Typically, the Bateq tribe are a nomadic group that seclude themselves from the outside world by living in the deeper reaches of forests. Known for maintaining their lifestyle through being adept hunters, gatherers and make-shifters of forest products, this tribe is not well adjusted to modern day living.
Earlier this year, while we were all trying to curb the virus’ spread by staying at home, the Bateq took it a step further and quarantine themselves for 2 months in the jungle just to make sure they didn’t have a repeat of the deadly measles outbreak that claimed 14 of their tribesmen only a year ago.
However, as modernity and greed for industrialisation prevails, logging and encroachment of land comes hand in hand with it. Due to that, the Bateq tribe are currently adapting to leaving their nomadic lifestyle and exchanging it for a more grounded and current way of living.
This tribe that is mostly native to Kelantan is pursuing modernity due to the constant friendly visits by Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli (Jakoa). Gradually, more youths from the tribe are beginning to get rid of their hesitance and delve into the idea of technology, education and housing. Of course, this is a good thing, for all elements mentioned are integral for the tribe’s overall progress and gradual assimilation into the current world.
This change did not come suddenly, for the nomadic life has been slowly fading and losing its hold on the Bateq tribe over the past 20 years now. Some have even embraced the convenience of running water, electricity and even paying the bills.
Amongst other ways the Bateq tribe has progressed is through accepting technology and I don’t just mean watching television. While they do now have Astro in their homes, a select few Bateq youths have now started online dating… And no, not Tinder or Bumble, at least not yet.
They’re now on Facebook and trying out online dating through that platform. The head of a Bateq tribe in Kampung Aring 5, Raina Anjang, said,
“Don’t be surprised when Bateq youths are getting married to their partners from different indigenous sects from Terengganu, Pahang or Perak whom they met on Facebook.”
While that is an exciting development, the main focus of the visits by Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli is to get youths to continue pursuing their studies beyond high school levels.
According to Raina, the reason why these youths are reluctant to continue is due to geographical limitations as well as personal self-esteem issues. Despite that, he still believes that with constant pushes forward, Bateq youths are capable of achieving great things.
In order to help the indigenous tribes continue to flourish and progress, we, as a modern society, need to remain sensitive to their struggles. By this I mean we need to stop using racial slurs and start educating ourselves on the issues surrounding their community.
It’s a collective effort and we’re all responsible for each other. #RakyatJagaRakyat