‘Until I was in high school, I didn’t refer to myself as ‘Indigenous’. I didn’t speak in my mother tongue. My father is Javanese and my mother is Dayak Ngaju, therefore I faced a dilemma. I always asked myself ‘who am I, am I Dayaknese? Am I Javanese?’, but the voice inside my heart keeps saying that I’m Dayak. So, I learn how to speak Dayak Ngaju. After I’m able to speak in Dayak Ngaju, I feel a sense of belonging to Dayak Ngaju Community. Now I really am proud to say I’m Dayak.’

- Yun Pratiwi Founder of Central Borneo Guide 

 “Generations have struggled to learn, despite efforts to eliminate our traditions and language. Having a strong sense of yourself and your community is a great foundation for learning.”

- Agnes Chavis, Lumbee


The younger generation are the future custodians of Indigenous heritage and tradition. In this age where modernism has infiltrated Indigenous communities in many ways, there is a large gap between the Youth and the Elders, leading to a disconnect between the younger generation and their cultures. 

Rapid industrialization and infrastructure building in areas and forests belonging to Indigenous communities has been threatening the lives and existence of Indigenous people. This is the time for the youth to come back to their roots and use their power to build their communities. For this reason, Youth Act Kalimantan in partnership with Café Filantropi conducted a youth forum, ‘Stories that matter: Discovering my roots’.

The forum ‘Stories That Matter: Discovering My Roots’ took place in Palangka Raya, on the 14th of July. This forum’s purpose was to guide youths in discovering their identity as Indigenous People, and to create a space for them to speak up about themselves. More than 50 young people from diverse backgrounds attended this forum - some are students, some are teachers, some are NGO workers, and some are entrepreneurs.

Prior to the event, priority themes were identified to lay the foundation for discussions throughout the 1-day Forum. Themes included: ‘Am I part of a Indigenous community?’, ‘Should I be proud to be Indigenous?’ and ‘What can I do to preserve my culture and tradition?’.

Highlights from the discussions include:

  • Being Indigenous is more about mentality. It is about how we see ourselves. We cannot call someone Indigenous or non-Indigenous simply based on their physical appearance or dress.

  • If you have been living in a community for many years, (although you do not originally come from that community), and you respect and embrace their culture and traditions, you are now part of that community.

  • Living in the modern world doesn’t mean we cannot bring our traditions to life. We can stay between these two worlds - although we must have a filter. Our values and norms are the filters.

  • We must be proud to be Indigenous people as it is our identity

  • There are many ways to preserve Indigenous culture and tradition. The most simple way is learning the language because language transmits part of the culture through Indigenous knowledge. We can also learn music and dance, and combine it with modern dance.


“Dayak people are everywhere but they don’t go anywhere. It means Dayak people can go to another place to learn and spare their wings but in the end, they will come back to their community. They will use the power and skills that they learn to build their community” 

- Benny M Tundan, Founder of Marajaki Studio


“Don’t call yourself an Indigenous person if you cannot speak in your mother tongue and you don’t know the historical roots of your community.”

- Randy Julian, Founder of Handep Haruei