|Regions with significant populations|
|Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei|
|Christianity, Islam and Kaharingan (Mixed Hindu-Animism)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Malay people, Kutainese, Banjarese, Melanau, Malagasy|
The Dayak or Dyak or Dayuh // are the native people of Borneo. It is a loose term for over 200 riverine and hill-dwelling ethnic subgroups, located principally in the interior of Borneo, each with its own dialect, customs, laws, territory and culture, although common distinguishing traits are readily identifiable. Dayak languages are categorised as part of the Austronesian languages in Asia. The Dayak were animist in belief; however many converted to Christianity, and some to Islam more recently. Estimates for the Dayak population range from 18 to 20 million.
The main ethnic groups of Dayaks are the Bakumpai and Dayak Bukit of South Kalimantan, The Ngajus, Baritos, Benuaqs of East Kalimantan, the Kayan and Kenyah groups and their sub-tribes in Central Borneo and the Ibans, Embaloh (Maloh), Kayan, Kenyah, Penan, Kelabit, Lun Bawang and Taman[disambiguation needed] populations in the Kapuas and Sarawak regions. Other populations include the Ahe, Jagoi, Selakau, Bidayuh, and Kutai.
The Dayak people of Borneo possess an indigenous account of their history, partly in writing in papan turai (wooden records), partly in common cultural customary practices and partly in oral literature. In addition, colonial accounts and reports of Dayak activity in Borneo detail carefully cultivated economic and political relationships with other communities as well as an ample body of research and study considering historical Dayak migrations. In particular, the Iban or the Sea Dayak exploits in the South China Seas are documented, owing to their ferocity and aggressive culture of war against sea dwelling groups and emerging Western trade interests in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In 1838, British adventurer James Brooke arrived to find the Sultan of Brunei fending off rebellion from warlike inland tribes. Sarawak was in chaos. Brooke put down the rebellion, and was made Governor of Sarawak in 1841, with the title of Rajah. Brooke pacified the natives, including the Dayaks, who became some of his most loyal followers. He suppressed headhunting and piracy. Brooke's most famous Iban enemy was Libau "Rentap"; Brooke led three expeditions against him and finally defeated him at Sadok Hill. Brooke had many Dayaks in his forces at this battle, and famously said "Only Dayaks can kill Dayaks." Sharif Mashor, a Melanau from Mukah, was another enemy of Brooke.
During World War II, Japanese forces occupied Borneo and treated all of the indigenous peoples poorly - massacres of the Malay and Dayak peoples were common, especially among the Dayaks of the Kapit Division. In response, the Dayaks formed a special force to assist the Allied forces. Eleven U.S. airmen and a few dozen Australian special operatives trained a thousand Dayaks from the Kapit Division in guerrilla warfare. This army of tribesmen killed or captured some 1,500 Japanese soldiers and provided the Allies with vital intelligence about Japanese-held oil fields.
Coastal populations in Borneo are largely Muslim in belief, however these groups (Tidung, Bulungan, Paser, Melanau, Kadayan, Bakumpai, Bisayah) are generally considered to be Islamized Dayaks, native to Borneo, and heavily influenced by the Javanese Majapahit Kingdoms and Islamic Malay Sultanates.
Other groups in coastal areas of Sabah, Sarawak, and northern Kalimantan; namely the Illanun, Tausug, Sama and Bajau, although inhabiting and (in the case of the Tausug group) ruling the northern tip of Borneo for centuries, have their origins from the southern Philippines. These groups are not Dayak, but instead are grouped under the separate umbrella term of Moro.
Traditional headhunter culture
In the past, the Dayak were feared for their ancient tradition of headhunting practices. Among the Iban Dayaks, the origin of headhunting was believed to be meeting one of the mourning rules given by a spirit which is as follows:
- The sacred jar is not to be opened except by a warrior who has managed to obtain a head, or by a man who can present a human head, which he obtained in a fight; or by a man who has returned from a sojourn in enemy country.
The war (ngayau) regulations among the Iban Dayaks are listed below:
- If a warleader leads a party on an expedition, he must not allow his warriors to fight a guiltless tribe that has no quarrel with them.
- If the enemy surrenders, he may not take their lives, lest his army be unsuccessful in future warfare and risk fighting empty-handed war raids (balang kayau).
- The first time that a warrior takes a head or captures a prisoner, he must present the head or captive to the warleader in acknowledgement of the latter’s leadership.
- If a warrior takes two heads or captives, or more, one of each must be given to the warleader; the remainder belongs to the killer or captor.
- The warleader must be honest with his followers in order that in future wars he may not be defeated (alah bunoh).
There were various reasons for headhunting as listed below:
- For soil fertility so Dayaks hunted fresh heads before paddy harvesting seasons after which head festival would be held in honor of the new heads.
- To add supernatural strength which Dayaks believed to be centred in the soul and head of humans. Fresh heads can give magical powers for communinal protection, bountiful paddy harvesting and disease curing.
