The Aborigines are one of the Indigenous peoples of Malaysia.The term of Orang Asli or aborigines means the original or first peoples of Peninsular Malaysia.Altogether there are 18 Orang Asli tribes.There are 3 main groups of the Orang Asli.They are the Negerito,Senoi and Proto-Malay.The Orang Asli are peoples with unique languages,knowledge systems and religious beliefs.They hold their own diverse ideas of development based on their traditional values,visions,needs and priorities.They have invaluable knowledge of practices for the sustainable management of natural resources.They have a special relation to and use of their traditional land.Linguistically,some of the northern Orang Asli groups speak languages that suggest a historical link with the indigenous peoples in Burma,Thailand and Indo-China.It is estimated that there are more than 370 million indigenous people spread through 70 countries wordwide.The Orang Asli have much in common with other neglected segments and societies such as lack of political representation,economic marginalization and poverty,lack of access to social services and discrimination.There is also population problem within the community and this often leads to the neglect of their health and essential needs like proper clothing and healthy foods for the families.
In Peninsular Malaysia,the Orang Asli are the earliest population having been living in Malaysia since about 5000 years ago.It is believed that most of them come from China and Tibet which goes through mainland of Southeast Asia before foothold in Peninsular Malaysia and the Indonesian archipelago.The Aborigines are not a homogenous group.Each tribe has it’s own language and culture and perceives itself as different from the others.
The lifestyle and means of survival of the Orang Asli varies.In Peninsular Malaysia,fishing is the chief occupation of coastal communities such as the Orang Laut,Orang Seletar and Mahmeri.Other communities practise permanent agriculture and manage their own rubber,oil palm or cocoa farms.Another approximately 40% of Orang Asli peoples live close to or within forested areas.These comprise of the Semai,Temiar,Che Wong,Jahut,Semelai and Semoq Beri communities which engage in swiddening as well as hunting and gathering.They trade in petai,durian,rattan and resins to earn cash incomes.A very small number,especially among the Negerito groups are still semi-nomadic and depend on seasonal harvests from the forest.
In Sabah,the coastal and riverline communities mainly engage in fishing and cultivation of food for their own consumption.Excess food,cash crops and jungle produce provide them with a cash income.The majority of the aboriginal population live in the rural areas as subsistence farmers practicing diversified agriculture combined with tapioca,wet padi,fruits and vegetables.An increasing number of them cultivate cash crops.In Sarawak,the rural indigenous population also practice rotational cultivation with an emphasis on hill rice.These communities compliment their diet by hunting and gathering forest produce.A small number of the Penan community still lead a nomadic life,hunting and gathering while the rest of the community lead a settled or partially settled life.The rural aboriginal communities depend on the river for their drinking water,food,washing and transportation.
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