Toraja - Orientation

Identification. The Sa'dan Toraja reside in the highlands of the province of South Sulawesi in Indonesia, speak the Sa'dan Toraja (Tae' Toraja) dialect, and are predominantly Christians. As these Sulawesi highlanders have never developed their own writing system, most early references to the Toraja derive from the written records ( lontara ) of neighboring lowland Buginese (Bugis) and Makassarese kingdoms. There is general agreement among scholars that the name "Toraja" derives from Buginese, probably from "To-ri-aja," to meaning "people" and ri-aja meaning "upstream" or "above" (Sa'dan is the name of the region's major river). The Toraja began to adopt this externally imposed name only in the twentieth century.

Location. Most of the Sa'dan Toraja reside in the Indonesian regency of Tana Toraja. This district on the island of Sulawesi is 3,657 square kilometers in area and lies between 2°40′ and 3°25′ S and l19° 30′ and 120 ° 25 ' E. Tana Toraja Regency ranges from 300 to 2,884 meters above sea level. The climate is tropical, with a rainy season lasting from November until April.

Demography. In 1987 the population of Tana Toraja Regency was estimated as 346,113. Population density averages 84 per square kilometer. Figures are not available for the number of Sa'dan Torajans who have left their homeland to reside in the larger cities of Indonesia (the one exception is a 1973 estimate of 30,000 Toraja in Ujung Pandang).

Linguistic Affiliation. The Sa'dan Toraja speak Tae', an Austronesian language that is thought to be related to the neighboring languages of Duri and Buginese. Tae' has two levels of speech—a daily language and a high language of the priesthoods. Today, as citizens of Indonesia, most Toraja also speak Bahasa Indonesia.

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