- To avenge revenge for murders based on "blood credit" principle unless "adat pati nyawa" (customary compensation token) is paid.
- To pay dowry for marriages e.g. "derian palit mata" (eye blocking dowry) for Ibans once blood has been splashed prior to agreeing to marriage and of course, new fresh heads show prowess, bravery, ability and capability to protect his family, community and land
- For foundation of new buildings to be stronger and meaningful than the normal practice of not putting in human heads.
- For protection against enemy attacks according to the principle of "attack first before being attacked".
- As a symbol of power and social status ranking where the more heads someone has, the respect and glory due to him. The warleader is called tuai serang (warleader) or raja berani (king of the brave) while kayau anak (small raid) leader is only called tuai kayau (raid leader) whereby adat tebalu (widower rule) after their death would be paid according to their ranking status in the community.
- For territorial expansion where some brave Dayaks intentionally migrated into new areas such as Mujah "Buah Raya" migrated from Skrang to Paku to Kanowit while infighting among Ibans themselves in Batang Ai caused the Ulu Ai Ibans to migrate to Batang Kanyau River in Kapuas, Kalimantan and then proceeded to Katibas and later on Ulu Rajang in Sarawak. The earlier migrations from Kapuas to Batang Ai, Batang Lupar, Batang Saribas and Batang Krian rivers were also made possible by fighting the local tribes like Bukitan.
Reasons for abandoning headhunting are:
- Peacemaking agreements at Tumbang Anoi, Kalimantan in 1894 and Kapit, Sarawak in 1924.
- Coming of Christianity, with education where Dayaks are taught that headhunting is murder and against the Christian Bible's teachings.
- Dayaks' own realization that headhunting was more to lose than to gain.
After mass conversions to Christianity and Islam, and anti-headhunting legislation by the colonial powers was passed, the practice was banned and appeared to have disappeared. However, the headhunting began to surface again in the mid-1940s, when the Allied Powers encouraged the practice against the Japanese. It also slightly surged in the late 1960s when the Indonesian government encouraged Dayaks to purge Chinese from interior Kalimantan who were suspected of supporting communism in mainland China and also in late 90s when the Dayak started to attack Madurese emigrants in an explosion of ethnic violence.
It should be noted headhunting or human sacrifice was also practiced by other tribes such as follows:
- Toraja community in Sulawesi used adat Ma’ Barata (human sacrifice) in Rambu Solo’ ritual which is still held until the arrival of the Hindi Dutch which is a custom to honour someone with a symbol of a great warrior and bravery in a war.
- In Gomo, Sumatra, there ware megalithic artifacts where one of them is "batu pancung" (beheading stone) on which to tie any captive or convicted criminals for beheading.
- One distinction was their ritual practice of head hunting, once prevalent among tribal warriors in Nagaland and among the Naga tribes in Myanmar. They used to take the heads of enemies to take on their power.
Traditionally, Dayak agriculture was based on swidden rice cultivation. Agricultural Land in this sense was used and defined primarily in terms of hill rice farming, ladang (garden), and hutan (forest). Dayaks organised their labour in terms of traditionally based land holding groups which determined who owned rights to land and how it was to be used. The "green revolution" in the 1950s, spurred on the planting of new varieties of wetland rice amongst Dayak tribes.
The main dependence on subsistence and mid-scale agriculture by the Dayak has made this group active in this industry. The modern day rise in large-scale monocrop plantations such as palm oil and bananas, proposed for vast swathes of Dayak land held under customary rights, titles and claims in Indonesia, threaten the local political landscape in various regions in Borneo.
Further problems continue to arise in part due to the shaping of the modern Malaysian and Indonesian nation-states on post-colonial political systems and laws on land tenure. The conflict between the state and the Dayak natives on land laws and native customary rights will continue as long as the colonial model on land tenure is used against local customary law. The main precept of land use, in local customary law, is that cultivated land is owned and held in right by the native owners, and the concept of land ownership flows out of this central belief. This understanding of adat is based on the idea that land is used and held under native domain. Invariably, when colonial rule was first felt in the Kalimantan Kingdoms, conflict over the subjugation of territory erupted several times between the Dayaks and the respective authorities.
The Dayak indigenous religion has been given the name Kaharingan, and may be said to be a form of animism. For official purposes, it is categorized as a form of Christian in Indonesia. Nevertheless, these generalizations fail to convey the distinctiveness, meaningfulness, richness and depth of Dayak religion, myth and teachings.
Underlying the world-view is an account of the creation and re-creation of this middle-earth where the Dayak dwell, arising out of a cosmic battle in the beginning of time between a primal couple, a male and female bird/dragon (serpent). Representations of this primal couple are amongst the most pervasive motifs of Dayak art. The primal mythic conflict ended in a mutual, procreative murder, from the body parts of which the present universe arose stage by stage. This primal sacrificial creation of the universe in all its levels is the paradigm for, and is re-experienced and ultimately harmoniously brought together (according to Dayak beliefs) in the seasons of the year, the interdependence of river (up-stream and down-stream) and land, the tilling of the earth and fall of the rain, the union of male and female, the distinctions between and cooperation of social classes, the wars and trade with foreigners, indeed in all aspects of life, even including tattoos on the body, the lay-out of dwellings and the annual cycle of renewal ceremonies, funeral rites, etc.
