Butet Manurung: The Advocate of Indigenous Indonesian

“I remember when I was little; I loved to read story books. Then there were a lot of questions in my head: Do my friends out there like to read books too? If they have books, can I exchange books with them? It started from these innocent questions that I started a library at home. At that time I was, maybe, in the second grade. I invited my friends to read; I took only a few cents per person, but it was voluntary, some would pay and some would not. Some would borrow books but never returned them, and after a few years I ran out of books.”, recalled Butet when she first learned to organize other people to create something positive. Blessed with a smart mind, achieving in many subjects from math to sports has inspired Butet to help her friends that are falling behind. It was here that her talent for teaching slowly developed. “My friends would ask me to be the teacher, maybe because they did not want the class to be boring. I asked them to play ‘Teachers and Classrooms’. They became my students and I was their teacher. I created a few play models such as playing quizzes or discussion groups. Usually I would tempt them with the prize of a cake or candy as an incentive. I did that from elementary through high school. Until I was a teacher for my students in Rimba, I realize that my childhood experience being a teacher was very valuable. I had a rich creativity to teach.” As an educator, Butet holds a principle that a good teacher is someone who is able to learn from their students, and also from the weaknesses of teachers before them. She really applied this principle when she was a teacher of the Anak Dalam Tribe in the depths of Jambi. Butet taught reading and writing through an anthropological approach. Butet learnt from them the language and wisdom of the Rimba People.

Butet Manurung: Advokat Masyarakat Adat Indonesia

Sejak tahun 1999 hingga 2003, Butet menyusuri pedalaman rimba, menjadi guru bagi Suku Anak Dalam di Taman Nasional Bukit Duabelas, Jambi. Butet dan murid-muridnya tak punya ruang kelas permanen. Mereka belajar beralas batang pohon yang sudah tumbang atau di atas bebatuan. Jatuh bangun Butet berusaha mengenalkan aksara dan angka pada Orang Rimba. Tak serta merta kebaikan hatinya diterima. Butet sempat merasakan putus asa karena penolakan dari warga asli. Mereka takut ditipu bahkan menganggap pendidikan menyalahi adat dan budaya. Namun Butet tidak menyerah, ia terus berusaha. Orang Rimba butuh diyakinkan, bukan dipaksa. Butet tinggal bersama mereka, tidur di tempat yang sama, makan apa yang mereka makan. Ia mengamalkan empati yang dalam, mengalami langsung jadi bagian dari Orang Rimba. Butet ikut berpindah-pindah dari satu desa ke desa lain, namun tetap konsisten mengajarkan satu hal yang sama, agar mereka mampu baca dan tulis. Empat tahun lamanya berjuang bersama Orang Rimba, Butet akhirnya merasakan hasilnya. Kemampuan literasi membuat Orang Rimba berdaya. Mereka mampu memahami persoalan hukum terutama tentang pembalakan liar agar mereka tak ditipu lagi, mereka tahu bagaimana cara membela dan mempertahankan tanah milik mereka.