Indigenous peoples of malaysia


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Indigenous peoples of malaysia

  1. 1. A Very Brief Introduction to Indigenous Peoples of Malaysia: Orang Asli Dr. Mark McGinley Honors College and Department of Biological Sciences Texas Tech University
  2. 2. Orang Asli • “original people” in Malay • Indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia – 18 Orang Asli tribes – 3 main groups Semang (Negrito)- northern Peninsula Senoi- central region Proto-Malay- southern region
  3. 3. Orang Asli • Linguistically, some of the northern Orang Asli groups speak languages that suggest a historical link with the indigenous peoples in Burma, Thailand and IndoChina. • Negrito group was thought to be the first to arrive in the peninsula Photo from 1905
  4. 4. Orang Asli • The members of the Proto-Malay tribes, whose ancestors were believed to have migrated from the Indonesian islands to the south of the peninsula, speak dialects which belong to the same Austronesian family of languages as Malay.
  5. 5. Orang Asli Lifestyle • Lifestyle varied with ecology of their homeland • Hunted small animals and collected plant food in the rainforest
  6. 6. Orang Laut • Orang Laut depended on the sea
  7. 7. Orang Asli • It has also been shown that the Orang Asli have played a significant role in the Malay Peninsula's economic history as collectors and primary traders as early as the 5th Century CE
  8. 8. Orang Asli and Malays • Orang Asli living in remote forest areas engaged in some trading with the Malays, with jungle produce being exchanged for salt, knives and metal axe-heads. There was also evidence of trade in blowpipes and blowpipe-bamboo among certain tribes. • The rise of the Malay sultanates, coinciding with trade in Orang Asli slaves, forced the group to retreat further inland to avoid contact with outsiders.
  9. 9. Orang Asli and Slavery • Slave raids into Orang Asli settlements were quite common feature back in the 18th and 19th centuries. • These slave-raiders were mainly local Malays and Bataks, who considered the Orang Asli as ‘kafirs’, ‘non-humans’, ‘savages’ and ‘jungle-beasts.’ – The modus operandi was basically to swoop down a settlement and then kill off all the adult men. – Women and children were captured alive as they are ‘easier to tame.’ – The captives Orang Asli slaves were sold off or given to local rulers and chieftains to gain their favor. Slaves trade soon developed and even continued into the present century despite the official abolition of all forms of slavery in 1884.
  10. 10. Orang Asli and the British • The arrival of British colonists brought further inroads in the lives of Orang Asli. They were the target of Christian missionary and subjects of anthropological research.
  11. 11. Orang Asli and Malayan Emergency • After World War II Chinese Communists who had been fighting against the Japanese took to the jungle to fight against the British. • Communists used Orang Asli as forest guides. • Government recognized that they needed to prevent Orang Asli from working with Communists so they began forced resettlement and recruitment of Orang Asli into the military
  12. 12. Orang Asli and Malayan Emergency • Bombs dropped on communist rebels in the rainforests had damaging effects on Orang Asli.
  13. 13. Sedentism • The perceived nomadic lifestyle of those in the interior areas, posed a problem to the security forces in their effort to maintain surveillance over their activities and movements. • Since these settlements were in 'black areas' (where the insurgents were believed to be still active), the need to keep a close watch over the Orang Asli in these areas was even more urgent for the state. • Having the Orang Asli lead a more settled or sedentary way of life would, it was deduced, greatly aid the state in its goal of national security.
  14. 14. Resettlement • As such, during the mid1970s when communist insurgents revived their war with the government efforts were made by the JHEOA to persuade village headmen to heed the call for regroupment. • Promises of permanent housing, piped water and other modern facilities (such as schools and hospitals) were made. • Coercion was not employed. Instead, persuasive methods (including taking the headmen on field trips to other successful government schemes) were the norm.
  15. 15. Resettlement • The decision to accept permanent residence in a particular location meant that the resource base of the Orang Asli, as far as their subsistence activities were concerned, were now restricted to a rather limited area.
  16. 16. Resettlement • Furthermore, the grouping together of a number of other settlements in a smaller area tended to further deplete the potential of the subsistence base. – For example, in the Betau Regroupment Scheme, 20 settlements, with an estimated total population of 1,284 Semai, who were originally spread over a 14.4 km radius of the administrative center, were now confined into an area within a 5.6 km radius, or about 15 per cent of the original area. – This immediately implies a severe strain on the ability of the now smaller subsistence base to provide for the needs of the increased number of people depending on it for their water, food and other subsistence materials.
  17. 17. Resettlement • Lately, the call to sedentism has always followed some other ulterior intention: the lands of the Orang Asli were needed for other purposes, be it a new agricultural project, a dam, a new airport, or even a golf course.
  18. 18. Aboriginal Peoples Act • The Emergency led to the creation of the Department of Orang Asli Affairs (JHEOA) and the passing of the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954.