The Iban Dayak religion can be simply referred to as the Iban religion which has been written by Benedict Sandin and others extensively. It is characterized by a supreme being in the name of Bunsu (Kree) Petara who has no parents and creates everything in this world and other worlds. Under Bunsu Petara are the seven gods whose names are: Sengalang Burong as the god of war and healing, Biku Bunsu Petara as the high priest and second in command, Menjaya as the first shaman (manang) and god of medicine, Selampandai as the god of creation, Sempulang Gana as the god of agriculture and land along with Semarugah, Ini Inda/Inee/Andan as the naturally born doctor and god of justice and Anda Mara as the god of wealth.
The praying and propitiation to certain gods are held via four main categories of rituals and festivals (gawai). The first category is the agricultural-related festivals which are dedicated to paddy farming to honour Sempulang Gana and include Gawai Batu (Whetstone Festival), Gawai Ngalihka Tanah (Soil Reactivation Festival), Gawai Benih (Padi Seed Festival), Gawai Ngemali Umai (Farm Curing Festival), Gawai Matah (Harvest Initiation Festival) and Gawai Bersimpan (Paddy Storing Festival). The second category is the headhunting-related festivals to honour Sengalang Burong comprises Gawai Burung (Bird Festival) and Gawai Kenyalang (Hornbill Festival) which are held after other smaller rituals like bedara matak (first offering inside the family room), bedara mansau (second-in-scale offering inside the family room), sandau ari (mid-day celebration) and enchaboh arong (head-welcoming ceremony) are performed. The third category is the sickness-healing festivals to ask for curing from Menjaya or Ini Andan such as Gawai Sakit (Sickness Festival) which is held after other smaller attempts have failed to cure the sicked persons such as begama (touching), belian (various manang rituals), Besugi Sakit (to ask Keling for curing via magical power) and Berenong Sakit (to ask for curing by Sengalang Burong) in the ascending order. Gawai Burung can also be used for healing certain difficult-to-cure sickness via magical power by Sengalang Burong especially nowadays after headhunting has been stopped. Two more festivals that are related to wellness and longevity are Gawai Betambah Bulu (Hair Adding Festival) and Gawai Nanga Langit (Sky Staircasing Festival). The fourth category is the fortune-related festivals which consist of Gawai Pangkong Tiang (Post Banging Festival) after trasfering to a new longhouse, Gawai Tuah (Luck Festival) with three ascending stages to seek and to welcome lucks and Gawai Tajau (Jar Festival) to welcome newly acquired jars. The fifth category is the Soul Festival (Gawai Antu) for the souls of the deads. The seven and last category is the Gawai Mimpi (Dream Festival) which is held for any dreams experienced during sleep where good meaning dreams are purposely sought.
At the end of these festivals except Gawai Antu, the divination of the pig liver will be interpreted to forecast the outcome of the future or the luck of the individual who holds the festival.
The Iban Dayaks have several methods to receive omens where good omens are purposely sought. The first method is via dream to receive charms, amulets (pengaroh, empelias. engkerabun) or medicine (obat) and curse (sumpah) from any gods, people of Panggau Libau and Gelong and any spirits or ghosts. The second method is via animal omens (burong laba) which have long lasting effects such as from deer barking which is quite random in nature. The third method is via bird omens (burong bisa) which have short term effects that are commonly limited to a certain farming year or a certain activity at hands. The forth method is via pig liver divination after festival celebration The fifth but not the least method is via nampok or betapa (self-imposed isolation) to receive amulet, curse, medicine or healing.
There are seven omen birds under the charge of their chief Sengalang Burong at their longhouse named Tansang Kenyalang (Hornbill Abode), which are Ketupong (Jaloh or Kikeh) (Rufous Piculet) as the first in command, Beragai (Scarlet-rumped trogon), Pangkas (Maroon Woodpecker) on the righthand side of Sengalang Burong's family room while Bejampong (Crested Jay) as the second in command, Embuas (Banded Kingfisher), Kelabu Papau (Senabong) (Diard's Trogon) and Nendak (White-rumped shama) on the lefthand side. The calls and flights of the omen birds along with the circumstances and social status of the listeners are considered during the omen interpretations.
The prayers to gods and/or other spirits are made by giving offerings ("piring") and animal sacrifices ("genselan"). The number (leka or turun) of each piring offering item is based on ascending odd numbers which have meanings and purposes as below:
- piring 3 for piring ampun (forgiveness seeking) or seluwak (wastefulness spirit)
- piring 5 for piring minta (reguest offering) or bejalai (journey)
- piring 7 for piring begawai (festival) or bujang berani (brave warrior)
- piring 9 for sangkong (including others) or turu (leftover included)
Piring contains offering of various traditional foods and drinks while genselan is made by sacrificing chickens and/or pigs. Bedara is commonly held for any general purposes before holding any festivals.
