• Indigenous peoples in Indonesia

    Indigenous peoples in Indonesia

    Indonesia is home to an estimated number of 50-70 million indigenous peoples. Indonesia has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Still, the government does not fully accept the concept of indigenous peoples.
    Indigenous peoples in Indonesia are increasingly experiencing criminalisation and violence, often related to investments in indigenous territories.
  • Peoples

    Indonesia is home to an estimated number of 50-70 million indigenous peoples.
  • Rights

    Indonesia has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but the government does not fully accept the concept of indigenous peoples
  • Challenges

    Indigenous peoples in Indonesia are increasingly experiencing criminalisation and violence, often related to investments in indigenous territories.


Indonesia is the home of an estimated 50 to 70 million Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia increasingly suffer from criminalization and violence, often related to investments in indigenous territories.

The third amendment to the Indonesian Constitution recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Article 18b-2. In the most recent legislation, there is an implicit recognition of some rights of the peoples known as Masyarakat adat or Masyarakat hukum adat, which include Law No. 5/1960 on Basic Agrarian Regulation, Law No. 39/1999 on Human Rights and the Decree of MPR No X / 2001 on Agrarian Reform.

Law No. 27/2007 on the management of coastal and small islands and Law No. 32/2010 on the environment clearly use the term Masyarakat Adat and use the practical definition of AMAN. The Constitutional Court confirmed the constitutional rights of Indigenous Peoples over their lands and territories in May 2013, including their collective rights over traditional forests.

Although Indonesia is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), government officials argue that the concept of Indigenous Peoples is not applicable, since almost all Indonesians (with the exception of the Chinese) ) are Indigenous and have the right to the same rights As a result, the government has rejected calls for the specific needs of groups that identify themselves as Indigenous.

On August 10, 2015, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry agreed to be the administrator of 6.8 million hectares of Indigenous maps for inclusion in the One Map initiative.

Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia

Indonesia has a population of approximately 260 million people, and the government recognizes 1,331 ethnic groups. Recent laws and government decrees use the term Masyarakat adat to refer to Indigenous Peoples. The national organization of Indigenous Peoples, Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), estimates that the number of Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia is between 50 and 70 million people.

The Ministry of Social Affairs identifies some Indigenous communities as komunitas adat terpencil (geographically isolated Indigenous communities). However, many more people identify themselves or are considered by others as Indigenous.

West Papua covers the western part of the island of New Guinea and comprises the two Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua (Papua Barat). It has a population of 4.378 million people split across two provinces, with 3.5 million in Papua province and 878,000 in West Papua province. More than 50% of the population in both provinces are migrants who came from other parts of Indonesia through the government-sponsored transmigration program between the 1970s and early 2000s.

West Papua has the most diverse cultures and languages in Indonesia. While Bahasa Indonesia is the official language spoken now, there are more than 250 tribal languages spoken by Indigenous Papuans today. West Papua is divided into seven distinct customary territories: Mamberamo Tabi (Mamta), Saireri, Domberai and Bomberai, Mee Pago, La Pago and Ha Anim.

Main challenges for Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia

Violence and criminalization of Indigenous Peoples continue. There has been no significant effort to systematically stop acts of violence against Indigenous Peoples. In addition, the management of cases of violence and criminalization of indigenous peoples became more complicated in 2016, especially with the appearance of new types of conflicts related to infrastructure and dams, and the most obvious military intervention in such violence and criminalization.

Since 1999, the Government plans to build a reservoir for irrigation in the district of Ngada, a territory of the Rendu Indians. After the Ngada district expanded to some new districts, the site for this reservoir development plan was included in the administration area of a new district, the Nagekeo district. Since the beginning of this plan, the Indigenous Peoples of Rendu and other communities directly affected by the project have carried out different studies to demonstrate their possible negative effects.

However, on November 8, 2016, the Police and Public Order Enforces oversaw the drilling tools imported by the local Nagekeo government. The community suffered a blockade. However, they could not hold it, and the drill was finally placed at the location of the survey. The drill was guarded by enforcers of public order and police officers. The next day, people were surprised by the news from the Head of the Unit of National Unity and Politics of the Nagekeo District, saying that the drill rig had been set on fire.

On September 6, 2017, President Joko Widodo signed Presidential Regulation No. 88 of 2017 on Land Tenure Settlements in Forest Areas. The Presidential Regulation states that the Government will carry out land tenure settlements in forest areas controlled and used by the community.

This presidential regulation leaves a series of questions, among others, about limiting the resolution of land conflicts in forest areas, while the resolution of land conflicts in areas will be carried out by relocating the community (resettlement) unless can demonstrate that they have inhabited the area well before its inauguration as a forest area.

Big victory for indigenous peoples in Indonesia

Yesterday (May 16), at 14-16pm, The Constitutional Court of Indonesia came out with a Decision on the Judicial Review on Forestry Law No.41/1999, filed by AMAN last year. The Constitutional Court has decided that "Customary Forest is forest in the ancestral domain/indigenous peoples territory". This is to replace the article in the Forestry Law, saying : "customary forest is STATE FOREST in indigenous territory" This means a lot for indigenous peoples and the goverment.

Continue Reading

Indonesian government accepts Ancestral Domain maps

Wednesday 14, the Indonesian Indigenous Peoples' Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) announced, that it, together with the Network for Participatory Mapping (JKPP), have officially handed over 265 ancestral domain maps of ancestral domains, covering 2,402,222 hectares, registered in the Ancestral Domain Registration Agency (BRWA) to the Indonesia's Geospatial Information Agency (BIG) and the Presidential Delivery Unit for Supervision and Control of Development (UKP4).

Continue Reading

Indonesia: Indigenous peoples get back their rights over customary forests

Constitutional Court has accepted the Judicial Review of some parts of Act No. 41/1999 on Forestry (Undang-Undang Kehutanan or UUK) submitted by the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), Thursday (16/5). Although the Court didn’t agree on all requested reviews, AMAN warmly welcomes the decision announced in Plenary Hall of Constitutional Court. This ruling means that the Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago are legal subjects and customary forests are not State forests. Hence Indigenous Peoples will get back their rights over their customary forests seized by the State through UUK.

Indonesian House works on indigenous peoples bill

"Violations of the rights of indigenous people continue to occur, although they played a key role in protecting the country during the colonial era, hundreds years ago," lawmaker Ignatius Mulyono, chairman of the House legislative committee, said in Jakarta yesterday (November 19). The committee has studied 15 laws or regulations applicable to indigenous people, including Article 18 of the 1945 Constitution and Law No. 5/1960 on agrarian issues.

Continue Reading

Indonesia: Indigenous women organize themselves

For two days, April 15-16, 2012, more than 200 women representing various indigenous communities in Indonesia gathered on Doa Dukono Hill in Tobelo, North Halmahera, a regency in North Maluku, to form an organization that focuses on the country’s indigenous women’s movement — an inseparable part of the whole indigenous people’s movement to attain economic self-sufficiency, political rights, and cultural dignity.

Continue Reading

  • 1
  • 2



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Contact IWGIA

Prinsessegade 29 B, 3rd floor
DK 1422 Copenhagen
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
CVR: 81294410

Report possible misconduct, fraud, or corruption

NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

If you do not change browser settings, you agree to it. Learn more

I understand