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Sama

With a population of just under 250,000, the Sama are an unreached people group located in the Southern Islands of the Philippines. The Sama are Sunni Muslims with no known Christians or  Christian witness. Portions of scripture have been translated into the Sama-Bajau language.

The Sama are primarily a maritime people, engaging in fishing and seafaring trade (particularly of Sea Cucumbers). The women also participate in trade, selling woven mats and pottery. Many villagers work in agriculture, though it is not enough to fully sustain them.

Sama settlements consist of densely clustered wooden or bamboo houses situated along the shoreline. In some areas, houses are built directly over the sea and are linked through a network of narrow footbridges. Built on stilts a few meters above the water, these houses usually have just one rectangular room with an attached kitchen.

While adhering to traditional Muslim prayer schedules and the annual religious calendar, the Sama also retain many of their traditional animistic beliefs and customs. Shamans, herbal healers or  other local specialists are often summoned to treat serious illnesses. Aside from the supreme god Allah, most Sama communities also recognize the presence of a host of local malevolent spirits.

The Sama are renowned for their carvings made from wood, coral or limestone. Traditional music and dance are also central to many celebrations and ritual events, and the Kulintangan or “pot gongs” carry the main melody.