Who are the Tamiang?

TamiangThe Tamiang live in the province of Aceh. One legend states that the name “Tamiang” comes from the words itam and mieng (black cheek). This name supposedly arose because a king of Tamiang named Raja Muda Sedia (1332-1362) had a black mark on his cheek. Another story claims that the name Tamiang comes from the name of an island in the Riau Archipelago, the original dwelling place of the Tamiang. The Tamiang have their own Malay dialect, called Tamiang, which is similar to the nearby Riau Malay language.

What are their lives like?

The main source of income for the Tamiang people is rice. Other Tamiang crops include corn, cassava, and eggplant. They also grow fruit such as oranges, mangoes, and durian. Those who live on the coast fish and make coal from mangrove trees. Some have become plantation workers and traders.

The Tamiang rarely move away because their agricultural land is vast and fertile enough to support them. At the beginning of the twentieth century this area received many migrants from other areas because of the opening of rubber and palm oil plantations, as well as oil wells.

The Tamiang live by The Law of the Four Tribes. Their area was settled by four founding fathers called datuk. Future settlers were then placed under the authority of the datuk. Eventually the four datuk united their areas and chose a king as their leader. This decision was established and sealed with a covenant called The Message of the Elder.

The kingdom lived by a proverb: “A fair king will be worshipped, but a cruel king will be dethroned.” In upholding that role, Tamiang leaders still hold to the vow “a father’s love is faithful to death.” Traditional law is effectively carried out with the philosophy: “Ancestral customs are followed, but religious law is respected; customs are modified, but religious norms are negotiated.”

What are their beliefs?

The Tamiang people follow Islam, which has penetrated various aspects of their lives. In spite of this, many still carry out traditional ritual ceremonies. These include ceremonies for the successful planting of rice, harvesting of rice, and protection from natural disasters.

What are their needs?

The primary need of the Tamiang is better farming and plantation methods to increase their income. Educational and public health facilities are also needed to increase their welfare.

The Tamiang area actually has great potential, as the main highway between Medan and Aceh runs right through the area. Due to this, the potential that already exists in this area needs to be better taken advantage of by the Tamiang, who are increasingly marginalized and losing out to migrants from other areas.

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