By Mika Ganobal and Adi Marsiela

The Indigenous Peoples of Loran, who took part in the #SaveAru movement in 2013, have successfully foiled a plan to convert a forest in Aru Islands, Maluku, into a sugarcane plantation. The Indigenous Peoples' collectivity in preserving nature and the environment can't be separated from their daily activities, as they have long relied on hunting for their survival.

The Indigenous community of Fanugwa Loran lives in the central part of Aru Islands, specifically in Central Aru District, Aru Islands Regency, Maluku Province. Fanugwa Loran is a customary area that is administratively registered as a village. The government calls it Lorang Village, with an additional "g" at the end.

The customary area of Fanugwa Loran comprises 379 big and small islands, each with a different name and function. The arrangement of the islands' names and functions was made by the ancestors of the Indigenous community of Fanugwa Loran.

Our history started with 10 large and small clans led by the Mon Mona Gwalan, or the clan leaders. The clans were Badidi Yai Clan, Dakael Gwarjir Clan, Tarau Gwarjir Clan, Gwaitedi Clan, Leftafuran Jugir Clan, Goini Clan, Gwanobal Gwajir Clan, Feldaba Gwajir Clan, Regwajir Clan, and Djirmori Clan. Most of them lived on Kobo and Kobror, two large islands in Aru Islands.

Each clan has its own kalay mona or ancestor. The ancestors are:

1. Mala Guar            : Badidi Yai

2. Gwal Gwal           : Dakael Gwarjir, Tarau Gwarjir

3. Mangar                : Gwanobal Gwajir

4. Kalaifui                 : Gwaitedi

5. Beljeur                 : Regwajir

6. Marlai                   : Leftafuran Jugir

7. Lengam                : Goini

8. Korisan                : Feldaba Gwajir

9. Marutu                 : Djirmori

Fanugwa Loran area measures 40,000 hectares and comprises lands, large and small straits, as well as rivers. Mangroves, forests, settlements, plantations, and fields dominate most of the lands.

According to Statistics Indonesia, the population of Fanugwa Loran in 2019 stood at 258, which consisted of 125 women and 133 men. Most of them were Christians.

Our sources of livelihood are farming, fishing, hunting, and, for a small group of people, trading. At least nine out of 10 people acquire a livelihood from the abundant natural resources. The Indigenous Peoples protect their environment by adhering to the customary rules, which have become the standard rules in our social lives. The existing order is built on the original rules that have been present right from the start.

The Indigenous Peoples have moved their settlement 10 times. However, the name Fanugwa Loran remains unchanged, as determined by Jabuja Takuna (the forebear or the datuk), though the administrative name is Lorang Village.

When establishing the Fanugwa Loran, the ancestors of various clans gathered at the Badidi River. They were waiting for each other until all the 10 clans assembled.

The arrival of those clans had been awaited by their forebears: Jabuja Takuna (the datuk) and Fanugwa Dugwayi (the landlord). The sequence of the meetings with the ancestors was in line with the order in the aforementioned clans list. Meanwhile, the arrangement of the settlement or resettlement was as follows: Badidi Gwarfufin, Fkar Gwaka Tafuran, Ilma Lengarna, Bigwa Ukin Di, Gwar Fefa Jin Jina, Kai Falauna, Gutan Dalengan, Gwar Nga Nau, Kokoyar Jurin, and Lar Fafin Tubin.

In the process, the name Fanugwa Loran was given to the first village, though at that time the Indigenous community did not live in the Fanugwa Loran area.

Forest for the Indigenous Community's Life

The customary rules of the Fanugwa Loran stipulate that forest is the place where the Indigenous community lives, except for some sacred places where the community is prohibited from cultivating the land.

The Indigenous community of Fanugwa Loran believes in the petuanan rights or customary land tenure. Such rights allow the community to cultivate in the forest as well as convert cultivation areas into forest areas, plantations, fields, or settlements. Permitted activities include setting animal traps and hunting, cutting firewood or house materials, and planting sago palms in an area called the sago hamlet.

Those from different clans are also allowed to carry out economic activities on the customary land after obtaining permission from the petuanan rights holder.

In the customary area, people are prohibited from conducting illegal logging, capturing animals, and damaging the forest. A company or any kind of investor is not welcomed here. Forest is like a "traditional market" that provides food and drinks for us, for future generations.

