A new spirit: Letter from the women of Muara Tae

conscienceTHE TEAM working on behalf of the guardians of the Borneo rainforest received this letter from eight women in Muara Tae, on behalf of all the women there. Laeyen, the first woman listed, is Asuy’s wife and is pictured here holding their only daughter, Conscience:

To all supporters of the Muara Tae ceremony:

WE THE WOMEN OF MUARA TAE are very grateful for all your support to our kampong so we can conduct the Guguuq Taunt ceremony. The support eases our sorrow and gives us new spirit to keep going in this stressful situation.

We women are always part of the struggle with our husbands and our sons and daughters to protect Muara Tae forests from destruction and take-over by the oil palm companies PT Munthe Waniq Jaya Perkasa and PT Borneo Surya Mining Jaya. Sometimes we get very worried when we have to face the apparatus and thugs working for the companies. We can only pray that we will all be safe.

While taking care of our homes and children, many times we also have to do things that would normally be done mainly by our men but because they are away guarding the forests, we women have to do all those things, like taking care of the farms and our livestock, gathering firewood, getting water. We have been living with this hardship for many years.

But we don’t give up. We continue living with all these hardships because we believe we are doing the right thing. We are fighting for our kampong, for our children and grandchildren. We still hope that our forest will be saved.

For so long we have been feeling the direct impact of the oil palm plantations, like the water became dirty and can no longer be used for bathing and washing, let alone cooking. The children often get skin diseases because of the dirty water. There is no more fish in the river. We have to buy everything now.

At the moment we are preparing to conduct the ancient ceremony. This is a way that is handed down by our ancestors to uphold truth and justice in our lives. We hope by having this ceremony we will be relieved from this maltreatment and loss of our rights to our own forest.

May all supporters be given by Taman Rikukng Nguraa [a Dayak Benuaq term for God, or the higher power] good fortune and abundance and long life. We believe that the guardians of the universe (Nayuuq Seniang above the sky and Juata Tonnooi above land) and our ancestors (Kelungan Kelanguun) are also pleased with the support you are giving.

For us, everyone who becomes a part of us in caring for our forest is a relative and we will never forget her or him. And we also hope that we will meet someday in Muara Tae.

Salam adat,

Laeyen, Angin Pei, Kabus, Maria Mungkin, Situn, Nawi, Juru and Tanco
on behalf of the women of Muara Tae

—Short video on how this effort came to be
—More on the ceremony, the tribe, and ways to join in
—Guardians of the Forest on Facebook
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