Getting to Know 17 Ethnic Groups in Indonesia and Their Origins

Culture of Indonesia

Indonesia embraces the symbol of Bhineka Tunggal Ika, which means unity in diversity. Similarly, the country boasts a diverse range of ethnicities and cultures across its archipelago. Here, we will explore some of the ethnic groups in Indonesia and their origins.

Indonesia itself exhibits a rich diversity of customs and traditions in each region, spanning from Sabang to Merauke.

According to data from the 2010 BPS census, there are more than 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia, comprising about 1300 ethnicities spread across all provinces.

Ethnic Groups in Indonesia Given the vast number of ethnic groups in Indonesia, it is impossible to mention them all. Citing, here are some major ethnic groups in Indonesia:

1. Batak Tribe from North Sumatra

The Batak tribe is a collective term used for several communities in Tapanuli and North Sumatra. It includes subgroups such as Batak Toba, Batak Pakpak, Batak Mandailing, and Batak Karo. Known for their firm character and hardworking nature.

2. Melayu Tribe from Bangka Belitung

The name Malay is derived from the Malayu kingdom that once existed along the Batang Hari River. This ethnic group has a presence beyond Sumatra, extending to Java through the periods of Srivijaya.

3. Serawai Tribe from Bengkulu

Found in the Bengkulu islands, the Serawai tribe is concentrated in the South Bengkulu Regency, spanning several districts, including Sukaraja, Talo, Kelutum, and Seginim.

4. Lampung Tribe from Lampung

The Lampung tribe is considered a part of the Sriwijaya Kingdom. It consists of two main subgroups: Sebatin and Pepadun. Lampung has various subgroups like Tulang Bawang, Pesisir, and Krui Abung.

5. Betawi Tribe from Jakarta Special Capital Region (DKI Jakarta)

Well-known on Java Island, particularly in Jakarta. Recognized for their traditional attire, which includes sarongs and kebayas. The Betawi tribe is also famous for the ondel-ondel puppet, serving as the mascot of DKI Jakarta.

6. Sundanese Tribe from West Java

The Sundanese tribe is the second-largest ethnic group in Indonesia after the Javanese. Known for their musical instrument called angklung. They also have a distinctive traditional attire, the kebaya.

7. Baduy Tribe from Banten

Known for their isolated way of life, the Baduy tribe distances itself from urban living. Their population is around 5,000 to 8,000, and they maintain a lifestyle that is disconnected from the outside world.

8. Javanese Tribe from Yogyakarta Special Region

As the second-largest ethnic group in Indonesia, the Javanese have a significant presence in Yogyakarta. They are known for their local wisdom, belief in mystical aspects, and sacred cultural traditions.

9. Madurese Tribe from East Java

Famous for their unique culinary, especially satay. With a population of around 20 million based on the 2014 census, the Madurese are known for their distinct cuisine.

10. Bima Tribe from East Nusa Tenggara

Considered a legacy of the Majapahit Kingdom, the Bima tribe has a significant presence in the Nusa Tenggara islands. Known for their unique headscarf made from a fabric called Rimpu.

11. Dayak Tribe from West Kalimantan

The Dayak tribe is one of the indigenous groups on the island of Borneo (Kalimantan). Known for their courage in hunting and facing challenges, the Dayak people inhabit almost all parts of Kalimantan.

12. Minahasa Tribe from North Sulawesi

One of the largest tribes on Sulawesi Island. Besides the Minahasa tribe, there are other tribes in North Sulawesi, including Mangondow, Gorontalo, Ternate, and Talaud. Their distinctive traditional attire includes a red belt.

13. Gorontalo Tribe from Gorontalo

Also known as the Hulondalo tribe, the Gorontalo tribe inhabits almost the entire Gorontalo region in North Sulawesi. Recognized for maintaining a culture untouched by the outside world.

14. Buru Tribe from Maluku

Predominantly residing on Buru Island, the Buru tribe is sometimes referred to as Gebfuka or Gebemiliar, meaning “people of the earth” or “worldly people.”

15. Asmat Tribe from Papua

Among the last tribes mentioned, the Asmat tribe is known for its expertise in hunting in the jungle. Their life remains isolated, and they are recognized for unique wood carving craftsmanship.

16. Bugis Tribe from South Sulawesi

The Bugis tribe is a major ethnic group residing in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Renowned as skilled sailors with a long maritime history. They have a rich culture, including arts, music, dance, and customs. The Bugis language, known as Bahasa Bugis, is spoken by the Bugis people.

17. Luwu Tribe from South Sulawesi

The Luwu tribe originates from the Luwu region in South Sulawesi, covering Luwu Regency, Tana Toraja Regency, and part of Enrekang Regency. They speak the Tae language, also known as the Luwu language. The Luwu tribe is known for its rich historical and cultural traditions, including craftsmanship in traditional weapons, wood carvings, and weaving.

In the modern era, many of these ethnic groups have settled in urban areas, participating in various occupations while proudly preserving their cultural heritage. Despite the diverse distribution of ethnic groups, Indonesia maintains its symbol of unity in diversity, Bhineka Tunggal Ika. With its various ethnicities and cultures, Indonesia remains a fascinating destination for international travelers.

Media Mahasiswa Indonesia Editorial Team

Source: Mengenal 15 Suku-Suku di Indonesia dan Asalnya

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