Know the Origins and Customs of the 5 Biggest Tribes on the Island of Sumatra

Origins and Customs of the 5 Largest Tribes on the Island of Sumatra – Sumatra Island is the sixth largest island in the world with an area of ​​473,481 km². The population of the island is approximately 57,940,351 (2018 census). This island is also known by other names, namely Percha Island , Andalas , or Suwarnadwipa (Sanskrit, meaning “golden island”).

When it was a trade route in the past, the island of Sumatra had many names, from Samoterra, Samotra, Sumotra, Zamatra and Zamatora. Dutch and English records, since Jan Huygen van Linschoten and Sir Francis Drake in the 16th century, have always been consistent in Sumatran writing. This form became the standard and was later adapted to the Indonesian tongue: Sumatra.

Sumatra Island is located in the western part of the archipelago archipelago. It is bounded on the north by the Bay of Bengal, on the east by the Malacca Strait, on the south by the Sunda Strait, and on the west by the Indian Ocean.

The eastern part of the island is often found in swamps which are drained by large rivers that flow there, including Asahan (North Sumatra), Siak River (Riau), Kampar, Inderagiri (West Sumatra and Riau), Batang Hari (West Sumatra and Jambi). ), Musi, Ogan, Lematang, Komering (South Sumatra), Way Sekampung, Way Tulangbawang, Way Seputih and Way Mesuji (Lampung). Meanwhile, several rivers that flow into the west coast of the island of Sumatra include Batang Tarusan (West Sumatra) and Ketahun (Bengkulu).

As for the western part of the island, the Bukit Barisan mountains stretch from the northwest to the southeast with a length of + 1500 km. Along the hill range there are dozens of mountains, both inactive and active volcanoes, such as Geureudong (Aceh), Sinabung (North Sumatra), Marapi and Talang (West Sumatra), Mount Dempo (South Sumatra), Mount Kaba (Bengkulu ), and Kerinci (West Sumatra and Jambi).

The island of Sumatra also has several lakes, including Lake Laut Tawar (Aceh), Lake Toba (North Sumatra), Lake Singkarak, Lake Maninjau, Lake Diatas, Lake Di Bawah, Lake Talang (West Sumatra), Lake Kerinci (Jambi), and Lake Ranau (Lampung and South Sumatra).

In general, the island of Sumatra is inhabited by the Malay people, who are divided into several tribes or sub-tribes. Major tribes other than Malay are Batak, Minangkabau, Aceh, Lampung, Karo, Nias, Rejang, Komering, Gayo, and so on.

The east coast of Sumatra and in several big cities such as Medan, Batam, Palembang, Pekanbaru and Bandar Lampung, are mostly inhabited by ethnic Chinese and Indians. The livelihoods of the people of Sumatra are mostly as farmers, fishermen and traders.

The majority of the population of Sumatra is Muslim and a small proportion are adherents of Protestant Christianity, especially in the Tapanuli and Toba-Samosir regions, North Sumatra. Meanwhile, in urban areas, such as Medan, Pekanbaru, Batam, Pangkal Pinang, Palembang and Bandar Lampung, several Buddhists were found.

In order to better understand the large tribes that inhabit the island of Sumatra, let’s look at the following descriptions and explanations together.

1. Malays

A Riau Malay couple playing a traditional gambus instrument, against the background of the tricolor Malay flag.

The Malay people are an Austronesian ethnic group who inhabit the Malay Peninsula, the east coast of the island of Sumatra (Bangka Belitung, Jambi, Riau, Riau Islands, South Sumatra and North Sumatra), the southern part of Thailand, the south coast of Burma, the island of Singapore, the coast of Borneo, the Philippines. the southern part, and the smaller islands located around this location—collectively known as the “Malay World”. This location is now part of the modern countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand and the Philippines.

The name “Malay” comes from the Malay Kingdom that once existed in the Sungai Batang Hari area, Jambi. During its development, the Malay Kingdom eventually succumbed and became subordinate to the Sriwijaya Kingdom. The use of the term Malay also extended beyond Sumatra, following the territory of the Srivijaya empire which expanded to Java, Kalimantan and the Malay Peninsula.

Almost all of the Archipelago is directly influenced by the Malays. The Malay language, which has developed and is used by many people in the archipelago, was finally chosen as the national language in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.

