Navigating Nature with Natives

Native

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 15. Life on Land

Overview

Native offers “a suite of unique experiences that take you through rainforests, waterfalls, villages,” and facilitates meaningful interactions with local indigenous people. These adventures are led by native hosts who are experts on the local traditions, culture, and language of their respective indigenous tribes. Tours have an “all inclusive” pricing structure that includes transportation (on-site), equipment, and meals.

Author

Brandy Worstell

Brandy Worstell

School

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago

Professor

Nancy Landrum

Nancy Landrum

Innovation

Native offers two tours. One tour is the “Temuan Village Trail” which offers a hike through the rainforest with views of breathtaking waterfalls, and the ability to learn how to prepare local cuisine that is sustainably harvested by the Temuan tribe. This tour lasts typically about 7 hours, can host up to 8 people at a time, and costs $50 a person. The second tour is the “Gombak Indigenous Affairs” where travelers will learn from their Semai tribe guides how to forage, start a fire, and build a shelter.

By working directly with the indigenous Teamuan and Semai tribes, Native is able to spread awareness and understanding of important and valuable cultural heritage. This also helps increase the well-being and livelihoods of the indigenous community by offering sustainable and equitable part-time jobs with the long-term goal of “instilling an entrepreneurial spirit” that will encourage the communities to conduct similar experiences and adventures in their own capacity. Native also empowers its travelers to obtain and share the knowledge of Malaysian indigenous hospitality that will help preserve their culture.

In recent months, COVID-19 has forced Native to come up with new and creative ways to continue offering their tour services, and adopt other services that will allow them to continue to provide the people of the Samai and Temuan tribes with much needed income. This has led Native to offer virtual tours and to bring aspects of tribal traditional heritage into the digital space. Staying true to their mission and vision, Native has also recently created a YouTube channel so they can continue to reach out to people and share the Orang Asli traditions, heritage, and culture.

Navigating Nature with Natives

Ami, a native host, shows a guest how to use a blowpipe.

Inspiration

Growing up on Penang Island, a “small state up north in Peninsular Malaysia”, Mr. Teoh did not feel the same national pride that others did for his country. To him, Malaysia was just where he lived. However, after volunteering with the indigenous people of Malaysia, his perceptions of those people, and of his national pride, changed for the better. During his volunteer work, he realized the abundant knowledge and assets that the tribes possessed and wanted to find a way to help them share those assets such as survival skills, adaptation, and cultural preservation while “keeping themselves accountable to the local community and indigenous people”. This is where the idea for Native struck.

The Temuan and Semai tribes were socially restricted and lacked access to the same technology and innovations as much of the ‘modernized’ world. So, Mr. Teoh decided to create a business that would bring travelers and students to these tribes. Through shared experiences from a trek in the jungle and storytelling from the Orang Asli, travelers gain valuable knowledge and understanding that would otherwise be lost in time. Travelers can then spread awareness to others through testimonials of their time with the tribes. Native was created in order to promote “the feeling that we all belong to a certain group and have a sense of togetherness.”

Overall impact

Overall, Native has had a positive impact on the Semai and Temuan tribes and on the environment they tour. Native invests 40% of the revenue generated from its tours back into the indigenous communities to help build livelihoods. Providing these revenues increases the monthly household incomes of the tribes which allows them to establish funds for development and education as well as provide them a way to preserve their culture and heritage. Though Native currently works with only 2 tribes, the Temuan and Semai, they work with 15 different households within those communities. They have also served over 200 travelers thus far who hail from 19 different countries.

Business benefit

As a company, Mr Teoh says that Native is designed in a way “that makes the indigenous people and the environment a pivotal part of both the economic and social aspect of the business.” Without the environment, Native would not be able to host tours, therefore it is crucial for the company to educate others on the importance of the environment and to be more sustainable in growing and harvesting our food. Likewise, without the cooperation and hard work of the indigenous tribes, Mr. Teoh would not be able to host such tours as effectively and would not be able to spread knowledge and awareness of indigenous cultures.

Social and environmental benefit

From a social standpoint, Native helps to “redefine what it means to be ‘native’” and allows the indigenous tribes of the Semai and Temuan to share stories with curious travelers in ways that were unavailable to them previously. Native helps cultivate relationships between the natives and travelers in the hopes that the experiences lived by those tourists helps change the perception of indigenous people and shows that the tribes are welcoming and knowledgeable people. While opening the minds of the tourists, Native “brings culture to the forefront [of the tour] and brings a sense of pride to the indigenous people”. These tours also provide much-needed income through part-time job opportunities that allow the indigenous youth to attend higher-quality schools and expand their future possibilities.

In terms of the environment, Native helps travelers understand the importance of the various ecosystems that can be found in the jungles of Malaysia. Additionally, Native also ensures that he and his staff share their own knowledge of forest preservation with the indigenous tribes. Mr. Teoh used an example of a rare kind of bee that, in an attempt to harvest the bees, whole trees are cut down because of the way in which the bees build their hives. In another example, he explains the importance to the local tribes of not cutting down trees in order to expand their villages and instead of learning to work with and around the trees. Native strives hard to “show that there is more cash value in protecting the environment than in destroying it”. Ecotourism is a growing industry that brings in over 75 billion dollars a year globally. This single industry alone shows how profitable it is to preserve the environment.

Interview

Daniel Teoh, Founder

Photo of interviewee

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Native

Native

Bandar Sunway, Selangor, MY

Business Website: https://discovernative.org/

Year Founded: 2019

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Native, a tourism-based social enterprise, offers tours through the rainforests of Malaysia in order to better acquaint people with the Temuan and Semai tribes of the Orang Asli and their various cultures and traditions. As society and technology continue to advance, more and more of these native traditions and cultures are lost in the flow of time and Native is working to keep that from happening by bringing tourists and students to these tribes where they can share experiences and stories with the indigenous people. These tours support the indigenous tribes by offering good jobs and economic growth as well as giving travelers a better idea of just how important native cultures are to society and the environment by emphasizing life on land and responsible consumption.