Introduction / History
The Kluet are one of eight people groups that live in Aceh Province on the island of Sumatra. They are found in two districts of South Aceh Regency, namely North Kluet District and South Kluet District. These two districts are divided by the Krueng Kluet River, which has its source in the Leuser Mountains and empties into the Indian Ocean. The area where the Kluet people live is remote, about 20 kilometers from the main road, 50 kilometers from the town of Tapak Tuan and 500 kilometers from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. The Kluet language has three dialects: Paya Dapur, Meunggamat and Krueng Kluet. It appears that the language developed from a combination of the Alas, Kuo, Aceh and Minangkabau languages.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Kluet area is very fertile and most Kluet make their living from farming irrigated and unirrigated rice fields or growing crops such as coffee, patchouli (which produces fragrant oils) and vegetables. Other means of livelihood include raising livestock and fishing. Fish are either eaten fresh or preserved for storage, often by smoking. This type of smoked fish, called ikan saleh, is a specialty of the Kluet people. The Kluet are famous for their hunting skills since they live at the edge of the forest. During the time of Dutch colonialism they were often noted for their skill on the battlefield. It is likely that their skill as hunters is what prepared them to be such skilled warriors. They often used guerilla tactics to fight their enemies. The meeting center (called a meursah) has a variety of functions. It is used as a place to read the Qur'an, say daily prayers, hold Islamic celebrations and hold meetings, or for young people to sleep if there is no religious school in the village. The women's center (called deyah) is a place where women say prayers. The Kluet prefer to live in groups and only in certain areas. They have a strong sense of ethnic identity and therefore do not spread out very far from each other. They find it difficult to mix with other people groups and as a result their culture is rather closed to outsiders.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Kluet are followers of Islam. However, traditional animistic beliefs have not totally disappeared and often have significant impact. This can be seen in their daily lives, especially in special ceremonies. Many Kluet are afraid of evil spirits. They believe that one of the graves in their area has magical powers. The Kluet say that this grave can be seen at certain times while at other times it disappears. They use magic charms so that evil spirits will not hurt them. These charms help them feel calmer and more protected.
What Are Their Needs?
The Kluet do not place much value in education. Modern agricultural tools and methods would help keep them from feeling left behind and threatened by outsiders who come to their area. Medical assistance is greatly needed due to an increase in malaria and dengue fever as well as poor nutrition. Financial investment is very much needed.
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