The Bungku (also called “To Bungku”) live in the Central Sulawesi province. They are also found in several other areas of Sulawesi. The Bungku people are further divided into subgroups: Lambatu, Epe, Rete and Ro’Uta.
They speak Bungku, which has six dialects. The Bungku language is part of a larger language group called the Eastern Bungku-Tolaki subfamily which also includes the Kulisusu, Wawonii, and Mori languages. The immigrant communities in this area use their own languages, such as Bugis, Bajau and Javanese. Many marriages take place between the Bungku people and the immigrant peoples. Hence the relationship between the groups is relatively good in this region.
What are their lives like?
The Bungku make their living as farmers. They grow rice, corn and sweet potatoes as their primary crops, and coconuts and sago palm trees as their secondary crops. The Bungku also harvest resin and rattan from the thick jungles that still exist in their area. Their land is typically less fertile than other areas of Southeast Sulawesi.
Formerly, Bungku communities were segregated into three classes. The heads of the village formed the elite group. The common people formed the middle group. The slaves were the lowest group.
In the past, the Bungku people lived in remote inland areas and had little contact with outsiders. With the building of the Trans-Sulawesi highway, they have become more open to outsiders.
Although they live in Central Sulawesi, their culture is greatly influenced by the Bugis culture of South Sulawesi. According to history, some Bungku ancestors were a group of Bugis who migrated to the area.
What are their beliefs?
Most Bungku have embraced Islam. At the same time, older traditional animistic beliefs are still maintained. For instance, the Bungku still believe in various kinds of spirits and practice various rituals to either pacify or control them. They often ask a dukun (shaman) to intercede with the spirits on their behalf.
What are their needs?
At the present time, the Bungku need assistance and training to manage their coconut, resin and rattan plantations more professionally. Outside training by professionals who would not exploit the Bungku people would greatly help their economic development.
Management of these plantations has been done through traditional methods which have been hampered by insufficient infrastructure. The roads that link the regency capital, Poso, with the surrounding plantation areas are very deficient. Above all, many investors are needed to develop these plantation areas.
Inexpensive medical care and medicine are also needed in rural areas. Right now, Bungku people only seek medical help in cases of emergency.