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Minahasa Highland
The Minahasa (alternative spelling: Minahassa or Mina hasa) are an ethnic group located in the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia (in past called by Portuguese as North Selebes). The Minahasa speak Manado Malay (also known as Minahasa Malay), a language closely related to the Malay language.

Minahasa Raya is the area covering Bitung City, Manado City and MInahasa Regency, which are three of the seven regional administrations in the province of North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Originally inhabited by Malay-speaking peoples, the region was colonized in the 16th century by the Portuguese, then the Dutch. The Minahasa identify strongly with the Dutch language and the Protestant faith - so strongly, in fact, that when Indonesia became independent in 1945 factions of political elites of the region pleaded with the Dutch to let it become a province of the Netherlands. There is a considerable number of people from the Minahasa living in the Netherlands, as part of the Indo community.

Their music, too, is highly influenced by that of their former colonial rulers; their festivals feature large marching ensembles made up of clarinets, saxophones (source), trumpet, trombones, and tubas, all constructed out of local bamboo.


The name of the land of Minahasa has been changed several times: Batacina-Malesung-Minaesa and then finally the current name Minahasa, meaning "becoming one united". This name dates from the war against the Kingdom of Bolaang Mangondow.

In 670, North Sulawesi never developed any large empire. In North Sulawesi the leaders of the different tribes, who all spoke different languages, met by a stone known as Watu Pinawetengan. There they founded a community of independent states, who would form one unit and stay together and would fight any outside enemies if they were attacked.

The Origin of Minahasa People

It is unknown when the land of Minahasa was first occupied by humans, but the warugas (sarcophagi) in Sawangan provide evidence that the ancestors of the Minahasan people date from the stone age. The Minahasans believe that they are descendants of Toar and Lumimuut. Initially, the descendants of Toar-Lumimuut were divided into 3 groups: Makatelu-pitu (three times seven), Makaru-siuw (two times nine) and Pasiowan-Telu (nine times three). They multiplied quickly. But soon there were disputes among these people. Their leaders (Tona'as) then decided to meet and talk about this. They met in Awuan (north of the current Tonderukan hill). That meeting was called Pinawetengan u-nuwu (dividing of language) or Pinawetengan um-posan (dividing of ritual). At that meeting the descendants were divided into three groups named Tonsea, Tombulu, and Tontemboan corresponding to the groups mentioned above. At the place where this meeting took place a memorial stone called Watu Pinabetengan (Stone of Dividing) was then built. It is a favourite tourist destination.

The groups Tonsea, Tombulu, and Tontemboan then established their main territories which were Maiesu, Niaranan, and Tumaratas respectively. Soon several villages were established outside these territories. These new villages then became a ruling center of a group of villages called puak, later walak, comparable to the present-day district.

Subsequently a new group of people arrived in Pulisan peninsula. Due to numerous conflicts in this area, they then moved inland and established villages surrounding a large lake. These people were therefore called Tondano, Toudano or Toulour (meaning water people). This lake is now the Tondano lake.

In the following years, more groups came to Minahasa. There were:
  • people from the islands of Maju and Tidore who landed in Atep. These people were the ancestors of the subethnic Tonsawang
  • people from Tomori Bay. These were the ancestors of the subethnic Pasam-bangko (Ratahan dan Pasan)
  • people from Bolaang Mangondow who were the ancestors of Ponosakan (Belang).
  • people from the Bacan archipelago and Sangi, who then occupied Lembeh, Talisei Island, Manado Tua, Bunaken and Mantehage. These were the subethnic Bobentehu (Bajo). They landed in the place now called Sindulang. They then established a kingdom called Manado which ended in 1670 and became walak Manado.
  • people from Toli-toli, who in the early 1700s landed first in Panimburan and then went to Bolaang-Mangondow
  • and finally to the place where Malalayang is now located. These people were the ancestors of the subethnic Bantik.
These are the nine subethnic groups in Minahasa (which explains the number 9 in Manguni Maka-9): Tonsea, Tombulu, Tontemboan, Tondano, Tonsawang, Pasan Ratahan, Ponosakan, Babontehu and Bantik.

