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A History of Lamalera Village

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

By Peter Bataona

Lamalera is well known as whaling community which catches whale traditionally for their diets up to this modern time. Nobody knows since when the Lamalera people started this activity and then cultivates it as their tradition. Historically they may started this whaling activities since they migrated from Lapan Batan Island, – that is a small island which is located between Alor Island and Lembata island. There is no clear information about their life before when they moved out from Luwuk in South East Sulawesi. Yet information from Lepan Batan still approves that this activities of the whaling is really rooted in their culture and belief system as it is heritage from their ancestor.

Story about Lamalera must be started on year 1410 (Unpublished paper written by Josef Bura Bataona, about”Bataona Generation from Luwuk”). They left Luwuk and moved to the south, entering the Seram Sea and Goram sea sailing across the sea at Mua in Ambon then arrived in Keroko Puke. They then migrated from keroko Puke continued their journey until they arrived in Lepan Batan Island. As the story tells us that they lived in Keroko Puke more than hundred years as well as in Lepan Batan Island.

Lapan Batan is a small and beautiful place for them. Up to this time this small island appears only when the tide is getting lower. They occupied this place more than century. There was a clear reason for them to migrate again. As it is cited that they moved for the tsunami that was happened during that time that caused so many people died; some run away to the mountain area, to Pantar Island or even went back to keroko Puke. The group of Lamalera rescued themselves by boat.

The legend tells about the tsunami. Once upon a time, there was an old widow went out to the beach for collecting shells and small fishes. She found an el and brought home and took care of that el. He did have neither son nor daughter therefore she really cared for the el and treated the el as she treats her son. She put the el on a craft container which in local term named “paso” and feed the el daily until the el was really grown.( Paso is a container made of soil then burn it on the fire). The el then sneaked out from its container- paso and entered a cafe in a big tree in the center of the village. When the old widow came back from her farm she found nothing in the craft container-paso. She was really sad for the lost el.

The community of Lepan Batan experienced that many children were lost without knowing the reason. Once they realized that the el which known belongs to the widow victimized and captured a child and tried to pull the child into its cafe. For this experience happened people came to this conclusion that the lost children must be pulled and victimized by the same el. They held a meeting, discussed how to capture the el. They made a fire and burnt a metal into the burning fire until the metal getting red. They then stabbed the red metal straight to the body of the el in her café. The el finally died. But upon the death of the el people noticed there was water coming out from the cafe where the el was. The water was getting bigger and bigger then started to overwhelm the land. People thought they have to save themselves from the water that getting higher. Some run away to the mountain area, others went to Pantar Island, and the other went back to Keroko Puke. The Lamalera group rescued themselves using a boat named Kebako Puke. By that time they had also an unfinished construction boat named Bui Puke. They brought with them this boat loaded it into Kebako Puke boat. Therefore Lamalera people consider Kebako Puke boat and Bui Puke boat as the significant heirloom from ancestors. Kebako Puke and Bui Puke Boat are the heritage boat which is now occupying its house. Kebako Puke is placed to the east part of St. Peter Chapel and the other lays on the west part of the same chapel which is standing in Lamalera beach.

According to the story telling they left in the land valuable properties such a big gold jar which is attached to the land and can be seen whenever people passing this place. They erected also two fishing tools named rāpâ by particular plea that the fishing tools may keep standing vertically forever and whenever the fishing tools rāpâ felt down horizontally then this may become reason for the clan Bataona and Blikololo ought to be banished. (Rāpâ is a wooden fishing tool which being erected in Lapan Batan upon particular promises and determines the future of Bataona, Blikololo and Lefotuke clan).

The Migrant Clans on the Boat

There were several clans took the same boat in this migration. They were Lefohajo clan marked in ancestor’s name Korohama (descend of the clans Bataona, Blikololo and Lefotuke), Lamanudek clan, Tanakerofa clan, Lelaona clan, and Atakey clan. This group was lead by Tanakerofa clan which they considered as rich people and governed over Lapan Batan by that time. By this authority the Tanah Kerofa clan might have such high position in the boat. The other clans were considered as rowing group for the boat.

