5 Things to Learn About the Minahasan People of North Sulawesi
When you visit Gangga Island Resort & Spa you are sure to meet some of the wonderful people of the region. These people are called the Minahasan people and have some unique and interesting aspects to their culture. Here are 5 things to learn about the Minahasan people before you travel to North Sulawesi.
As part of Indonesia, the people of North Sulawesi and Gangga Island speak Bahasa Indonesia. However, they also speak languages of the Minahasan group, which are actually classed as Philippine. At the very northern tip of North Sulawesi people speak Tonsawang, also known as Tombatu. In the north many speak Tontemboan, and in the northeast Tondano, Tombulu and Tonsea.
Just to confuse things a little more, in the Manado area people speak Manado Malay, sometimes known as Bahasa Manado. This is a creole language made up of Malay, Dutch, and Portuguese words.
2. Origins of The Minahasa
There is evidence of the Minahasa region of North Sulawesi being inhabited since the late 3rd millennia BC, or the mid-bronze age. This was a time of movement between cultures and many civilizations being conquered by others.
Austronesian groups that came from China, Taiwan and the Philippines slowly moved down into Borneo, Sulawesi and the Moluccas. These first inhabitants of the islands became the Minahasan people, albeit three distinct groups.
3. Tribal Wars and Watu Pinabetengan
The tribes of North Sulawesi were tied up in disputes and conflicts for many centuries. In Minahasan mythology the three original groups are said to have met to try to resolve the conflicts that were taking a great toll on their people.
The meeting called Pinawetengan u-nuwu (dividing of language) was held in Awuan, not far from Lake Tondano. At this meeting the three groups were divided into further tribes. You can visit the marker where the meeting took place at Watu Pinabetengan (Stone of Dividing).
4. Colonization of the Minahasa
The Portuguese arrived in North Sulawesi in the late 1500s, discovering it was rich in spices, gold and rice. The Dutch and Spanish soon followed and the war to control the area lasted decades. The area finally fell to the Dutch in the 17th Century and they stayed in power there until the Japanese arrived during World War II.
During this time, the majority of the Minahasan people took on the Christianity of the Dutch. Some also became Muslim or took on the Buddhist or Confucian beliefs of the Chinese traders.
Interestingly, in 1947, Manado formed the political movement of Twapro, short for Twaalfde Profincie (Twelfth Province) to appeal for the formal integration of the Minahasa area into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This never happened and North Sulawesi officially became a province of Indonesia on 14 August 1959.
5. The Unique Minahasan Culture
Minahasan culture is known for a few key aspects – dance, music, and cuisine. They were a warring society and their unique dances reflect this. Now used mostly for ceremonies and tourism, the colourful, rhythmic dances are fantastic to watch.
You might assume their music would also reflect the warring culture, but in fact it is more European in influence. Marching bands are very popular and include clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and tubas, all made out of bamboo.
When it comes to the cuisine, Minahasan food is many things, but you can expect it to always be spicy. The people of North Sulawesi love chilies and put them in everything. Dishes are usually featuring locally caught seafood, but they also eat dog, cat, fruit bats, and forest rat. This might not sound too appetizing to you, but they have learned to live off the proteins they find plentifully in their region.
It’s always good to read a little about the culture and people of an area you’re traveling to. Did you find it interesting to learn about the Minahasa people of North Sulawesi? We’d love to hear what you found most unique or surprising in the comments below.