Nias an important East India island to the west of Sumatra, in 18' 54"-10 35' N. lat., and 970-980 E. long., with an area of about 1575 square miles, belongs to Holland. and had in 1857, when the Dutch took possession, a population of about 110,000. There are several places where ships can anchor and take in provisions, water, etc. On the east coast is the village Nias, and on the west Silorongang. Little islands and coral reefs lie here and there on the coast, which in some places is steep, while mountain-chains run from the south-east to the north-west. There is a greater breadth of excellent farming-grounds than the population, reduced by internal wars and the exportation of slaves, can properly cultivate. They grow rice, cocoa-nuts, bananas, tobacco, sugar-cane, etc., and annually export about 110,000 pounds of pepper. Cattie and horses have been imported, and they pay great attention to the raising of pigs and fowls. Formerly, about 500 Niassers were carried away annually as slaves to Batavia and other places, and though this traffic has been in a great measure suppressed, it is still to some extent carried on clandestinely.
The Niassers are of the Malay race, but fairer than the Malays usually are. They are gentle, sober, and peaceful, remarkably ingenious in handicraft, ornamenting their houses with wood-carvings, forging arms, etc. The women labor in the fields, the children weave mats, while the men look after the live-stock, and hunt the deer and wild swine. They worship a superior deity, and fear a powerful one, who pursues them if they do evil. Polygamy is permitted, but is rare. The gift to the bride's family is from $60 to $500. Divorce is not allowed, and adultery is punished by the death of both parties. Dead bodies are placed in coffins above the ground, and creepers and flowering shrubs planted, which speedily grow up and cover them. Trade is on the increase. For missionary work in Nias, SEE MALAY ARCHIPELAGO. See also Malayan Miscellanies, vol. ii; Het Eiland Nias, by H. J. Domis; Crawford's Descriptive Dictionary (London, 1856); Tydsch-riiJ voor Ned. Indie (1854, 1860).