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Home >>Social Structure >>The meaning of Kawanua

The Meaning of Kawanua

(The Story of the Minahasa Tribes)

By : Jessy Wenas / Translation: Roderick C. Wahr

Map of the Minahasa
Map of the Minahasa 1873

In the Minahasa language the word Kawanuaoften means inhabitant of the country, or wanua-wanua (people) who are one, or "Mina-Esa" (Minahasa People). The word Kawanua is derived from the word Wanua,since the word Wanua in the Old Malay language (Proto Melayu), means dwelling domain. Perhaps because a few thousand years ago the ethnic Malay were already spread over the whole of Middle Asia up to the Pacific islands. After experiencing a sufficiently long historical development, the meaning of the word Wanua also developed. Earlier the word Wanua had the meaning of dwelling domain, then it developed to mean village, negeri (country) even meaning nation. At the same time, in the Minahasa, the word Wanua had the meaning of country or village.

Therefore we can conclude that the term Wanua - meaning dwelling place - was already in use from when the Minahasa people still were one tribe when they lived in the mountains of Wulur-Mahatus, and then were split into three seperate tribal groups:

  1. Makarua Siouw
  2. Makatelu Pitu
  3. Telu Pasiowan

While the Tribal system developed a hereditary government, in the 17th century an agreement was struck between the three tribes above.The agreement was made because the "Makatelu Pitu" tribe joined with the "Makarua Siouw" through marriage, so that the Muntu-untu pedigree and the Mandey from "Makatelu Pitu" appeared as the strongest Tribal group and governed over all Wanua - which at that time consisted of the:

  1. Tountumaratas
  2. Tountewu
  3. Toumbuluk

When the Minahasa inhabitants grew larger, the Tountumaratas developed to become the Tounkimbut and Toumpakewa. In order to give those two groups one origin, the nomenclature Pakasa’an was launched that originated from the word Esa. Pakasa’an means one, namely Toungkimbut in the mountains and Toumpakewa near the seashore. Then the term Walak appeared again. Further developments were the change of the walak-walak tua (old tribes) names in the Tountemboan domain to walak Kawangkoan Tombasian, Rumo’ong and Sonder.

Then the Tountewo people split into two groups, namely:

  1. Tounsea and
  2. Toundano.

According to Drs. Corneles Manoppo, the Toundano people split again into two, namely:

  1. People who dwelled close to the Tondano Lake and
  2. The "Toundanau" people who dwelled in the Ratahan and Tombatu domain.

The people around the Tondano Lake formed three walak (tribes), namely:

  1. Tondano Touliang,
  2. Tondano Toulimambot and
  3. Kakas-Remboken
Watu Pinawetengan 1890
Watu Pinawetengan 1890

With the disappearance of the term Pakasa’an Tountewo, the term Pakasa’an Tonsea and Pakasa’an Tondano were born.

Pakasa’an Tonsea consists of three walak, namely Maumbi, Kema and Likupang. In the 18th century Tounsea only knows one Hukum Besar - principal judge - (Majoor - Mayor) or "Hukum Mayor"; the Maumbi domain, Likupang and Kema are governed by the Hukum kedua (second), whereas Tondano had many mayors.

The people of Tombuluk always had one Pakasa’an, since the time of Watu Pinawetengan in the 7th century, that consists of three walak, namely:

  1. Tombariri,
  2. Tomohon and
  3. Sarongsong

In this way the nomenclature Wanua developed to mean two things:

  1. Ro’ong or negeri (country),
  2. Narrow meaning, Nation the same as Ro’ong (village or dwelling)

So the word Wanua, has two flavors namely:

  1. Ro’ong or negeri (country)
  2. Tribe or inhabitant

Ro’ong itself has two flavors:

  1. Wale, meaning house and
  2. Tana. The word Tana in the Minahasa language has a varied meaning, namely encompassing Talun (forest), and Uma (kobong or plantation)

