Introduction / History
The Kerinci are the original ethnic group which lived on the east coast of Sumatra. The Kerinci fled from local Muslim sultanates in an ancient war and moved into their existing homeland high in the Bukit Barisan mountain range around Mount Kerinci in part of Jambi Province. Although the highlands present challenges for living, intensive agriculture coupled with fishing has been sufficient to sustain sizeable indigenous populations. In the past, the Kerinci have been able to resist assimilation from the more numerous lowland peoples of Sumatra. However, now, influence by the Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese who immigrated into Sumatra for work in the fertile plantations, can be seen among the Kerinci. Additionally, a world class national park is being developed by the World Wildlife Fund to protect the rain forest with its associated flora and fauna. This will draw the attention of many foreigners who wish to visit this beautiful yet hard-to-reach area. The villages in this area are in the lowlands, grouped around a large lake encircled by the mountains.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Most Kerinici are excellent farmers, evident from their excellent farming methods. In addition to their primary crop rice (planted in both irrigated and non-irrigated fields), they also plant potatoes, vegetables and tobacco. Those living in the foothills of the mountains are slash-and-burn farmers, moving to new fields every few years. They plant coffee, cinnamon and cloves. The primary forest product is rattan and resin. Most Kerinci living near Lake Kerinci and other smaller lakes are fishermen. They build their houses very close to the neighboring houses. Their hamlets are called dusun and inhabited by close relations who came from the same ancestor. In each dusun there are several long houses, located cheek-to-jowl for the length of the road. The basic family unit is called the tumbi. After a man marries, he goes to live with the family of his wife. Normally, the daughter will have a room made for her that is joined to her parents' house after she is married. In a similar manner, this woman's daughter will later be made a similar kind of room to be joined to the house when she is married. The ancestral line from the mother's side is called kelbu. The kelbu is the most important unit for the Kerinci and consists of closely related relatives. Even though the Kerinci adhere to the matrilineal system (following the line of the mother), the basic family unit is led by the husband rather than the wife's brother, similar to the matrilineal system as practiced by the Minangkabau. Unlike in the Minangkabau, the wife's brother only plays a role in his sister's affairs, not in the whole family. The inheritance is given to the female children.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Islam is the main religion, although the Kerinci retain many animistic beliefs. These relate mostly to areas of healing and agriculture. In their daily lives, they use the phrases tataman (met with a ghost), tatampo (hit by a ghost) and tapijek (stepped on by a ghost) on a regular basis, demonstrating their strong belief in the spirit world.
What Are Their Needs?
The Kerinci are truly dependent upon the fertility of their soil and good irrigation. However, they also need to improve the quality of appropriate technology so they can increase the productivity of their farm lands and rain forests. The potential for tourism around Lake Kerinci has not been developed at all, although there are already two weekly flights to Riau and Jambi. These flights could could be a starting point for developing tourism in the Kerinci area.
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