Deep within Indonesia’s West Papua jungles lives a tribe known as the Korowai. They are said to be one of the most remote communities on earth. In fact, it is believed that they only first made contact with the outside world in the 1970s.
The Korowai tribe are believed to have been first discovered by the Western world in 1974, when a group of scientists wandered to a settlement, while exploring the region.
The researchers quickly noted down the basic social customs and interactions of the tribe, including their knowledge of fire making.
Another encounter took place in 2006, when tour guide and reporter Paul Rafaelle made contact with the tribe.
“But today the Korowai are among the very few tribes believed to eat human flesh,” wrote Rafaelle for a Smithsonian article.
“They live about 100 miles inland from the Arafura Sea, which is where Michael Rockefeller, a son of then-New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, disappeared in 1961 while collecting artifacts from another Papuan tribe; his body was never found.
“Most Korowai still live with little knowledge of the world beyond their homelands and frequently feud with one another. Some are said to kill and eat male witches they call khakhua.”
The Korowai believe in reincarnation and conduct animal sacrifices to please ancestors. They also believe that their ancestors are capable of coming back to the mortal world.
The men are excellent hunters and are experts at catching fish. The family structure is generally built upon the concept of men hunting and gathering food, with women taking care of the children.
The cannibalistic behavior ascribed to the tribe is said to be mostly rumors, or at worst, practices of the past, beyond which the tribe have evolved.
Women and children within the community face the threat of rival tribes trying to capture them and sell them into slavery.
As a response, many tribes have developed stilted huts, which rise above ground level and offer protection against attack from enemies.
A few members have started generating cash income by associating with tour operators from the cities. They take tourists around the community regions, thereby exposing the tribe to increased external influence.
It is believed that the Korowai tribe is a community, 3,000 strong. But at present, they are said to be facing multiple threats in the form of encroachment and exploitation by people from the cities. The government reportedly has passed a few measures to safeguard the tribe from external incursions.
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Photo credit: YouTube Screenshot | AquaTravel.