Local Wisdom to Protect the Nature by Sorong Indigenous People, West Papua

Local Wisdom
Sumber : Kompas

There is a strict agreement among the Moi tribe members in Sorong of West Papua, regarding the directives to manage or protect nature. The traditional directive is called “yegek” (or “egek” in the Moi language).  It is one of the local wisdom being passed down and conserved from generations in this region.

Local Wisdom
Sumber : Media Indonesia

The following article will talk about the Moi tribe, the yegek local wisdom, and the indigenous Malaumkarta village.  

The Moi Tribe, West Papua

The Moi tribe is one of the indigenous communities in West Papua, Indonesia. They inhabit the regions of Sorong City, South Sorong Regency, and Raja Ampat. This tribe comprises several sub-ethnics with distribution as follows. 

  • Moi Abun, inhabiting the areas of Tambrauw expansion regency up to Moraid district
  • Moi Kelim, inhabiting the areas of Moraid district to Sorong City 
  • Moi Segin, spreading the areas of Seget and Salawati 
  • Moi Maya, inhabiting the Waigeo islands of Raja Ampat Regency
  • Moi Klabara, spreading around the area of Beraur district to the border of South Sorong Regency

The main livelihoods of the Moi tribe are farming, gardening, managing forests, and traditional fisherman. In doing so, they mindfully consider the “yegek”—prohibition—of exploiting or excessively taking the earth’s products. The purpose is to apply their local wisdom of traditional conservation. 

Yegek – The Local Wisdom of Nature Conservation

Yegek, or egek, means prohibition. It is one of the prominent local wisdom preserved by the Moi Tribe in Sorong, West Papua. For generations, what so-called Untalan and Tulkama (the indigenous teachers) has taught yegek to their uliwi (the indigenous students). They conduct this educational activity in a traditional house called kambik.

The teaching-learning process takes place by having direct integration with nature, the still untouched one. The teachers will give the students various knowledge about nature, customary law, and customary governance.

One of the knowledge is yegek, a traditional conservation system by prohibition. Any individual who violates any agreed customary law will go through a customary congregation (court). If they are found guilty, they will be subject to customary sanctions given by respected indigenous figures. 

The Indigenous Malaumkarta Village 

Malaumkarta is one of the Moi-inhabited villages in Sorong, West Papua, that still upholds the yegek traditional conservation wisdom. Specifically, this village lies on the north coast of the Bird’s Head peninsula and belongs to the administrative area of Makbon District. 

For making a living, the Malaumkarta residents work by gathering forest commodities and as traditional fishermen. 

An example of forest yegek is banning harmful hunting devices like fire rifles and air rifles. Among the no-hunted animals are birds, snakes, tree kangaroo (or lau-lau). The residents can hunt for wild boars or deer as they are public consumption. 

The prohibition also applies to several species of orchids and the exploitation of sea products to save the ecosystem. They prohibit the use of damaging devices to catch fish, lobster, shrimp, and others.

The Stages of Yegek in Malaumkarta

The first stage in establishing yegek in Malaumkarta village starts with the establishment of an indigenous (customary) organization. It consists of highly respected indigenous figures by referring to customary rules. 

The main task of the newly established organization is to decide the type and location to be included in yegek. It can be land (natural forests) and maritime (commonly up to three miles from the coastline).

Once they decided, there will be a socialization meeting among indigenous elder figures and indigenous inhabitants. This occasion usually invites neighboring villages as well. The meeting will deliver the stages in the yegek procession. It starts from a customary procession, one week prior to the closing yegek (Tutup Yegek), and the term or period of implementing it.

The closing procession is in the form of a traditional ceremony lead by indigenous elders from each protected location around Sorong, West Papua. They will plead with God (the Creator), the land and sea, and the ancestors as part of the local wisdom legacy to protect nature.