Kobong is divided into two, namely: "kobong kering" (dry plantation) and "kobong pece" (rice field). Let us look at the use of the word Wanua in the Minahasa language, for instance there are two persons who live in the same village, who meet each other in the forest.
A asks B:"Mange wisa" (where are you going?)
Then B answers: "Mange witi uma" (to the kobong),
B then asks A:"Niko mange wisa" (where are you going?)
A answers: "Mange witi Wanua" (going to the negeri (country), meaning to the village where there are houses with people in it).
Another example is the word "Mina - Wanua". The word " Mina" means, once existed but does not exist now. It means, in the past there was a negeri (country) there and now it no longer exists (the old negeri) because that country has moved to another place. The word "Mina Amak " (Amak = Father) is a saying for an adult man who used to exist once but now no longer exists because he passed away.

The word Wanua has a widely varied meaning which can be seen in the sentence "Rondoren um Wanua...". The wordWanua in this sentence means; negeri-negeri (countries) in the Minahasa and does not mean only one negeri (country). Its meaning... build throughout the Minahasa. So including negeri-negeri (countries) of the tribes and pakasa’an living throughout ethnic and sub-ethnic Minahasa.

So we can see that the ultimate meaning of the word Wanua is more directed to its meaning as a custom domain of the Pakasa’an (sub-ethnical unity) consisting of the group of people who acknowledge being descendants of Toar & Lumimu’ut. Descendant has a wide weaning including through marriage with foreigners, Spanish, Dutch, Ambon, Gorontalo, Java, Sumatera and others.
Minahasa people are allowed to build Wanua outside the Minahasa, but Tombulu people are not allowed to build negeri Tombulu in the Totemboan domain or vice-versa, this is the meaning of custom right (adat kebiasaan). A special Tona’as who builds a "Watu I Pe-ro’ong", or stone house, to become a new negeri, for example, acts as Mamanua (Ma’Wanua = Founder of Negeri) who knows the borders of domains between the tribes, he guards to not let a wrong place create war between tribes.

After studying the meaning of the word Wanua from different perspectives, we study the preposition word Ka of the word Kawanua. A few prepositions of the word Ka-rete (rete=close), close to the house, means neighbour friend. Ka-Le’os (Le’os=good), very-very good friend (loved one). And then the word Ka-Leong (leong=play) playing friend.

From the three examples above it can be concluded that the preposition word Ka provides the word friend, so, Ka-wanua can be described as Friend of one country, One Ro’ong, one village. To be more precise we will take an example from the verse of the song "Marambak" (naik rumah baru - raising a new house)... "Watu tinuliran umbale Mal’lesok ungkoro’ ne Kawanua..." means stone from the place raised the corner of a new house, symbolizing avoiding evil intentions and malevolence from a friend of one negeri. For instance, the stones of that new house in Tombulu symbolize avoidance of malevolence towards the Tombulu people of one village, and are not intended for other villages or tribes for example Tondano and Tonsea.

Such is also the ancient story of the Minahasa "sisi’sile ne tou Mahasa" (book by A.L Waworuntu) and "A’asaren Ne Tou Manhesa" meaning stories of the Minahasa people. Not written "A’asaren ne Kawanua" or stories of the Kawanua people. Here we can see that the Minahasa people in the Minahasa do not call themselves Kawanua. The Minahasas in the Minahasa call themselves "Orang Minahasa" (Minahasa People) and not "Orang Kawanua", only thereafter do they indicate their sub-ethnical group, like, Tondano, Tontemboan, Tombatu etcetera.
Therefore we can summarize that the term Kawanua was created by people from the Minahasa outside of the Minahasa to identify that they originate from the Minahasa, in their circle of friends amongst people who are not Minahasas, for instance from Makasar, Balikpapan, Surabaya, Jakarta, Padang, Aceh.

The Minahasa people who have been outside the Minahasa for a few generations use the term Kawanua to identify themselves with their region of origin, and even though they have already married into other tribes, they still feel close with Wanua and so created Jawanua (Java-Minahasa mixture), Bataknua (Batak-Minahasa mixture), Sundanua, and other.

Source: www.kawanuausa.org

(mirrored here because original no longer available)

Read also: The Ancient Minahasa Community


© 2004 by Roderick. All rights reserved.write comments to: