The Newsletter 70 Spring 2015

'Strange peoples': The Sama Bajo in VOC perception and policy

Lance Nolde

Writing in 1670, Cornelis Speelman offered one of the earliest descriptions of the Sama Bajo of eastern Indonesia preserved in the archives of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Though brief, Speelman’s account was most influential. His assessment of who the Sama Bajo were, and what they were capable of, formed the basis for later representations of these people in Company documents. Perceptions of the Sama Bajo changed little over the next century, and they continued to be portrayed as simple sea nomads and slaves of the landed kingdoms of Sulawesi. This enduring view influenced the manner in which Sama Bajo peoples were reported on and dealt with by Company officials in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and it continues to be influential in more recent accounts of Sama Bajo history.