The Buol live in Central Sulawesi near the Gorontalo province. Formerly mountain dwellers, the Buol now live in scattered villages on the central part of the northern peninsula. The Buol region’s history is one of the rise and fall of small kingdoms. At times, they became part of larger entities for defense and conquest.
Sometimes, the Buol people are treated as a subgroup of the Gorontalo people group due to cultural and linguistic similarities. The Buol language is part of a larger language group called the Gorontalic family which also includes the Bolango, Gorontalo, and Lolak languages.
What are their lives like?
There is not a good road system in this area, so most contact among the Buol people is by sea, as the area is bordered by the Sulawesi Sea. Even though the various Buol villages are limited in their contact, they still maintain a sense of unity as a people group. They are united by language and cultural practices.
Most of the Buol earn a living as rice farmers. They also plant coconut groves and cloves, which are export commodities. They also harvest rattan, resin, cinnamon and brown sugar from the forest. Along the coastal regions, the Buol are fishermen. Some Buol also work as traders.
In the past, the Buol people lived under the authority of the Buol Kingdom. As a result of the kingdom’s social patterns, there were several classes in the society. There was the class made up of the king’s family, the nobility, those who had distant ties with royalty, the common class, and the slave class. During this era, every class was distinct. One could discern an individual’s class by observing his everyday dress.
The former class structure now appears to have changed as a result of the influence of Islam and the advancement of education. Advances in the economy have also influenced the lifestyle of the Buol people. Now status is based on one’s position as a government or religious leader, as well as educational achievement. Even so, cultural leaders and those considered elders continue to be honored.
What are their beliefs?
Most Buol have embraced Islamic teachings, and this has greatly influenced their lives. Despite this, traditional animistic beliefs are still strong in daily life. They still believe in the power of spirits that inhabit sacred places. Many seek the help of a dukun (shaman/healer) to prevent sickness or to exorcise evil spirits.
What are their needs?
Forestry and fishing have the greatest potential for further economic development of the Buol region. The tourism sector also has development potential, as the coastal areas of the Buol region contain many exotic locales. However, tourism would need to be supported by adequate transportation facilities because the Buol region is quite far from Palu (capital of Central Sulawesi) and Gorontalo (capital of Gorontalo).