Etymology and historical context
In ancient Java, the ideas of native versus foreign identities are usually confined into ethno-cultural and language boundaries, as the ideas of Javanese identity being developed. The Kaladi inscription (c. 909 CE), mentioned Kmir (Khmer people of Khmer kingdom) together with Campa (Champa) and Rman (Mon) as foreigners from mainland Southeast Asia that frequently came to Java to trade. The Anjukladang inscription (c. 937 CE) mentioned about infiltration attack from Malayu (which refer to a Srivijayan attack). In this inscription, the ideas of native Javanese is contrasted to its "foreign nemesis", the Malays of Sumatra.
The ethnic composition in the archipelago grew to be more complex with the arrival of the people of foreign origin. Following the adoption of Hinduism, the Southern Indians called by natives as Keling began to arrive in archipelago in the early first millennia, and followed suit by fellow Indians when Tamils began to settles in several ports of Sumatra after the decline of Srivijaya circa 11th century. Also the arrivals of Chinese traders and settlers which intensify since Majapahit era, through the arrival of Zheng He's treasure fleet to Indonesia circa early 15th century. Around the same time, Muslim traders from India and Arabia also began to settle in the region. Caucasian white European arrived when Portuguese began to ruled and settle in Portuguese Malacca in 1511. Thus the ideas of racial identity to describe the differences between the native of the archipelago in contrast to the neighboring Asian foreigners and European white began to take root during early stages of European colonialism in Indonesia circa 16th to 17th century.
By 17th century, the Dutch East India Company began to get involved intensively in the archipelago, especially in Java, Molluccas and Sumatra. By the 19th century, the term pribumi is translated from inlander in Dutch, the term was first coined by the Dutch colonial administration to lump diverse groups of local inhabitants of Indonesia's archipelago, mostly for social discrimination purposes.
During the colonial period, the Dutch instilled a regime of three-level racial separation:
- The first class race being Europeans colonials
- The second class race being those of partial European ancestry as well as Foreign Orientals (Vreemde Oosterlingen) which includes Chinese, Arabs, and Indians
- The third class race being the natives (Inlanders), including Javanese, Malays, Dayaks, Papuans and Moluccans.
The colonial system was similar to the caste system in Hispanic America, or the South African apartheid system, which prohibited inter-racial neighborhoods (wet van wijkenstelsel) and inter-racial interactions were limited by passenstelsel laws.
The outbreak of the World War II saw the fall of colonial state of Dutch East Indies. During Japanese occupation, the Dutch colonials were put into the lowest class of social strata. Native blood was the only thing that could free Indos (mixed Eurasian ancenstry) from being put into concentration camps. The following Indonesian Revolution (1945-1949) saw the rise of Indonesian Republic, subsequently the revolution has brought a drastic social changes. The Dutch colonials and the Indos are suspiciously considered by republicans as Dutch loyalist, thus they are not a desired element in the newly established republic. By 1950s, large numbers of Dutch colonials and Indos were being repatriated to the Netherlands.
After the revolution, the natives majority has gained the political, social and economic power previously reserved only for Dutch colonials. In post colonial Indonesia, the Chinese Indonesians are the most significant minority group that being categorized as non-pribumi (non native).
Today, Indonesian dictionary describes pribumi as penghuni asli which translated into "original, native or indigenous inhabitant".