The name New Guinea was derived from Spanish “Nova Guinea” which was given by Spanish sailor, Indigo Ortiz de Retez who sailed along the northern coast of Papua in 1540 A.D. When they saw black people with curly hair, just like the people they saw before in Africa, in a place they called Guinea, they named the island as Isla Nova Guinea and it became famous since 1545 A.D.
The usage of “Papua” to mention about the area and the people was first noted in a Spanish Journal in 1521 and we are using that name to this day. The word “Irian” was used after the World War II, which was taken originally from a legend in Biak-Numfor area. Irian means a land that emerges from the sea. It also means the land that belongs to us. After the Dutch hand over this land to Indonesia in 1949, Irian evolved into a political term, “Ikut Republik Indonesia Anti Netherland” (Join the Republic of Indonesia, Anti Netherland). That is why “Irian” mostly used by separatist or Pro-Indonesia community.
Papuan indigenous people made of two main groups; they are the Highland Rural Papuan and Coastal Papuan. Their language varies among tribes and areas. There are 250 languages identified so far. Papuan features a dark skin and some are black and their hair is curly. Those are also the features of African indigenous people, although Papuan has eyes that look like a European, owns a hairy body with thick beard and moustache.
Together with the Aborigine of Australia and Negritos of Philippine, Papuan is a group of East Negroid race. Papuan culture had its first encounter with western culture through Spanish and Portugal sailors who sailed throughout the seven continents in the 16th centuries, while those sailors trying to find the shortest way to get spices, the main commodity of international trade in the past.
To the mid 1957, the population of Papuan indigenous people was estimated around 700.000 people, but only 50% or less was registered. There were 16.000 of European, 13.000 Indonesian and 4.000 Chinese back then in Papua. Now the composition has changed according to a census in 2000. It was recorded that the population of the people living in Papua reached 2.233.530 people with Jayawijaya Regency as the most populous area (417.326 people) and Merauke Regency (318.350 people).
West Nova Guinea (Papua) starts to flourish in political, economic, social, cultural and security aspects after the end of Pacific War of the World War II.
The Dutch isolated this region from Dutch Indies territory since Indonesian Independence Day (1945) to 1962 with the purpose of preparing the area and its people to have their own government, get their freedom from the Dutch, gain equality among other nations in the world. The foundation of this is UN Charter about an area with no local ingenious government. For the purpose has been established, The Dutch then developed a Ten Year Plan (Tien Jaren Plan), since 1950 in political, economical, social, cultural, infrastructure, and security aspects.
The next Development Phase was Government Transition Phase to UNTEA (United Nations Temporary Administrations) with a running status quo government from 15 August 1962 to 1 May 1963.
After 1 May 1963, West New Guinea changed into West Irian with DIRIB (Direktorat Irian Barat/West Irian Directorate of the Interior Ministry) as governing body. Life goes on and then there was also a time when West Irian experienced a transitional development phase that was funded by FUNDWI (Funds United Nations for Development of West Irian) which was directed for infrastructure (sea and land transportations, radio communication and intercity bus) and the community economic development by the JDF (Joint Development Fund) from Netherland and The UN.
In 1962, The Government of Indonesia released a decree that The Government of Indonesia changed Dutch regulation about the naming of a region, from Residence into Regency. There were 9 regencies back then. In 1993, The Provincial Capital (Jayapura) with Administrative City status, through Indonesian Law number 6, 1993, received “Kotamadya” status and then by the Indonesian Law number 22, 1999 received “Kota” (city) status.
Then there was Indonesian Law number 45, 1999 which declared the establishment of two provinces (West Irian Jaya and Central Irian Jaya), 3 new regencies (Puncak Jaya, Paniai and Mimika) and 1 new city (Sorong). The Indonesian Law number 26, 2002 created 14 new regencies. Then there was Indonesian Law number 35, 2003 that split Papua into 27 regencies with 2 cities. Through this last law, Supiori Regency was established.
Based on Indonesian Law number 45, 1999, Irian Jaya Province is divided into three provinces, the West Irian Jaya, Central Irian Jaya and East Irian Jaya, but so far there is only two provinces exist, they are Papua Province and West Papua Province.
Papua is 421.981 kilometer square with Halmahera Sea and Pacific Ocean on the north, Arafura Sea and Australia on the South while on the east is Papua New Guinea and on the west is Seram and Banda Sea and Maluku Province.
On the globe, Papua is located inside these lines:
North 0° The Equator
South 9° S
East 141° E
West 130° E