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1 The Imported Past Foreign Sources of Power
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Moslem Mercenaries: A Predatory Expansion over the Seas

The coastal sultanates of Sulawesi, Sumbawa, and Flores figured importantly in trade with the eastern islands from an early period and became intensely involved in local politics in the. eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many heirloom objects in Sumbanese houses are traced to contacts


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with dawa ronda (literally, "foreigners in cotton sarungs"), a category referring to all the Moslem seafaring peoples who came to the island. The Sumbanese construction of the past is heavily vested in these "history objects" traded from the west, but before we can understand their involvement in local events we must examine the cultural heritage they represented.

Given the importance of military conquest to many of these sultanates, it is hardly surprising that a great many of their sacred objects were weapons, most famously the Javanese kris, swords, spears, and even cannon. Some of these were captured from the enemy, others were acquired through trade, marriage alliances, or the miraculous "discovery" of an unusual and thus apparently spiritually potent object (Andaya 1975, 120).

In his study Conceptions of State and Kingship in Southeast Asia , Robert Heine-Geldern describes the importance of regalia in Southeast Asian political life, including the idea that certain objects, such as the royal sword of Cambodia, had their own magical force. This attitude reaches its most developed expression in the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia, where it culminates in "the curious conception prevalent among the Bugis and Makassarese of Celebes, according to which it is really the regalia which reign, the prince merely governing the state only in their name" (Heine-Geldern 1956, 10). The regalia were conceived as immortal and immobile, defining the center of power and geographical space, while the ruler was mortal and mobile, serving, says Shelley Errington (1989, 129), as "a kind of mouthpiece" in contrast to the "stable silence" of the object. Only after his death did the ruler acquire the full sanctity of his objects, for then his own clothing, teeth, and personal effects could join the store of valuables that formed the heirloom treasure of the kingdom.

In the oldest Bugis kingdom, Luwu, royal objects served as placeholders for the titles and responsibilities the ruler could bestow on his subjects (Errington 1989, 124). Titles that included ritual obligations were attached to sacred objects and were given for the recipient's lifetime (Errington 1989, 200). Each family, noble or not, had its own collection of "leavings from the ancestors," which were passed on through the generations and cherished as talismans of the power of the past.

Errington's interpretation emphasizes the stability of local inherited objects both as representations of power and as assertions that descent and "white blood" qualified a ruler to claim authority through sacred objects (1989, 125). Writing about the southern Buginese state of Bone, Andaya (1975, 120) presents an image of much greater political turmoil and change, in which the transfer of sacred objects (gauking ) could legitimate usurpation or even conquest: "The ruler could be deposed at any time, but the gauking and the rest of the regalia would continue to be accorded the


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highest veneration in the community. A ruler without the arajang (regalia) had no authority to rule whatsoever, whereas the arajang retained its power by virtue of being considered the representative of the gods on earth."

In 1666-69, the Company fought a war against the kingdom of Goa in South Sulawesi, then one of the most powerful and extensive empires in the history of the archipelago. Just three years earlier, Goa had conquered Bima, and a huge migration of Makassarese to Sumbawa began. A thousand men in twenty-eight ships arrived in 1664, followed a short while later by eight more (de Roo 1906, 243). Fearing the political campaigns of the Buginese prince and Dutch ally Arung Palakka, the refugees fled to the south. Some of them settled in Sumbawa and Flores, intermarrying with coastal Moslems in Bima and Ende, while others roamed the seas from one kingdom to another disrupting normal processes of trade and government (Andaya 1981, 217-18). In 1675, a large community of Makassar refugees was reported to have formed under a Daeng Mamanga at Ende on Flores, and roving bands of Makassar, Bugis, and Mandar refugees started to move farther eastward (Andaya 1981, 163-64). Invited by Arung Palakka, by then the conqueror of Goa, to return home, they refused, suspecting they would be enslaved by the victors (Andaya 1981, 217). Their presence had a great impact on the Sunda seas:

