Papua Barat – West Papua

History of West Papua


The development of the origin of the name of the island of Papua has had a long journey along with the history of interactions between foreign nations and the Papuan people, including local languages in interpreting the name Papua.

According to the Tidore language, the word Papo Ua means “not joined”, “not united”, or “not joined together”. This means that the Papua region is far away so it is not included in the main territory of the Tidore Sultanate even though these regions are still subject to and under the Tidore trade alliance called Uli Siwa. In its division, the region in Papua is divided into Korano Ngaruha or Raja Ampat Islands, Papo Ua Gamsio (Papua nine countries), and Mafor Soa Raha (Mafor Four Soa).

Another theory is that the name Papua comes from the Malay word papuwah, meaning “curly hair”. However, this word only entered the Malay dictionary in 1812 created by William Marsden which is not found in earlier dictionaries,  while in 16th century Portuguese and Spanish records, the word Papua was already used and only referred to the inhabitants of the Raja Ampat Islands and Bird’s Head Peninsula.

Based on this other theory according to F.C. This name Kamma could have come from the Biak Sup i Babwa language which is used to refer to the Raja Ampat Islands meaning the land below (sunset), which later became Papwa and then Papua.

Precolonial Era

Around the end of 500 AD, the Chinese gave it the name Tungki. This was known after they found a diary of a Chinese trader, Ghau Yu Kuan, which described that the origin of the spices they obtained came from Tungki, the name used by Chinese traders at that time for Papua.

Furthermore, at the end of 600 AD, the Srivijaya Kingdom called Papua using the name Janggi. In the book Kertagama 1365 written by Poet Mpu Prapanca, “Tungki” or “Janggi” is actually a misspelling obtained from a third party, namely the Chinese trader Chun Tjok Kwan, who on his trading trip had stopped at several places in Tidore and Papua.

In early 700 AD, Persian and Gujarati traders began to arrive in Papua, including traders from India. Their goal was to look for spices in this region after seeing the success of Chinese traders. These traders called the names of Papua Dwi Panta and Samudranta, which means the Edge of the Ocean and the Edge of the Ocean.

In the era of the Majapahit Kingdom (1293-1520), the Nagarakretagama Book written by Mpu Prapanca mentioned the area “Wanin” for the Onin Peninsula and “Sran” for the southern region of the Bomberai Peninsula. This expedition from Java is remembered by residents in various local stories on the southern coast of the Doberai Peninsula and the Bomberai Peninsula, from Patipi Bay, Rumbati to Kaimana.

Since at least the 15th century, Muslim traders from Southeast Asia, especially from various sultanates in Maluku, traded with Papua, forming exclusive trade relations and influencing the inhabitants of Papua, especially the West, until the 17th century. Like the leaders of the Raja Ampat Islands who visited Bacan in 1569 and received the title of forming a kingdom, as according to the local Biak story about the relationship between captain Waigeo Gurabesi and the expedition of the Sultan of Tidore, as well as several kingdoms on the Onin peninsula which received titles from Tidore Sultanate.

Colonial Era

On June 13, 1545, Ortiz de Retez, a Spanish traveler, left Tidore and sailed towards the north coast of the island of Papua, and then he followed the downstream of the Mamberamo River. He declared the region to be the property of the King of Spain. He gave the name Nueva Guinea (New Guinea) because of the similarity of the inhabitants of the region to the inhabitants of the coast of Guinea in West Africa.

In an effort to strengthen its position in Papua, in 1770, the Dutch changed the name of Papua to Nieuw Guinea which was a translation into Dutch of Gova Guinea or Nova Guinea and was published in an international map published by Isaac Tiron, a Dutch cartographer in the 19th century. 18th. With its inclusion on the map, this area became increasingly famous in European countries.

In 1774, Dutch rule over Papua fell into British hands. Where in 1775, the captain of the ship La Tartare, Captain Forrest from England anchored in Manokwari, Doreri Bay, and in 1793, Papua became his new colony. Based on orders from the British Governor based in Maluku, they began to divide the island and build Fort Coronation in Doreri Bay. However, Kamaludin Syah, the Sultan of Tidore who ruled over the entire Tidore Sultanate (where the western island of Papua was claimed to be part of his Dutch territory) opposed its establishment, so in 1814, the British left Papua.