Batak is a collective term used to identify a number of ethnic groups found in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The term is used to include the Toba, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing, each of which are distinct but related groups with distinct, albeit related, languages and customs (adat). Occasionally it is also used to include the Alas people of Central/Southern Aceh, but usually only as relates to language groups.
In North Sumatra, Toba people typically assert their identity as ‘Batak’, while other ‘Bataks’ may explicitly reject that label, preferring instead to identify as specifically ‘Simalungun’, ‘Karo’, etc. Batak societies are patriarchally organized along clans known as Marga. A traditional belief among the Toba Batak is that they originate from one ancestor “Si Raja Batak”, with all Margas, descended from him. A family tree that defines the father-son relationship among Batak people is called tarombo. In contemporary Indonesia, Batak people have a strong focus on education and a prominent position within the professions, particularly as teachers, engineers, doctors and lawyers. Toba Batak are known traditionally for their weaving, wood carving and especially ornate stone tombs.