The Mentawaians live on the Mentawai archipelago that forms part of a chain of non-volcanic islands that are in Sumatra, Indonesia. There are four large islands in the group: Siberut, Sipora, and North and South Pagai. Until recently the islands were covered with dense, tropical rainforest.The landscape is hilly and interrupted by wide valleys. The Mentawai language is in the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian family. Mentawaian households are self-sufficient, cultivating sago, taro, yams, other vegetables, and fruit. They also raise chickens and pigs. The highest political group is the local patrilineage.
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Asia --Southeast Asia
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Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.
The Mentawaians file consists of 14 documents, 13 in English and one in German.These works deal with the ethnography of the inhabitants of the North and South Pagai Islands (probably the Poggy or Nassau Islands mentioned by Crisp)-- the Sakalagan or "people of the village", as well as the Sakalelegan or Sakoban of Sipora, and the Sakkudei (Sakuddei) people of Siberut. Loeb, Nooy-Palm, Wallace, and Crisp all focus their ethnographic works on the Pagai Islands and Sipora, while Schefold concentrates his studies on Siberut Island and the Sakkudei (Sakuddei) people. Although there is no single comprehensive work to cover all of the Mentawei Islands in this file, the documents by Crisp (1799, no. 1), Nooy-Palm (1968 reprint, no. 3), and Loeb (1929, 1928, nos. 2 and 5), do provide some general ethnographic coverage for the Pagai Islands and Sipora, comparably matched by Schefold's studies on Siberut Island (Schefold, 1982, 1988, 1980, 1986, nos. 6, 10, 14, and 15). Various aspects of Mentawaian religion forms a predominant theme in many of the works in this file, and are given particular attention in Loeb (1929, 1929, nos. 4 and 9), and Schefold (1982, 1988, 1976, 1980, nos. 6, 10, 12, and 13). Schefold's major work (Schefold, 1988, no. 10), in German, presents a highly detailed account of the PULIAIJAT ceremony of the Sakkkudei people. This document, although not translated into English, has been indexed for the appropriate OCM Identifiers according to subject matter. The study by Crisp is also of particular interest since it is one of the earliest records of contact between European and traditional Mentawaian cultures observed at the end of the eighteenth century.
For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.
The Mentawaian culture summary was written by Reimar Schefold in September 1999. Reimar Schefold also provided many of the bibliographic suggestions used in compiling this file. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in May 2000.
ABAK -- a dugout canoe -- category 501
BADJOU -- a type of radiation emitted by everything that has a soul -- category 774
BAGUNANS -- boasting stakes -- category 211
KERE -- supernatural power -- category 778
KETSAT (SANITU) -- souls of the dead -- category 775
KINA -- spirits of animate and inanimate objects (e.g., sacred objects) -- category 774
KUDDUAT PUNEN -- sacred knowledge -- category 778
LAGGAI (LANGGAI) -- the village -- category 621
LALEP -- family house -- category 342
LIA -- a family festival of short duration ending with a chicken sacrifice -- categories 782, 796, sometimes 852
MAGIRI -- the act of washing one's hair before a PUNEN ceremony -- category 783, 302
MUNTOGAT -- 25 exogamous patrilineal clans, divided into smaller units or households forming part of the UMA -- category 614
PANANAE -- a sorcerer -- category 754
PITTO -- a spirit that arises from the body of the dead -- category 775
PULIAIJAT -- the major religious ritual on Siberut -- category 796
PUMANDIAT -- a preliminary or trial form of marriage -- category 583
PUNEN -- a major religious festival in the Pagai Islands -- category 796
PUNEN PUENEGETAT -- the initiation of a new member of the UMA -- categories 621, 796, 592
RIMATA -- the priest of the UMA -- category 793
RUSUK -- a house used by single men and women -- category 342
SABULUNGAN -- the personal guardian spirits of shamans -- category 776
SAMUNTOGAT -- principal clans -- category 614
SIBAKKAT LAGGAI -- descendants of the founders of the village; also landholders -- categories 614, 621
SIKAUTE LULAK -- a substitute for a RIMATA in a ceremony -- category 793
SIKEREI -- the shaman -- category 756
SILIMEN -- a sacral meal made of cooked liver and taro -- categories 264, 778
SIMAGERE -- souls of the living -- category 774
SIPANANAE -- a witch -- category 754
TADROAT -- fetish sticks or omens -- category 787
TAITOI (sing. SITOI) -- newcomers to a village -- category 621
TEETEE -- tattooing -- category 304
UKUI -- the house father or head of the household -- category 592
UMA -- as a physical structure, categories 342, 345, 346; as a social unit, categories 621, 614, 596