Mentawai Islands

Mentawai Islands

▪ islands, Indonesia
Dutch  Mentawei Eilanden 

      group of about 70 islands, Sumatera Barat provinsi (province), Indonesia. They lie off the western coast of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean. The major islands are Siberut, Sipura, Pagai Utara (North Pagai), and Pagai Selatan (South Pagai), the last two also known as the Nassau Islands. The principal town is Muarasiberut, in southeastern Siberut. The islands' western coasts are steep and rocky, and coral reefs and heavy surf make approach dangerous. Elevations are below 1,500 feet (450 m), and earthquakes are frequent. Most of the islands are covered with forest.

      The inhabitants are thought to have descended from early (Proto-) Malay peoples. Most are still animists and distrustful of Christian missionary activity. Their societies are usually subdivided into endogamous clan groups in which authority and inheritance are patrilineal. The villages are irregular groupings of small houses on stilts, usually along riverbanks, with occasional long houses. Tuber crops, chiefly taro and yams, are grown in temporary clearings. Flour from sago palms is also important. Pigs are kept but no large livestock. Hunting with bow and poisoned arrows, gathering of forest products, and fishing supplement agriculture. Coconuts are grown, and copra is the chief export. There are few roads.

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Universalium. 2010.

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