Any Iban Dayak will undergo some forms of simple rituals and several elaborate festivals as necessary in their lifetime from a baby, adolescent to adulthood. The longhouse where the Iban Dayaks stay is constructed in a unique way for both living or accommodation purposes and ritual or religious practices.
The shaman (manang) of the Iban Dayaks have various types of pelian (ritual healing ceremony) to be held in accordance with the types of sickness determined by him through his glassy stone to see the whereabouts of the soul of the sick person.
The best and still unsurpassed study of a traditional Dayak religion in Kalimantan is that of Hans Scharer, Ngaju Religion: The Conception of God among a South Borneo People; translated by Rodney Needham (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1963). The practice of Kaharingan differs from group to group, but shamans, specialists in ecstatic flight to other spheres, are central to Dayak religion, and serve to bring together the various realms of Heaven (Upper-world) and earth, and even Under-world, for example healing the sick by retrieving their souls which are journeying on their way to the Upper-world land of the dead, accompanying and protecting the soul of a dead person on the way to their proper place in the Upper-world, presiding over annual renewal and agricultural regeneration festivals, etc. Death rituals are most elaborate when a noble (kamang) dies. On particular religious occasions, the spirit is believed to descend to partake in celebration, a mark of honour and respect to past ancestors and blessings for a prosperous future.
Over the last two centuries, some Dayaks converted to Christianity and Islam, abandoning certain cultural rites and practices. Christianity was introduced by European missionaries in Borneo. Religious differences between Muslim and Christian natives of Borneo has led, at various times, to communal tensions. Relations, however between all religious groups are generally good.
Muslim Dayaks have however retained their original identity and kept various customary practices consistent with their religion.However many Christian Dayak has changed their name to European name but some minority still maintain their ancestors traditional name.
An example of common identity, over and above religious belief, is the Melanau group. Despite the small population, to the casual observer, the coastal dwelling Melanau of Sarawak, generally do not identify with one religion, as a number of them have Islamized and Christianised over a period of time. A few practise a distinct Dayak form of Kaharingan, known as Liko. Liko is the earliest surviving form of religious belief for the Melanau, predating the arrival of Islam and Christianity to Sarawak. The somewhat patchy religious divisions remain, however the common identity of the Melanau is held politically and socially. Social cohesion amongst the Melanau, despite religious differences, is markedly tight within their small community.
Despite the destruction of pagan religions in Europe by Christians, most of the people who try to conserve the Dayaks' religion are missionaries. For example Reverend William Howell contributed numerous articles on the Iban language, lore and culture between 1909 and 1910 to the Sarawak Gazette. The articles were later compiled in a book in 1963 entitled, The Sea Dayaks and Other Races of Sarawak.
Kinship in Dayak society is traced in both lines of genealogy (tusut). Although, in Dayak Iban society, men and women possess equal rights in status and property ownership, political office has strictly been the occupation of the traditional Iban patriarch. There is a council of elders in each longhouse.
Overall, Dayak leadership in any given region, is marked by titles, a Penghulu for instance would have invested authority on behalf of a network of Tuai Rumah's and so on to a Pemancha, Pengarah to Temenggung in the ascending order while Panglima or Orang Kaya (Rekaya) are titles given by Malays to some Dayaks.
Individual Dayak groups have their social and hierarchy systems defined internally, and these differ widely from Ibans to Ngajus and Benuaqs to Kayans.
In Sarawak, Temenggong Koh Anak Jubang was the first paramount chief of Dayaks in Sarawak and followed by Tun Temenggong Jugah Anak Barieng who was one of the main signatories for the formation of Federation of Malaysia between Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak with Singapore expelled later on. He was said to be the "bridge between Malaya and East Malaysia". The latter was fondly called "Apai" by others, which means father. Unfortunately, he had no western or formal education at all.
The most salient feature of Dayak social organisation is the practice of Longhouse domicile. This is a structure supported by hardwood posts that can be hundreds of metres long, usually located along a terraced river bank. At one side is a long communal platform, from which the individual households can be reached.
The Iban of the Kapuas and Sarawak have organized their Longhouse settlements in response to their migratory patterns. Iban longhouses vary in size, from those slightly over 100 metres in length to large settlements over 500 metres in length. Longhouses have a door and apartment for every family living in the longhouse. For example, a longhouse of 200 doors is equivalent to a settlement of 200 families.
The tuai rumah (long house chief) can be aided by a tuai burong (bird leader), tuai umai (farming leader) and a manang (shaman). Nowadays, each long house will have a Security and Development Committee and ad hoc committee will be formed as and when necessary for example during festivals such as Gawai Dayak.
