In 1957, the Dutch, who had colonized West Papua, began a process of handing over independence to indigenous West Papuans. The Papuan National Council was established, as well as a Papuan provisional government, military, police force, national anthem and flag. In 1961 Papuans held the Papua Congress, where they declared their independence and raised the Morning Star flag. Soon after, Indonesia declared war on The Netherlands and invaded West Papua.

In 1962 the United States brokered a deal where the Dutch turned over control of West Papua to the United Nations. Under the deal, Indonesia was to make arrangements, with the assistance and participation of the United Nations, to give Papuans an opportunity to vote on whether they wished to become part of Indonesia or not.

In the Act of Free Choice, also known as the Act of No Choice, which was carried out in 1969, 1,025 West Papuan elders, under threat and military surveillance, were selected to vote on behalf of nearly 1 million West Papuans regarding the territory’s political status. In spite of serious violations of the U.N. charter and no broad-based referendum, West Papua was - as US Congressman Eni Faleomavaega said at a US Congressional hearing on the Indonesian military’s human rights violation in West Papua - “forced to become a part of Indonesia at the barrel of a gun.”

The very next day, West Papua was declared a military operation zone, and Indonesia began their decades long, systematic repression of the Papuan people. Since then, it is estimated that some 100,000 West Papuans have been killed by Indonesian security forces.

West Papua is rich in mineral resources and holds some of Indonesia’s most pristine forests; mining dispossesses peoples from their lands and pollutes the rivers. Now, the forests are directly in Jakarta’s development sights, with proposals for major expansions of pulp and paper mill capacity and oil palm plantations. 

Land is Life works with Dewan Adat Papua (Papua Traditional Council) and Yadupa Foundation to promote and protect the rights of indigenous West Papuans, document human rights abuses and promote dialogue between the government of Indonesia and indigenous West Papuans. Land is Life supports the participation of Papuan leaders at United Nations meetings, and organizes yearly delegations of West Papuans for meetings in Washington DC with members of the US Congress and representatives of the US State Department.