Momuna Tribe has a very similar culture to Korowai Tribe− a well-known tribe unique to living in tree houses in the rural rainforests of Papua. The Korowai tribe are spread over three administrative areas: Boven Digoel, Mappi, and Asmat. While Momuna tribe, in the lowlands of the city of Dekai, Yahukimo. Yahukimo is actually an abbreviation of the four main tribes living in this small town: Yali, Hubla, KImyal, Momuna.
However, as years gone by, the people of Momuna tribe are rarely living in the tree houses and with the social assistance of Yahukimo district government, they are moving to live in regular houses. Even then, efforts to build the “buku subu” remain to attract local and domestic tourists to visit their village outside of Dekai, Yahukimo Regency.
Adventure Carstensz Team took the time to survey the potential Yahukimo has of becoming one of the tourism spots of Papua. To gain insight into this already evolving city, Adventure Carstensz sent their team to see for themselves if there were any possible hidden capabilities this city has that they can develop.
Driving to the entrance of the track, the team had no doubt that this village was truly in the middle of the jungle. There was a small rural area with many houses, must have been the houses the district government built. Some of the locals were curious and went to see the team prepare their gear. The local guide gave the instructions and they all started heading to the track. Due to the rain, the track to the village had been muddy and if it hadn’t for their mud boots, the trekking would’ve taken more than the usual 60 minutes to finally reach Massi Village. Walking over toppled trees and heavy current rivers, the team managed to get by with the help of the local guide and the son of Chief of Momuna. The Momuna tribe welcomed us with open arms as they greeted us with smiles and showing us around their houses made of nothing but the cut-down trees visible around the house. You could tell by the shake of their roughened palms that there is no doubt they built these houses. The atmosphere was very conventional. Not far from a visit to the past.
After settling in and setting up tent, the team had a little chat with the Chief and his family. The Chief’s firstborn, still in his 20s, was enthusiastic about the tourism developed in his village. He had a favor to ask the team, “Take a lot of pictures of my tribe, document this, let the world know we exist.” he declared.
The team noticed the tribe did not rely on rice, that this tribe’s way of surviving might as well be one of the last hunters and gatherers culture left on earth. The husbands sitting out in the porch barefoot adding the final touches to their bow and sharpening their arrows while their wives gather bananas and making a fire inside the house preparing a light meal for the evening hunt.
Momuna tribe’s staple food is Sago, a starch extracted from the spongy center of various tropical palm stems. Containing nearly pure carbohydrate, it produces enough energy for them to not rely on any other primary meals. Other than sago, the hunters go in the evening in the hunt of kuskus− a marsupial mammal, similar to a tree kangaroo. Cassowaries and wild boars are also a part of what they hunt. The team went along with the hunters to maybe get a chance of witnessing a live hunt but unfortunately there was no luck.
Within two days, the team and the family have gotten along well enough that the tribe considered them as one of their members. Looking after one another, asking each other if they had enough for dinner, sharing meals and slipping in a photo op in between all while telling little bits of history of the tribe. In fact, in 1973, the Chief’s great-grandfather’s house was where a missionary landed with a helicopter and started teaching the ways of being a Christian throughout Momuna tribe. A bible school was established and that was where Momuna tribe at once started learning to speak the Indonesian language.
When it was time for the team to leave, Chief Noni seemed unready to watch the team leave. He was just starting to feel as if they were his children and someone new to look after. As the team left, one of his sons translated what Chief Noni was saying under his breath, “Make sure you come back soon, he misses you already”, with that the team took one last look at the small area and waved to the Chief. Meanwhile, the mothers and daughters wanted to come along with the team and say their goodbyes at the entrance.
A visit to the past is an eye-opening experience. Seeing how much joy is in an environment so unproblematic and so pure with simplicity. It opens your heart to a whole new form of appreciation. Leaving Massi Village and the Momuna tribe, filling them with the hope that Adventure Carstensz as a tour operator will bring more tourists to bond with this humble culture of theirs.