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The Mentawai Future: Social Structure

Mentawai society was once near perfect: no war, no crime, no thieves and no adultery. Everyone shared in the generous bounty of the tropical rainforest and all clan members were treated equally—including women and children. While the head of the clan was the acknowledged leader, the sikeireis (shamans) were revered and honored for the knowledge, wisdom and guidance they offered.

Today, local government-appointed political leaders are overshadowing the influences of clan heads and sikeireis. These men embrace modernization and consider electricity and television more important to Mentawai life than its traditions. It seems their main purpose is to control the traditional clans and encourage them to become “law-abiding” Indonesians who will pay taxes to the government—regardless of its destructive impact on Mentawai culture.


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