The Dayaks are peace loving people who live based on customary rules or adat asal which govern each of their main activities. The adat is administered by the tuai rumah aided by the Council of Elders in the longhouse so that any dispute can be settled amicably among the dwellers themselves via berandau (discussion). If no settlement can be reached at the longhouse chief level, then the dispute will escalate to a pengulu level and so on.
Among the main sections of customary adat of the Iban Dayaks are as follows:
- Adat berumah (House building rule)
- Adat melah pinang, butang ngau sarak (Marriage, adultery and divorce rule)
- Adat beranak (Child bearing and raising rule)
- Adat bumai and beguna tanah (Agricultural and land use rule)
- Adat ngayau (Headhunting rule)
- Adat ngasu, berikan, ngembuah and napang (Hunting, fishing, fruit and honey collection rule)
- Adat tebalu, ngetas ulit ngau beserarak bungai(Widow/widower, mourning and soul separation rule)
- Adat begawai (festival rule)
- Adat idup di rumah panjai (Order of life in the longhouse rule)
- Adat betenun, main lama, kajat ngau taboh (Weaving, past times, dance and music rule)
- Adat beburong, bemimpi ngau becenaga ati babi (Bird and animal omen, dream and pig liver rule)
- Adat belelang (Journey rule)
The Dayak life centres on the paddy planting activity every year. The Iban Dayak has their own year long calendar with 12 consecutive months which are one month later than the Roman calendar. The months are named in accordance to the paddy farming activities and the activities in between. Other than paddy, also planted in the farm are vegetables like ensabi, pumpkin, round brinjal, cucumber, corn, lingkau and other food sources lik tapioca, sugarcane, sweet potatoes and finally after the paddy has been harvested, cotton is planted which takes about two months to complete its cycle. The cotton is used for weaving before commercial cotton is traded. Fresh lands cleared by each Dayak family will belong to that family and the longhouse community can also use the land with permission from the owning family. Usually, in one riverine system, a special track of land is reserved for the use by the community itself to get natural supplies of wood, rattan and other wild plants which are necessary for building houses, boats, coffins and other living purposes, and also to leave living space for wild animals which is a source of meat. Beside farming, Dayaks plant fruit trees like rambutan, langsat, durian, isu and mangosteen near their longhouse or on their land plots to amrk their ownership of the land. They also grow plants which produce dyes for colouring their cotton treads if not taken from the wild forest. Major fishing using the tuba root is normally done by the whole longhouse as the river may take sometime to recover. Any wild meat obtained will distribute according to a certain customary law.
Headhunting was an important part of Dayak culture, in particular to the Iban and Kenyah. The origin of headhunting in Iban Dayaks can be traced to the story of a chief name Serapoh who was asked by a spirit to obtain a fresh head to open a mourning jar but unfortunately he killed a Kantu boy which he got by exchanging with a jar for this purpose for which the Kantu retaliated and thus starting the headhunting practice. There used to be a tradition of retaliation for old headhunts, which kept the practice alive. External interference by the reign of the Brooke Rajahs in Sarawak via "bebanchak babi" (peacemaking) in Kapit and the Dutch in Kalimantan Borneo via peacemaking at Tumbang Anoi curtailed and limited this tradition.
Apart from massed raids, the practice of headhunting was then limited to individual retaliation attacks or the result of chance encounters. Early Brooke Government reports describe Dayak Iban and Kenyah War parties with captured enemy heads. At various times, there have been massive coordinated raids in the interior and throughout coastal Borneo before and after the arrival of the Raj during Brooke's reign in Sarawak.
The Ibans' journey along the coastal regions using a large boat called "bandong" with sail made of leaves or cloths may have given rise to the term, Sea Dayak, although, throughout the 19th Century, Sarawak Government raids and independent expeditions appeared to have been carried out as far as Brunei, Mindanao, East coast Malaya, Jawa and Celebes.
Tandem diplomatic relations between the Sarawak Government (Brooke Rajah) and Britain (East India Company and the Royal Navy) acted as a pivot and a deterrence to the former's territorial ambitions, against the Dutch administration in the Kalimantan regions and client sultanates.
In the Indonesian region, toplessness was the norm among the Dayak people, Javanese, and the Balinese people of Indonesia before the introduction of Islam and contact with Western cultures. In Javanese and Balinese societies, women worked or rested comfortably topless. Among the Dayak, only big breasted women or married women with sagging breasts cover their breasts because they interfered with their work. Once marik empang (top cover over the shoulders) and later shirts are available, toplessness has been abandoned.
Metal-working is elaborately developed in making mandaus (machetes - parang in Malay and Indonesian). The blade is made of a softer iron, to prevent breakage, with a narrow strip of a harder iron wedged into a slot in the cutting edge for sharpness in a process called ngamboh (iron-smithing).
In headhunting it was necessary to able to draw the parang quickly. For this purpose, the mandau is fairly short, which also better serves the purpose of trailcutting in dense forest. It is holstered with the cutting edge facing upwards and at that side there is an upward protrusion on the handle, so it can be drawn very quickly with the side of the hand without having to reach over and grasp the handle first. The hand can then grasp the handle while it is being drawn. The combination of these three factors (short, cutting edge up and protrusion) makes for an extremely fast drawing-action.
