Kenyah people

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Kenyah people
Dayak Kenyah
COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Een Kenyah familie Borneo TMnr 10005528.jpg
A young Kenyah family in North Kalimantan, pre-1944.
Total population
69,256 (year 2000 - Malaysia and Indonesia)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Indonesia (East Kalimantan)44,000 (2000)[2]
 Malaysia (Sarawak)25,000 (2000)[2]
Kenyah languages (Mainstream Kenyah language), Indonesian language, Malaysian language (Sarawak Malay)
Christianity (Majority-94,27%), Bungan (Folk religion),[3] Islam
Related ethnic groups
Bagai people, Kayan people, Penan people

The Kenyah people are an indigenous, Austronesian-speaking people of Borneo, living in the remote Baram Lio Matoh, Long Selaan, Long Moh, Long Anap, Long Mekaba, Long Jeeh, Long Belaong, Long San, Long Silat, Long Tungan, Data Kakus, Data Surau, Senap River, Long Dungan, Long Busang, Long Beyak, Tubau, Bintulu, Miri, Apau Koyan resettlement for Bakun Dam, Long Bulan, Long Jawe, Dangang, Long Bangan, Long Urun, Sambop Long Semutut, Long Tebulang, Long Lawen, Long Unan and Belaga regions in Sarawak, Malaysia and the remote Apau Kayan, Bahau (Bau), Benua Lama, Benua Baru and Mahakam regions in East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Kenyah people are divided into various lepo'/lebo' (tribes/clans) including the Uma Bakah, Lepo Anan, Lepo Tau, Lepu Jalan, Lepo' Tepu, Uma Kelap, Uma Ujok, Uma Pawa', Seping, Sebop, Badeng, Jamok, Lepo Agak, Bakung (Long Singut), Uma Kulit, Uma Alim, Uma Timai, Uma Lasan, Lepo Ma-ut, Sambop, Lepo Ke', Lepo Ngao, Ngurek, Long Ulai, Long Tikan, Long Sabatu, Lepo Ga, Lepo Dikan, Lepo' Bem, Lepo' Embo' and Lepo Pua.

Culture and economy[edit]

Kenyah dance.

The Kenyah people, traditionally being swidden agriculturalists[4] and living in longhouses (uma dado'),[5] is an umbrella term for over 40 sub-groups that mostly share common migration histories, customs, and related dialects. Kenyah people lived in longhouses a small communities. Each longhouse consists of families who choose their own leader (headman). When they have an event or celebration such as harvest festival, they will normally use the longhouse verandah (oseh bi'o) to gather and deliver speeches to guide their youngsters. Normally this harvest festival celebration (tau bio Ramay o o Ajau, pelepek uman) is a major festival because most of them are still farmers.

Kenyah people are very creative. They compose their popular songs and melody such as Lan e Tuyang, Kendau bimbin, Ilu Kenyah Kua Lo Te'a, Pabat Pibui, Atek Lan, and Leleng Oyau Along Leleng. Popular traditional Kenyah musical instruments are such as jatung utang (wooden xylophone),[6] sampe (a type of guitar),[7] sampe bio (single-stringed bass), lutong (a four- to six-string bamboo tube zither)[8] and keringut (nose flute).[9]


Christianity is the predominant religion of Kenyah people, with the majority belonging to the Evangelical Protestanism. Before the arrival of Christian missionaries, the Kenyah people practice a traditional form of animism called 'Adat Pu'un'. During the initial introduction of Christianity by Christian & Missionary Alliance and Borneo Evangelical Mission, traditional beliefs and practices were revitalized and this form was called 'Bungan Malan Peselong Luan' movement. Today, there are only a small number of Kenyah people who still practice the Bungan faith.[10][11] It is believed that a person will ascend to Alo Malau (seven heavens) with their ancestors (tepun) after death.


