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Native Studies Tribe Project- The Bajau
Transcript of Native Studies Tribe Project- The Bajau
Culture and Geography
The Bajau have been a nomadic, seafaring people for most of their history. This is why they are commonly called "sea gypsies."
They sail the Sulu Sea, off the southwestern coast of the Philippines, and other seas that surround the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Other Bajau live permanently on Malaysia's eastern state, Sabah, on the island of Borneo. Those who do not fish have become farmers and cattle herders
They speak the language of the Bajau, which is part of a larger linguistic group called the Sama Bajau
Although they are the second largest indigenous people in Sabah, the precise origin of the Bajau is unknown. They may have come from Johore, in peninsular Malaysia.
The Bajau see themselves as non-aggressive people who prefer flight to physical confrontation. This is why they live near the sea, so in case of an attack they have a better chance of escaping. As a result of this, other groups of the region view the Bajau as timid, unreliable subjects
Culture and Geography
Their boats were about 10 meters long and 2 meters wide. They are plank construction with solid keel and bow sections. All are equipped with a roofed living area made of poles and straw matting
The Bajao people are sea nomads, traveling by boat from one island to the other searching for fishing harvest. But because of over fishing by other groups using everything from high-tech fishing trawlers and even dynamite fishing, threatened by soaring costs for fuel and repairs, their life in the open waters is drying up. They no longer live on boats, they live in thatch-roofed houses on bamboo stilts on a small strip of land nobody else wanted. With small, family owned bancas they continue to roam the waters, fighting the current to follow schools of fish, hunting for the bounty of the ocean, trying to make a living and find refuge in the vastness of the deep blue sea.
Culture and Geography
Culture and Geography
Despite the romantic portrayals of the tribe, the Badjao never really had an easy live, when they were still living at sea, they were at least free from the everyday rejection and hardship brought upon by other tribes that live on land. These guardians of the sea have experienced themselves that times are tough on the water, but worse on land. At present the Badjao are the most marginalized ethnic group and one of the poorest tribes in the Philippines, a Muslim tribe that is shunned by almost everyone, still gypsies, but also, unfair and unjustifiable named tramps and thieves. Their vibrant nomadic lifestyle, the way of life bequeathed to them by their ancestors has vanished in most parts of Mindanao. For centuries the Badjao have been a resilient tribal group, they firmly pushed away modernity with both hands, but tossed by modern winds they will have to find ways to maintain their unique lifestyle and culture, otherwise they will remain Godforsaken.
The Bajau people consider themselves to be Sunni Muslim. They believe that among their people are direct descendants of the prophet Mohammed. Yet the seafaring, nomadic Bajau believe that designated spirit mediums communicate with the spirit world in ritual ceremonies of celebration, worship and exorcism — for example, spirit boats are sailed into the open seas to cast the offending spirit away from their community. They also worship the God of the sea, Omboh Dilaut.
Community shamans get together at least once a year for a public séance and nightly trance dancing. Also in times of illness, they are also called on to set a spirit boat adrift in the sea beyond the village in order to remove the illness-causing spirits from the community
The Bajau are not accepted by the other Muslim tribes in the area and they are shunned by almost everyone
Originally, they were involved in the spice trade, transporting lucrative spices from Moluccas to Borneo. When the Dutch colonialists changed the trade routes many Bajau stayed on their houseboats made a living completely from sea harvesting. Some do still today.
The Bajau were expert fishermen, deep sea divers, and navigators. They would come to shore to barter their harvests for farmed produce such as fruits and cassava, as well as, replenish their supplies and/or make repairs to their houseboats
When the Spanish and American colonizers came over to the Philippines they failed to influence the Bajau tribe because they live in the territory of the Muslim Filipinos, and they are also the least influenced by Islam.
Mainly the Philippine government leaves the Bajau alone because they are one of the poorest tribes and they do not have anything that the government wants.
Although, because of conflict in the region between revolutionary Muslim groups and the government, many Bajao migrated to Sabah in Malaysia and Sulawesi and Kalimantan in Indonesia. As a result, they now comprise the second-largest ethnic group in Sabah, despite the fact that many of them are illegal immigrants. There, the Badjao speak the languages of the Sama-Bajau, which is a subgroup of the Western Malayo-polynesian language family.
Before European contact the Bajau were one of the only groups who made a profit from the fish they caught because they were the best at it
Over the years many more fishermen with better equipment and technology have started fishing in the Bajaus territory and because they believe in peach and are afraid of violence they had to move inland because they thought that would be the only way to stay safe
Today, they still make their living by selling fish and other items in the local market and sometimes selling ‘door to door’. Some dive for pearls and sell them. Also they often supplement their family income by begging.
The Bajau are basically on their own when it comes to having alliances because they are shunned from all the other tribes in the area
Not much has changed for the Bajau other than their fishing grounds being taken over by pirates and other tribes
Other tribes believe that the Bajau are pushovers because they do not believe in violenc e
As far as it is known no treaties were ever signed with the Bajau and they have never any problems with the Europeans because they are ruled by the Philippine Government who just let the Bajau do their own thing
Today, after centuries of living and roaming the southern Philippine seas, only a few Bajau still live on their boats, most of them now live in parts of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Zamboanga. They still live on stilt bamboo houses by the water where their ways are slowly being taken over by those of the surrounding shore population, and where they now live in abject poverty. Perla de Castro, the Region IX director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), herself says, "It is quite clear that the Bajau are the most marginalized among all the indigenous people's communities."
The Bajau have their first and only meal of the day as late as two in the afternoon, when the few men who have boats return with their catch. Desperate to feed their families, many of the tribe's members, male and female, have left for faraway cities to beg. A growing number of the women left behind are also opting to abort their unborn children rather than see their offspring die later of hunger or disease. In fact, many Badjau children now suffer from malnutrition, dysentery, malaria, tuberculosis and ulcer.
The Bajau culture is still alive although their numbers have dropped from 70,000 to 100,000
To this day people still want to have nothing to do with the Bajau because the other Muslims view them as being nature shiftless, rootless, irresponsible and unreliable.
Many Bajau members will identify themselves to census takers as Tausug and Samal. (Who are the larger groups in the area the Bajau live in)
Also many who have married out of the Bajau tribe have adopted modern practices to make them appear just like everyone else