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ETHNONYMS: 'Ata Ende, 'Ata Jaö, Orang Ende


Identification. The most popular word in the literature for the people around the central part of Flores has been the "Endenese" or (in Indonesian) "Orang Ende." The people who can be referred to as "Endenese" may be divided into two groups in terms of culture and religion. One is the coastal Endenese, who have been under the influence of Islam. Their culture is an amalgam of traditional features and foreign elements. The other is the mountain Endenese. It is with these people that this cultural summary mainly deals.

Location. The Endenese live in the central part of the island of Flores in eastern Indonesia. The administrative division in which they reside, Kabupaten Endeh (or Ende Regency), is located between 8° and 9° S and between 121° and 122° E. Flores is one of the three biggest islands in Nusa Tenggara Timur (the eastern Southeast Archipelago), Sumba and Timor being the other two. Roughly speaking, the mountain area that runs along an east-west axis through the island divides central Flores into two parts: the north coast and the south coast, a division that is also pertinent to the cultural geography of the people. Flores is located in one of the typical monsoon regions. The wet west monsoon (with northwest wind) begins around December or January and ends in March or April. The dry east monsoon (southeast wind) begins in May or June and ends in October or November. The west monsoon brings rain, which, however, rarely amounts to more than 200 centimeters annually in the central part of Flores. The dry season is also marked by relatively few clouds, yet in the transitional period from the west to the east monsoon (i.e., between May and July) there are abundant clouds (kubhu kuu ). The western part of Flores (Manggarai, Ngada) is the wettest, and the north coast tends to be drier than the south coast. The average annual rainfall in Endeh (on the south coast) in the years from 1879 to 1928 was 113.8 centimeters (ninety-one rainy days) and the average rainfall in Maumere (on the north coast) in the same years was only 95.4 centimeters (sixty-seven rainy days).

Demography. In view of the small area they occupy, the coastal Endenese are relatively numerous, with an approximate population of 43,000. A rough estimate of the mountain Endenese population would be 20,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. The language of central Flores belongs to the Bima-Sumba Group of Western Austronesian.

History and Cultural Relations

Before the arrival of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, the island of Flores already had been used as a trading port by the Javanese (especially for the sandalwood derived from Timor). The Portuguese arrived at Melaka (Malacca) in 1511 and the first bishop in Melaka sent three missionaries to Solor, a small island off the east coast of Flores. Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Islam is said to have come to Ende. Thus, in the sixteenth century, the island of Flores was a battlefield between the Islamic forces and the Portuguese. Then in the seventeenth century, a third force came onto the scene; namely, the Dutch East India Company, which was established in 1602. In 1613, a Dutch fleet under the command of Apollonius Scot sailed through the islands in the eastern part of Indonesia. Before arriving at Kupang, Scot went to Solor and attacked the fortress there, taking it from the Portuguese. In the decades between 1610 and 1640, the Portuguese in Larantuka and the Dutch on Solor played a kind of seesaw game, which in the long run turned in favor of the Dutch. The fortress on Pulau Ende had been destroyed in the 1620s. After that incident the city of Endeh, where the raj adorn of Ende may already have formed itself, replaced Pulau Ende as a focal point in central Flores. Around this time the Portuguese influence over the area was waning. The Dutch East India Company selected Ende as a rajadom and concluded a formal contract in 1793. The company's involvement in eastern Indonesia ended in 1799 when its charter expired and was replaced by Dutch colonial rule. Prior to 1907, the Dutch principle of government had been minimal direct involvement. In 1907, military reinforcement came from Kupang, and the whole land of Flores was pacified by military force.


One mountain Endenese village, in general, consists of ten to twenty houses, each of which used to include one extended family (married brothers, adopted daughter-in-lawthe would-be wife of a sonand dependents such as those who could not pay their bride-wealth). Today, each house contains only a nuclear family. Houses are constructed around the village yard (wewa ). Ideally, a village has an altar or a set of altars, called tubu musu ora nata, in the center of the yard; but today few Endenese villages have tubu musu ora nata. Also ideally, one village is occupied by one patrilineally related group, but in most villages there are many outsiders.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Endenese are mostly slash-and-burn agriculturalists. Wet-rice fields are not popular in the area because of the shortage of water. Generally speaking, the staple is a combination of cassava ('uwi 'ai ), rice ('aré), and maize (jawa ). The most important cash crop has been coconut (nio ). Livestock is reared only for consumption and gift exchange. Households have an average of three pigs, and some chickens. The goat population is much smaller than the pig population. Only a few households in a village have cattle, horses, or water buffalo.

Division of Labor. There is no clearcut division of labor between sexes except that men tend to do work that needs more physical strength, such as cutting trees. Everyday cooking is done by women. On ceremonial occasions men cook meats and women cook rice.

Trade. People on the southern part of the island sometimes go to the northern coast to get cheap salt. A few people descend to a coastal village to buy fish to sell in their mountain villages. Except for these sporadic trading activities, the mountain Endenese do not engage in much commerce.

Land Tenure. Each ritual community, tana, whose members are supposed to have originated in an ancient village and be patrilineally related, has ritual rights over the land named after that community. These rights express themselves in a ritual called the "yam ritual" (nggua 'uwi ), which marks the beginning and end of certain prohibitions concerning agricultural activities. Individual land tenure is also recognized by the inhabitants, based on the ritual transference of a parcel of land from wife giver to wife taker, especially from mother's brother to his sister's child. This institution is known as pati weta ti'i 'ané, "giving to a sister, offering to a sister's son."


