Introduction / History The Pakpak Boang live in Aceh Singkil Regency and the city of Subulussalam in Aceh Province. Their homes are near the banks of two large rivers which feed into the Singkil Sea: the Simpang Kanan River and the Simpang Kiri River.
People usually consider the Boang a subgroup of the Pakpak, so they are sometimes call the Pakpak Boang.
They speak the Dairi-Pakpak dialect of the Batak language. Sometimes the Pakpak Boang are called Singkil people. However there are actually two distinct native people groups in the Singkil area: the Malay and the Pakpak.
According to the Pakpak themselves, the Pakpak Boang are one of five clans of Pakpak people:
(1) Pakpak Klasen, who live in the Parlilitan district of Humbang Hasundutan Regency and the Manduamas district of Tapanuli Tengah Regency, North Sumatra.
(2) Pakpak Simsim, who live in Pakpak Bharat Regency, North Sumatra.
(3) Pakpak Boang, who live Aceh Province in Aceh Singkil Regency and the city of Subulussalam. This is the group sometimes misunderstood to be Singkil people.
(4) Pakpak Pegagan, who live in and near the Sumbul district in Dairi Regency, North Sumatra.
(5) Pakpak Keppas, who live in and near the city of Sidikalang in Dairi Regency, North Sumatra.
What are their lives like? Most Pakpak make their living as farmers or fishermen, though some work as day laborers and craftsmen. Some Pakpak also earn their living processing the leaves and fruit of the nipa palm, which grows along the rivers and swamps. The nipa leaves are used to make thatched roofs and cigarette packs, while the nipa fruit can be eaten.
The Pakpak generally live in villages in coastal areas, along the banks of rivers and in hilly areas. The Singkil River plays an important role in the life of the local community. Its water can be used for drinking, bathing, trash removal, and transportation by water. Houses are usually built on a platform above wooden poles, about three meters above the ground.
The Pakpak Boang differ from other Pakpak clans in that they tend to live along riverbanks, like Malay people.
What are their beliefs? Among the five Pakpak clans, the Pakpak Boang are the only Muslim group. The other four Pakpak clans are Christian (Protestant and Roman Catholic). This difference may be because Islam entered through water routes: sea and rivers, where the Pakpak Boang live.
Religious harmony is still a very sensitive issue in this area. The Pakpak Boang forbid the presence of church buildings in their area, even if it's a worship place for other Pakpak people.
What are their needs? The Singkil Sea area has great potential for fishing and sea tourism. Abundance of fish and natural beauty with large waves could become tourist attractions if developed well.
Aceh province: Aceh Singkil regency; North Sumatra province: Dairi, Humbang Hasundutan, Pakpak Barat, Samosir, and Tapanuli Tengah regencies, Sidikalang town area south to coast. (Source: Ethnologue 2018)