These refugees constituted an unstable element within the area. They cast their lots with one or another factions within a particular kingdom, thereby creating unnatural or transitory governments which survived at the pleasure of the refugees. Such arrangements bred resentment in the local populace and the eventual expulsion of the refugees. They were then cast adrift once again seeking a home and an ally and making every ambitious leader in a kingdom vulnerable to the attractions of such a powerful group of armed warriors.
(Andaya 1981, 217)

Sumba at the time was a tempting target: since the early fifteenth century, traders from South Sulawesi had visited the island, and by the early 1600s there was a steady market on Sumbawa for products obtained on Sumba.

The character of trade in the Sunda Seas had changed significantly by that time. Although Sumba continued to be called the "Sandalwood Island" by European mapmakers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, its supply of the white fragrant wood quickly dwindled, and most trade interest shifted to Timor (Fox 1977, 61). In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the island's main exports became living things: horses, buffalo,


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and human slaves. The new "commodities" involved foreign traders much more intensely in local politics and colored perceptions of outside powers with a new dimension of terror.

The Makassar-Endehnese appear in colonial documents relating to Sumba in complaints about "pirates" who raided Dutch ships and competed with them for control of trade in the Sunda Sea. Company officials soon realized that their own chances of exploiting Sumba for slaves depended on the exclusion of these rivals from the area. De Roo (1906, 195n.2) presents the Dutch perspective clearly:

The Makassarese power in those times made the waters of the Timor archipelago unsafe not only because they committed piracy and captured slaves, but also because they sold imported goods more cheaply than the Company and paid higher prices for local products, as well as selling gunpowder, lead, and rifles to the enemies of the Company. . . . These Makassarese over the years caused great pain and suffering to the Company. Now and then, when their actions got completely out of hand, military expeditions were mounted against them, which would temper their outrageousness for a while but were not enough to stop it completely.

Sumba, in fact, was to remain an intermittent battleground for the two competing forces for the next 150 years.

In 1750, Van den Burg concluded an oral contract with Sumbanese rulers along the northern coast, binding them to trade exclusively with the Dutch East India Company, and not with the Portuguese or the Makassarese. Presents of weapons, beads, gold, and a flag and staff were distributed to those who consented, from ten different regions of middle and East Sumba (de Roo 1906, 196; Kapita 1976b, 21). In 1755, a second written contract was signed with the raja of Mangili, East Sumba, in Kupang, and the Dutch sent an official named Beynon to investigate conditions on the island. He described it as very large, sparsely populated, and disrupted by constant regional warfare; the export of sandalwood, cotton, slaves, and livestock, he concluded, would not be safe until the whole region was pacified (de Roo 1906, 204-5; Kapita 1976b, 21).

The year 1753 saw an intensification of Makassar slave trading activities, and a large raid was conducted in 1758, with hundreds of people captured in the eastern areas of Melolo and Kanatang (de Roo 1906, 196n.2; Needham 1983, 38). The refugees also began to work as mercenaries for local rulers: they supplied forces to the raja of Lewa in central Sumba, for example, for an attack on his enemies in Melolo, accepting fifty-five slaves in payment (Needham 1983, 20). By 1775, fleets of thirty


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to forty Makassarese praus came into Sumbanese ports each year; the island had become their "general rendez-vous or nesting place" (de Roo 1906, 227; Needham 1983, 21).