  19. 19. Aboriginal Peoples Act • Originally enacted during the height of the Emergency, the Aboriginal Peoples 1954 (revised in 1974) basically served to prevent the communist insurgents from getting help from the Orang Asli. • It was also aimed at preventing the insurgents from imparting their ideology to the Orang Asli. – For this reason, for example, there are provisions in the Act which allow the Minister concerned to prohibit any non-Orang Asli from entering an Orang Asli area, or to prohibit the entry of any written or printed material. Even in the appointment of headmen, the Minister has the final say. • The Act treats the Orang Asli as if they were a people unable to lead their own lives and needing the 'protection' of the authorities to safeguard their wellbeing.
  20. 20. Aboriginal Peoples Act • While the Act provides for the establishment of Orang Asli Areas and Orang Asli Reserves, it also grants the state authority the right to order any Orang Asli community to leave and stay out of an area. • In effect, the best security that an Orang Asli can get is one of 'tenant-at-will'. That is to say, an Orang Asli is allowed to remain in a particular area only at the pleasure of the state authority. If at such time the state wishes to re-acquire the land, it can revoke its status and the Orang Asli are left with no other legal recourse but to move elsewhere. • Furthermore, in the event of such displacement occurring, the state is not obliged to pay any compensation or allocate an alternative site.
  21. 21. Aboriginal Peoples Act • The Aboriginal Peoples Act laid down certain ground rules for the treatment of Orang Asli and their lands. • Effectively, it accords the Minister concerned or the Director-General of the Department of Orang Asli Affairs (JHEOA) the final say in all matters concerning the administration of the Orang Asli. • In matters concerning land, the state authority has the final say.
  22. 22. Orang Asli Today • The Orang Asli comprise only 0.5% of the total population in Malaysia. Their population is approximately 148,000. • The largest group are the Senois, constituting about 54% of the total Orang Asli population. The Proto-Malays form 43%, and the Semang forming 3%. • The poverty rate among Orang Asli is 76.9%. In addition to this high rate, the Statistics Department of Malaysia has classified 35.2% of the population as being "hardcore poor". • The majority of Orang Asli live in rural areas, while a minority have moved into urban areas. In 1991, the literacy rate for the Orang Asli was 43% compared to the national rate of 86% at that time. • They have an average life expectancy of 53 years (52 for male and 54 for female).
  23. 23. Orang Asli in Tama Negara • Today, about 500 Orang Asli live in the national park at any one time. • Their typical camp usually comprises 10 to 30 family members living in temporary shelter made from natural vegetation. • The settlement area located near rivers and structures are not sturdy as they are only needed for a few month before the communities moves on.
  24. 24. Orang Asli Village in Taman Negara
  25. 25. Orang Asli Village in Taman Negara
  26. 26. Orang Asli in Taman Negara • Contact with the outside is limited, although the Batek sell some forest products like rattan and wild honey, which they adept at collecting. • They also collected and eat many forest fruits and plants such as durian, cempedak, mangosteen, rambutan and petai, and may sell any excess. • The men hunt and share the spoils while the women fish and collect forest fruits and vegetables.
  27. 27. Orang Asli in Taman Negara • Traps and nets are occasionally used to snare small games. Meals are supplemented with fish, tortoise, jungle fruits and yams from the forest and products like rice bought from outside. Traditionally most food was cooked in bamboo, grilled or boiled although now metal pots supplement this.
  28. 28. Orang Asli in Taman Negara • The Orang Asli are renowned for their hunting prowess. The Batek believe animal living above the ground are clean so they hunt those living in trees such as birds, squirrels and monkeys. Originally the Orang Asli used bows and arrows but early this century they converted to blowpipes. • Today, they still use 1.5metre bamboo blowpipes and poisonous darts to hunt on daily basis. – Darts are dipped in the poisonous sap of the Ipoh Tree (Antaris toxicaria).
  29. 29. Making Dart
  30. 30. Starting a Fire
  31. 31. Orang Asli Village in Taman Negara
  32. 32. Orang Asli in Taman Negara
  33. 33. Indigenous Rights Movement • Indigenous peoples over the years, especially in the recent 53 years, have been victims of the government’s failure to recognize the following: • Recognition of ancestral and traditional lands and territories: – these land areas are not delineated and marked as protected lands of indigenous peoples. These lands, in fact, have been subject to land invasion by the government and corporations without consulting tribal leaders. Right to self-governance and right to practice indigenous/tribal laws: – Indigenous peoples are not given the right to practice their own indigenous/tribal laws and are forced to be part of the “mainstream”. Right to self-determination: – Indigenous peoples are constantly the victims of development plans which only serve to profit corporations and only enrich the capitalist class. Leaving the indigenous peoples bereft of their land and their resources. Right to access and manage their own natural resources within their ancestral domain: – Indigenous peoples are often robbed of their own resources within their ancestral domain and are denied access to sustainably manage their resources. Right to their history and cultural heritage: – Due to the increasing marginalization and forced evictions due to land invasion and land grabbing, the indigenous peoples are under the threat of losing their history and cultural heritage. • • • •
  34. 34. Orang Asli- The Future • This short article by a professor from La Trobe University in Australia does a good job raising some of the issues facing the Orang Asli today.
  35. 35. Other Interesting Sources • The Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia. – Colin Nicholas