[from Istutiah Gunawan, 2002, 'Hierarchy and Balance, A Study f Wanokaka Social Organisation,  Canberra, ANU

The intrusion of Dutch political power into the Wanokakan traditional world dates from 1908, following a new colonial policy of intensification of rule and “Pacificatie van Sumba” from 1906-1913. In 1906 the Dutch established two posts at Memboro on the north coast and at Waikabubak in the inland domain of Loli, each staffed by a Dutch officer and about forty Indonesian soldiers.

The man in charge of the pacification of Wanokaka was Letnan de Neeve, the posthouder based in Waikabubak. His account is probably available in the Dutch archives but this account of the pacification has been complied from Wanokaka informants in 1970. All of them were born after the events in question, but had received the information from their fathers’ generation. This account may not therefore be entirely accurate as a record of events, but it is important as a Wanokakan perception of the interaction between their own traditional society and the intruding colonial power.

In 1908 the first Dutch party to enter Wanokaka established a camp on the heights of the Poti plateau above the village of Prai Kareri and made contact with Leihu Habba Mananga, the leading noble of Prai Kareri. They announced that inter-village feuding, headhunting, and cattle rustling would henceforth be banned and any transgressions would be punished by the Dutch. They wished to establish relations with the traditional ruler of Wanokaka, whom they would recognize as “raja” and support him in his rule, provided he would agree to uphold the new Dutch policies. In Waikabubak the Dutch had learned from the nobles of Loli that Habba Mananga was a man of great influence in Wanokaka, and suitable for recognition as raja. Habba Mananga, however, rejected this suggestion.

The junior Dutch officer given the task of finding the ruler of Wanokaka probably had little idea of the complexities of this task (see also Fox 1977:68 for similar situation on Timor). Wanokakan society was acephalous, with no single person holding a status superior to all others in the society, and no single person in a position to enforce his will over more than a small fraction of the total Wanokaka population. With each clan fiercely independent, frequent feuding between the clans, and a political system which emphasized the balancing of one group against another, there was no place for any single clan having authority over all the rest.

There was, however, a system of ritual division of Wanokaka society into four blocs, in which one bloc, Wei Galli, was accorded superordinate status in relation to the others. Within this Wei Galli bloc one particular nobleman, Mawu Madoli, had achieved reputation for his wealth and boldness. Habba Mananga suggested to the Dutch that Mawu Madoli was the man they were looking for. “Most people are afraid of him,” he said. (Curiously, another informant claimed that it was his father, Riada Damma of Prai Ruatu, and not Habba Mananga, who was first approached by the Dutch, but Riada Damma was also said to have declined the rajaship in favour of Mawu Madoli).

However, Mawu Madoli also rejected the Dutch proposal. “I am a man of influence in my own right”, he told the Dutch, “and I will continue to be so with or without your support”. My informants -rather cynically suggested that Mawu Madoli’s decision was less influenced by his pride than by the fact that his wealth was substantially based on cattle-rustling, and he had no wish to give up this successful practice. The Dutch continued to press him to accept, until, perhaps feeling threatened by their weapons, he fled to his garden village at Lahona. His relatives eventually persuaded him to return, and he nominated his son, Luju Maraba Dangu, as raja. The Dutch appointed the son, collected the head-tax, and returned to Waikabubak.

[i]     This was the work of the Netherlands Reformed Church Missionary Society. On the Christianization of Sumba, see Wielenga (1949).

In 1910, the Dutch returned again and pressed the Wanokakans to work building the first road from Waikabubak to the Poti plateau via Ngadu Louru, Bara’bedang, Lahi Huruk, Aaloku, Prai Kareri, to Keri Jara (most of this road is not now in use).
In 1912, an influential noble from Weimoru, Heingu Kaka Kajeli, convinced himself that his ancestral immunity medicine (moru kabal) could make himself and his followers immune to the Dutch shot. He convinced Luju Maraba Dangu to join him. They prepared for battle with the Dutch by the traditional all-night war dancing and sacrifices (yaiwo). The following morning Heingu Kaka’s force of several hundred men, armed with spears, met the Dutch in battle on the open rice-plain. The first volleys of shots from the Dutch resulted in three men falling wounded to the ground. With Heingu Kaka’s memorable line “Einga na moru lahi Dairu!” “I left the medicine at home with Dairu” — his wife), the Wanokakans beat a hasty retreat, and the rebellion was over. Luju Maraba Dangu and Heingu Kaka were exiled to Flores, where Maraba Dangu died. Heingu Kaka later returned as an old man, married again, and had several children.

The remaining prominent member of the Weigalli clan, a man whose name was also Heingu Kaka, was well-known for his cattle-rustling. Because of this the noblemen of Weigalli suggested that the Dutch approach Baju Padedang of Winamarika, who was known to be well-disposed to the Dutch. Winamarika was not in the superordinate Weigalli bloc, but Baju Padedang was indeed a man of influence, regarded with awe in Wanokaka. His boldest act was the broad-daylight murder of a rich man of low social rank. Baju Padedang had persuaded this man to come and inspect some buffaloes on the pretext of a trade proposal. Having lured his victim into a vulnerable situation, Padedang had himself delivered the fatal blow with his machete, and then led the raiding and stripping of the dead man’s house. Because of the low social status of the victim and the lack of influential relatives, there was no attempt to avenge the killing. The Dutch were presumably not told of the basis of Baju Padedang’s reputation. He was appointed Raja of Wanokaka from 1912 until his death in 1926, when he was succeeded by his son.

The Dutch impact on Wanokaka gathered pace with the collection of a head tax annually from 1912, mass small-pox vaccination from 1914, the opening of a 3-year primary school managed by the Christian Church at Lahihagalang in 1917, and the opening of the first Christian Calvinist Church at Lahi Huruk in 1926 with the baptisms of 30 persons.[i] Another road to Wanokaka from Waikabubak was opened in 1919 through Labere, Padedi Weri, Modu Diri, Mahu, Kihi to Lahi Hagalang. This road is the only vehicular road (for trucks and jeeps) used at the present time.

The Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945, remembered as a time of hardship. was followed by transition from colonial rule to incorporation within the independent Republik Indonesia Serikat in 1950. There were several changes in the structure of government administration in Sumba, until in 1962 the swapraja (self-governing territories) under the Rajas were reorganized into kecamatan (districts) headed by educationally qualified officials called camat. Some of the rajacamat, and those who did not are still regarded as community leaders. The eight kecamatan in the east of the island form the regency (Kabupaten) of East Sumba with its capital in Waingapu, and the seven kecamatan in the west for the regency of West Sumba with its capital in Waikabubak. The traditional domain of Wanokaka has now become a wilayah (sub-district) within the district of Walakaka. Kecamatan Walakaka incorporates the four traditional domains of Wanokaka, Rua, Lamboya and Gaura. Also in 1962 the populace were organized into administrative villages (desa) on the basis of place of residence, rather than clan membership. This caused considerable confusion, because people who reside in the garden villages, far away from their ancestral villages, still feel allegiance to the ancestral villages but now have to belong to a different desa from their fellow clan-members who reside in and near the ancestral villages. The populace also take part in elections to determine the leadership of their desa. In Wanokaka their are now six desa (seven if Rua is included), each with a population of 100 — 1651 persons, its own village staff of five officials, and its own primary school. This administration has considerable impact on village life, with most households being involved in the various government programs such as tax-gathering, and contributing free labour to community projects such as road maintenance.