Peeking at Dani Women’s Activities with Former Finger Cut

goodmorningpapaua – Wendagwe, a Dani woman living in the Baliem Valley. She happily showed her now incomplete finger. She cut his finger himself for the Iki Palek rite. The tradition of cutting fingers is common, although for ordinary people it is so terrible. With incomplete fingers, Wendagwe and the other women in Tolikara keep going. The Dani tribe is an indigenous tribe that inhabits the Baliem Valley, one of which is in Mamit Village, Kembu District, Tolikara Province, Papua.

Wendagwe’s hand had 4 severed fingers. Leaving only a few knuckles that might hinder daily activities. But for them the Iki Palek tradition is a form of loyalty and a deep sense of loss. The loss of their fingers reflects grief over the wounds left by family members.

The Dani tribe was first known in 1900-1940. Living in the heart of Papua, their traditions are strong. For the Dani, crying alone is not enough to express grief over the loss of a family member.

Every sorrow leaves a wound. Their fingers represent a unity and strength. Fingers will work together to ease the work. If one is missing, it will definitely reduce togetherness and strength. Finally, the tradition of cutting their fingers off is done to symbolize unity and loyalty over the abandonment of relatives.

Imagining the finger cutting procession is indeed terrible. Sure enough, the way Dani women cut their fingers was by biting their fingers off. Another way is to use an ax or knife. One or two knuckles were cut off, their finger pain was mixed with the grief of losing a family member.

Reducing the blood that came out, they tied it with thread. Until the blood flow stops and numbs, and eventually it is cut off. If the finger is cut off, the Iki Palek tradition has been carried out.

The daily life of the Dani people is farming, hunting, and raising livestock. The cut finger wound will be wrapped with leaves. Iki Palek’s ritual scars will heal within one month. Likewise with Wendagwe, with his fingers reduced, he continued his daily activities. Now only 6 fingers remain intact on both hands.

Sweet potatoes, cassava are the staple food of the Dani tribe that live in the hinterland. They worked the land in the mountains with abundant yields. Wendagwe used to go to the fields to care for his yam plants. He seemed to have no trouble harvesting sweet potatoes from the ground. With 6 fingers he collects it to be used as a daily meal.

There is a Dani rule in cutting fingers. If the deceased is a parent, then two knuckles must be cut off. As for relatives, only one finger joint will be cut off. The Finger cutting is only done by Dani women. For men, they do ear cut.

The earlobe will be cut with a sharp bamboo blade. Until the ear separated and bleed. The tradition of cutting ears is usually called Nasu Palek. Iki Palek and Nasu Palek must also be accompanied by a spell. The goal is the same, to respect and show loyalty to family members.

They are willing to feel the incredible pain at the cutting fingers ritual. Now the tradition of cutting fingers is rarely found in the Dani Tribe. But its existence is still maintained to this day.

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