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    Living in Harmony with Disaster: Oral Tradition as Psychological Well-Being Media for Volcanic Eruption Survivors

    Mount Sinabung in the Karo Regency, North Sumatra Province, is one of Indonesia’s more active volcanoes, with numerous eruptions recorded since 2010. An eruption in 2013 was recorded as one of the most intense, displacing thousands of people in the mountain’s vicinity. In 2023, MAGMA (Multiplatform Application for Geohazard Mitigation and Assessment) Indonesia issued a level II alert warning for Mount Sinabung since the month of May, prompting the Indonesian government to evacuate villagers around Sinabung for safety, among them being villagers from Gurukinayan Village.

    Suri Mutia Siregar, M.Psi., a lecturer at the Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Sumatera Utara (USU), Medan, Indonesia, supervised a team consisting of students from the Faculty of Psychology and the Faculty of Cultural Sciences, Universitas Sumatera Utara, to research the psychological well-being of the survivors and refugees from Gurukinayan Village. The team found that, despite the tragic loss of their family members or relatives and the significant damage to property and livelihood, the villagers live in relative harmony while in close vicinity of the volcano. They have an excellent awareness of natural disasters and are vigilant to sudden activities and eruptions from Sinabung.

    Nini Galoh Oral Tradition Ritual

    The research team conducted qualitative research using 12 ethnographic steps: 1) identify informants, 2) informants interview, 3) ethnographic recording, 4) descriptive questions interview, 5) interview analysis, 6) domain analysis, 7) structured interview, 8) taxonomy analysis, 9) contrasting questions interview, 10) formulation of components of analysis, 11) identify cultural themes, and 12) ethnographical write-up. Through the procedure, the team found that the villagers’ resilience and harmonious coexistence towards disasters are founded on heritage wisdom called the Nini Galoh oral tradition.

    The Nini Galoh tradition involves a ceremonial ritual to revere the ancestors of Gurukinayan Village. The villagers, alongside the village elders, conduct a series of communal rites that they believe maintain their connection to their ancestors. The ceremony becomes a means through which all generations are reminded of the messages of wisdom they inherited, such as: 1) the Gurukinayan Village lies on blessed land, safe from the ravages of volcanic materials such as lava; 2) the villagers trust each other on their bond of kinship, everyone helps each other in need readily during trying times; 3) the villagers are intimate with the layout of their land, allowing quick response and navigation during disaster evacuations, and; 4) the villagers are highly adaptable to change in livelihood as situation calls.

    Focus Group Discussion on the Influence of Nini Galoh Oral Tradition to Mt. Sinabung Eruption Survivors

    With funding from the Directorate of Learning and Student Affairs from the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, the USU team believes that the core philosophy and positive messaging of the Nini Galoh oral tradition contribute significantly to the development of psychological well-being of Mount Sinabung survivors, namely in aspects of self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, and personal growth. The team recommends that the local and central government and responsible bodies allow volcanic eruption survivors and refugees in Indonesia to embrace their local wisdom, potentially reducing psychological burdens and encouraging acceptance and harmonious living with natural disasters. Considering that Indonesia lies on the Ring of Fire volcanic belt, and there are vulnerable communities and settlements living close to each of the hundreds of active volcanoes across the archipelago, this recommendation might contribute to the literature on psychological well-being for better disaster response nationwide.