In terms of race or national family, Malays in Indonesia are divided into two groups, namely Proto Malay or Proto Malayan and Deutero Malay or Duetro Malayan.

Proto Malayan is an Old Malay family that came for the first time around +1500 BC. This family includes the Dayak, Toraja, Sasak, Nias, Batak, Anak Dalam, Enggano, and so on who live on the islands of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nias, Lombok, and Sumatra.

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The Deutro Malays are the Young Malays who came after the Proto Malays in the Metal Age around + 500 BC. The group that entered the second wave included ethnic Malays, Acehnese, Lampung and Minangkabau living on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali, Madura and Sulawesi.

Another group that does not belong to the Malay family, but still belongs to the nation in Indonesia is the Melanesian people who live in the eastern part of Indonesia. Even so, the term Malay used in Indonesia refers more to the meaning of a more specific ethnic group, so that the existing Malay does not belong to the Javanese ethnic group.

According to the 2010 census, the Malay ethnic group in Indonesia consists of Tamiang Malay, Palembang Malay, Bangka Malay, Deli Malay, Asahan Malay, Coastal Malay, Riau Malay, Archipelago Malay, Jambi Malay, Bengkulu Malay, Merangin Malay, Lematang Malay, Inner Malay, Malay Rokan, Siak Malay, Kampar Malay, Rawas Malay, Musi Malay, Kuantan Malay, Belitung Malay, Pontianak Malay, Sanggau Malay, Sintang Malay, Kotawaringin Malay, Lahat Malay, Sambas Malay, Lembak Malay, Kaur Malay, Besemah Malay, Ogan Malay, Langkat Malay, Lintang Malay, Serawai Malay, Kerinci Malay, Berau Malay, Loloan Malay and Bulungan Malay.

The related/closest Malay ethnic groups in Sumatra consist of the Minangkabau, Lampung, Komering-Lampung, Aneuk Jamee, Acehnese, Mukomuko, Rejang, Mandailing, Pekal, Talang Mamak, Gayo, Singkil, the Alas, the Kluet, the Devayan/Simeulue, and the Haloban.

The related/closest Malay ethnic groups in Kalimantan consist of the Banjar, Kutai, Tidung, Suluk, Maranao, Paser, Moro, and Meratus Dayak tribes. The related/closest Malay ethnic groups on the island of Sulawesi are the Bugis, while the related/closest ethnic groups on the island of Java are the Betawi and Loloan tribes.

2. The Acehnese

Acehnese women in their traditional clothes.

The Acehnese or in the Acehnese language are called Ureuëng Acèh is the name of an indigenous tribe that inhabits the coastal areas and parts of the interior of Aceh Province. The majority of the Acehnese people are Muslim. The tribe has several other names, namely Lam Muri, Lambri, Akhir, Achin, Asji, A-tse and Atse.

The language spoken by this tribe is Acehnese, which is part of the West Malayo-Polynesian language family and is closely related to the Cham language spoken in Vietnam and Cambodia. The Acehnese language belongs to the Aceh-Chamik language group, a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language family.

The languages ​​that are most closely related to the Acehnese language are Cham, Roglai, Jarai, Rhade, Chru, Utset and other languages ​​in the Chamic language family, which are spoken in Cambodia, Vietnam and Hainan.

Acehnese legend says that the first inhabitants of Aceh came from the Mante and Lhan tribes. The Mante tribe is a local ethnic group that is part of the Alas and Karo tribes, while the Lhan tribe is thought to be related to the Semang tribe who migrated from the Malay Peninsula or the Back Indies (Champa and Burma).

The Mante tribe initially inhabited the Aceh Besar area and then spread to other places. There are also ethnological assumptions about the relationship between the Mante tribe and the Phoenicians in Babylon or the Dravidians who were in the valley of the Indus and Ganges rivers. However, this has not been confirmed by experts.

3. Minangkabau tribe

Minangkabau Cultural Festival 2016.

The Minang people are part of the Deutro Malays (Young Malays) who migrated from mainland China south to the island of Sumatra around 2,500–2,000 years ago. It is estimated that this community group entered from the east of the island of Sumatra, along the Kampar river to a plateau called the darek and became the homeland of the Minangkabau people.

Some of these darek areas then formed a kind of confederation known as luhak , hereinafter also referred to as Luhak Nan Tigo , consisting of Luhak Limo Puluah , Luhak Agam , and Luhak Tanah Data . During the reign of the Dutch East Indies, the luhak area became a territorial government area called afdeling and was headed by a resident (the Minangkabau people called him Tuan Luhak).

