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Alongside the film, I am working on the development of an Indigenous community support program, which will focus on the Siberut region. Having had very little experience in the not-for-profit organizational sector personally, and knowing that outside support will play a critical role in realizing this, I was extremely grateful to Matthew and Anastacia from SURFAID INTERNATIONAL who generously offered their time and wealth of knowledge to help the cause.

Both have previously worked on SURFAID programs in the Mentawai – on the southern island of Sipora, and have most recently implemented their own Earthquake Relief Programs for SURFAID in Padang. This was a fantastic opportunity to workshop some ideas around the issues currently being faced by the Indigenous tribes of the Mentawai. I have added a short video here with brief mention to various aspects of the discussion.

The island of Siberut, excessively rich in biodiversity and boasting an extremely high number of endemic plant and animal species, is the last of the four large islands in the archipelago holding onto its cultural and environmental heritage. The Islands communities, like many traditional Indigenous cultures worldwide, have been lost to the powers of modernization and face the serious threat of extinction. Primarily motivated by the industrial potential of this ancestral land, previous decades have seen commercial logging and land conversion companies move in and essentially destroy the cultural and environmental identities of the southern Islands, providing a dark indication of where the values of this region are placed.

At present there are pressures on the Indigenous communities of Siberut to relocate to new villages. To oppose this force on a local level, leads to greater discrimination and stigma against the Indigenous communities, establishing them further as the minority. During relocation, Indigenous communities are taught to uphold rigid political views and discard their own traditional values. Providing support will protect their right and freedom to make informed decisions on matters that heavily impact their lives and the future of their people. If you have been fortunate to experience the magical culture of the Mentawai or other Indigenous cultures please feel free to share your knowledge and/or contribute to this project.

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  1. Greg Heath

    Hey mate,

    This is a really good piece of writing. I can’t see the video because there is restrictions on the net where i’m staying over here. I’ve been in Papua New Guinea for almost a month now and have seen first hand the devastation that can arise from industry and modernisation. I am actually running a cultural heritage and ecology survey for a road alignment through the jungle, and i’m working pretty closely with the locals from the villages in the area. We are studying and recording all the significant cultural and archaeological sites, and environmental sensitivities. It’s pretty amazing and pretty sad also.

    Some of local people here are all for the mining companies and exploiting the resources because of the money that comes with it, they embrace the modernisation. Others want to hold on to their natural surroundings and culture and I get the feeling from being here a short time that it’s created a real divide. But I think Papua New Guinea is a lot further down the track in regards to industrial development and modernisation in some areas, as opposed to a place like Siberut. It’s a really interesting situation here as only 3% of the land is owned by the government and the rest belongs entirely to the tribes and clans that inhabit it.

    Anyways, I guess my point is that I would love to get involved in this and feel that I would have some valuable knowledge to contribute to this project, so keep me posted of how I can help out.


    Aug 05, 2010 @ 8:25 pm


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