Malaysia has often been described as the melting pot of Asia, with a diverse makeup that also includes the Orang Asli – the country’s indigenous people.
The Orang Asli represents just over 11% of the nation’s population, with over 30 sub-groups living across both Peninsula and East Malaysia.
While some of these indigenous groups have been placed under good care, others have fallen victim to illegal logging, mining, poaching and even involuntary resettlement.
And resettlement is exactly what uprooted the Temiar people of Cunex from their sacred sites, more than three decades ago.
From living in Keled before the 1970s, the Temiars have been forced to resettle multiple times – first in 1977 as a result of the Communist Insurgency, then in 1981 to accommodate the newly-constructed Kenering Dam, and three more times after that as part of the government’s RPS Dala regroupment scheme.
It wasn’t until 2016 that the Temiars were able to firmly go back to their roots and protect their sacred sites.
The Temiars’ plight are a notable example of how mapping indigenous territories can help preserve cultures.
As part of their efforts to protect their homeland from illegal loggers, poachers and miners, the Temiars did not only place blockades and engage with authorities – with the help of COAC (Centre of Orang Asli Concerns), they also used affordable mapping technologies to plot out territorial boundaries and various areas of importance.
The resulting map can now be seen in the new ‘Back to Roots’ Voyager tour, where you can follow along the Temiars’ thirty-year journey from involuntary resettlement to their return home.
The tour allows you to trace their resettlement route across the borders of their sacred sites, go on-ground for a look at their community today and discover what the future holds for this Orang Asli sub-group.
Voyager stories like these help to paint a bigger picture, one that has been shaped by previous Google efforts, such as 2018’s Google Earth Outreach initiative in which the Jakuns’ home village of Kampung Peta, Johor was mapped, and 2017’s ‘This is Home’ Voyager tour which featured the homes of the Semais in Pahang.
These efforts to preserve culture helps to create a more accurate reflection of the world we live in, and as more indigenous groups look to forward-thinking ways of protecting the past, we can only be better informed of the Temiars of the world whose stories are waiting to be told.