Legal Practitioner and Program Officer of Indigenous People Pillar, Program Peduli
[Disclaimer: the author’s view does not represent the views of the organization or DFAT]
Minority Indigenous communities are small population groups, and are in a non-dominance position. As a small population group, this group is generally a tribal group that lives in remoted areas with limited access to information, public services, and transportation.
In the context of its non-dominance position, indigenous minority groups are subcultural social groups from the dominant main culture. In other words, their position is socially and culturally marginal from the mainstream of culture.
Burke (2015) stated that subculture is a culture that cannot fully stand alone and is found in a larger culture. The subculture in this context is more about the relationship between minorities and the dominant culture of society, which is often regarded as a deviation from these dominant cultures.
For example, the practices of indigenous religions are still regarded as deviations from the practices of major religions that have been assimilated to the majority culture. In this cultural context, indigenous minority communities are not only seen in the population approach, but also in relation to the dominant main culture.
Minority indigenous peoples are often forced to follow a process of social integration in the dominant cultural framework. For example, about indigenous religion and nomadic lifestyles or seminomadic in dominant cultural views that are seen as major cultural deviations, and need to be integrated (transformed) as soon as possible into a dominant cultural way of life.
This condition is exacerbated by the political integration of culture and development by the state, which feels the need to encourage “progress” of these groups. In many cases, the existence of coercion is revealed, at least through resettlement, indigenous community populations from their areas of life (indigenous territories) in the name of development and standards of progress.
Relations of Power
In the context above, the relationship between ethnic (custom) social groups is not completely neutral, but also conflictual, such as the relationship of mutual control, especially in plural societies like Indonesia. Erikson (1983) mentioned that ethnicity and thick nationalism are influenced by the concept of colonialism in building ethnic identities that correlate to political systems and social classes.
Although the inter-ethnic relationship system has no relationship with social classes, there is an association of social classes with certain ethnic identities because of the role and status in society. This situation gives birth to a pattern of majority-minority that is unbalanced based on the contribution of an ethnic group in the economic context. This is what creates exploitation of ethnic groups that have no power over the economic system (Wolf, 1982).
The role of certain ethnic groups in the economic context gradually becomes an ascriptive status and creates a relationship of interdependence, where hunter-gatherer groups are considered the lowest group in the most vulnerable situation (Bird-David, 1995).
Thus, the cultural, social and economic relations between ethnic minorities are unequal power relations. Various aspects of life that surround the majority-minority interethnic relations in Indonesia’s plural society show the existence of complexity involving the dimensions of identity, status and social class.
Role of the State
Minority indigenous peoples are closer to the nomenclature of the Remoted Indigenous Community (KAT). KAT is an indigenous community that is homogeneous, subsistence, dependent on natural resources, in an area that is difficult to reach, and has limitations to public services.
The definition of KAT is compatible with minority indigenous peoples as small groups (in population), non-dominance, and in isolated areas. In the context of KAT as a minority, the issue of ethnic identity that encompasses almost all dimensions of community life becomes important, especially their relationship with indigenous territories.
The identity issue of minority indigenous peoples must be placed in social and structural relationships. In terms of social relations, the identity of potential subculture minority indigenous peoples creates prejudices and stigma from the dominant group (majority), as well as the prejudices of minority indigenous peoples as being left-behind, lazy, dirty, and others.
Then, in terms of its structural nature, the identity of minority indigenous peoples is marginalized by the state structure. For example, in the conditionality case of state recognition on indigenous territories of minority indigenous peoples along with cultural identities inherent in them.
In that context, the preconditions and mechanisms for the recognition of indigenous territories must first be carried out by proving that an indigenous community still exists and does not conflict with national interests, which must then be formalized in local regulations. These prerequisites and mechanisms are clearly burdensome for minority indigenous peoples, or even impossible to implement.
Why? Because the prerequisites and recognition mechanism above cause minority indigenous peoples to fight alone in the political dynamics in the region. Prerequisites for the recognition of indigenous peoples through the formality of regional regulations clearly require strong political capacity in the politics of the region’s rule-making and many minority indigenous peoples do not have it.
Consequently, if there is no change in laws and policies on the rights of indigenous minorities on a fundamental basis, legal neglect of the rights and identities of minority indigenous peoples is likely to continue. This situation has caused the position of minority indigenous peoples to always be subculture and inequal socially, economically and culturally.