Kin Groups and Descent. Descent is traced patrilineally. The Endenese ideological framework for kin groups consists of only one word, waja, which means, literally, "an old one." When used in the context of kin grouping, it means "patrilineal descendants of an old one (named)." Thus "waja Juma," for example, means patrilineal descendants of Juma. The generational depth is, at the deepest, four to five. A waja is supposed to possess a characteristic ritual (nggua ) attached to their ritually owned parcel of land.

Kinship Terminology. The Endenese kinship terminology can be said to represent roughly the ideology of unilineality and asymmetric alliance (matrilateral cross-cousin marriage). In other words, the terminology does not contradict the ideology much. Unilineality is expressed in such equations as that between (1) father and father's brothers ('ema) and (2) mother and mother's sisters ('iné ) and in such distinctions as that between father's sisters (noö ) and mother's sisters ('iné). Asymmetry is expressed in such equations as that between wife's father and mother's brother (mamé ), and such distinctions as those between (1) mother's brothers (mame ) and father's sister's husband (aki noö ) and (2) mother's brother's daughters ('ari or kaë ) and father's sister's daughters (weta ). The term 'éja is an exception in that it can denote both wife's brother and sister's husband.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage is preferred with one's mother's brother's daughter. However, this matrilateral cross-cousin marriage (a marriage type called mburhu nduu wesa senda ) is not regarded as a prestigious marriage. A marriage with a girl with whose group one has no previous alliance (a marriage type called 'ana 'arhé ) is the most prestigious one. Considerable bride-wealth (ngawu ) is demanded from the side of the bride. The amount varies from one type of marriage to another. If a man can pay only a small portion of the bride-wealth demanded, he has to stay with his father-in-law. Otherwise the bride should go to the groom's village, where they may stay with the groom's father or build a new house.

Domestic Unit. Nowadays the domestic unit corresponds to a nuclear family. Married sons tend to build a new house near their parents' house. Residence is virilocal once the prescribed bride-wealth has been paid.

Inheritance. In accordance with the ideology of patrilineality, inheritance is, in most cases, through the patrilineal line. The eldest son is supposed to inherit everything from his father. Exceptions occur where bride-wealth is concerned. Though never stated clearly as a rule, it seems to be the case that rights over bride-wealth for a sister are assumed only by her full brothers. Thus the eldest brother cannot have a say over the bride-wealth paid for his half-sister.

Socialization. Fathers as well as mothers take care of children. According to older informants, there used to be some initiation rites for children, such as filing of teeth and cutting of hair, but these practices no longer exist.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The ideological unilineal descent group, waja, has no social function. There are scarcely any terms for religious/social functions in Ende. People are regarded as more or less equal to each other in their religious/social status. Some informants hint at the existence of the status of a slave (o'o ). Yet there is no public mention of someone's being (or having been) a slave.

Political Organization. Some older people are respected because of their reputed greater knowledge of "history/ genealogy" (susu 'embu kajo ) and play eminent roles in discussion (mbabho ) to resolve disputes, and especially in negotiation of bride-wealth.

Social Control. There is no formal mechanism to control conflict, except for the Indonesian administrative functionaries such as kepala desa (village chiefs), who are usually coastal Endenese living beyond the social world of the mountain Endenese. Parties to a dispute come together and discuss (mbabho) the matter in question with some outside observers. Even though people seldom reach agreement, after the discussion they tend not to raise the matter again for the time being.

Conflict. Most serious conflict occurs in relation to land ownership. Whoever speaks aloud and fluently about the history (especially the history of the parcel of land in question in relation to kinship idioms such as pati weta ti'i 'ané) is regarded as a winner. But because of the lack of a formal mechanism for resolving such a conflict, the losing party raises the same matter again and again after a due interval. In effect, no Endenese community can be said to be socially harmoniousthere is always some litigation going on over land in a community.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. A "supreme being" or "god" in Ende is called nggaë. Nggaë is, however, seldom invoked. In everyday life, the people are more intimate with the ancestors ('embu kajo ) and spirits (nitu ). They are invoked in the prayers at any agricultural ritual and are asked to bring a good harvest. Witches (porho ) are believed to live among the ordinary people. They are believed to do harm to people upon the slightest excuse.

Religious Practitioners. A person who falls ill and decides that the illness is caused by a witch's attack sometimes seeks a famous practitioner ('ata marhi ). These practitioners are ordinary people who are known to have some special knowledge; no specialization is involved.

Ceremonies. The yearly agricultural activities are marked at both the beginning and end by a communal ritual of yam eating (kaa 'uwi ). This yam ritual is held once a year by each village. The order in which participating villages do this remains the same every year.

Arts. In marriage ceremonies and funerals (and occasionally at kaa 'uwi) people dance a traditional dance called gawi naro. Spontaneous songs are "ad-libbed" by a singer at the center of the circle of dancers.

Medicine. Traditional medicines are called wunu kaju, literally "leaves of trees." There are two kinds of medicine: those used by practitioners ('ata marhi), which need esoteric spells, and those that do not. Only occasionally do people go to the coast or the town of Endeh to get modern medicines.

Death and Afterlife. At a funeral, a set of valuables called 'urhu (head) should be given to the brother of the mother of the deceased. He is the first to dig the grave for the corpse. The deceased is believed to go to Mount Iya, near the town of Endeh. No elaborate myth or legend is narrated as to the origin of death or of the afterlife on Mount Iya.


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