The ceremonial mandaus used for dances are as beautifully adorned with feathers, as are the costumes. There are various terms to describe different types of Dayak blades. The Nyabor is the traditional Iban Scimitar, Parang Ilang is common to Kayan and Kenyah Swordsmiths, pedang is a sword with a metallic handle and Duku is a multipurpose farm tool and machete of sorts.
Normally, the sword is accompanied by a wooden shield called terabai which is decorated with a demon face to scare off the enemy. Another weapons are sangkoh (spear) and sumpit (blowpipe) with lethal poison at the tip of its laja. To protect the upper body during combat, a gagong (armour) which is made of animal hard skin such as leopards is worn over the shoulders via a hole made for the head to enter.
Dayaks normally build their longhouses on high posts on high ground where possible for protection. They also may build kuta (fencing) and kubau (fort) where necessary to defend against enemy attacks. Dayaks also possess some brass and cast iron weaponry such as brass cannon (bedil) and iron cast cannon meriam. Furthermore, Dayaks are experienced in setting up animal traps (peti) which can be used for attacking enemy as well. The agility and stamina of Dayaks in jungles give them advantages. However, at the end, Dayaks were defeated by handguns and disunity among themselves against the colonialists.
Most importantly, Dayaks will seek divine helps to grant them protection in the forms of good dreams or curses by spirits, charms such as pengaroh (normally ponsonous), empelias (weapon straying away) and engkerabun (hidden from normal human eyes), animal omens, bird omens, good divination in the pig liver or by purposely seeking supernatural powers via nampok or betapa or menuntut ilmu (learning knowledge) especially kebal (weapon-proof). During headhunting days, those going to farms will be protected by warriors themselves and big agriculture is also carried out via labour exchange called bedurok (which means a large number of people working together) until completion of the agricultural activity. Kalingai or pantang (tattoo) is made unto bodies to protect from dangers and other signifying purposes such as traveling to certain places.
The traditional Iban Dayak male attire consists of a sirat (loincloth) attached with a small mat for sitting), lelanjang (headgear with colourful bird feathers) or a turban (a long piece of cloth wrapped around the head), marik (chain) around the neck, engkerimok (ring on thigh) and simpai (ring on the upper arms). The Iban Dayak female traditional attire comprises a short "kain tenun betating" (a woven cloth attached with coins and bells at the bottom end), a rattan or brass ring corset, selampai (long scarf) or marik empang (beaded top cover), sugu tinggi (high comb made of silver), simpai (bracelets on upper arms), tumpa (bracelets on lower arms) and buah pauh (fruits on hand).
The Dayaks especially Ibans appreciate and treasure very much the value of pua kumbu (woven or tied cloth) made by women while ceramic jars which they call tajau obtained by men. Pua kumbu has various motives for which some are considered sacred. Tajau has various types with respective monetary values. The jar is a sign of good fortune and wealth. It can also be used to pay fines if some adat is broken in lieu of money which is hard to have in the old days. Beside the jar being used to contain rice or water, it is also used in ritual ceremonies or festivals and given as baya (provision) to the dead.
The adat tebalu (widow or widower fee) for deceased women for Iban Dayaks will be paid according to her social standing and weaving skills and for the men according to his achievements in lifetime.
Dayaks being accustomed to living in jungles and hard terrains, and knowing the plants and animals are extremely good at following animals trails while hunting and of course tracking humans or enemies, thus some Dayaks became very good trackers in jungles in the military e.g. some Iban Dayaks were engaged as trackers during the anti-confrontation by Indonesia against the formation of Federation of Malaysia and anti-communism in Malaysia itself. No doubt, these survival skills are obtained while doing activities in the jungles, which are then utilized for headhunting in the old days.
Dayaks in military
Two highly decorated Iban Dayak soldiers from Sarawak in Malaysia are Temenggung Datuk Kanang anak Langkau (awarded Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa) and Awang Anak Rawing of Skrang (awarded a George Cross). So far, only one Dayak has reached the rank of a general in the military that is Brigadier-General Stephen Mundaw in the Malaysian Army, who was promoted on 1 November 2010.
Malaysia’s most decorated war hero is Kanang Anak Langkau due to his military services helping to liberate Malaya (and later Malaysia) from the communists. Among all the heroes were 21 holders of Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) which is the bravery medal with 16 survivors. Of the total, there are 14 Ibans, two Chinese army officers, one Bidayuh, one Kayan and one Malay. But the majorities in the Armed Forces are Malays, according to a book – Crimson Tide over Borneo. The youngest of the PGB holder is ASP Wilfred Gomez of the Police Force.
There were six holders of Sri Pahlawan (SP) Gagah Perkasa (the Gallantry Award) from Sarawak, and with the death of Kanang Anak Langkau, there is one SP holder in the person of Sgt. Ngalinuh (an Orang Ulu).
