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Situated in the Special Region of Aceh the northernmost provincial-level unit of Sumatra, the more than four million Acehnese (2000 census) are most famous throughout the archipelago for their devotion to Islam and their militant resistance to colonial and republican rule. Renowned throughout the nineteenth century for their pepper plantations, most Acehnese were rice growers in the coastal region (...)

The approximately 65,000 Asmat people of the south-central alluvial swamps of Papua Province are descended from a Papuan racial group. They live in villages with populations that vary from 35 to 2,000. Until the 1950's, when greater numbers of outsiders arrived, warfare, headhunting, and cannibalism were constant features of their social life. Their houses were built along the bends of rivers so t (...)

Badui territory to the south of Rangkasbitung, West Java is a special interest for anthropologically minded. Approximately 3,000 of these reductive people live in 39 villages within the 51 sq. km by boundaries of Desa Kanekes. The Territory lies a little more than 35 km south of Rangkasbitung in hilly country ranging from 300 or 400 meters in height to maintain passes, near Gunung Kende (...)

There is probably no group in Indonesia more aware of its own ethnic identity than the nearly 3 million Balinese (2000 census). Inhabitants of the islands of Bali and Lombok and the western half of Sumbawa, Balinese are often portrayed as a graceful, poised, and aesthetically inclined people. Although such descriptions date back six centuries or more and are at least partially based on legend, thi (...)

The Batak, a colorful and notoriously forthright and aggressive people, inhabit a cluster of spectacularly beautiful and fertile volcanic basins at the northern end of the Bukit Barisan range, focusing around Lake Toba, with the huge island of Samosir at its center. There are about six million Batak, more than half of them live in the highlands surrounding Lake Toba, divided in a number (...)

The Betawi (Orang Betawi, or "people of Batavia") are the descendants of the people living around Batavia (the colonial name for Jakarta) from around the 17th century. The Betawis are mostly descended from various Southeast Asian ethnic groups, Portuguese and Dutch plus Arab, Chinese and Indian brought to or attracted to Batavia to meet labour needs, including people from various parts of Indonesi (...)

Identifying someone in Indonesia as a member of the Chinese (Tionghoa) ethnic group is not an easy matter, because physical characteristics, language, name, geographical location, and life-style of Chinese Indonesians are not always distinct from those of the rest of the population. Census figures do not record Chinese as a special group, and there are no simple racial criteria for membersh (...)

The first discoverers were surprised by the people which lived in the heart of Borneo at that time, and are named Dayak all together. Just like the modern travelers and tourist, European adventurers and ethnographers were mainly impressed about the big longhouses on pillars, and the remarkable and beautiful expressions of art and last but not least, the headhunting. That the Dayak were physically (...)

The Jambi people (also known as the Melayu Jambi) primarily live in four of the six districts that comprise the Jambi Province of central Sumatra. These districts are Tanjungjabung, Batanghari, Bungo-Tebo, and the capital city of Jambi. The Jambi language is a branch of the Melayu (Malay) language cluster. Their culture is greatly influenced by the Minangkabau culture. Most of th (...)

There were approximately 70 million Javanese in the early 1990s, the majority of whom lived in East Java and Central Java and the rest of whom lived on Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and other islands. Altogether, some 100 million people lived on Java. Although many Javanese expressed pride at the grand achievements of the illustrious courts of Surakarta and Yogyakarta and admired the traditional (...)

When asked briefly to describe the Kamoro people of Papua, celebrated photographer and ethnologist Kal Muller said: "The Kamoro people are lovers, not fighters." There are about 18,000 members of the Kamoro, one of dozens of tribal groups in Papua. They live in the southwest coastal area of Mimika regency in West Papua. Geographically, they are close to tribal groups like the Asmat, Amungme and Se (...)

I visited the area under the auspices of UNESCO in 1996, and did a survey of the area, but focussed on Kanum for documentation purposes. In 1998 I again went to the area for more general literacy work, and additional documentation work, funded this time by the Endangered Languages Fund ELF and the Foundation for Endangered Languages FEL. This time the work was not just with the Kanum,bu (...)

Originally from the eastern coast of Sumatera, the Kerinci fled from local Muslim Sultanates in an ancient war and moved into their existing homeland high in the Bukit Barisan Mountains near Mount Kerinci in West Sumatera and Lake Kerinci in Jambi. Although the highlands present challenges for living, intensive agriculture coupled with fishing has been sufficient to sustain sizeable indigenous pop (...)

The forest-dwelling Korowai, a Papuan tribe in the southeast of Papua (the former Dutch New Guinea), were forced to adapt their lifestyle to cope with the danger posed by a tribe of neighboring head-hunters, the Citak. They did this by building their houses at the tops of 40-meter high trees. A recent book about these tree-dwellers by two Dutch researchers, linguist Prof. Lourens J. de Vries and c (...)

Dutch colonial ethnographer Van Eerde noted that he could find no greater cultural contrast in Indonesia between the highly civilized people of Bali (with their lavish costumes, elegant dances and elaborate religious ceremonies) and the primitive Kubu tribesmen of southern Sumatra, who wandered naked in the jungle, lived in simple huts and foraged for food. However, if Van Eerde had the opportunit (...)

The Madurese also known as Orang Madura and Suku Madura are an ethnic group originally from the island of Madura but now found in many parts of Indonesia, where they are the third-largest ethnic group by population. Common features of most Madurese throughout the archipelago include Islamic religion and the use of the Madurese language. The Madurese are a religious ethnic, mostly joint (...)

Western Sumatera is the habitat of about four milion Minangkabau (normally called Minang), an energetic population which is known all over Indonesia for their strong relations, it's sharp mind of trading, hot kitchen and strong believe in Islam. The Minang are also travelers and migrants, because of their tradition of merantau, young people trying to find their luck elsewhere, it's most lik (...)

The Sasak-art never has been so popular as the art of their Balinese neighbors. There is some high-grade traditional art - weaving, making baskets and pottery - but never something that even equals the quality of the Balinese. Recent efforts to modernize the art, meant to produce for the tourist industry, has failed as well. Lombok was known for it's ikat, but the tourist doesn't (...)

Although there are many social, economic, and political similarities between the Javanese and Sundanese, differences abound. The Sundanese live principally in West Java, but their language is not intelligible to the Javanese. The more than 21 million Sundanese in 1992 had stronger ties to Islam than the Javanese, in terms of pesantren enrollment and religious affiliation. Although the S (...)


One minority group that has been successful in gaining national and international attention is the Toraja of central Sulawesi. This group's prominence, beginning in the 1980's, was due largely to the tourist industry, which was attracted to the region because of its picturesque villages and its spectacular mortuary rites involving the slaughter of water buffalo. Inhabiting the wet, rugg (...)

The Warembori language (locally: Waremboivoro) is spoken by the inhabitants of three villages along the northern coast of Papua, at and to the west of the mouth of the Mamberamo river, split between the districts (kabupaten) of Yapen-Waropen and Jayapura. It is (probably) a non-Austronesian language, and has not previously received any linguistic attention past the level of basic word list collect (...)

The Weyewa inhabit the western highlands of Sumba, Nusa Tenggara Timur Province, where they cultivate rice, corn, and cassava using slash-and-burn farming methods as well continuous irrigation of padi ('wet rice fields'). They supplement this income through the sale of livestock, coffee, and their distinctive brightly colored textiles. Until the 1970s, there had been relatively f (...)

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