Who are the West Makian?

The West Makian are also called the Outer Makian. They live on the island of Makian except the east coast, which is inhabited by the East Makian or Inner Makian. Makian is part of the province of North Maluku. The Maluku Islands, historically called the “Spice Islands,” consist of over one thousand islands scattered throughout eastern Indonesia. They include most of the islands between Sulawesi and Papua, and between Timor and the Philippines.

Makian Island is mountainous and is the home of a volcano called Kei Besi, which has erupted several times and claimed many lives. In 1975, Mount Kei Besi erupted violently. This prompted the national and provincial governments to begin to relocate residents living near the volcano to the nearby island of Halmahera. As a result, many small communities of West Makian people live on the Kayoa islands, south of Makian.

The West Makian language, Jitinee, is part of the West Papuan language. The West Makian language is part of a larger language group called the North Halmahera.

What are their lives like?

Most West Makian are farmers. Primary crops include rice, corn, sweet potatoes, and vegetables. To fell trees, the Makian use short knives and axes. They use canes to plant rice and corn. They also catch fish for their daily needs. In the past, Makian Island was known for producing cloves and nutmeg.

One of the important customs of the Makian community is mayakalo, mutual cooperation in work – such as clearing forests, preparing farm land, building homes, wedding celebrations and funerals. The concept of mayakalo is clearly displayed in the movements of the Cawa dance.

What are their beliefs?

The Makian generally adhere to Islam. The influence of Islam is strongly evident in Makian arts, such as chanted recitation of prayer, the Salaijin dance, and recitation of the Qur’an. One can also see it in the debus performance which involves a display of magic. The debus performance is connected with an ancient ancestral system of supernatural power, which includes stabbing oneself without suffering harm.

What are their needs?

The West Makian need to improve their skills in agricultural technology in order to produce greater crop yields. They also need better infrastructure to improve transportation of their goods to markets, so their crops can sell for higher prices.

The West Makian also need better preventative medicine and adequate medical treatment. Because of the costs and distance, trips to seek medical attention are usually made as a last resort, and are often too late.

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