Malaysian Indigenous Peoples consist of Malays, the Orang Asli in Peninsula Malaysia and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. There are already in existence, many institutions set up for Malay and Islamic studies but there is no national institution or academic centre that focuses on collaborative research on the other indigenous peoples, the Orang Asli and natives. Not only do these communities have rich and unique cultural heritage and traditions that need to be preserved, they have much to contribute to the general corpus of knowledge in terms of the indigenous arts, traditional knowledge and ecological biodiversity.
Historically, indigenous peoples have generally been the marginalized and vulnerable sections of society. A research centre dedicated to understanding their history and their needs will perhaps help to shape programs and policies that affect them, thus fulfilling the University Malaya’s university’s role to be relevant to community and the nation at large. The centre would also play a role in building indigenous capacities not only through research but through engagement with government agencies, and other academic institutions as well as the participation of indigenous communities themselves. To this end, the centre for indigenous studies was set up in 2004 to co-ordinate research done by various faculties and researchers on indigenous peoples’ issues.