The name Minahasa itself arose at the time the Minahasans fought against Bolaang Mangondow. Among the Minahasan heroes in these wars against Bolaang Mangondow are: Porong, Wenas, Dumanaw and Lengkong (in the war near Lilang village), Gerungan, Korengkeng, Walalangi (near Panasen, Tondano), Wungkar, Sayow, Lumi, and Worotikan (in the war along Amurang Bay).

Until the dominance of Dutch influence in the 17th and 18th century the Minahassans lived in warrior societies that practised headhunting.

The European Era

In the second half of the 16th century, both Portuguese and the Spanish arrived in North Sulawesi. Half-way though the 17th century there was a rapprochement between the Minahasan chiefs and the Dutch VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie), which was given concrete form in the treaty of 1679 (which can be found in the Corpus Diplomaticus Neerlando-Indicum 1934, vol. III, no 425). From 1801-1816, with few interruptions, Minahasa came under English control. In 1817 Dutch rule was re-established for what was to prove a fairly long time.

At the time of the first contact with Europeans the sultanate of Ternate held some sway over North Sulawesi, and the area was often visited by seafaring Bugis traders from South Sulawesi. The Spanish and the Portuguese, the first Europeans to arrive, landed in Minahasa via the port of Makasar, but also landed at Sulu island (off the north coast of Borneo) and at the port of Manado. The Spanish set themselves up in the Philippines. Although they had sporadic contacts with Minahasa, the Spanish and Portuguese influence was limited by the power of Ternate.

The Portuguese left reminders of their presence in the north in subtle ways. Portuguese surnames and various Portuguese words not found elsewhere in Indonesia, like garrida for an enticing woman and buraco for a bad man, can still be found in Minahasa. In the 1560s the Portuguese Fransiscan missionaries made some converts in Minahasa.

The abundance of natural resources in Minahasa made Manado a strategic port for European traders sailing to and from the spice island of Maluku. Spain established a fort at Manado. Minahasan rulers wanted their unruly and corrupt Spanish guests out, and sent Supit, Pa'at dan Lontoh (their statues are located in Kauditan, about 30 km to Bitung) to the Dutch VOC in Ternate for help. The Dutch and their Minahasan allies eventually gained the upper hand in 1655, built their own fortress in 1658 and expelled the last of the Spaniards a few years later.

By the early 17th century the Dutch had toppled the Ternate sultanate, and then set about eclipsing the Spanish and Portuguese. As was the usual case in the 1640s and 50s, the Dutch colluded with local powers to throw out their European competitors. In 1677 the Dutch occupied Pulau Sangir and, two years later, the Dutch governor of Maluku, Robert Padtbrugge, visited Manado. Out of this visit came a treaty with the local Minahasan chiefs, which led to domination by the Dutch for the next 300 years.

The Dutch helped unite the linguistically diverse Minahasa confederacy, and in 1693 the Minahasa scored a decisive military victory against the Bolaang to the south. The Dutch influence flourished as the Minahasans embraced the European goods and Christian religion. Missionary schools in Manado in 1881 were among the first attempts at mass education in Indonesia, giving their graduates a considerable edge in gaining civil service, military and other positions of influence.

Relations with the Dutch were often less than cordial (a war was fought around Tondano between 1807 and 1809) and the region did not actually come under direct Dutch rule until 1870. The Dutch and the Minahasans eventually became so close that the north was often referred to as the 12th province of the Netherlands. A Manado - based political movement called Twaalfde Provincie even campaigned for Minahasa's integration into the Dutch state in 1947.

Portuguese activity apart, Christianity became a force in the early 1820s when a Calvinist group, the Netherlands Missionary Society, turned from an almost exclusive interest in Maluku to the Minahasa area. The wholesale conversion of the Minahasans was almost complete by 1860. With the missionaries came mission schools, which meant that, as in Ambon and Roti,  Western education in Minahasa started much earlier than in other parts of Indonesia. The Dutch government eventually took over some of these schools and also set up others. Because the schools taught in Dutch, the Minahasans had an early advantage in the competition for government jobs and places in the colonial army. Minahasans remain among the educated elite today.

