Introduction

The Orang Asli are indigenous to Peninsula Malaysia and are believed to have migrated here as early as 25,000 years ago. They stay mostly in remote areas within specific geographical regions. They are recognised for their unique languages, knowledge systems and beliefs, and their invaluable practices for the sustainable management of natural resources.

Anthropologists and administrators have identified 18 sub-ethnic groups for official purposes from the three main groups namely the Semang (Negrito), Senoi and Aboriginal Malay (Proto Malay).The sub-ethnic groups under the Negrito umbrella are Kintak, Lanoh, Kensiu, Jahai, Mendriq and Batek. For the Senoi, the sub-ethnic groups are Temiar, Semai, Mah Meri, Che Wong, Jah Het and Semoq Beri. Lastly, for the Proto Malays, the sub-ethnic groups comprise the Jakun, Temuan, Semelai, Orang Seletar, Orang Kuala or Orang Laut and Orang Kanaq.

The tribes are classified based on morphology, culture, language and geographical locations. The Senois are the largest in number among these tribes, followed by the Proto Malays, then Negritos. The Negritos, commonly dark-skinned with curly hair, were the first occupants of South-East Asia and lived as hunter-gatherers. The Proto Malays who generally worked as farmers and traders are of a lighter skin colour, with straight hair, and with epicanthal folds.The Senois are a mix of dark and light skinned people with wavy hair. They live as hunter-gatherers and traders and are believed to be a mix of the Negritos and East Asian.