Culture and Traditions

Local Government Seeks to Protect the Ancient Kajang Tribe of Indonesia

Local Government Seeks to Protect the Ancient Kajang Tribe of Indonesia
Bernadine Racoma

The Kajang tribe of Indonesia is progressively getting vulnerable. The local government through the Constitutional Court of Indonesia is taking steps to have the tribe protected. The ancient tribe of the Kajang has been dwelling in the deep forested area of Tana Toa, which is located in the district of Bulukumba in South Sulawesi. Their lifestyle is very simple, which can be compared to the Amish way of life in the United States. Their way of life is more austere though, for they have resisted almost all the trappings that modern lifestyle brings. They use candle nut for lighting. The live in houses raised on stilts and only wear headdresses and black sarongs. Officially there are still about 5,000 members of this ancient tribe.

Encroachment of modernity

Indonesia has a prosperous economy and modernity is fast encroaching into the rural areas, as the need for more space is inevitable. While the Kajang tribe manages to resist modernization and things that go with it, they are not in a position to defend their area from possible encroachment. There had been fears going on for a few years that the Kajang traditions might soon disappear.

There are now signs that modernity has penetrated into the forests. Some younger members of the Kajang tribe are already toting mobile phones and wearing sandals. Traditionally, they go barefoot.

Traditional rights

The forest is sacred to the Kajang tribe. And in Indonesia, all forests belong to the state. The local government in the district of Bulukumba is now going to use the recent ruling given by the Constitutional Court of Indonesia as the stepping stone to give the Kajang the right to have and manage their own forests. There are about 70 million tribespeople in Indonesia. According to the AMAN, a tribal rights group, this will be a first in Indonesia once approved. Their preservation is what the officials of Bulukumba want to achieve, using the recent court ruling to protect the ancestral lands of the indigenous communities in Indonesia and by so doing, indirectly preserve the culture of the indigenous tribes in Indonesia and protect Indonesia’s rainforests that are rapidly disappearing due to logging.

The total land area the Kajang tribe occupies is about 1,900 acres or 760 hectares, and the most sacred part of this is their heartland, which covers about 330 hectares.

The forest is the lung of the world

Although the help for the Kajang is spearheaded by outsiders the chief (ammatoa) of the tribe, Puto Palasa, said that as long as this initiative will not change their traditional ways and will not affect the forests, then he has no objection to it. Using his native language, Konjo, he explained that the leaves from the trees beckon the rain to fall while the roots become home to the springs (of water) and the forests provide the lungs to the world. They allow logging only when needed for home building.

Photo credit: Taken by Tropenmuseum under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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