The Indigenous Peoples of Aru in the southern part of Aru Islands, which live across 14 villages, frequently hold the so-called Daotel ritual (burning of reeds). Today, Indigenous Peoples from two southern villages still carry out this ritual.

People can visit the village by taking a six-hour motor boat ride from the center of the regency. Those opting to take a speedboat can reach the village within only two hours, though they must pay around 8-9 million rupiah (US$557-626).

The Indigenous Peoples living on the coast make use of the mangrove areas to secure their food supplies by collecting shrimp, fish, and crabs. There's no fish farming here.

Hunting With Dogs

Those living in Lorang Village, Aru Tengah District, Aru Islands Regency, Maluku Province, derive their livelihood from hunting as well.

The hunted animals, such as pigs and deer, can be found on lands, savannas, or sometimes on coasts and in mangrove forests. In addition, there are also tree kangaroos, locally known as pelanduk.

Preparation for hunting on small islands and lands or in mangrove forests usually takes place a day or a night before. Hunters must check their bows, arrows, and boats (should they want to cross to another island) and ensure that all equipment is ready to use.

The best time to hunt is before sunrise, between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., when the dew is still present. During those hours, the targeted animals are still on a full stomach. As they are yet to defecate or urinate, their weights are relatively heavier than usual, making it easier to hunt them.

With different hunting grounds, comes different hunting strategies. Hunting on an island, or gurija, means that hunters must deal with forests, including mangrove ones. This makes it easier for hunters and their dogs to chase down the targeted animals, as usually there's only one or a few escape routes. Hunters can also wait for their dogs to chase down and direct the targeted animals towards them - this is called mangela.

If the targeted animals manage to escape a dog bite on land, they can usually be found later on a coast.

Another hunting location is da’yar kurur or the mangrove forests. Hunters can find deer and wild pigs there, as those animals forage for food in the mangrove forests. Pigs often look for mussels in the mud. Moreover, pigs and deer also eat mangrove fruits, though only deer like to devour young mangrove shoots.

There's also a hunting location called jur-jurin, which is a forest area where the hunted animals usually roam.

Hunters must be able to read tracks of the hunted animals in forests and examine deer teeth marks on the treetops.

Hunters can also tell whether a deer is male or female by the antler marks on trees. The marks indicate the presence of deer in a certain area. Meanwhile, the velvet (vascular skin covering deer antlers) left on trees rubbed by deer shows the age of the mammals. If there's no fur, it can be estimated that the deer is a mature one.

Even though one can hunt alone, hunting is usually done in groups. It depends on the Indigenous community's needs. Group hunting often takes place when there's going to be a ceremony or certain activities in the village.

There are different tasks for those involved in group hunting. Three or more people usually enter the forest or hunting location with their dogs, while others guard the animals' escape routes. The distribution of hunters depends on the number of escape routes identified in that area.

When hunting takes place on a small island, hunters are tasked with guarding different places, whether it's around a sea, river, or strait. They must chase down the targeted animals that are running away from the land and trying to swim to escape our hunting dogs. When there are boats, we usually place two hunters in each of them.

Hunting outcomes depend on the dogs' taste. Some prefer targeting deer or pigs, but others are attracted to certain sex of certain animals. When there are tracks of an animal that doesn't suit the dogs' taste, they won't chase the animal down.

Dogs follow their leaders when hunting. A dog usually leads the others along with its deputy. The leader tends to be nimbler when facing the prey and exudes charisma among others.

It takes years for hunters to determine the dogs' leaders. Dogs are involved in hunting right from their early years, with the hunters constantly monitoring their developments. The top ones are then trained to lead from the front.

Hunters can identify the dogs' leader by the barks. When the leader barks, the other dogs will surround the prey. Once the prey is bitten, the leader will be the first to eat it. Others must wait their turn.

Hunters must take good care of their dogs, especially considering their crucial role in hunting. Hunters usually use traditional ingredients, including plants and other materials sourced from the forest, to treat injured dogs.

Dogs may get injured while hunting, whether because they are attacked by pigs, snakes, or cassowaries. Should that happen, the wound needs to be treated with wood leaves, leaflets, tree roots, or grasses. If a dog gets injured by bumps while running, we can cover the wound with heated wood leaves (rauh). Meanwhile, to stimulate a dog's sense of smell, a hunter usually rubs the dog's nose with a leaf, halia, and tobacco.

