Ata Sikka - Orientation

Identification. The Ata Sikka ( ata, "people," "man"), or Sikkanese, are the people of east-central Flores, an Indonesian island, and are located between Lio and Larantuka. Specifically, the name "Sikka" refers to Sikka Natar, the "village of Sikka" on the south coast, the seat of a Portuguese-Christian native rule between the early seventeenth century and 1954. More generally, the term "Sikka" has been applied to the domain under the rule of the raja of Sikka; to the territories claimed by the tributary mountain domains of Nita and Kangae (which were amalgamated with the domain of Sikka in 1929); and, most generally, to all the lands claimed by these three domains, an area roughly equivalent to the former Dutch onderafdeling of Maumere and the present Indonesian administrative region of Kabupaten (regency of) Sikka. The majority of Ata Sikka are concentrated in the western part of their territory. The dialect and customs of the Ata Tana 'Ai of the eastern mountains of Kabupaten Sikka are sufficiently divergent to merit separate description. The terms "Krowé" and "Ata Krowé" have been used by Ata Sikka and commentators alike to refer (a) to the people in the vicinity of Maumere, the port town and administrative center on the north coast; (b) to pagans as opposed to Christians ( ata serani ) ; and (c) generally to the once non-Christian mountain peoples (Ata 'Iwang) from Nele to Tana 'Ai, including all of those of the subaltern rajadom of Kangae. It is difficult to ascertain whether the term "Krowé" once referred to a separate ethnic group. The administrative adjustments in this century that made the Sikka territory coincident with the Maumere region provided official Sikkanese control over the western border area of Maumere with a large Lionese population.

Location. The Ata Sikka occupy both the mountains and the coastal stretches of the region of Sikka, a territory extending from the north to the south coast of east-central Flores and roughly from the village of Talibura on the eastern north coast to the river Nanga Bloh in the west (8°30′ to 8°47′ S; 122°02′ to 122°37′ E). A broken, eroded, and irregular terrain, a sharp contrast between coast and mountain, and erratic monsoons with a long dry season produce considerable climatic variation. Since the soil is porous and rivers are few, crops are dependent on irregular rainfall. A major problem for all of western Sikka is the lack of sufficient, well-located drinking water.

Demography. The national census of 1980 put the total population of the regency of Sikka at 219,650. This number includes approximately 175,000 people who speak Sara Sikka, the Sikkanese language. The remaining inhabitants are Lionese, who reside mainly in the western part of the district, and Ata Muhang, Lamaholot-speaking people who inhabit the far northeastern region of the district.

Linguistic Affiliation. Sara (way, language) Sikka is an Austronesian language that Wurm and Hattori (1983) include in the Flores-Lembata (Lomblen) Subgroup, Timor Area Group of the Austronesian languages of the Lesser Sunda Islands and Timor. At least three dialects of Sara Sikka can be identified: ( 1 ) that spoken by the people in the region of Sikka Natar, the village of Sikka on the south coast of Flores; (2) Sara Krowé, which is spoken in the central hills of the regency of Sikka; and (3) Sara Tana 'Ai, which is spoken by approximately 6,000 people.

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