The Kubu Tribe, also known as Suku Anak Dalam or Orang Rimba (‘people of the forest’), is one of the ethnic groups living on the island of Sumatra, mostly in Jambi and South Sumatra. They are called “kubu” because they live deep in the wilderness. The Sumatran forests are their home.
The Kubu people live in the forests of Bukit Barisan, which stretches from Sarolangun in Jambi to Dharmasraya in West Sumatra. They are nomadic people, moving from the valleys to the hills, often farther and more inaccessible. They live off the forest in which they build simple houses, gather and hunt for food, marry, create a family, and live.
There are strong restrictions governing the lives of the Kubu people. Theft, rape, and murder among other actions deemed as barbaric will be met with harsh punishments. Their faith in God is summed up in a simple phrase: in mano bungo ado, ado dewo in sano – where there are flowers, these is God.
The Kubu Tribe also believes in the presence of spirits and supernatural powers. Take melangun for example. A ritual foloiwng a person’s death, melangun requires people of the Kubu Tribe to move their settlements to another location. Walking to the new location, the move can take up to six months. This is done as they believe death curses their dwelling, hence, the need to find a new blessed place.
The Tribe has never received external influence. Perhaps, only a number of NGOs have managed to establish contact with them. The Kubu people call these foreigners “bright people”. But, the conversations of forests into plantations are beginning to threaten their ways of living. Some have involuntarily moved out of their settlements, though many are still trying to survive in the wild.
Unfortunately, this unique indigenous peaceful tribe will be facing more challenges in the future as thousands of hectares of forests will be cleared. Woods and rattans will be replaced with palm oil plantations and the Kubu people will, again, be forced to move deeper into the forest. Melangun will perhaps no longer serve as a ritual following the death of a tribal member, but an unsacred and involuntary move necessary to avoid withering lands.