The holdings of the Company passed into the hands of the Netherlands East Indies government in 1800. In 1820, the Dutch ship Pamanoekan , under the command of J. Batiest, was on its way from Java to Makassar and became stranded on Sumba's western coast, in the region of Lamboya Patialla. Taken prisoner by the local people, Batiest and his men stayed on the island for many months, until an Endehnese ship passed by and took them to Makassar (de Roo 1906, 240). The captain's description of his time on the island, recorded by J. D. Kruseman, trade commissioner of the Timor area, provides the earliest glimpse of daily life in West Sumba and the shifting political situation. The Sumbanese that he encountered drew a very sharp distinction between outsiders—people from beyond their own island or domain—and insiders—those who shared their feasts. The members of the Pamanoekan crew seem to have experienced both states, one when they first arrived, the second after they had spent some time in a single village. In the words of Batiest:

Concerning honesty and faithfulness, the people are prone to great extremes. Men who not only robbed the survivors of the Pamanoekan of everything they could take, and even cut their clothes off their bodies and led them as slaves to the mountains, would not steal even so much as a piece of firewood from a neighbor, even if he needed it very badly. At and during harvest time, the homes are often empty for months, and although nothing is hidden, nothing is missed. . . . If they can steal something from a foreigner, they will boast about their skill and delight in their accomplishment; but once the same foreigners have become united to them as members of the clan, sharing a meal of goat meat sacrificed to the deity, then they will have nothing more to fear, and they and their belongings will become just as safe as the life and goods of a native. The people are in fact very friendly, so much so that their goodwill seems almost a contradiction of their fierce appearance. They would not kill a foreigner or enemy lightly, and would never strike an ally or friend.
(Kruseman 1836, 70-71)

Batiest reported that West Sumba had "a society without kings or chiefs" led by elders of the hereditary nobility who gained their followers through skill in speaking and daring in warfare. Slaves were kept in noble households, but they "ate from the same dish as their masters" and worked and rested beside them. He described his hosts as brave, generous to a fault,


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and very impressive orators, who ruled through persuasion at large, consensus-based tribal councils and did not coerce others to accept their authority (Kruseman 1836, 72-74).

The hereditary nobility was recognized primarily in council meetings, where their speech was granted the most authority and their eloquence could be demonstrated: "Such meetings always take a long time, even when the case at hand is relatively clear, because a speaker must always be answered by someone else who interprets his words, and the people believe that no important issue should be resolved too quickly. Large gatherings also give them a chance to display oratorical abilities, and this is a society in which rhetorical skill is a source of great pride" (Kruseman 1836, 74). Celebrations were held for the rice harvest, coconut harvest, and alliances with neighboring districts, but there is no mention of the swarming of the sea worms or the pasola jousting (see chapter 5). A lunar calendar is suggested, however, by references to the "fasting month" of October, in which sacrifices are dedicated to a spirit who protects ancestral graves (Kruseman 1836, 82).

Domestic life was characterized as "a truly rare example of morality and chastity among Orientals as is found nowadays only in the most remote corners of the world" (Kruseman 1836, 70).[3] People were industrious and kind, if a bit cowardly by Batiest's standards. Although he found Sumbanese warriors strong and cruel in their appearance, their wars seemed "almost child's play" involving much strutting and shaking of spears with relatively little bloodshed (Kruseman 1836, 74). Each side carried swords and spears in a battle formation, but stayed at such a distance that their weapons rarely struck anyone. When someone was injured, the battle was immediately stopped and sacrifices were made to compensate those who had suffered losses.

Relations of traditional hostility between domains did affect travel and communication, however, even if they rarely resulted in the conquest of territory. Heads were taken in wars waged against neighboring domains, in a pattern of continuing enmity for which there was no historical explanation:

The Sumbanese do not know much about their own history. The current generation is even ignorant of the cause of the wars between


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Laboya and Manukaka [Wanokaka]. But there is such enmity between these domains that whenever someone crosses the borders set by the ancestors, armed or unarmed, man, woman, or child, they must be captured and are put to death immediately. . . . The only exception is made on the occasion of death feasts, where relatives in the enemy territory may be invited with a white banner to join in mourning for a shared ancestor.
(Kruseman 1836, 75-76)

