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The Mentawais

Mentawai tribe

The Mentawais

The Mentawais living in an ‘Uma’ or a long house with 2 – 5 families in the same roof, the house can be live by some 20ish people in a family. Chief of a house or a settlement or they call ‘Sikerei’ is the chief, head of the family, and the doctor, witch doctor, and ritual leader. Social structures seems to be hold entirely by the Sikerei solely, from the medicine, curing bite with traditional medicine that he said always works, welcoming or refusing guests, and make hunting blessing and any daily life decisions.

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The Mentawais tribe live together in a house with other 2-5 families because in the past the will reject other than their own family and to protect themselves from animals and enemies. One settlement complex usually has only one Uma. Distance between one Uma to other could be 1-2 hours walk.

The remote upriver Mentawais are still wearing bark (tree skin) clothes daily and still make their living from the jungle, hunt, starch farming, and netting for fish when rain only when river flooded. But mainly they hunt. The man went out to jungle for 1-3 days until they have their target and bring back to the Uma to eat together with whole family member for their daily meals.
They are making their own arrow’s poison with herbs and leaves from the jungle tree, this herbs are to put on the tip of their arrow before hunting. The use to tattoo their body with their hunted animals. The Uma house collect and keep the skull of the hunted animals and bless them with their belief to make it more magically strong and attract other animals to be hunted.

Mentawais forbid marriage with their own Uma member, they have to marry with other Uma member.  They have ritual of sharpening teeth, marriage, blessing before entering the jungle to hunt (monkey/wild boar/practically anything they can get). When a Mentawais man considered as adult (15 y.0) they will asked to hunt in the jungle and they can marry bride that match-made by Sikerei with other Uma’s Sikerei. In the wedding party they will cook pig and the wedding party invites all other Sikerei in the nearby Umas to come over.

The Mentawais living in the Mentawais archipelagos. The islands chain consist of 4 main island, Siberut (National Park), Sipora (with airport), Pagai Utara and Pagai Selatan. The tribes mostly live in the northern island, Sibereut island with canoe ride for some 6-8 hours upstream.

Teeth carving

The women at Mentawai must thru these ceremony when they married. Their teeth must be form in the form of triangle, or lookslike a fang.

The process done manually without any anesthesia, a chisel and hammered slowly with a piece of wood, the inauguration done by a ‘Sikerei’ or a shaman of the tribe