(By: Aristides katoppo)
Translated by : Cherie Nursalim
Sinar Harapan – In a series they appear, running fast, from behind the bushes in the narrow traps. Everyone holds the tumbak or bow and arrow in the hand. The faces of each of them were all spiked with shiny white and black and shiny in the sun.
For a moment my heart was pounding in shock, shocked, meeting the Dani soldiers who were wearing the “uniform” of the war. Greetings best friends I require by hand.
“Ndagldak”, said the leader of the group, who walked ahead. “Ndagldak” I said, tongue free with difficulty trying to make the right sound. The effect of saying words is not playing big benefits.
In that instant the tense atmosphere that included the sudden aging vanished. It felt like their weapons were not held so tightly anymore.
The inhabitants of the highlands approached slowly. Then, one by one they passed by embracing me with no arms. All are athletically well-built in stature “how fortunate we have such Asian Games seeds”, I thought.
Everyone repeats the word “ndagldak”, then they move on to accelerate. “Going over their steps?”
When I left the “Christian and Missionary Alliance” missionary post in Pyramid, in the northern highlands of the Great Balim Valley, in the central mountains of West Irian, the greetings were ordered to me before I went to inspect the surrounding villages. “Ndagldak” in the local dialect is not a sound of supernatural meaning it is simply “Friend”, the word is used by the villagers around Pyramid as a greeting congratulations signifying there is no intention of hostility.
In Lembah Balim, such a statement is important because the war between villages is still rampant up to now. From century to century these inhabitants of the highlands knew no other life.
Their disputes up to now as usual have always been resolved with arrows. In their battles, the human soul is worthless, all the poor enemies are trapped, killed, old men, babies or women without exception.
After such a dramatic confrontation with the modest human, while continuing to go alone to the village, I unconsciously contemplate the way of life of the people who are still alive at the level of adab, the true stone age culture.
What mistakes people in Jakarta make about the lives of primitive tribes in the interior.
They are indeed still alive in a state completely naked, the only “clothes” covering the genitalia for men is a piece of cylindrical cassava skin, women wearing a loincloth made from grass or a rope made from tree bark.
However, their character was not savage or ferocious except perhaps in war. The primitive tribes, if they disagree, still kill, but in their daily lives when approached as a friend, it turns out people who are friendly.
The tribes are backward but not wild as often imagined in films or sensational compositions. The custom of beheading and cannibalism, as reportedly, is sometimes still practiced by some Asmat tribes, in the area of Agats’s stature, I was not found at all among the mountain tribes that lived in the valleys in the central mountains shaded by snow peaks.
Inland mountain tribes are farming and eating batata and taro. They keep Pigs. In the Jalimo area, surprisingly tobacco was also planted.
In their own village environment, living together in harmony, they already know the marriage institute.
My experience during my visit to the highlands around Balim was that a newcomer there was no need to be afraid as long as he knew what the local greeting said. But from one place to another the language dialect is different. For example, around Karupaka (Swart Valley), which is located only about 15 minutes flying by Czesna plane from Pyramid (two three-day walk on terrein with steep hills), greeting is not “ndagldak” but “ndore” which means also Friend. In Bokondini, also in the highlands of the snow mountains, the greeting is “Nekawe”, in the Maki valley north of Balim “Kaona”, around Wamena in the valley of Raja Balim “Najak” and around the Jalimo “Nare” valley. Each dialect differs from place to place.
All of these words mean friend or friend, enough as a visa to enter the various regions safely. Only, one thing that must be considered by every new visitor, namely, the boundaries of war between hostile villages.
Several times when I was walking from my village, my guide was not willing to cross a river or go to a certain area because it seemed that the tribal area was also hostile. Usually if such a thing happens the journey is forced to continue alone until the “enemy” village is reached, where a new guide can be obtained. And even then only to the “limit of war” with the next village, and so on. The risk is that the visitor is thought to be an ally friend from the original village.