Indonesia, or officially stated as the Republic of Indonesia, has been broadly known as a country with a multitude of ethnic and tribal groups which are rich in diversity. Although it is dominated by Mongoloid groups, other ethnic groups, including Melanesians also become the important part of the country.
As a matter of fact, Melanesians which occupy the eastern area in Indonesia, especially Papua, has arrived and inhabited the country for centuries ago. This fact surely makes Indonesia one of the countries in the world that has a large number population of Melanesians.
A Brief History of Melanesian
As the name infers, Melanesian refers to the people living in the area of Melanesia. The area itself spreads through a large group of islands located in the south part of Pacific Oceans which is popular by the term Oceania. To be exact, Melanesia lies around the southwestern part of Oceania, and it shares the neighboring borders with two other cultural areas, Polynesia and Micronesia.
Looking at the origin of the word, Melanesian can be defined as dark skin inhabitants who live on an island. The word derives from the words melas which means black, and nesoi, the Greek word for island. Melanesian is believed to have existed for about two to three hundred years ago.
One theory developed by the anthropologists holds that Melanesians come from the ancestors Proto-Australoids and Neanderthals, the middle Paleolithic human who formerly lived in the parts of Europe and Africa, before migrated to the area of Asia continent.
The Migration of Melanesian until Reaching the Eastern Part of Indonesia
Over fifty thousand years ago, groups of inhabitants which later identified as Melanesians migrated from their origin place to the south and east area of Asia, as well as some of the northwestern parts of Australia. The migration system followed the paths formed by the Ice Age effect. The ancestry of Melanesian developed new skills to voyage, hunter, gathering and agricultural, while continuing to occupy the new islands.
Nowadays, the Melanesian population grows largely in different areas across the region of Oceania. Countries and islands which are mostly inhabited by Melanesians include the eastern part of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, and several parts of Australia.
Following the migration route of Melanesian, Indonesia was included in the path where the tribal groups moved throughout the centuries. Early population of Melanesia was found in the eastern part of Indonesia, starting from thirty to forty years ago. It is proven by the relics found in Papua which spread along with other eastern areas in Indonesia.
Those artifacts and relics have been proved by the archeologists as well as confirmed by the anthropologists to be the historical evidence of Melanesian development in eastern Indonesia. They showed the way how Melanesians in Papua created an interaction with those who live in other areas in the eastern part of the country, for example, the inhabitants of Maluku Island.
Current Population of Melanesian in Indonesia
Encyclopedia Britannica has noted that in the early 21st century, the total population of Melanesia throughout the world reaches the number of 10 million people. In Indonesia, the Melanesian population is developed in two dominant ethnic groups: Papuans in the island of Papua, and Moluccan in Maluku Island. However, mixed populations of Melanesian are also found in other islands and areas which belong to the Indonesian archipelago, such as Flores and Sumba.
Before talking about statistic and number related to Melanesian Population, it is important to mention that in the current situation, Melanesian does not only revolve around the eastern parts of Indonesia—in Papua, Maluku, Flores, or so on. The Melanesian population also scattered through the rests of the area within the archipelago such as Java, Sumatera, and Sulawesi Island. Despite this, Melanesian is still lower in population number if it is compared to the local inhabitants in other islands.
Indonesians mostly descend from an Austronesian ancestry which is also related to the Southern Mongoloid ethnic groups. Meanwhile, Melanesian is the second majority ethnic groups living in the archipelago, especially in the eastern part. Most Melanesian in Indonesia has a genetic heritage of Australoid-Melanesian, meaning that the ethnic group is a mixed culture between early Melanesian populations that migrated to both Australia and Melanesia or Oceania.
Melanesian has become the indigenous race in the island of Papua, although because of the national transmigration program, the race population splits by other racial and ethnic groups who make a living in Papua. It is predicted in later years, that the population of Melanesian will take about 30% of total population in Indonesia.
In conclusion, regardless a wide variety of ethnic groups living in the country, both historical and current evidence shows that Indonesia remains a home to the Melanesian population. This also includes the Papuans who live on the easternmost island in the archipelago. Started from centuries ago, Melanesians who inhabit the