Some places are still significant as the story of Lamalera people be originated. From Lapan Batan they approached Tobi Landeke and Fato Béla Bako such a landmark for this refugee group. Tobi Landeke means tamarind tree and Fato Bela Bako means a big stone that is black and smooth. Geographically this landmark is located in Kalikur – Kedang, south-east part of Lembata Island. They moved to the west and stayed a while in Bobu, a long beach with beautiful white sands. The group felt uncomfortable in the long beach therefore they sailed the Savu Sea to the west. Approaching the Atadei cape they found difficult and struggling with the front current and very big waves. They performed a ritual ceremony and found there was a woman caused this bad weather for her faults. They asked her to get out of the boat and walked by her own feet through the land. She cried for mercy and asked for the leader to be allowed in the boat yet they did not care for her cry. They then threw into the sea their gold property which they call Kuda blâu and a sword with its gold based in order to calm the sea. The landmark for this event named Fato Belã. Right after this ritual ceremony the sea was calm and they were able to pass the cape. The unfortunate woman walked thru the land and when she reached the tip of the cape she wanted to see for the last her homeland in Lepan Batan. She looked back and all a sudden turned into a stone. Up to now the stone keep standing in that cape looks like a man stands while holding her head. For this reason they name this cape Atadei, literally means a standing man. And Bobu becomes another choice for Lamalera people to come for fishing of barter in particular season.

Turning over Leader of the Boat Group

This group approached seashore because they did not have enough provision then anchored their boat in Lebala and went up to a hamlet named Lefohajo, a place near Lebala right now (Name given by the group of the boat related to the turning over position among Tanakerofa and Lefohajo clan). They went to the land met villagers and got some rice’s, corns and fruits. They supposedly stayed longer in Lefohajo but there was tragedy.

Symbolically the story flows as following. When they pounded rice there was happened the large pestle and mortar which they used felt down and opposed a chicken that belongs to the villagers. The one who caused this tragedy that caused the chicken died was a member of Tanakerofa clan. The villager somehow demanded only Tanakerofa clan to take responsibility for this tragedy of the chicken and paid with golden necklace but they did not. Korohama, the leader clan of Lefohajo then took their golden necklace and cut it one half and given to the villager. For this responsibility taken by Korohama, the Lefohajo clan was given authority as leader in the group and took position highest in the boat. Tanakerofa clan took place of Lefohajo clan and became rowing group in the boat. They then left that place while prohibiting themselves that they shall never reach this place again. The message of this story actually related to a moral scandal which happened between man of Tanakerofa clan and woman of the village. With the new leader, this group moved from Labala to Doni-Nusa Lela. They lived in Doni-Nusa Lela quiet long and did their activities as usual as fishermen. Up to this time people of Lamalera used to come for barter in Labala but they do not go to Lefohajo hamlet; otherwise people from Lefohajo may come for barter in Lebala with Lamalera people.

Looking for a New Place

The Strong South East wind during Lefa season brought fishermen many times to a small beach in the west named Bata Bala Mai. They also met landowner who used to come to that beach for taking palm lontar wine or collecting shells and small fishes. The landowner even suggested them to stay in this place thinking that the fishermen are brave and could protect them also from the pirate which passing in this area often time. Upon this experience the fishermen asked their leader if possible they then better move and stay in that land which its beach named Bata Bala Mai. The leader of the boat group fascinated with this information yet asked fishermen to look for the water first in that shore line. They went back to that short beach and found fountain water which they named “Fai Sarabia”. This water is taken only when the tide is getting lower located in Sarabia which they consider as a dwelling place as well of the spirits and unseen being. They soon reported this water discovered to the leader. The leader approved this plan and with the entire group they then moved to this short beach which finally they called it Lamalera beach.

This group was accepted by landowner and upon arriving this group proceeded to the upper land and took this area as their new settle. This place named Kampong Atas or Lamalera A right now. (A in this term means abversion of Atas that is above and not the first letter of alphabet and it is to be identified from kampong B or Lamalera B right now. B means bellow or Bawah in local term). They still put their boat in the beach.

Among this group we could notice some clan has particular skilful. Lamanudek clan is skilful as boat and house architect. And they become main architect for all which is carrying this name Klepã. Klepã means the main architect which has the authority and skillful for the boat and great house construction. Tanakerofa clan is a good mediator to the spirits and ancestors spirit. They used to go to Sarabia asking for a day prophecy in fishing activities and took some tobacco or betel nut for their provision. The story through out generation mentioned that inside the Sarabia there is a real kingdom for the spirits and unseeing being. They then become shield for Lamalera people and for fishing activities. The rest of the clan also took place in kampong Atas or upper village

Dividing Authority

Korohama, leader of the Lefohajo clan had three sons and a daughter. They are Daeng Muda ama, Daeng Ata Kelake, Daeng Ata kabelen, and Somi Boladeran. Daeng Muda Ama becomes descend of Blikololo clan and is given authority to guard Lefonuba, place where the great house of Blikolo and the altar stone called Fato Nubanara are. Daeng Ata Kelake becomes descend of Bataona clan and set his new life in seashore, the place that well known as Bata Fai Jone. Bata Fai Jone literally means a place where the water is overflowing from the heart or peaceful place for all. He was given authority to guard the shoreline and steward all activities in the sea. Daeng Muda Ama becomes descend of Lefotuke clan and got marriage her sister Somi Boladeran and given authority to perform ceremony ritual in the village. By taking her sister as his wife his position becomes ana opu (brother in-law or call uncle which is in local term named nana) to the Bataona clan and Blikololo clan.

