Alorese - History and Cultural Relations

Early historical records for the island are scarce. Alorese residing in the interior of the island remained relatively isolated up until Indonesian independence. For centuries these indigenous Alorese lived in autonomous and at times mutually hostile mountain villages; political organization probably did not exist beyond the village level. The coastal populations have a longer history of ties with the outside world than groups in the interior of the island. It is believed that Javanese aristocrats from the Madjapahit kingdom settled on the coast and intermarried with the local population. Once a Portuguese holding, Alor was relinquished to the Dutch in 1854. Shortly thereafter, in the late nineteenth century, several new groups began to arrive on the coast. The Dutch invasion of South Sulawesi prompted a number of Buginese and Makassarese to flee to Alor. Chinese merchants also began trading activities on the coast at this time. It was not until the arrival of the first Dutch official circa 1908 that individuals on the coast were designated "rajahs" and given title to the interior of the island. According to DuBois the impact of this new political structure on the people of the interior was minimal. Save for some trade relations with coastal peoples, highland political organization continued to be at the village level. The region was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. Following that war, the region was declared a part of the new nation of Indonesia. Protestant missionaries arrived in the 1940s, followed by Catholic missionaries in subsequent decades.

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