Along with the growth and development of the population, the Minangkabau people spread to other darek areas, as well as forming certain areas into rantau areas . This concept for the Minangkabau people is an area that is the entrance to Minangkabau nature.

Rantau also functions as a place to find life, a trade area. Rantau in Minangkabau is known as Rantau Nan Duo which is divided into Rantau in Hilia (east coast area) and Rantau in Mudiak (west coast area).

At first, the mention of the Minangkabau people was not distinguished from the Malays. However, since the 19th century, the mention of it began to be distinguished because it saw the matrilineal culture that persisted in Minangkabau society in contrast to the patrilineal culture adopted by the Malay community in general.

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Today’s Minangkabau people are adherents of Islam. If there are people who leave the Islamic religion, those directly concerned are also considered to have left the Minangkabau community. This is in accordance with the term “thrown away along custom”.

According to Tambo, the Minangkabau customary system was first coined by two brothers, namely Datuk Ketumanggungan and Datuk Perpatih Nan Sebatang. Datuk Ketumanggungan inherited the aristocratic Koto Piliang customary system, while Datuk Perpatih inherited the egalitarian Bodi Caniago customary system. In its journey, the two customary systems known as kelarasan complement each other and form the Minangkabau community system.

There are three pillars that build and maintain the integrity of the culture and customs of the Minangkabau people. They are religious scholars, intellectuals, and ninik mamak, known as the Tigo Sajarangan Furnace . All three complement each other and work hand in hand in the same high position. All community affairs are discussed by these three elements.

4. Batak tribe

Batak tribe.

The Batak people are speakers of Austronesian languages, but it is not certain when the ancestors of the Batak people first settled in Tapanuli and East Sumatra. Language and archaeological evidence show that Austronesian-speaking people from Taiwan moved to the Philippines and Indonesia around 2,500 years ago, during the New Stone Age (Neolithic).

However, because until now no Neolithic artifacts (Young Stone Age) have been found in the Batak region, it can be assumed that the Batak ancestors only migrated to North Sumatra during the metal age.

Batak identity became popular in modern Indonesian history after the founding and joining of young people from Angkola, Mandailing, Karo, Toba, Simalungun, and Pakpak in an organization called Jong Batak in 1926, regardless of religion in one accord.

Before the Batak tribe embraced Christianity and Islam, they had a belief system and religion towards Mulajadi na Bolon who had power over the sky and the radiance of his power was manifested in the Natolu Debata .

The Toba Batak people recognize three concepts, including:

  • Tendi/tondi is a person’s soul or spirit which is a force. Tondi gave life to humans. Tondi is obtained since a person is in the womb. If tondi leaves someone’s body, that person will get sick or die. This is what caused the mangalap ceremony (to pick up) the tondi from the sombaon that captivated him;
  • Sahala is the soul or spirit of a person’s power. Everyone has tondi , but not everyone has sahala . Sahala is the same as sumanta , luck or supernatural powers possessed by kings or hula-hula (wife clan group);
  • Begu is the tondi of people who have died, whose behavior is the same as that of humans, but only appears at night.

5. Mentawai tribe

Making Mentawai Tattoos.

The Mentawai tribe is the original inhabitants of the Mentawai Islands. Like the Nias and Enggano tribes, they are part of the Proto Malays who settled in the western Archipelago. Apart from Mentawai, their residential areas are on North Pagai Island and South Pagai Island.

The distinctive tradition of this tribe is the use of tattoos all over the body (in the local language it is called titi ), which is related to the user’s role and social status. Not just any tattoo, every motif depicted on their bodies has a certain philosophy.

Before getting to know Christianity, the Mentawai tribe followed their belief which was called Sabulungan. Currently, almost all Mentawai people have embraced religion, especially Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, as well as some Islam, although some of them still adhere to the old Sabulungan beliefs.

One of the local churches established for the Mentawai tribe is the Mentawai Christian Protestant Church (GKPM), which was founded on July 6, 1916 and has a congregation of around 35,000 people.

So, that’s a brief explanation of the Origins and Customs of the 5 Largest Customary Tribes on the Island of Sumatra . The following are book recommendations from sinaumedia that Sinaumed’s can read to learn about tribes in Indonesia so they can fully understand them. Happy reading.

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