Organised Dayak political representation in the Indonesian State first appeared during the Dutch administration, in the form of the Dayak Unity Party (Parti Persatuan Dayak) in the 30s and 40s. The feudal Sultanates of Kutai, Banjar and Pontianak figured prominently prior to the rise of the Dutch colonial rule.
Dayaks in Sarawak in this respect, compare very poorly with their organised brethren in the Indonesian side of Borneo, partly due to the personal fiefdom that was the Brooke Rajah dominion, and possibly to the pattern of their historical migrations from the Indonesian part to the then pristine Rajang Basin. Political circumstances aside, the Dayaks in the Indonesian side actively organised under various associations beginning with the Sarekat Dayak established in 1919, to the Parti Dayak in the 40s, and to the present day, where Dayaks occupy key positions in government.
In Sarawak, Dayak political activism had its roots in the SNAP (Sarawak National Party) and Pesaka during post independence construction in the 1960s. These parties shaped to a certain extent Dayak politics in the State, although never enjoying the real privileges and benefits of Chief Ministerial power relative to its large electorate due to their own political disunity with some Dayaks joining various political parties instead of consolidating inside one single political party.
The first Sarawak chief minister was Datuk Stephen Kalong Ningkan who was removed as the chief minister in 1966 after court proceedings and amendments to both Sarawak state constitution and Malaysian federal constitution due to some disagreements with Malaya with regards to the 18-point Agreement as conditions for Malaysia Formation. Datuk Penghulu Tawi Sli was appointed as the second Sarawak chief minister who was a soft-spoken seat-warmer fellow and then replaced by Tuanku Abdul Rahman Ya'kub (a Melanau Muslim) as the third Sarawak chief minister in 1970 who in turn was succeeded by Abdul Taib Mahmud a (Melanau Muslim) in 1981 as fourth Sarawak chief minister.
Wave of Dayakism has surfaced at least twice among the Dayaks in Sarawak while they are on the opposition side of politics as follows:
- SNAP won 18 seats (with 42.70% popular vote) out of total 48 seats in Sarawak state election, 1974 while the remaining 30 seats won by Sarawak National Front.
- PBDS (Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak), a breakaway of SNAP in Sarawak state election in 1987 won 15 seats while its partner Permas only won 5 seats. Overall, the Sarawak National Front won 28 constituencies with PBB 14; SUPP 11 and SNAP 3.
In both cases, SNAP and PBDS (now both party are defunct) had joined the Malaysian National Front as the ruling coalition.
Under Indonesia, Kalimantan is now divided into four self-autonomous provinces i.e. West, East, South and Middle Kalimantan.
Under Indonesia's transmigration programme, settlers from densely populated Java and Madura were encouraged to settle in the Indonesian provinces of Borneo. The large-scale transmigration projects initiated by the Dutch and continued following Indonesian independence, caused social strains.
During the killings of 1965–66 Dayaks killed up to 5,000 Chinese and forced survivors to flee to the coast and camps. Starvation killed thousands of Chinese children who were under eight years old. The Chinese refused to fight back, even though previously the Chinese had fought against the Dutch colonialist occupation of Indonesia, since they considered themselves "a guest on other people's land" with the intention of trading only. 75,000 of the Chinese who survived were displaced, fleeing to camps where they were detained on coastal cities. The Dayak leaders were interested in cleansing the entire area of ethnic Chinese. In Pontianak, 25,000 Chinese living in dirty, filthy conditions were stranded. They had to take baths in mud. The massacres are considered a "dark chapter in recent Dayak history".
From 1996 to 2003 there were violent attacks on Indonesian Madurese settlers, including executions of Madurese transmigrant communities. The violence included the Sampit conflict in 2001 in which more than 500 were killed in that year. Order was restored by the Indonesian Military.
- Krio Dayak people and their language
- Iban people and their Iban language
- Meratus Dayak
- Meratus language
- Hiram M. Hiller, Jr.
- Ethnologue report for ISO 639 code: day
- WWF - Borneo people
- 'Guests' can succeed where occupiers fail, November 9, 2007
- Fort Sylvia
- See Scharer, ibid., for many examples of shamanistic soul flight, ceremonies, etc. The most detailed study of the shamanistic ritual at funerals is by Waldemar Stöhr, Der Totenkult der Ngadju Dajak in Süd-Borneo. Mythen zum Totenkult und die Texte zum Tantolak Matei (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966).
- Nancy Dowling, "Javanization of Indian Art," Indonesia, volume 54 (1992).
- Jan B. Avé & Victor T. King, Borneo. The People of the Weeping Forest. Tradition and Change in Borneo, volume scritto in occasione dell'esposizione temporanea « Borneo. Oervoud in ondergang, culturen op drift (trad. it., Borneo, giungle che scompaiono, culture alla deriva) », svoltasi al Rijkmuseum voor Volkenkunde di Leiden nel 1986, Rijkmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden 1986.
