ETHNONYM: Orang Maluku (Tenggara)
This far-flung island region between New Guinea and Timor is part of the province of Maluku in the Republic of Indonesia. In this thinly inhabited region, Protestant Christians make up more than half of the population, while the rest is about evenly split between adherents of Roman Catholicism and Islam. Indigenous religious beliefs in nature deities and ancestor spirits still exist. The roughly 250,000 inhabitants are interspersed over three main island groups, Tanimbar, Aru, and Kai, and smaller islands like Babar, Leti, Wetar, Romang, Luang-Sermata, Damar, and Kisar. Beginning in 1978 the populations of Teun, Nila, and Serua have been forcibly removed to Ceram (Central Moluccas), ostensibly to protect them from volcanic activities. Many Austronesian languages are spoken in the area, and often several mutually unintelligible languages are used within one ethnic group, as on Tanimbar. Horticulture and fishing are the main modes of subsistence. Pearls are cultivated at Dobo (Aru islands). Weaving is practiced by women on Tanimbar. The area has remained largely isolated and fairly unimportant economically, and social change has been relatively slow. Ethnographically it is still largely unexplored, although its affinal marriage systems have received much attention. Formerly headhunting was common. There are evident cultural and historical affinities with New Guinea and Timor; the Ambonese of the central Moluccas, who came as administrators, missionaries, and educators, left a strong cultural imprint. The overall cultural picture is quite heterogeneous. The most unique feature is a caste system in the Kai Islands.
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