The famous tourist’s attraction is the ceremony of initiation or war training. A high wall is installed on the front of the house. During the initiation ceremony a youth is required to be able to jump over the wall. When he is able to pass this ceremony than he is considered as entering the full right in the society. The ceremony is called “zawozawo” Not less interesting is their housing architecture and pattern. Traditional villages such as Bawomataluwo and Hilisimaetano are not unfamiliar among world adventures, and anthropological researchers.
Their language is Malay-Polynesian with 3 dialects, but they understand each other. Since they do not introduce writing, their words’ vocabulary might changes throughout the decades have passed. On the west coast of Sumatra island there are many small islands inhabited by local people from unknown time such as Simalubek, Banyak, Nias, Batu, Siberut, Sipora, Pagai and Enggano.
The group of Nias island is the biggest among them and record was started that Nias people has been in trade relation with Aceh in 1669 which gave them an influence of Islam, While Christian just reached the island much later since 1874 especially in the town of gunung Sitoli, the Catholic came later in 1914 reached on the southern area of Nias islands. The development of population on Nias has been very fast, a record for 1914 was 130.000, in 1967 has been doubled to 300.000. According to the research by E.E.W.Gs Schroeder that before the arrival of Dutch trader in 1669 the Nias has been doing trade relation with Aceh, Chinese, Malay and the Bugis. The color of Nias people is more yellower then other people of Indonesia which origin is still not yet clear.
In general the language spoken by Nias people can be grouped as Malay-Polynesian stem, but the level of morphemic it is different from other Indonesian dialects. Their words do not introduce in the middle or at the end, which is called vocalist dialect. Also the use of O phoneme makes different from other dialects. Within the area of Nias itself there 2 dialects, one is used on northern area, and the other is on southern area. Nias island is the main island enclosed by other small islands such as Hinako, Senau, Safau and Batu islands. West beach of the islands is faced with strong wave of Indian Ocean and in the middle is mountainous with the highest peak of 886 m above sea level.
Most villages are in the difficult inner part of the island which is a clear technique for them in resistencing of the invader. The shape of it’s village mostly u-shape and the house of the head on the bottom of U. While on the west area the pattern of the village parallel house rows. The original house of they are 2 Nias is made on stilt with oval outline or quadrangular shape of basement. This is the traditional house of Nias which size is bigger then other families houses. The traditional house is divided into 2 part, the front functioned as place for receiving guest including guest for overnight, and inner part for the family and owner. At the front of the houses are menhirs, a megalithic construction made of stone in anthropomorphic and huge penis. Also stone altar at the front of the house which was used to organized a big feast in the past from the status increase their social status. In southern Nias villages stone jump altars still can be seen today, especially at Teluk Dalam village. This high jump was a training to the villages to jump over enemi’s wall or any high barriers during war.
Visitor see this tradition at the village called Bawomataluo and Hilisimaetano a village in Nias normally facilitated with water fountain which is used as public bathing place, while for water closed they built on their pig house. In the past they have many animistic constructions which have been change into churches and they still call it Osali. The main subsistence of Nias people is farmer both at highland and lowland. They use simple tools such as long knife, like sword, hues and stick. They don not know the use of plough sagged by cow or buffaloes as other parts of Indonesia. The Nias people use round knife like fingering to harvest by bare hands. They grow rice, tapioca, yam, beans, chili, corn, banana and other minor horticulture when go for hunting to protect their cultivation from wild animal such as wild pigs, squires, deer, fruit bats and others. They use net to trap the animal by driving them to their net using dogs. Other also sail to the sea for fishing or capture the fish using nets. Their most popular domesticated animal is pig, goats, and cow.
Nias was ever known as pig exporter in the recent decade, yet today their production has been really going down. Beside animal growing they also able to make tools in metal such as sword and long knife for arm with beautiful shape. Genealogy system of Nias is a big family called Sangambato which is consist of Senior family with families of their children. This Sangambato is a unit of economic life and based on patrilineal lineage. Bato is called Mado or Gana. Within a Mado or Gana member can not merry each other unless each of the couple can be proved that they genealogically already at least 10th generation, so Nias people has the marriage tradition of exogamy between Mado. The process of marriage in Nias tradition consist of many steps. First the parent of the youth will come to the family of the girl advising the intention of their son to marry their daughter, while bring girls’ family 3 pao gold (1 pao around 10 gram). As a change the family of the girl gives a bag of boiled pig meat. Three week after the family of the youth return the bag with boiled pig meat second step is the discussion to set us the date of marriage ceremony and the amount of payment in gold to girl’s parent. Third step is marriage ceremony, when a big number of pig are slaughtered for the invitees and big feast, which mean show up of wealthy. After finishing this ceremony then the bridge is brought to her husband house. The parent of the girl will 4 give this new couple one female pig and a sword as the first capital for them to build the family. When the couple has a child whom given a name for example “Hilo” then their relatives or neighbor will address they wife as Ama Hilo for the husband, and Ina Hilo for the wife.
Death ceremony is very important in Nias society, the same as Tiwah and Ngaben in Bali. This ceremony take a big vast. It can be a slaughating of 200-300 pigs during ceremony. But today, only certain person or family that still conduct this type of ceremony to show their Velethyness. In the past the people of Nias introduced social strata especially South Nias. Siulu or Nable, Ere or religious leaders, Ono Mbanera or Common people, and Sawuyu or Slave. Slaves that were capture of war or abduction were said to have been sacrificed during ancient ceremony. The Nias before they know foreign religion such as Christianity, Moslem and Buddhist they already have their original belief called Pelebegu. The Pelebegu is basically a worship of ancestor’s worship, yet there are also myth about time after death, pantheon and the status of human life elements such as they body and the spirit. When one died the body back into dust, and the spirit continue to live in the heaven what they call Teteholi Ana’a.
NIAS HAS BEEN DEVASTATED BY TSUNAMI ON SUDAY 09.00 WIB 26 DECEMBER 2004 OF 8.9 RICHTER SCALE EARTH QUAKE WHICH KILLED 228.000 PERSON INCLUDING ACEH PROVINCE, AND NORTH WEST BEACHES OF NORTH SUMATRA AND THE WEH ISLAND. AS A RESULT NIAS COULD NOT BE VISITED UNTIL THE TIME IT IS RECOVERED. SECOND QUAKE ON 28 MARCH 2005 OF 7.5 RICHTER SCALE HAS KILLED AT LEAST 8.000 PEOPLE OF NIAS AND LEFT HUNDREDS HOMLESS AND INJURED. The beautiful island and it’s people in Nias has been put in trial by the nature despite the fact that their life from beginning has been very difficult only based on the sea product managed traditionally and also their farming is not favourable. This is real irony of the nature that giving people the missery unlimited for their burden. It is the same as what has happened in Aceh. Aceh people is the most obedient Muslim people to the god ( Allah ) in the world. Might be they need to review what they have been so far.
Nias ceremonial stone jump.