The Bakumpai are one of the people groups in the Barito cluster which is part of the larger Dayak ethno-linguistic cluster. Dayak peoples (sometimes subdivided as either Land or Sea Dayaks) tend to live alongside the interior rivers of Kalimantan. The Dayak tribes probably originated from West Asia as migratory Mongols who entered the archipelago from the west through the coastal city which is now called Martapura (in South Kalimantan).
What are their lives like?
The area where the Bakumpai live is criss-crossed with many rivers. Due to this, the Bakumpai have developed technology for water transportation. They usually farm wet rice fields due to the rise and fall of the tide. Other work is cultivation of unirrigated fields, fishing in the rivers, trade, and production of household tools.
Although the Bakumpai are considered part of the larger group of Dayak tribes, their social life and culture is influenced more by the culture of the Banjar people. In the past, when the area of the Banjarmasin was still controlled by a Hindu kingdom, the social system was influenced by the caste system according to the Hindu religion.
The system of kinship of the Bakumpai is also similar to the bilateral system of the Banjar. Along with the husband, the wife also exercises an important role in the nuclear family. According to the traditions of the Bakumpai, the newly married couple is free to choose their place to live. They may choose to live with the husband’s relatives, with the wife’s relatives, or separately in their own home. The system of dividing inheritance tends to be implemented according to the rules of the religion of Islam.
What do they believe?
Generally, the Bakumpai are followers of Islam. The influence of Islam can be seen in almost every aspect of their lives. Islamic influence is evident in their social system, the extended family relationships, and even in their artistic endeavors. The area of Marabahan, the center of the area where the Bakumpai live, has already produced many famous Islamic teachers who have spread the Islamic faith as far as the source of the Barito River.
What are their needs?
At this time the Bakumpai need technological improvement in agricultural methods to facilitate development of their swampy land. Until now, their irrigation system for the rice fields is totally dependent on the rise and fall of the tides, either from the sea or from the branches of the Barito River. They do not yet have an irrigation system that is sufficient for all their needs and dependable. In order to improve health services for the community, the Bakumpai also need more medical attention, clinics and medical personnel. In addition to this, the development of their transportation fleet along the river and improvement of their handiwork skills would greatly help in improving their income.
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