Papua is an area in Indonesia with a variety of indigenous tribes. One of the indigenous Papuan tribes that is unique is the Korowai tribe. This tribe inhabits the Kaibar area, Mappi Regency, Papua. Their population currently stands at about 3000 people.
The existence of this Korowai tribe has been confirmed for the first time by a Christian missionary named Johanes Veldhuizen about 35 years ago. The uniqueness of the Korowai tribe is that it has a tall building architecture. Sukku Korowai is able to make houses on trees with heights reaching 15 meters to 50 meters.
According to the cultural tradition of the tribe, the construction of houses on trees aims to avoid wild animals and also interference from evil spirits, this tribe is afraid of attacks by “laleo” or cruel demons. It is said that laleo is a creature that walks like a living corpse and roams at night.
The term laleo is intended for all foreigners who do not belong to their residents, even other Papuans can be referred to by the nickname laleo. They believe that, the taller the house they make, the more they will be protected from evil spirits.
Regardless of all these reasons, the Korowai people really value local wisdom and heritage. Therefore, they must protect and preserve the inheritance of their ancestors, which must be carried out, so that they will still feel comfortable and safe even though they have to struggle to climb high trees.
In making these traditional houses, the Korowai tribe does not just choose trees. The tree that is chosen is a large and sturdy tree to serve as the foundation for their house, then the top of the tree is shaved and used as a place to live for their house.
All the materials used for the construction of this tall house are made of natural materials, the frame of the house is made of small logs, while the floor uses tree branches. Then, they used the bark of the sago palm and forest leaves for the walls and roof of their houses. After that, all the materials are tied using a rope that comes from a strong branch or root.
Usually, making this tree house can take about seven days, because this tribe still adheres to the customs of their ancestors, so that before building the house the Korowai tribe will perform night rituals first to ward off evil spirits. This tree house usually only lasts up to three years, this is because their house only uses natural materials.
They use the dense forest as an element of life, while animals such as pigs and coyotes are used as pets of the Korowai tribe. For them, pigs have social value and will only be killed during rituals and special occasions, while their dogs are used as animals for hunting.
The Korowai people occupy a forest area about 150 kilometers from the Arafura Sea. They are hunters and gatherers who have skills in survival. Until around 1975, Korowai only knew each other and had almost no contact with the outside world. This tribe maintains the preservation of nature and the balance of human relationships.
So, local wisdom is the best legacy from the ancestors to know someone’s identity.