Abstract:Conservation programs in developing countries emphasize the need for participatory and collaborative approaches to resource management. While indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities are frequently perceived as allies of conservation efforts, their inclusion in these initiatives remains a problematic process. The Bajau, an indigenous group of southeast Asia, are highly dependent upon marine resources and constitute a key stakeholder group with regard to current international conservation activities in this region of high marine biodiversity. In this article, we explore various cultural and socioeconomic attributes of Bajau society that inform their views of the environment. These are shown to be grounded in a specific worldview reflecting socioeconomic status, perceptions of environmental causality, and spiritual belief systems. Until such views are recognized and integrated into resource management initiatives, we argue that groups such as the Bajau will continue to occupy a peripheral role in conservation, thereby undermining these policies and programs.