Blikololo clan grew bigger. They then divided themselves to two clans that are Blikololo Tetipapa (this is the main Blikololo) and Blikololo Lalipapa. Lalipapa means the great house located in west part of the main Blikololo and given authority to guard the west gate which called Bafalofe lalipapa.

Daeng Ata Kelake had five children and each of them become descend of different clans such as Bataona Langobelã, Kifã Langu, Java Langu, Bediona, and Batafor. Each of this clan has particular role. Bataona Langobela as the main clan keeps the great task to govern the village and all activities in the sea; Kifa Langu would play his role as commander of the troops while Bediona got assignment as gun keeper. Java Langu was given authority to guard East gate called Bafalofe. Batafor came late for the meeting assignment therefore he was given particular role to kill offering animal in local term bélu régét. Daeng Ata kabelen also expanded to two clans that are Lefotuke and Kedang.

There were new comer clans such as Lefolei, Lamakera, Tapoona, Lamanifa, Oleona and Hariona. They were also assigned to particular role in the village. Lamakera by its name Alejati is given authority as pearl keeper and assisting Bataona clan when performs fishing ritual ceremony. Tapoona becomes messenger of Bataona in mediating his purpose with landowner and Blikololo clan and Lefotuka clan. Lefolei took assignment as execution staff leader. Oleona becomes mediator with special role to calm the sea and ocean whenever it gets waves. Lamanifa was given task as commander of the land troops. Hariona does not have particular role.

By giving particular role to each clan we come to realize how wise the leader of Bataona to govern his village and it is approved from generation to generation up to this time.

Bataona Clan Led the twine village and Governs Whaling Activities

When Daeng Ata Kelake went down to the seashore he was accepted by descend landowner named Gesi Gua Raja. The landowner gave the land near the beach with great heart and also given assignment to host new comer and treats them as brother and sister to all or “koro kaka koro ari” in local term. This meaningful term becomes guideline for Bataona clan from generation up to now. And he did it perfectly and approved by giving them such role and task in the community.

Time was shifting fast while drawing the success of Bataona leader over twine village of Lamalera. The successes marked by some particular events which happened in the twine village of Lamalera. There was massacre happened to Lelaona clan caused by Lamakera and Lefotuka clans, Bataona leader and his troops came to rescue the last men of Lelaona, made such polis line in local term Goé léla. Therefore they call this place Lelaona. The only palm lontar tree bore witness. The only Lontar tree that could be seen in the boundary of these twine villages and standing near gripe bears silent witness of this happened. (Gripe is stair which connects upper village and lower village). Lelaona finally relates themselves as brother for Bataona clan and in local term the Lelaona clan is called “Klé” by Bataona clan. It means they would take responsibility to each other whenever there was activity either in Bataona clan or in Lelaona clan.

Upper village was governed by Blikololo clan and was attached by Podok and his troops from Lamabaka which is located in the west part of Lamalera. Podok and his troops killed so many people and plundered properties and belongings of the upper Lamalera. They plundered also the ivory from Blikololo great house which is considered as heirloom of ancestor. How shameful it was. Bataona leader then made a plan for how to return the valuable ivory. He went to Larantuka by boat and on his way back home called Podok the commander troops of Lamabaka pretending to hand him a letter from the king of Larantuka. Podok had to get the letter by hand in the boat. When he got inside the boat the crews offered him drink Aneisete (Portuguese brand). He did not realize that the boat was moving to Lamalera beach. Upon arriving in Lamalera beach Bataona leader ordered his troop to arrest Podok and informed to Lamabaka about this happened. They might rescue Podok, their leader,- only by returning the ivory. This claim was approved by Lamabaka troops. They returned the heirloom and rescued Podok right away.

Recall to ancestral time, there was no exact order to divide the whale when fishermen caught it. Everybody would get it freely and seized the whale meat away. This attitude caused the weak and the rest in the community failed to get the whale meat. Therefore Serani, descend of Bataona clan decided to divide the whale accordingly to the order which remains up to this time. Therefore people in the community consider the catching whale priority for the weak and poorest in the village.

The role of Bataona is really important that is to steward the whaling and fishing activities up to this time. Any complaints about the fishing and whaling activities must be brought to Bataona great house in order to find the proper solution for the good of all.

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