ETHNONYM: Orang Maluku (Utara)
The Northern Moluccas constitute the original "Moluccas" sought out for millennia by foreigners for their cloves. Nowadays they form a subdivision of the province of Maluku in the Republic of Indonesia, with approximately half a million inhabitants spread over Halmahera, the Sula and Obi Islands, Bacan, Morotai, and a number of smaller islands. On two of these, Ternate and Tidore, powerful rival Muslim sultanates arose in pre-European times. Their influence reached at times as far as the Philippines, Sulawesi, New Guinea, and the islands in the Timor Sea. After a century-long struggle with the Portuguese and Spaniards in the 1500s, they eventually succumbed to Dutch colonial rule in the seventeenth century. Although strong island identities still exist, the inhabitants are united by their common Islamic faith and a "creole" culture, an amalgamation of many (locally somewhat divergent) indigenous and foreign traits. The Tobelorese on the northern peninsula of Halmahera are Protestant Christians; other pockets of Christianity exist elsewhere. Various "Alifuru" tribal groups in the interior of Halmahera still adhere to animistic religions. Austronesian languages are or were spoken throughout the region except on Ternate, Tidore, and northern Halmahera, where languages are spoken that constitute, together with those in the Bird's Head of West Irian, the West Papuan Phylum. Ternate-Malay is widespread and Bahasa Indonesia, the national language, has become the official means of communication. Besides the cultivation of cloves, the main economic pursuits are horticulture, fishing, and forestry.
See also Tobelorese
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