Kubu Tribe, Anak Dalam, a Unique Forest People Tribe in Jambi, Sumatra Island.
The Kubu Tribe or in Indonesia call it Anak Dalam or Orang Rimba (Forest People), or Suku Anak Dalam, are an indigenous Indonesian ethnic group that lives in Jambi, Sumatra Island. They live in the forest – in places such as Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park (TNBTP) and Bukit Duabelas National Park (TNBD), but now, the Kubu Tribe who maintain their traditional lifestyle are found only in TNBD.
Most Kubu Tribe nowadays have close contacts with the farmers in the environment without being village inhabitants themselves, or want that to be. They settle themselves on locations where they are free to hunt, and they often work as worker; they help with the harvest and they create new agricultural soil in the near environment. They also gather and trade products from the forest like honey, rattan and various kind of harsh. There is an increasing demand for their handicrafts: baskets and fishing equipment. In trade the Kubu Tribe receive rice, tobacco, salt, iron products, medication and cotton cloths. Flashlights, guns, radio's and other products get an ever-increasing importance, and debris is a witness from their increasing contacts with the outside world. Besides the common teeth, shells and bones of wild animals, there are batteries, tin cans, bottles and plastic mess as well. Because of this changes living environment, some kind of economical symbiosis was created between the Kubu Tribe and the farmers, however they are still distant from each other for what social status is concerned. The villagers often-strong Moslems which have the feeling being a part of the new Indonesia in development - show little respect for the 'half naked, all eating, uncivilized Kubu' which maintain their old and irregular way of life.
The Kubu Tribe, on their turn, still reject living in villages. The heavy work on the soil, the small moving freedom and many oblige which the villagers have to do, like education, developmental and political activities and 'gotong royong' (communal exchange of labor) are fearful to the Kubu Tribe. That's why they are constantly in opposition against the pressure and temptations from the outside world who wants to force them to become villagers. This explains why the Kubu Tribe never accepted houses in areas with transmigration projects and why they didn't hold on long in villages what were built for their 'development and civilization'. They choose for freedom of living in the forests, living on the edge of civilization as a loose worker. Only when this only possibility is taken away, they show themselves more openly: as beggars in wood chop camps, at bus terminals and along the roads. Maybe people can see this as their adaptation to the modernized form of hunting and collecting where money, food and cigarettes are the aim, but it's a living habit that has not been chosen by the Kubu selves. It's not only needed that their environment is protected and saved, but also a severe reconsideration of the future of the Kubu Tribe is needed.
The Kubu Tribe have a minimalist lifestyle, as can be seen from their daily attire. The men wear only loincloths, and unmarried women wear simple sarongs covering their bodies up to their breasts. Married women wear kain (wraparound cloths) up to their waists, leaving the rest uncovered. The Kubu Tribe belief, to cover up the breasts of a married woman, especially one who has children, is tantamount to praying for misfortune, or even death, to befall her children. This is clearly related to the habit of suckling their children at any time.
The Kubu Tribe live in relatively small groups, each comprising around 15 extended families. The name of each group comes from the river they live near. They have special terms for the respected elders of the groups, such as Tengganai, Tumenggung, and Menti.
Apart from the forest, which is to them a priceless asset, the Kubu Tribe also have a special culture and traditional wisdom in managing the rivers. The rivers are the source of life; all drinking water comes from the rivers. For this reason, it is strictly forbidden to use the river as a toilet or to use soap or detergent along the river. Violators are subject to fines. For the Kubu Tribe, these customary fines are a part of their culture that applies not just to them but also to anyone who interacts with them and is in their area. The fines must be paid in the presence of the entire community, before the Tumenggung and Tengganai.
Tumenggung Tarib, head of the "Air Hitam" group of Kubu Tribe, the customary penalty for theft is a fine of 20 lengths of cloth (kain), and the fine increases for repeat offenses. "For the first offense, you have to pay 20 cloth. If someone steals more often, they have to pay 80 cloth and are subject to other customary sanctions as well, he explains. Cloth (Kain) have symbolic value, indicating the level of a person's wealth.
In addition to their traditional law and the various levels of leadership, the Kubu Tribe have several other interesting cultural traditions, such as Melangun. Melangun is performed when a member of an Kubu Tribe family passes away. Death is a tragic event for the entire community, and especially for the person's family. The Kubu Tribe who lived near the place where the person died will all move away, both because the death is seen as a sign of great misfortune and in order to forget the tragic event more quickly. They avoid the scene of the death for quite a long time – in the past, for 10 to 12 years. But since their territory has been so greatly reduced, the melangun period is now only between four months and one year, and the area that is avoided is also much smaller than in the past. Furthermore, nowadays when someone dies, not all the members of the group move away; only the family of the deceased do so.
When a member of the Kubu Tribe community dies, all her family members grieve deeply, wailing and crying for an entire week. Some of the women slam their bodies against large trees or into the ground; others cry out the phrase "laa illa hail" ("oh God, return the soul of the one who has died").
The remains of the deceased are then covered with cloth from head to ankles and borne by three people from the house to the final resting place: a hut located over 4 kilometers into the forest. This funerary hut is 12 feet above ground for an adult, or four feet above ground for a child. The foundation of the hut is made of small logs, and the roof from dry leaves.
Among the Kubu Tribe, human remains are not bathed, nor are they buried in the ground. In their belief, people who have died could still come back to life; if they were buried, they would be unable to arise and rejoin the group. This belief began with incidents in the past when people who were very near death (for example, in a long coma) were left by their group in huts in the forest, and some of them did in fact recover and return to their group. This inspired them to adopt the practice of not burying those who have died.
The members of the group occasionally visit the hut where the corpse has been placed, monitoring its condition from a distance. There is a taboo associated with this; the name of the dead person must not be uttered, because this will bring back their deep grief over his death. They say, "Don't mention a person who has died."
The Air Hitam group led by Tumenggung Tarib is one of the most faithful to their hompongan. "I and the community have worked hard on this hompongan. I never tire of urging the Kubu Tribe to maintain their dignity by doing what is right for the forest, and never to betray the environment by selling their land just to buy motorcycles or hand phones. The forest is gradually disappearing. When there's no more forest, there will be no more Kubu Tribe or Orang Rimba," as Tumenggung Tarib constantly reminds his people.
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