Identification. Niasans inhabit the traditional homeland of the island of Nias, as well as the Batu Islands (which were settled from South Nias) and Hinako off the west coast of Nias. The name "Nias" is probably a foreign corruption of the indigenous name for the island, "Tanö Niha" (the land of men).
Location. Nias is located between 0° 30′ and l° 30′ N and 97° 00′ and 98° 00′ E, about 120 kilometers west of Sumatra, in Indonesia. It has an area of 5,450 square kilometers. The Batu Islands are a cluster of small islets 80 kilometers southeast, between Nias and Mentawai. The interior of Nias consists of forested hills up to 866 meters high. With 200-250 rainy days annually there are no distinct wet or dry seasons, although rain is heaviest from October to December.
Demography. In 1985 the population was estimated to be over 531,000 (including 22,583 in the Batu Islands) with an average density of 94.5 persons per square kilometer and an annual population growth of 2.6 percent.
Linguistic Affiliation. Nias belongs to the Western Malayo-Polynesian Branch of the Austronesian Language Family. Further research is needed to establish a subgrouping of Nias with other related languages, but attempts have been made to link it with Mentawai and Toba Batak. The language ( li niha: "the language of men") has five dialects, with a broad division between South Nias and the rest of the island. Batu Islanders speak the southern dialect. The Bible was translated into a northern dialect, and this has become the standard form. Bahasa Indonesia, the language of government bureaucracy and education, is not widely known among ordinary villagers.