Betwen Borneo and New Guinea, the Moluccus archipelago is one of the lesser known provinces of Indonesia. The heart of the island of Ceram is where the Musuane live. They are a nomadic tribe and travel constantly throughout
their mountainous surroundings. Their knowledge of the seasons, plants and animals allows them to move about in perfect harmony with their environment. They do not waste the bounty of natural resources around them, but they use what is around them with energy and respect. The sago tree is the staple food of the Masuane When the tree is about fifteen years old, the Masuane cut it down and pound the inside to crush the fibers and obtain flour with high carbohydrate content. The sago palm gives them three times more calories than any other plant food in the forest based on the time it takes to collect it.
Six hundred pounds of sago can be harvested and prepared in ten days, enough food to fulfill the needs of an adult for an entire year. The Masuane use every part of the sago tree. The bark is used to build the flooring and walls of their homes. The rainproof leaves are used to construct the roof, the smaller leaves to weave ropes, baskets and backpacks ... Hunting and gathering is what life is all about. The rest of their time is spent dancing, signing and telling stories. The Masuane believe they become ill because they are out of sync, or out of favor with the forest. They are 'cured' when their shaman brings them back into balance with nature.
But the overwhelming desire for immediate profit on the part of the Indonesian government is destroying one of the planet's riches and most beautiful environments along with its caretakers, the Masuane. The government wants to turn their forest into rice paddies. What about the aspirations of the Masuane for their own future ? Sadly, with each encampment of Masuane that disappears, an immense amount of traditional knowledge vanishes along with it.
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