Tara Bandu, a Tradition of Sustainability

The opening ceremony had village chiefs, local  authorities, forestry  officers,  and  community  leaders in attendance. The highest  clan  “Rai  Oan” or Son of  the  Land led the ritual, assisted  by  “Uma  Dato” or House  of  the  Leader who implements  the customary law, and  “Lia  Na’in” or Owner of  the  Words who, as a judicial  body, maintains  justice.

Mr. Filomino, the sub-district administrator was accompanied by elders and chief of villages in receiving a sacred hammer with which he rang the sacred bell to signify the opening of the ritual at the sacred place, the center of “sadanlulik.” This is open only to the Rai Oan Clan during the ritual and taking video and photos is not allowed.

After the ritual, the community leaders signed the Tara Bandu regulations to legalize these. It was the community’s first time to discuss the first written community regulations before adoption. The Makle’at or Forest man nominated six people to represent each village. He is tasked to look after the needs of the community and to report any violation to the Lia Na’in Clan elders who lead the process of investigation and mete out penalty or sanction to the violator.

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Tara Bandu regulations which include the list of prohibited materials are distributed to each clan leader, with a parcel of meat and rice. The hanging of lists at public places is a sign that prohibition started on the day of the ritual. Makle’at informs each clan leader when to publicly announce the end of the prohibition and Makle’at himself shall remove the hangings at public places. This will be the harvest season when the community can freely take anything from the  forest.

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The Tara  Bandu  is  waning, but  with  this  project, the practice was revived  to remind the community that it is integral to the  control  and  management of their resources. Tara Bandu reinforces and strengthens state laws that prevent degradation and encourages reforestation and sustainability. Additionally, it defines roles, responsibilities and ownership of the  community  for  their  own  benefits.

The Tara Bandu as a practice and traditional knowledge is transmitted to the younger generation for continuity. This intergenerational  transfer  of  knowledge is an educational experience for the entire community and awareness  raising  for the youth  and the  general  public. The active participation of the communities to secure and sustainably manage their resources was enhanced. 

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The next generation’s  voices are to be heard, such as Armando’s who said, “As the young  generation, we are now aware  that  we  do  have  our  own  traditions  that  can  be  used to manage our resources without intervention from outsiders or government. The presence of state regulation is just to strengthen our tradition and government  officials  should  recognize  and  involve  existing  traditional  governance  system  for  the  same  purpose.” The Forestry officer acknowledged the clan’s role when he said that “…every clan has a clear role and responsibility in carrying out and ensuring implementation of Tara Bandu regulation. This indicates the existence of traditional  government  system  and  sense  of  ownership  for  their  own  benefits.” The  elders’ views were expressed by Raimundo who stated  that,  “We  have  an  obligation  to  share  our  culture  and  practices  to  the  young  generation  although  most  young people are not really keen to  know  such  traditions.  We have the video documentation as an alternative to share these to them.”  

The rains, distance, and bad road condition may have prevented other communities from attending, but they know they have the Tara Bandu tradition to hold onto for the protection of their resources.

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The Tara Bandu ceremony as the focal activity of the Documentation and Preservation of Indigenous Peoples’ Culture and Practices Project was successfully implemented by Centro Juventud Covalima in  Fatumea  sub-district, Covalima in  Timor Leste. A media team produced a  video documentary which was one output of the project. The project was implemented on February  11,  2017 with the support of PAWANKA Fund.