The Paser and Balik Indigenous Peoples in Sepaku District, North Penajam Paser Regency, East Kalimantan, live side by side with the forest. Forests are a place for various needs, from economic, social, cultural, and others. The construction project for the National Capital of the Archipelago has made indigenous peoples anxious. Not only is living space eroded but there is also the threat of losing culture and traditions such as the traditional ritual of Bersoyong.
Syarak, the Paser Customary Head from Bumi Harapan Village, said the Paser people live from gardening or farming in the forest. The Paser people have a tradition when they are going to manage gardens in the forest, namely, the tradition of giving. Bersoyong, he said, is a ritual of asking for permission when opening land first.
This ritual, said the 60-year-old man, is believed to be a means of conveying the intent and purpose or intentions of the residents to their ancestors. They asked for safety and protection when using the spaces in the forest. Bersoyong also media treatment.
He said the ancestors used to cooperate as a treatment to reduce the bad influence of jinn.
This Bersoyong ritual contains offerings consisting of eggs, yellow rice, plain flour, water, chicken, bananas, and others. All types of plants as well as chicken and eggs for the offerings come from their customary land. The contents of the offerings must be taken from the land where they live.
In this ritual there is a separate prayer in the Paser language, there are traditional elders called mulung (traditional elders) to carry out this ritual process.
Syarak said that in ancient times this ritual was an annual mandatory agenda. Recently, the ritual has become a means of defending indigenous peoples’ land. “In a sense, when Bersoyongis conserved and basic needs must come from customary forests, it means that customary territories must be maintained,” he said.
Now, their area is the ‘arrival’ of a big project, the state capital (IKN) of Indonesia, which is named IKN Nusantara. The presence of IKN makes him worried because the government only focuses on development without paying attention to the fate of indigenous peoples and their local wisdom.
He asked the government to pay attention to preserving this Bersoyong ritual. Moreover, there is an assumption or stigma from some people that this ritual is polytheistic. Syarak is trying to maintain this tradition and fight the stigma.
Syarak is afraid that the wisdom of sticking together will fade day by day, moreover, there will be large migrations of people with diverse backgrounds entering their area when there is an IKN.
Not only in Bumi Harapan Village, Bersoyong also exists in the Balik Tribe, Pemaluan Village, Sepaku District, North Penajam Paser, East Kalimantan. The Balik tribe is still a sub-ethnic group of the Paser tribe and has a similar culture.
Jubain, the customary head of the Balik tribe, Pemaluan village, also told about the sojourn ritual. Bersoyong Tribe Balik, he said, is done for the ritual of opening land when they want to farm. The goal is to ask for safety, as well as a good harvest.
“The term for tabe-tabe (excuse me) with the forest authorities,” he said.
There is one important element in the Balik tribe’s singing ritual, namely, burning forest wood or ramble, the name for the Balik people for this wood which has a distinctive aroma similar to incense.
Jubain said that this ritual is not obligatory annually, but is carried out if there is a special event or if you want to clear land for gardening during the planting season.
Uniquely, in Suku Balik, support is also for other needs, such as when Suku Balik women are about to give birth. Three days before labor, it will be made like a jar or basket from coconut leaves, filled with an odd number of bananas, cigarettes, and money, and then washed away in the river.
All the ingredients in this ritual of Bersoyong are taken from the forest products of the Balik Community.
The implementation of this ritual also cannot be arbitrary. Especially when singing for families who are about to give birth, such as midwives who assist in childbirth who must come from the village and are willing to do the sojourn ritual.
In order to encourage the opening of plantation land, it must be carried out directly by the land owner. This ritual is carried out with several prayer chants depending on the type of ritual being carried out, both in Indonesian, Arabic, and Balik so that the prayers reach the ancestors they wish to address.
Jubain is also worried that when the development of the National Archipelagic Sciences Institute slowly begins to be completed and many outsiders live in his area, Balik’s culture or local wisdom will slowly disappear.
The same thing was said by Asmin, an administrator of the Balik tribe from the Pemaluan sub-district. He is also worried that the lifestyle of indigenous peoples will change after the IKN is established. He is worried that living space will be eroded, and traditions such as singing will disappear.
When the government wants to build an IKN, he said, the Balik Community needs to be involved, including when holding a sojourn ritual. “We saw suddenly how come there is a reserve for the presidential palace, when will the guards meet here?”
No protection yet
The fears of the Balik and Paser Indigenous People about losing their land, including their cultural traditions, are well-founded because of minimal government protection. Until now, there has been no recognition and protection, including of their customary territories.
Syarak gave an example, in Bumi Harapan Village, many indigenous peoples’ lands were taken over by the government for the sake of the Nusantara IKN mega project.
From the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) of East Kalimantan, the IKN is divided into three areas, namely, the IKN area covering an area of 49,859 hectares, the central government core area of 6,925 hectares, and the area for expansion of the IKN, 197,420 hectares. With a total area of around 252,204 hectares, there are 235,667 hectares in customary territory.
The house that Syarak built and lived in is now in the sterile area of the Government Center Core Area (KIPP). “Maybe soon I will move from here because I am in that coordinate,” he said slowly.
He has asked for clarification on replacement land if he has to move. However, said Syarak, there has been no response whatsoever. He has discussed several times, the government can only reimburse money.
Sri Murlianti, a sociologist and lecturer at the Social Development Study Program at the University of Mulawarman, said that many things make the Bali community rarely perform the sojourn ritual. First, the influence of the arrival of Islam, which considers these traditional rituals to be contrary to Islamic law.
Second, ritual equipment, where most of the raw materials are forest plants, is increasingly difficult to obtain.
Third, a sense of inferiority is formed from encounters with newcomer cultures, both transmigrants and company people, which makes them ashamed to perform these rituals.
According to Sri, it is fatal that there is no alignment and serious guidance from the local government in preserving the cultural customs of the Balik tribe.
This woman who studies social safeguards in land-based development and social mitigation of indigenous peoples in land-based development also said that they need to find ways to prevent these traditional traditions from disappearing.
Local knowledge such as rituals, he said, must be revived and taught to the young generation of Balik.
It is not easy, said Sri, because the Indigenous People of Bali live under the pressure of the dominant culture which considers these old rituals to be shirk.
“We can feel feelings of frustration, and anger, but also fear and helplessness. Because as a minority their strength is very weak, even foreigners in their ancestral land,” he said.
“There is an effort from us (Disbudpar) that is not seen from the elements of ritual or tribal mysticism, but is part of the development of cultural arts.”
He claims to support social preservation. He said they had already held a collaboration on a district scale. However, he has no more power because the art and culture of singing come from intentions and goals, especially since Paser and Balik have their own culture.
“Indeed, we are revitalizing it to preserve Paser culture, it is still in stages. Indeed, as seen, they are still around the Pematang Paser Tribe or others, do not touch them (Paser Balik). These efforts will continue to be sustainable, especially since they will become pillars in IKN in the future,” he said.
Christian said if the Balik Indigenous People have the intention of having a ritual of singing, the Culture and Tourism Agency will welcome them with open arms to support this activity.
“Maybe we will have further communication later and be able to open up to the IKN Nusantara Authority Board.” President Joko Widodo, he said, stated that there must be attention to indigenous tribes as owners of IKN.
Despite all the limitations, the Paser and Balik Indigenous Peoples, such as Syarak, Jubain, and others, are determined to continue to preserve their culture and traditions.
“If the government preserves our Bersoyong culture, how happy the community here will be,” said Syarak.