Umbaku

• Population of near 300 scattered in small remote villages just in from along the coast lines
• They are thought to be directly descended from the first human populations to emerge.
• The Tribal people of the Umbaku believe in great spirits which they say have power over all things including animals, trees, stones and clouds. They believe that the sun is the mother of all spirits and has great power because it provides the islands with warmth and light. Visions in dreams are believed to come from spirits. The Umbaku believe in animism, a belief that animal spirits inhabit all animate and inanimate things.
• A child learns at an early age how to become a good member of his tribe. Each member of the tribe belongs to an age group that has special services within the tribe. Each person is expected to contribute to the tribe by doing his share of the work and obeying its customs. All children are taught from an early age to share anything caught or picked.
• They live by hunting, gathering plants and growing crops. They hunt pig and turtle and fish with bows and arrows in the coral-fringed reefs for crabs and fish, including striped catfish-eel and the toothed pony fish. They also gather fruits, wild roots, tubers and honey. There are more than 100 wild fruits to harvest, many fungi, wild greens and edible palms.
• They have detailed knowledge of more than 150 plant and 350 animal species. The forests and coral reefs give them more than they need.
• They live in long communal huts with several hearths, and use outrigger canoes to travel the seas around their island. Also known as the Forbidden islands to outsiders.
• The Umbaku are an isolated tribe and very protective of their homes. They are known to kill fishermen that land on their island. Hurling arrows and stones at any unlucky visitor approaching their shores. Reports rumor that the Forbidden Islands were inhabited by cannibals — an exaggeration probably originating from the ferocity of attacks with which these travelers were greeted.
• The fact that their language is so different even from other close by islanders suggests that they have had little contact with other people for thousands of years.
• Although most of their tools and weapons are made from stone and animal bones, the tribe seems to make use of metal fragments that end up washed on their shore or found on their travels.
• When a Umbaku male is born the tribe beats their drums loud announcing to their enemies that a new Umbaku warrior is now among them. This is also done to introduce the new born to the ancestors.
• When of age the new warrior under goes the rite of passage. A secret rite that marks the transition from boyhood to manhood which includes circumcision.
• The Umbaku are acknowledged masters of tracking and hunting, and masters of the blowpipe. This is the weapon for the rainforest. It is light, made of forest materials. Ammunition is readily replaced and the darts kill silently, allowing more than one kill, or more than one shot at the target.
• No hunter will eat an animal he has killed himself. Instead, it is distributed among relatives, friends and the families of potential wives. This reinforces the tribe’s two greatest values – sharing and equality.
• Because of certain taboos they have developed their own sign language something that can come extremely handy when hunting and silence is needed.
• Women generally have the responsibility of cooking, household chores, crop growing and taking care of the children. Men do the hunting, which accounts for a small amount of their total food intake. They hunt game such as deer, monkey and tapir with blow guns and poison tipped darts. Men, women and children all take part in fishing.
• In the tribe the freedom of women, in general, is limited. Women that are young and fit are regarded as a prize to be earned by eager young male warriors. The traditional custom in Umbaku culture is that of Obola, where the groom pays the father of the bride in order to compensate for the ‘loss’ of the man’s daughter.
• A man can have as many wives as he can afford and the wives share the responsibilities of the daily chores. Weddings are held at night when the moon is full.
• All these rituals are symbolic of one’s development. Before each is performed, the individual spends time with community elders to prepare for the next stage. The elders’ teachings are not written, but transmitted from generation to generation by oral tradition.
• Dreams play an important role in divination and contact with ancestors. Traditional religious practice features rituals, initiations, and feasts.
• The tribal Shaman is responsible for curing sickness, finding out the cause of death, predicting the future and making or stopping rain. The shaman uses rainforest plants for his medicines. He is also able to see invading illnesses in a person’s body and therefore know how to treat sick people.

Umbaku

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