Respect for the dead and for the spirits of the deceased was the primary idea behind all of the traditional feasts, which were led by the elders of the clan in the center of the village. The sequence of events was much the same as is still found on Sumba: guests were greeted with offerings of betel nut, entertained with singing, dancing, and oratory, and fed large platefuls of rice and shares of the sacrificed pigs, goats, and water buffalo. The description of elaborate shared ritual celebrations prompted this early observer to a nostalgic evocation of the vanished world of antiquity:

One can hardly imagine the feelings a civilized European has when he sees all this! One sees a mixture of manners, customs, and habits which bring to mind so many past eras and make one go back to the time of our own ancestors, when men lived in a state of natural happiness, such as the era of the Romans, who celebrated in their camps, hanging their weapons in the trees as they tired of victory, removing all memory of war and destruction from their minds while they gave themselves over to the innocent pleasures of a sacrificial celebration under Italy's warm beautiful sky.
(Kruseman 1836, 81)

The account appears idyllic, especially when contrasted with reports from East Sumba in only a slightly later period—the late nineteenth century, after 1860, when slavery was forbidden in the Netherlands East Indies and the Dutch forces tried to regain control of the Sunda seas. At the time of Batiest's visit, however, isolated western districts like Kodi and Lamboya, many days away from the centers of trade, were to remain sheltered from the most intense raiding for only a few more years.

In 1843, an Arab horse trader, Sharif Abdulrahman, founded the port town of Waingapu at the best natural habor on the north coast of Sumba. He was "an extremely enterprising but sinister character" (Needham 1983, 24), well connected to both the Dutch resident Gronovius and the Endehnese. Authorized to develop the export of horses from Sumba to Java,


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Flores, and Sumbawa, he was soon also involved in the burgeoning slave trade (de Roo 1906, 248).

Endehnese communities rose up along the northern coast and soon were deeply involved in local politics: in 1860 Etto, the crown prince of Ende and married to the daughter of the Sumbanese chief at Patawang (de Roo 1906, 245), sent ten ships and five to six hundred men to help the raja of Kapunduk wage war against his enemies in the interior. The Dutch resident attacked and sank the ships at Kapunduk, then signed an agreement with four local rulers who said they wanted to be freed from the oppression and molestation of the Endehnese. Sharif, though married to Etto's sister, advised the Dutch to expel the Endehnese in order to stop the slave trade, perhaps because he feared them as trade competitors and a challenge to his own supremacy (de Roo 1906, 266; Needham 1983, 28).

In 1861, the export of slaves to Lombok and Sumbawa was reported to be dying out because it was no longer profitable, but the Endehnese were now plundering the interior, burning villages and capturing people to sell them to Sumbanese rulers on the coast. "The spread of the Endehnese plague not only outside Sumba but now into the interior has become even worse than it was before" lamented a Dutch report on the slave trade (de Roo 1906, 245). Because the Dutch were stronger on sea than on land, this new development threatened their already unstable control of the island's politics.

The Makassar-Endehnese have been presented as the villains of the island's history, "the scourge of Sumba" who caused tremendous suffering wherever they went. Needham (1983, 39, 49) shares the interpretation of many Dutch writers when he says:

It does not call for great imaginative powers to conceive how the Endehnese domination of Sumba would have proceeded if it had not been forestalled by the Dutch intervention, or what would have been the condition of the island if the Endehnese had wreaked their will without restraint or limit. . . . The history of Sumba presents the example of a land formerly ravaged by the slave trade but eventually liberated from the terror of forcible transportation to distant countries.

It is useful to remember that the Dutch also participated in the slave trade until 1860 and were not sharply distinguished from their rivals by local populations, who suspected all outsiders of coming as robbers and marauders (penyamun ). The leverage exercised by these outside groups depended on warfare, slavery, and island instability, which created conditions


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ideal for ambitious local leaders to form alliances with the Endehnese, Dutch authorities, or Arab horse traders to further their own political goals.


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1 The Imported Past Foreign Sources of Power
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