Introduction / History The Cia-Cia people are found throughout the southern part of Buton island, generally in the more rural areas. These people also inhabit the remote island of Batu Atas (south of Buton) as well as the eastern half of the island of Binongko in the Wakatobi island chain. The traditional laws and customs of the Cia-Cia are generally very strong and are a source of pride for them. The Cia-Cia can be found inland and in coastal communities. Back in the 1970s, the government forced most of the villages to move to the coast so they could better provide for themselves, but a few remained inland. The few remaining mountain communities have stronger traditional laws and beliefs. There are several communities on the east side of central Buton that have a language similar to that of the southern Muna dialect, but they have a closer cultural connection to the Cia-Cia. The land they live in is still undeveloped. A large portion of it has been set aside as a national forest because of the large number of rare species of animals that live there. The Cia-Cia language is part of a larger linguistic grouping under the Buton subfamily which includes the Kumbewaha and Lasalimu languages.
What are their lives like? The Cia-Cia make their living as farmers or fishermen, depending on where their village is located. Those close to the sea not only fish, but are also seaweed farmers. Those living inland grow cashews, corn, cassava, cacao and in some cases coffee. Some of the inland villages have no running water and no water source other than collected rain water. Their land is currently being explored by foreign companies looking for oil and other minerals. Buton island has the largest deposit of natural asphalt in Southeast Asia. There are currently a couple of asphalt mines operating that provide some jobs. In general the Cia-Cia are very wary of people coming and taking their land without providing benefits or obtaining their approval first. The Cia-Cia have always had a close relationship with the Wolio and members of these groups often dwell in close proximity to one another, especially around the outskirts of the city of Baubau. The port city of Pasarwajo on the southeastern side of Buton is the current seat of the district of Buton and is the largest city of Cia-Cia.
What are their beliefs? Almost all Cia-Cia people have identified with Sufi Islam, but the Hindu and animistic traditions of their past are very active. According to their teachings, they practice meditation in order to receive visions from God, or to find hidden truths far beyond their own reasoning. Dreams are seen as solid evidence from God about how they should conduct themselves in life. In some villages, food and flowers are still offered at the graves of ancestors in order to obtain blessings for the approaching harvest. The Cia-Cia also believe that evil spirits cause illnesses, while helpful spirits give guidance. There are a few villages whose inhabitants hike to the top of a mountain in the area for a week every year in order to conduct several rituals regarding the year to come.
What are their needs? The mobility of the Cia-Cia people is high and they have spread into other areas. However, they need training and assistance to better manage their natural resources. They need formal education as well as practical training in order to take advantage of employment opportunities. They also need more medical attention, clinics and medical personnel.