The Dani Tribe, Papua


The Neolithic warriors and farmers, the Dani tribe, live in the high central range of Papua Island. Until the last decades of the 20th century the Dani tribes were some of the most isolated people of the world. They grew root crops, raised pig and used polished stone axes like their ancestors did since some 50000 years. They didn’t make pottery or use metal, so their technology was very much like that of the Neolithic of the Old and New Worlds. Some 250,000 Dani are living in the central mountains, many in small villages among the steep mountain slopes. Dani build round or oval huts, made out of straw and wood, which have thick thatched roofs to protect from rain. In the huts open fire places are used for cooking, keeping the huts warm and to get rid of the mosquitoes. Their villages are surrounded by fences or stone walls. They are farmers, and their small fields are distinctly bordered. The Dani men and women sleep separately in different huts (called honai), the men in one, women and children in another. Due to old traditions, sex is taboo for the women after giving birth, for 2 to 5 years. As the result the Dani raised fewer but healthier kids since the women’s focus is on babysitting during the first years of their kids life. This is one reason for the still existing polygamy, even though many Danis are Christians today.Dani Tribe Dani men are allowed to have more as many wifes as they can afford. A man should give 4-5 pigs to the girl’s parent he wants to marry. For Dani men, his social status are initiated by the number of wives and pigs he has.
preparing food at a pig feastOne of the main festivities in Dani culture is the Pig Feast, held for weddings, funerals or other important occasions. One or more pigs will be slaughtered (after being killed the traditional way with bow and arrow), prepared and cooked in a traditional earth oven. The whole village and quite often neighbors and guests are invited. The ceremony will take almost a whole day nd will end in sitting and talking until late in the afternoon. Sometimes tourists get an invitation, but it is also possible to arrange a (paid) Pig Feast, where traditional dances, mock-war are also shown. The Dani people will then wear their traditional clothes and paintings. The Dani often had to fight for their territory, between different villages or against the other tribes. That’s why they have been called the most dreaded head-hunting tribe of Papua. This is remarkable if we consider that they did not eat their enemies, like the majority of other Papuan tribes did. So let us go and meet some Dani. For more, contact us!