The Minahasans fought alongside the Dutch to subdue rebellions in other parts of the archipelago, notably in the Java War of 1825-30. They seemed to gain a special role in the Dutch scheme of things and their loyalty to the Dutch as soldiers, their Christian religion and their geographic isolation from the rest of Indonesia all led to a sense of being 'different' from the other ethnic groups of the archipelago.

At 97% of the population, the Minahasa Regency has one of highest proportions of Christianity in Indonesia. It has the highest density of church buildings in Indonesia, with approximately one church for every 100m road. This is due to a successful missionary campaign by European Christians in Northern Sulawesi.In 1907, Firma P.W.M Trap, Leiden, Holland published a bible in the Tontemboan language, a language of Minahasa. It was edited by M. Adriani-Gunning and J. Regar.

Jehovah�s Witnesses begin their first preaching activity in this province in 1932. First Minahasa was baptized is Brother Theo Ratu; his also as first Indonesian who baptized. His son Vicky Ratu also one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and now join in Tangerang Kota Congregation. In 2007 Service Year in North Sulawesi their peak publisher are 2,500 publisher.

Minahasan cuisine is very spicy, and can feature ingredients not typically found in other parts of Indonesia. For example, dog (RW, short for rintek wuuk, or "fine hair" in Tontemboan), cat (tusuk, also known as eveready because of the cat logo used by the battery), forest rat, and fruit bat (paniki) are commonly eaten. The provincial capital Manado is often referred to as Kota Tinutuan, in reference to a popular local dish: a rice porridge made with corn, smoked fish, greens, and chilies. Also known as Bubur Manado (Bubur Manado known outside this province), tinutuan is supposed to improve health and vitality.

Kabasaran is the fierce and famous Minahasan wardance which reminds of the old Minahasa warrior societies. The dancers wear red garments which in the old times was a color exclusive for the accomplished headhunter. This dance is similar to the Moluccan Cakalele wardance.
This dance is a traditional Minahasa soldiers dance, which is derived from the word Wasal which means a rooster of which the comb is cut in order to make it more agressive in a cockfight.

This dance is accompanied by the banging of tambours and/or small gongs. Percussion instruments like the Gong, Tambour or Kolintang are called �Pa ' Wasalen� and are called Kawasalan by the the dancers, meaning dancing while copying the movements of two roosters fighting.

This word Kawasalan then developed and became Kabasaran which is the concatenation of two words �Kawasal ni Sarian� �Kawasal� means accompanying and following the dance movement, whereas �Sarian� is the warlord who leads the traditional Minahasa military dance. Development of the Manado malay language then changed the letter �W� to become �B� so that the word became Kabasaran, which in reality does not have any connection with the Indonesian word �besar� (big), but in the end it became a dance for welcoming dignitaries.

In the old days the Kabasaran dancers were only dancers for traditional ceremonies. However, in daily life they are farmers. If the Minahasa is in a state of war, the kabasaran dancers become Waranei (soldiers of war). The basic form of this dance consists of nine sword (santi) steps or nine spear (wengkouw) steps with 4/4 horse steps consisting of two steps to the left and two steps to the right.
Every Kabasaran dancer owns a weapon inherited from his old ancestors, because kabasaran dancers are hereditary dancers. This dance generally consists of three parts (in fact there are more than three, only, they are very rarely performed). The parts are:

  1. Cakalele, derived from the word �saka�, which means competing, and �lele� which means chasing while leaping. This part used to be danced when the warriors went to war or when coming back from the war. This part also shows the ferocity of war to important guests to make those visiting guests feel safe, and even the devil would be afraid to disturb the guests of the Kabasaran dancers.
  2. The second part is called Kumoyak, it comes from the word �koyak� which means swinging the sword or spear up and down, forward and backwards to pacify himself from the feeling of anger while waging war. The word �koyak� itself can mean persuading the spirit of the enemy or opponent that has been killed in warware.
  3. Lalaya�an. In this part the dancers dance free and delighted releasing themselves from angry feelings like dancing �Lionda� with their hands in their sides and other dances of delight. This whole dance is based on aba-aba or commands .of the dance leader who is called �Tumu-tuzuk� (Tombulu) or �Sarian� (Tonsea). The command is given in the sub-ethnic language of Tombulu, Tonsea, Tondano, Totemboan, Ratahan, Tombatu and Bantik. In this dance all the dancers must have a fierce expression without a smile, except in the part of relaxation, where the dancers are allowed to smile cheerfully.
The clothes used in this dance were made from original Minahasa woven cloth and �Patola� cloth, it is a red woven cloth from Tombulu which cannot be found in another area in the Minahasa, as described in the book �Alfoersche Legenden�, written by PN Wilken in 1830, when the Minahasa kabasaran already wore clothes based on trousers and a red shirt, and wrapped around with woven cloth. In this case each sub-ethnic Minahasa group had a special way of wrapping the woven cloth around the body. Especially the Kabasaran from Remboken and Pareipei, they liked war clothes better than the traditional ceremonial clothes, they liked wearing tree moss as war camouflage.

It is regrettable that from the year 1950's the original woven cloth started to disappear so the Minahasa kabasaran in the end used woven cloth from Kalimantan and cloth from Timor because their form, color and motif resembled the Minahasa woven cloth like: Kokerah, Tinonton, Pasolongan, Bentenen. The original Kabasaran hat is made of a cloth headband which is decorated with feathers from roosters, feathers of the Taong bird and Paradise bird. There are also decorations made of stems of the kano-kano or tiwoho flowers. Other decorative ornaments used were �lei-lei� or necklaces, �wongkur� calve wrappings, �rerenge�en� or little clock bells (bells made of brass).

In Dutch colonial times there were regional regulations for Kabasaran, issued in Staatsblad Nummer 104 B, jaar 1859, that ordained:

  1. The death ceremony of country leaders (Hukum Basar, Hukum Kadua, Hukum Tua) and public figures, receive a Kabasaran guard. The same thing applies for weddings of country leaders' family members.
  2. Traditional festivities, traditional ceremonies for welcoming dignitaries of the senior Dutch official, the Resident, are controlled by the Kabasaran.
  3. The Kabasaran are assigned as �Opas� (village police).
  4. A Kabasaran on duty occupies the guardpost to ensure the safety of the territory 24 days a year .
Eventually the Dutch were forced to abolish the Kabasaran that already had been appointed as village police, as per above Staatsblad, in the year 1901, because at that time 28 prisoners had escaped from the Manado prison. To catch retrieve them, the Dutch ordered the village police, in this case the Kabasaran, to catch those prisoners. However, these prisoners met an unfortunate fate because they were not arrested alive but all of them were killed, chopped up by the Kabasaran. The Kabasaran at the time were part of the village organization led by the Hukum Tua. Each country or village had ten Kabasaran, one of them was a team leader called �Pa�impulu�an ne Kabasaran�. With the status of village official they received an allowance in the form of rice, white sugar and cloth.

The Kabasaran at that time were indeed scary, because even though they only received an allowance of rice, white suger and cloth, they were capable of slaughtering 28 people, all of the killed and with horrifying wounds.


In the Minahasa, 5 distinct languages are spoken: Tonsawang, Tontemboan, Toulour, Tonsea and Tombulu. In 1996, the Summer Institute of Linguistic in Dallas, published the North Sulawesi. Language Survey by Scott Merrifield and Martinus Salea. It gives an overview of the classification and distribution of the languages, based on a detailed study of the phonology and vocabulary.
Influences of Portuguese and Spanish can be found in the Indonesian dialect of the Minahasa (Manado Malay or Minahasa Malay):
Chair in Indonesian is kursi, in the Minahasa its called kadera (cadera - Spanish word for hip; cadeira - Portuguese word for chair).
Horse in Indonesian is kuda, a word of Sanscrit origin. In the town of Tomohon, a horse is called kafalio (caballo - Spanish, cavalho - Portuguese).


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