It's believed that West Papuans are now a minority in their homeland, and many feel shut out of the economic expansion and democratic reforms Indonesia has experienced in the past decade.
They see Jakarta's rule as a threat to the survival of their people and culture.
A separatist conflict has been simmering for decades, and the death toll is put in the hundreds of thousands by some estimates. Speaking out remains a dangerous activity in a place tightly-guarded by Indonesian military and police.
But the new Indonesian government says it's making real efforts to help Papuans improve their lives, and has begun allowing foreign journalists to visit and see for themselves.
RNZI's Johnny Blades and Koroi Hawkins took up the rare opportunity to visit the region.