- Vinson and Joanne Sutlive, Gen. Eds., The Encyclopaedia of Iban Studies:Iban History, Society, and Culture Volume II (H-N), (Kuching: The Tun Jugah Foundation, 2001), 697.
- Hans Peter Duerr. "Der Mythos vom Zivilisationsprozeß 4. Der erotische Leib"
- 1966 Sarawak constitutional crisis
- Sarawak state election, 1974
- John Braithwaite (2010). Anomie and violence: non-truth and reconciliation in Indonesian peacebuilding. ANU E Press. p. 294. ISBN 1-921666-22-6. Retrieved Dec 15, 2011. "In 1967, Dayaks had expelled Chinese from the interior of West Kalimantan. In this Chinese ethnic cleansing, Dayaks were co-opted by the military who wanted to remove those Chinese from the interior who they believed were supporting communists. The most certain way to accomplish this was to drive all Chinese out of the interior of West Kalimantan. Perhaps 2,000-5,000 people were massacred (Davidson 2002:158) and probably a greater number died from the conditions in overcrowded refugee camps, including 1,500 Chinese children aged between one and eight who died of starvation in Pontianak camps (p. 173). The Chinese retreated permanently to the major towns...the Chinese in West Kalimantan rarely resisted (though they had in nineteenth century conflict with the Dutch, and in 1914). Instead, they fled. One old Chinese man who fled to Pontianak in 1967 said that the Chinese did not even consider or discuss striking back at Dayaks as an option. This was because they were imbued with a philosophy of being a guest on other people's land with the intention of becoming a great trading diaspora."
- Eva-Lotta E. Hedman (2008). Eva-Lotta E. Hedman, ed. Conflict, violence, and displacement in Indonesia. SOSEA-45 Series (illustrated ed.). SEAP Publications. p. 63. ISBN 0-87727-745-1. Retrieved Dec 15, 2011. "the role of indigenous Dayak leaders accounted for their "success." Regional officers and interested Dayak leaders helped to translate the virulent anti-Communist environment locally into an evident anti-Chinese sentiment. In the process, the rural Chinese were constructed as godless Communists complicit with members of the local Indonesian Communist Party ... In October 1967, the military, with the help of the former Dayak Governor Oevaang Oeray and his Lasykar Pangsuma (Pangsuma Militia) instigated and facilitated a Dayak-led slaughter of ethnic Chinese. Over the next three months, thousands were killed and roughly 75,000 more fled Sambas and norther Pontianak districts to coastal urban centers like Pontianak City and Singkawang to be sheltered in refugee and "detainment" camps. By expelling the "community" Chinese, Oeray and his gang ... intended to ingratiate themselves with Suharto's new regime."
- Time, Volume 90, Part 2. Time Inc. 1967. p. 37. Retrieved Dec 15, 2011. "Before the Indonesian •army could cool off the Dayaks, at least 250 Chinese had been slaughtered: Catholic missionaries believe that as many as 1,000 were actually killed. About 25,000 of the traumatized Chinese have descended on the sleepy West Borneo port of Pontianak, where they live in dismal squalor. The Chinese are crammed into makeshift quarters, bathe in muddy, sewage-filled canals"
- Charles Corn (1991). Distant islands: travels across Indonesia. Viking. p. 128. ISBN 0-670-82374-0. Retrieved Dec 15, 2011. "There was a dark chapter in recent Dayak history, and it concerned the Chinese living on the island. Tribes in the lower hills had been mobilized by the Indonesian military in the mid-sixties to murder many thousands of Chinese in the"
- Victor T King, Essays on Bornean Societies (Hull/Oxford, 1978).
- Benedict Sandin, The Sea-Dayaks of Borneo before White Rajah Rule (London 1967).
- Eric Hansen, Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo, (Penguin, 1988), ISBN 0-375-72495-8.
- Hans Scharer, Ngaju Religion: The Conception of God among a South Borneo People; translated by Rodney Needham (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1963).
- Norma Youngberg, The Queen's Gold (TEACH Services, 2000)
- Judith M. Heimann, The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II, (Harcourt, 2007), ISBN 978-0-15-101434-7
- Jean Yves Domalain, Panjamon: I Was a Headhunter, (Publisher: William Morrow, January 1973), ISBN 0688001432, ISBN 978-0688001438
- Peter Goullart, River of the White Lily, (London, John Murray, 1965), ISBN 0719505429
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dayak people.|
- www.worldmessenger.ning.com- social networking site run by Urban Dayaks Generation
- www.dayakology.com - a site run by Dayaks
- Assessment for Dayaks in Malaysia
- Tribal peoples are fighting huge hydro-electric projects that are carving up the island's rainforest
- The J. Arthur and Edna Mouw papers at the Hoover Institution Archives focuses on the interaction of Christian missionaries with Dayak people in Borneo.
- The Airmen and the Headhunters Documentary produced by the PBS Series Secrets of the Dead
- Dayak-culture: pictures and videos