In a world where so much is written down, it is refreshing to find a culture that relies on oral history. Myth and legend are kept alive in song and story, passed down from generation to generation. This is particularly true of the Moken people, who have an innate understanding of nature and her many moods.
Aquatic life is something that a lot of people take for granted. They see the ocean and all its vastness and assume that because they can breathe air and walk on land, they could never imagine living any other way. However, this could not be further from the truth for some ethnic groups around the world whose entire lives are centred on the sea.
When the sea is their home for most of the year, it’s no surprise that Moken people have developed a unique culture that’s become a part of Thai folklore. But what are the ways of life of these sea gypsies? What do they eat? How do they dress? And how do they spend their days on land? In this post you’ll learn all about them.
Who are ‘the Moken’?
The Moken people, also known as the Salone the Austronesian, or the Sea Nomads, are a unique and isolated ethnic group of people who live off the coast of Thailand, Burma and Malaysia in the Indian Ocean. They inhabit a number of small islands in the Mergui Archipelago, as well as the coastal regions of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
Andaman Sea Austronesian tribes are who inhabit coast and islands use this name. These tribes stretch from west coast of Thailand, through Mergui Archipelago of Burma (Myanmar), up to Andaman Islands. There are four distinct groups of people living in this region: the Moken proper, the Moklen, Orang Sireh and Orang Lanta. Of these, Orang Lanta are a hybridized group, formed when Malay settlers arrived on Lanta islands where Orang Sireh had been living previously.
The Moken language is called “Moken Bahasa”, which is an Austronesian language related to Malay and Indonesian. They have traditionally been an isolated people, living in small villages of both permanent and temporary dwellings, as well as aboard boats.
What’s their origin?
The Moken people have been living in the waters of Southeast Asia. Their culture is based around fishing and is not related to any of the coastal tribes that live nearby. They call themselves “sea gypsies” and are usually found living on boats or close to shore. For almost 4,000 years, Moken people have lived as indigenous sea nomads without a state. They are among last people who see ocean as a place to live their lives. Their extraordinary free-diving capabilities and traditional boats called kabang allow them to maintain this lifestyle.
Lifestyle of “the Moken”
The Moken have a simple lifestyle based on fishing, gathering, and trading. They are thought to have originated from Malay and Mon-Khmer-speaking peoples from the mainland, and have adapted their lifestyle to the coastal environment of their current home. They are one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer communities in the world.
For these ‘semi-aquatic’ people, seafood forms a large part of their diet and they trade in produce that they harvest from the sea. In many cases, their children learn to swim before they can even walk due to pronounced semi-aquatic adaptations.
The Moken people by using simple tools such as nets and spears to forage for food. They impact the environment minimally due to this way of subsistence. Furthermore, they often move in kin groups of two to ten families, allowing land to rest and preventing overuse. Moken are considered hunter-gatherers due to this lifestyle and lack of accumulation of material goods. The community strongly believes that natural resources should be accessible to everyone without any restrictions. Their egalitarian society is reflected in their ancestral worship, where regular offerings are made to supernatural beings.
The Inuit people have always been a nomadic people, moving from place to place in search of food and other necessities. In recent years, they have begun to reach out and trade with other local communities, exchanging their traditional products (sea cucumbers and edible bird nests) for other items that they need.
Also, when an epidemic breaks out, the infected members will stay put with a limited supply of provisions, while the healthy members will move to a new location. The goal is to give the sick enough time to recover without exposing the rest of the kin group to their illness.
Why the Moken People Have Been Ignored For So Long?
The Moken people are a small, nomadic group who live in the Andaman Sea. For centuries, they have been ignored by the outside world. Their way of life is unique and they have an incredible story of survival.
The Moken people are sea nomads. They spend most of their time on their boats, fishing and gathering food from the sea. The Moken are expert divers and free-divers. They can hold their breath for up to four minutes and dive to depths of over 30 meters. The Moken have an amazing ability to see underwater. They use this skill to find food and avoid danger.
The Moken people live in harmony with the sea. They have a deep respect for the ocean and its creatures. The Moken believe that the sea is alive and has a spirit. The Moken language has no word for “ocean”, because they see it as part of their home, not as a separate entity.
The Moken way of life is under threat from modernity. The Indonesian government is trying to settle the Moken on land. This is difficult for the nomadic Moken, who are used to living on their boats and diving for food. The government wants the Moken to assimilate into Indonesian society, but this goes against everything that the Moken stand for.
The Moken people have an incredible story of survival against all odds. But unless something changes, their way of life.
How is Their Story Being Told Now?
The Moken people have long been an enigma to the outside world, quietly living their lives in harmony with the sea. But as climate change and modernization threaten their way of life, their story is being told more and more.
The Moken are a nomadic sea gypsy people who live in small villages on the coasts of Thailand, Burma, and Malaysia. For centuries they have eked out a living by fishing and gathering seaweed, but they are increasingly being forced inland as the waters around their homes become too polluted or too dangerous to fish in.
As the Moken people lose their connection to the sea, they are also losing their traditional knowledge and ways of life. Their children are attending school and learning English, but they are not being taught about their culture or how to fish and gather food from the sea.
The Moken people’s story is one of environmental devastation and cultural loss, but it is also a story of hope and resilience. The Moken are fighting to keep their culture alive, and they continue to find ways to adapt and survive in a changing world.
The Future of the Moken People
The Moken people are one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer societies in the world. Their way of life is based on a deep knowledge of the sea and its resources. The Moken have traditionally been nomadic, moving from place to place in search of food and shelter.
But their way of life is now under threat from modernization and the changing climate. The Moken people are being forced to settle in permanent communities, and their children are being sent to schools where they learn about Western culture and values. The Moken people’s story is one of environmental devastation and cultural loss, but it is also a story of hope and resilience. They are fighting to keep their culture alive, and they continue to find ways to adapt and survive in a changing world.
The future of the Moken people is uncertain. But as long as there are those who remember their traditions and way of life, there is hope that the Moken will be able to survive and thrive in the modern world.