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West Papua (also known as Western New Guinea) informally refers to the Indonesian western half of the island of New Guinea and other smaller islands to its west. The region is officially administered as two provinces: Papua and West Papua. The eastern half of New Guinea is Papua New Guinea.


The population of approximately 3 million comprises ethnic Papuans, Melanesians, and Austronesians. The region is predominantly dense forest where numerous traditional tribes live such as the Dani of the Baliem Valley, although the majority of the population live in or near coastal areas. The largest city in the region is Jayapura. The official and most commonly spoken language is Indonesian. Estimates of the number of tribal languages in the region range from 200 to over 700, with the most widely spoken including Dani, Yali, Ekari and Biak. The predominant religion is Christianity (often combined with traditional beliefs) followed by Islam. The main industries include agriculture, fishing, oil production, and mining.

Human habitation is estimated to have begun between 42,000 and 48,000 years ago. The Netherlands made claim to the region and commenced missionary work in nineteenth century. The region was incorporated into the Indonesian republic in the 1960s, and has faced a violent separatist movement since then. Following the 1998 commencement of reforms across Indonesia, Papua and other Indonesian provinces received greater regional autonomy. In 2001, "Special Autonomy" status was granted to Papua province, although to date, implementation has been partial. Since 2003, the region has been divided into the two provinces of Papua and West Papua.

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