Timika.

In the last 35 years, the Amungme have seen their sacred mountain destroyed by mining, and witnessed their relatives killed by the conflict between the Indonesian National Army and the Free Papua Organization, while the Kamoro have the problem of 200,000 tons of mining waste being pumped into their river every day.”[5] All these factors have created complex social and political pressures, and led to protests and social conflicts, some of which have been violently suppressed by the Indonesian police as well as the military.

The mountain used as a gold and copper mining center by PT Freeport Indonesia is a sacred mountain that is revered by the Amungme people, with the name Nemangkawi peak in Puncak Jaya. Nemang means arrow and kawi means holy. Nemang Kawi means holy arrow (war-free) peace and the Amungme region is called Amungsa.

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