Indigenous peoples in Indonesia

Indonesia has a population of approximately 250 million. The government recognizes 1,128 ethnic groups. The Ministry of Social Affairs identifies some indigenous communities as komunitas adat terpencil (geographically-isolated indigenous communities).

However, many more peoples self-identify or are considered by others as indigenous. Recent government Acts and Decrees use the term masyarakat adat to refer to indigenous peoples. 

The national indigenous peoples’ organization, Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), estimates that the number of indigenous peoples in Indonesia falls between 50 and 70 million people.

Legislation concerning indigenous peoples

The third amendment to the Indonesian Constitution recognizes indigenous peoples’ rights in Article 18b-2. In more recent legislation, there is an implicit, though conditional, recognition of some rights of peoples referred to as masyarakat adat or masyarakat hukum adat, such as:

  • Act No. 5/1960 on Basic Agrarian Regulation
  • Act No. 39/1999 on Human Rights, MPR Decree No X/2001 on Agrarian Reform
  • Act No. 27/2007 on Management of Coastal and Small Islands
  • Act No. 32/2010 on Environment clearly use the term Masyarakat Adat and use the working definition of AMAN

The Constitutional Court in May 2013 affirmed the Constitutional Rights of Indigenous Peoples to their land and territories including their collective rights over customary forest. 


While Indonesia is a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), government officials argue that the concept of indigenous peoples is not applicable as almost all Indonesians (with the exception of the ethnic Chinese) are indigenous and thus entitled to the same rights.

Consequently, the government has rejected calls for specific needs by groups identifying themselves as indigenous. 

In December 2014, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry agreed to be the trustee of 4.8 million hectares of indigenous maps to be included in the One Map Initiative.

Yearly Update

Read the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Indonesia to learn about major developments and events during 2015.

Enjoy some images from Indonesia below (IWGIA Flickr archive)