Spirit of the Mentawai

A documentary about one surfers journey of joining a remote hunter gatherer tribe, and their struggle to maintain their way of life.


‘The Spirit of the Mentawai’ is a documentary about the journey of an American surfer whose lifelong dream was to ride the waves of the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia. Though it was the surf that drew Parker to Indonesia, it was the culture of the Mentawai tribe that has made it his home. He found the love of his life and a culture on the verge of disappearing. He started a family in the tiny hunter gatherer village of Tiop and learned to live as they do; connecting to the land, gathering crabs and mullosks in the mangroves, and hunting monkeys with poison arrows.

By learning the unwritten Mentawai language, Parker has integrated into the community and participated in deeply spiritual shamanic possession rituals. He has had access to the unique botanical and hunting knowledge of the elders that is passed on to only a few of the coming generation. Realizing that he is one of a handful of westerners who has learned the language, Parker has set out to document and archive these teachings before they disappear.

In the past seven years since Parker arrived, there have been dramatic changes in the Mentawai community. With the influx of globalization and modern goods, the younger generation has taken up exploitative menial labor jobs with middlemen from the mainland. This difficult labor has the negative effect of pulling youth away from traditional knowledge while providing none of the benefits of modernity.

Parker has worked with the elders of this village to address these issues to both conserve the traditional culture as well as gain access to the benefits of modernity. He has built a Permaculture Center to create artisanal goods for the local surf resorts. Because Parker has worked at the resorts, he knows exactly the products that they have difficulty obtaining due to their remote location. Because of the many benefits of sourcing locally, the resorts initially approached Parker to supply chocolate, soap, coconut oil, spices, sea salt, marketable fruits and vegetables, poultry and pork and he has been able to do it on a small scale. With his Permaculture Center, Parker has begun to scale the production so that the whole village can benefit. The community has plans to use funds from the business to create a maternal health initiative.

By supporting this crowdfunding effort you will be helping to document a culture before it disappears as well as creating a sustainable future. Parker has teamed up with Trevor Wallace, an Explorers Club member and Expedition filmmaker. Over the course of a month they will interview the elders in the village recording their oral histories and knowledge of the forest and archiving it for future generations. The documentary film will demonstrate the potential for grassroots community development. Additionally it will show how ecotourism supports indigenous culture and helps raise their standard of living.

Project Budget

Fundamental to Parker and Trevor’s goal is to support both community development and the documentation of the Mentawai culture. The budget and allocation of funds reflects both film production and editing costs as well as building materials and resources for finishing the Permaculture Center which Parker has self funded up until this point. So far he has set up the foundation for a self-sustaining farm that will serve as the platform for further sustainable economic development. The progress he has made includes efficient property design, water harvesting, fruit orchard plantings, long-term timber plantings, and livestock integration. He has built accommodations for travelers who want to learn more about the project or volunteer. Additionally, he has constructed a test kitchen that will be used for cooking and product demonstrations. Only with your help will he be able to finish it and begin implementing the program.

Mentawai Permaculture Center – Village of Tiop

For more information to to help this project please visit:


  1. Fantastic work Parker and the community of Mentawai! Great to see your respect for the local culture and integration within the community. It’s very noble task to preserve the wisdom of their ancestors while providing a sustainable local economy that provides meaningful work. I would love to come volunteer sometime with our family and catch some waves too!

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