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Wamena, Papua

Wamena City (photo:

Wamena comes from the Dani language which consists of two words “Wam” and “Ena”, which means “Tame Pig”.

Wamena is the capital of Jayawijaya Regency, Papua Province.

Located in a valley and crossed by the Baliem River, and flanked by the Jayawijaya Mountains in the south.

Wamena was originally named Ahumpua, which is an area that does not know science or religion.

The Ahumpua girls every day have an obligation to look after the piglets from morning to noon on the banks of the Baliem River.

One day, the girls saw a white person crossing the bank of the Baliem River.

Baliem River, Wamena

Feeling foreign and threatened, the girls were frightened and ran into the forest.

Knowing that the girls were afraid of him, Ap Haluan (the white name for the Ahumpua people) stood away and signaled not to be afraid.

One person from the girl who was quite brave, started to approach Ap Bow and inquired about the name of the area.

At the same time a pig appeared so the girl thought Ap Haluan was asking this and answered ‘Tu Wamena’ which means piglet.

One day when the Dutch came and took control of Ahumpua and made a settlement in Ahumpua.

However, the name of the area has been changed to Wamena.

Habema Lake, Wamena City

Alternative History of Wamena

No one knows for sure when Wamena was first used as the name of a city in the Balim Valley and that was due to the lack of authentic data sources that could be used as a basis for observation and field testing whether Wamena was taken from one of the place names in the Balim Valley or from one an intermediary language among the people who inhabit this valley.

Baliem Valley

The name Wamena can then be traced from some of the information that was written by missionaries who had been on expeditions in this area by submitting written data and oral information that was collected at a workshop/seminar on the anniversary of Wamena City on November 4, 1996.

Excerpts of the information are as follows:

In 1959 the Dutch government entered the Balim valley through the airport in Hitigima and opened its center in Wesaput (estuary of Kali Wesak = Wesagaput = Wesaput) with the first head of the Dutch Government (controller) being Mr. Velkamp. His first task was to build an airfield near the Uwe River (Uweima). Regarding the origin and meaning of the name ‘Wamena’, there are several opinions, some say that the real name is Uweima (from the name of the river Uwe + i + ma = on the edge of the river Uwe), which is then mispronounced by the newcomers to be Wamena.

That opinion is not necessarily true because in the map made by the Archbol expedition (1938) the Uwe time is also called Wamena.

While in another version the name “Wamena” by A. Akua explains in his book that the Wio people (a name commonly used for the Balim valley area) themselves do not know a place with the name Wamena and that the name was given in 1957-1958 by Pastor Jerry Rose, who lives near the airfield, acts as a caretaker for CAMA’s belongings.

One day he saw Kain Wenehule Hubi’s biological mother, Toarekhe Itlay suckling her piglet and said, “Yi wam ena oo…” (this is a pet pig), so she called the place “Wamena”.

The explanation above does not convince the author of this book for the following reasons: according to records in the archives of the Catholic Church, the CAMA (Reverend Rose) began domiciled in Wamena in September 1960 and not in 1957-1958, then is it true that the women of Balim breastfeed their beloved piglet like a baby?

Of course this is not true. This story gives outsiders a wrong picture of the Balinese, after all, the name Wamena did not appear for the first time in 1957-1958. The name was mentioned in the Archbold Expedition in 1938 as an alternative name for the Uwe river.

In the continuation of his letter as mentioned above, Frits Veldkamp said that during the Archbold expedition on August 26, 1938 the group crossed a small stream on the slopes of Mount Trikora at an altitude of 3,150 meters, which was named “Wamena”. The Welsh people confirm the existence of this small river but its name is not Wamena but “Wamela”.

Mount Trikora

Apparently members of the expedition had misheard and recorded “Wamena”. The small river flows to Balim river through Uwe river. Due to this error, the Archbold expedition gave two names to the same river, namely Uwe and Wamena (the rivers flowing from Welesi to Balim rivers are called Uwe rivers and Wamena rivers) on maps made by the Archbold expedition published in May 1939.

Therefore, since the beginning of their arrival, the Dutch government used the name “Wamena” for their post in the Balim valley, which was taken from the name of the Wamena/Uwe river.

Uwe River

From the results of interviews with 24 respondents at the Saresehan on the anniversary of the city of Wamena in November 1996, most of them stated that they did not know where the name Wamena was taken to serve as the capital of Jayawijaya Regency, while only four people stated that they knew about the origin of the name Wamena.

According to these four people, they said that the name Wamena was taken from a dialogue between Fritz Velkamp and his assistant who was taking care of the cattle in the barn. Fritz Velkamp asked: What are you doing? The maid replied “An Wam Ena.” From this conversation then F. Velkamp published the name of this place Wamena.

From several sources, the information above shows that the word Wamena has existed for a long time and is used until now and can be accepted by all people in the Balim Valley, which was later enshrined as the capital of Jayawijaya Regency.

After the arrival of Drs. Frits Veldkamp who brought the Government mission on December 10, 1956, gradually the Balim / Wamena Valley area began to be known both at the Dutch Government level and among missionaries, and did not miss the Catholic missionaries who set their first day in the Balim Valley on February 5, 1958 the Catholic Church entered in Wamena area.

With the presence of the Government and the missionaries, in the period 1954 to 1960, all communities in the Balim/Dani Valley began to make contact with the outside world, which resulted in a change in life from traditional to radical changes in social structure, daily activities. day and in the view of nationality and the identity of the Dani people.

Dani Tribe (photo:

The peak of the Dani struggle was on May 1, 1963, when West Irian officially returned to the lap of the Republic of Indonesia, and from that moment on, government administration services had shifted from the Dutch East Indies to the Government of the Republic of Indonesia.




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This Blog has gone through many obstacles and attacks from violent Free West Papua separatist supporters and ultra nationalist Indonesian since 2007. However, it has remained throughout a time devouring thoughts of how to bring peace to Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia.

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