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Punan Adiu is a village in Malinau District, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia. After decades of living in the margin of society, the indigenous community eventually obtained a legal recognition to protect and manage their customary forest.
It began in 2012 when they started a participatory mapping and registered their customary land through social forestry scheme in Indonesia.
After years of deliberation and negotiation, in 2017, the Malinau District Government granted a decree on recognition and protection of Punan Long Adiu Customary Community. The community now has full rights to protect and manage 17,415 hectares of their customary land.
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Awang Tangga, one of the elders in Punan Adiu Community, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia. 2020.
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In earlier times, the Punan travelled from place to place in the forest to hunt and gather food. They never settled in a permanent village.
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The feet of Lukas, a Punan Adiu hunter. The Punan is well known as a hunter tribe in Borneo. 2020.
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In the 1900’s, the Dutch Indies government started to settle the Punan in permanent villages outside the forest. Most of the new settlements were strategically located near the main riverbank. Permanent settlement allowed the colonial authorities to monitor and control the tribes.
A European colonist with Poenan men and women in the Apo Kajan, Borneo, circa 1930. Collection of Leiden University Libraries.
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After decolonisation, the Indonesian “New Order” government continued the policies of the Dutch, organising and registering permanent villages for the Punan so the Indonesian government could manage development programs.
Presumably Poenan men and women
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Poenan men and women on a jetty in a river in East Borneo. Honda, M., circa 1935. Collection of Leiden University Libraries.
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The policy of permanent settlement left the forest open to exploitation. From the 1970’s onwards, concessions for logging, mining and palm oil plantations threatened the Punan’s forest. With no control over their ancestral lands, the Punan were forced to live on the margins of society.
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A road built by the timber industry to transport wood and workers for the logging site. Many of customary forests in Punan Adiu and the neighboring villages around North Kalimantan Province are under concession for timber, pulp and paper, coal mining and palm oil plantations. This exploitation began in 1968 during the Soeharto regime and continues today.
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A coal stockpile in Malinau River, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia. 2020
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Education is the first of many steps in resisting power.
A church in Punan Adiu Village. 2020
In the 1970’s, a group of missionaries introduced Catholicism and education to the Punan. Young people studied in a dormitory school and had access to basic education, and these students would become the leaders of the Punan Adiu villages. Since the 2000s, using their knowledge and networks, these new Punan leaders started to organize the community and collaborate with NGOs and civil society groups to develop new ways of protecting the forest.
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Piang Irang, who was chief of Punan Adiu village between 2005 and 2017. The participative mapping program was started in 2012 during his tenure and took five years to finish.
Lukas, a member of Punan Adiu forest patrol. When he is not on duty, he maintains his farmland and hunts in the forest. Locals consider him as one of the seniors who has the deepest knowledge about the forest.
“If in the old time our ancestors used weapons to protect our territory, now we use maps and legal registration to protect our forest.”
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Following Punan tradition, Lukas uses a spear and machete for hunting time in the forest. 2020.