Ndani people / Parim
|Approximately 25,000 (2009)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Indonesia (Papua (province))|
|Dani languages, Indonesian language|
|Protestant Christian (predominantly), Islam, Animism, Dynamism (metaphysics), Totemism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Damal people, Yali people, Lani people, Moni people|
They are one of the most populous tribes in the highlands, and are found spread out through the highlands. The Dani are one of the most well-known ethnic groups in Papua, due to the relatively numerous tourists who visit the Baliem Valley area where they predominate. "Ndani" is the name given to the Baliem Valley people by the Moni people, and, while they don't call themselves Dani, they have been known as such since the 1926 Smithsonian Institution-Dutch Colonial Government expedition to New Guinea under Matthew Stirling who visited the Moni.
Linguists identify at least four sub-groupings of Dani languages:
The Dani languages differentiate only two basic colours, mili for cool/dark shades such as blue, green, and black, and mola for warm/light colours such as red, yellow, and white. This trait makes it an interesting field of research for language psychologists, e.g. Eleanor Rosch, eager to know whether there is a link between way of thought and language.
A small fringe group of the Dani, living south of Puncak Trikora and presenting themselves as the Pesegem and the Horip tribes, were met on October 29, 1909, by the Second South New Guinea Expedition led by Hendrikus Albertus Lorentz, who stayed several nights in their village. First contact with the populous Western Dani was made in October 1920 during the Central New Guinea Expedition, which group of explorers stayed for six months with them at their farms in the upper Swart River Valley (now Toli Valley). The Grand Valley Dani were only sighted in the summer of 1938 from an airplane by Richard Archbold.
Sweet potatoes are important in their local culture, being the most important tool used in bartering, especially in dowries. Likewise pig feasts are extremely important to celebrate events communally; the success of a feast, and that of a village big man (man of influence) or organiser, is often gauged by the number of pigs slaughtered.
The Dani use an earth oven method of cooking pig and their staple crops such as sweet potato, banana, and cassava. They heat some stones in a fire until they are extremely hot, then wrap cuts of meat and pieces of sweet potato or banana inside banana leaves. The food package is then lowered into a pit which has been lined with some of the hot stones described above, the remaining hot stones are then placed on top, and the pit is covered in grass and a cover to keep steam in. After a couple of hours the pit is opened and the food removed and eaten. Pigs are too valuable to be served regularly, and are reserved for special occasions only.
Ritual small-scale warfare between rival villages is integral to traditional Dani culture, with much time spent preparing weapons and treating resulting injuries. Typically the emphasis in battle is to insult the enemy and wound or kill token victims, as opposed to capturing territory or property or vanquishing the enemy village.
Changes in the Dani way of life over the past century are tied to the encroachment of modernity and globalization, despite tourist brochures describing trekking in the highlands with people from the 'stone age'. Observers have noted that pro-independence and anti-Indonesian sentiment tends to run higher in highland areas than for other areas of Papua. There are cases of abuses where Dani and other Papuans have been shot and/or imprisoned trying to raise the flag of West Papua, the Morning Star.
In 1961, as a member of the Harvard-Peabody study, filmmaker Robert Gardner began recording the Dani of the Baliem River Valley. In 1965, he created the film Dead Birds from this experience. Gardner emphasizes the themes of death and people-as-birds in Dani culture. "Dead birds" or "dead men" are terms the Dani use for the weapons and ornaments taken from the enemy during battle (wim). These trophies are displayed during the two-day dance of victory (edai) after an enemy is killed.
Michael Rockefeller, son of former vice-president of the United States Nelson Rockefeller, was a member of the Harvard-Peabody study and involved in the production of Dead Birds. While conducting further research on the Asmat people elsewhere in New Guinea, Michael Rockefeller disappeared. His body was never found.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dani.|