When hunting, groups of hunters may accidentally chase down the same animal. However, there's an unwritten agreement between them: if a hunter from Village A has shot the game first, even though the one killing the prey is a hunter from another village, the prey then still belongs to the hunter from Village A. This agreement has been in place for generations.

Hunting skills have also been passed down from one generation to the next. Parents in Aru Islands naturally teach their kids archery. The kids must make their own "arrows" using areca nuts. Nevertheless, those in elementary school must create the "arrows" using leaf sticks.

There's a traditional archery competition for kids. When the kids get older, the bows and arrows they use also get bigger. The people then make jerky from the caught animals or distribute the meat to the villagers should the hunting be done in groups.


Marafenfen itu beta pu kampung
Marafenfen itu ko pu kampung
Marafenfen itu katong pu kampung
Tampa kumpul orang sudara
Gayar kongan beta pu tempat mandi
Alang alang beta pu tampa bermain

Biarkan katong tambaroro di atas lidah api yang bakar tor dauk
Biarkan katong bertarung dalam lombah panah antar-kampung
Itu katong tarangan jugir
Itu katong jar jugir

Kakatua raja kautangkap, kau tangkar
Kaka tua putih kaukandangkan
Rusa timur tak luput dari pembantaian
Padang sabana tak akan kubiarkan kauambil
Karena itu bukan ko punya

Mundur untuk tanah adat?
Tentu tidak
Lalu apa yang akan kulakukan?
Beta akan menjaga warisan Jom Ja Gwasira untuk anak-cucu

Ayo, anak-cucu jargaria
Mima Tayi Yetu (mari katong bersatu)
Jangan mau diadu domba karena katong bukan domba.
Beta deng ko jar, SITA KAKA WALI KE, SITA EKA TU
Sekali lagi beta deng ko jar, SITA KAKA WALI KE, SITA EKA TU

Marafenfen, 28 September 2021
Mika Ganobal


Defending Our Customary Area

The Covid-19 pandemic has tested the collectivity and solidarity of the Indigenous Peoples in Aru Islands, including the Indigenous Peoples of Loran. Similar challenge emerged in 2013, when the Indigenous Peoples were forced to defend their customary area, preventing it from being converted into a sugarcane plantation.

Today, the Indigenous Peoples of Marafenfen are fighting for the rights over their customary land that has been grabbed by the Indonesian Navy for the development of an airport and other facilities. The airport is projected to occupy hundreds of hectares of land in Marafenfen Village, South Aru District, Aru Islands Regency, Maluku Province.

The fight is now in the Dobo District Court. The Indigenous Peoples have filed a lawsuit against the Indonesian Navy, the Maluku governor, and the National Land Agency (BPN) over 689 hectares of disputed land.

The Indigenous Peoples of Loran, which live in the central part of Aru Islands, also show their solidarity against the land grabbing in Marafenfen, which is in the southern part. For Indigenous Peoples in Aru Islands, this is a collective problem.

The Indigenous Peoples of Marafenfen stage a rally in front of the court.

Initial information about the land grabbing came from the late Dolfintje Gaelagoy, better known as Mama Do. When Mama Do's parents were in a savanna, Navy personnel came with a helicopter and asked them about Marafenfen Village. A meeting was then held in the village.

For the Indigenous Peoples living in the southern part of Aru Islands, the savanna plays a crucial role as the habitat of various quarries. Before hunting, the Indigenous Peoples usually hold the Daotel ritual (burning of reeds). The burnt area is then marked. The fire lures the prey out, making it easier for the Indigenous Peoples to hunt them with bows and arrows.

The ritual, which has been passed down through generations, is now done annually. Hence, the conversion of the customary land into an airport would certainly disrupt the habitat of various animals and the hunting activities of the Indigenous Peoples.

Those supporting the Indigenous Peoples of Marafenfen's fight have taken turns overseeing the trials. They usually sing traditional songs and accompany those in the courtroom every Wednesday, from the morning up to 7 p.m. or even 9 p.m.

The Indigenous People do not ask much from the government. They just want their rights to be respected.


The writer is a member of the Indigenous Peoples of Aru Islands in Maluku. This article is part of stories written for Kisah dari Kampung (Stories from Villages) - a book writing movement initiated by AMAN to present profiles from various villages across the archipelago. The stories are written together by AMAN cadres and journalists.