The year 2014 is one that’s etched in the memory of the indigenous community in Indonesia. It was the first time, during a presidential election, that indigenous peoples were mentioned in the official documents of one of the candidates: Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his running mate Jusuf Kalla had included the plans for the community in their vision and mission statement.

“For the first time, and never before in the history of Indonesia, we [were] considered to exist and our issues were made a priority agenda, [so] we welcomed this at that time,” said the secretary general of the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN), Rukka Sombolinggi, during a presentation on the future of indigenous communities in Indonesia in Jakarta in December 2018.

At that time, the indigenous communities believed that Jokowi would be a bridge between the state and indigenous peoples—two groups whose relationship have long been tense. They saw him as a unifier; Rukka says it was the first time she had decided to vote in an election: “At that time, for the first time my finger touched the election ink. I trusted [Jokowi] then.”

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Richaldo Hariandja

Richaldo has been a journalist since 2013 and spent 4.5 years at the Media Indonesia Daily Newspaper, writing about politics, science, environmental issues, design and entertainment. He is greatly concerned about environmental issues in Indonesia and has been a member of the Society of Indonesia Environmental Journalists since 2016.