Statistical figures, based on the Indonesian and Malaysian national censuses collected in 2000, recorded a total of 44,350 Kenyah people in East Kalimantan, Indonesia and 24,906 in Sarawak, Malaysia.[12]

Sub-ethnic groups[edit]

The Kenyah people are also divided into various sub-ethnic groups such as:-[13]

  • Kenyah Badeng or Madang
  • Kenyah Bakung
  • Kenyah Jamok
  • Kenyah Lepo' Abong
  • Kenyah Lepo' Aga
  • Kenyah Lepo' Anan
  • Kenyah Lepo' Bam
  • Kenyah Lepo' Gah
  • Kenyah Lepo' Jalan
  • Kenyah Lepo' Ke'
  • Kenyah Lepo' Kulit
  • Kenyah Lepo' Maut
  • Kenyah Lepo' Sawa'
  • Kenyah Lepo' Tau'
  • Kenyah Lepo' Tepu
  • Kenyah Lepo' Timai
  • Kenyah Long Ulai
  • Kenyah Long Sebatu
  • Kenyah Long Belukun
  • Kenyah Long Tikan
  • Kenyah Uma' Bangan
  • Kenyah Uma' Baka
  • Kenyah Uma' Kelep
  • Kenyah Uma' Lasan
  • Kenyah Uma' Lung
  • Kenyah Uma' Pawa'
  • Kenyah Uma' Sambop
  • Kenyah Uma' Tukung
  • Kenyah Seping


Kenyah architecture, circa 1898-1900.

The Usun Apau (aka Usun Apo) plateau (in the Plieran river valley) or Apo Kayan Highlands (a remote forested plateau in Malaysian and Indonesian border) in the present-day Indonesian province of North Kalimantan and Malaysia's Sarawak is believed by the Kenyah people to be their place of origin;[14] which was the largest concentration site of Kenyah populations between the late 19th century to the early 1980s.


The Kenyah languages are a small family of Austronesian languages. Their language is called Kenyah.

Folk songs[edit]

  • Leleng-Leleng[15]
  • Leleng[16]
  • Ake' Mimbin Iko' Tuyang[17]
  • Pabat Pibui[18]
  • Daleh Lenca dalem bada[19]
  • Ayen Palo boka tai mutu leto[20]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ William W. Bevis (1995). Borneo Log: The Struggle For Sarawak's Forests. University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295974163.
  2. ^ a b Wil de Jong, Denyse Snelder & Noboru Ishikawa (2012). Transborder Governance of Forests, Rivers and Seas. Routledge. p. 54. ISBN 978-11-365-3809-4.
  3. ^ Paul C. Y. Chen, ed. (1990). Penans: The Nomads of Sarawak. Pelanduk Publications. p. 35. ISBN 96-797-8310-3.
  4. ^ Bagoes Wiryomartono (2014). Perspectives on Traditional Settlements and Communities: Home, Form and Culture in Indonesia. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 170. ISBN 978-98-145-8505-7.
  5. ^ Reimar Schefold, P. Nas & Gaudenz Domenig (2004). Indonesian Houses: Tradition and transformation in vernacular architecture. Singapore University Press. p. 318. ISBN 99-716-9292-9.
  6. ^ Terry Miller & Sean Williams, ed. (2011). The Garland Handbook of Southeast Asian Music. Routledge. p. 412. ISBN 978-11-359-0155-4.
  7. ^ Margaret J. Kartomi (1985). Musical Instruments of Indonesia. Indonesian Arts Society. p. 51. ISBN 09-589-2250-0.
  8. ^ Musicworks, Issues 73-78. Music Gallery. 1999. p. 12.
  9. ^ The Sarawak Museum Journal, Volume 40, Part 3. Sarawak Museum. 1989. p. 132.
  10. ^ Cristina Eghenter, Bernard Sellato, G. Simon Devung (2003). "Social Science Research and Conservation Management in the Interior of Borneo" (PDF). Center for International Forestry Research.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Lake' Baling (2002). "The Old Kayan and the Bungan Religious Reform" (PDF). Universiti Malaysia Sarawak Institutional Repository.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ See 2000 National Census, Jawatan Perangkaan Malaysia, 2000 and 2000 Population Census /Sensus Penduduk 2000, Central Bureau of Statistics Indonesia, 2000
  13. ^ "Languages of Borneo". Digital Atlas of Indonesian History. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  14. ^ Hugo Steiner (2007). Sarawak: people of the longhouse and jungle. Opus Publications. p. 77. ISBN 978-98-339-8701-6.
  15. ^ "LELENG-LELENG". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  16. ^ "Leleng". YouTube. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  17. ^ "Ake' Mimbin Iko' Tuyang". YouTube. Retrieved 29 November 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "Pabat Pibui". YouTube. Archived from the original on 14 December 2021. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  19. ^ "lagu kenyah - daleh lenca dalem bada". Archived from the original on 14 December 2021 – via
  20. ^ "Ayen Palo Boka Tai Mutu Leto Kenyah.mp4". Archived from the original on 14 December 2021 – via
  21. ^ " - Your favorite newspapers and magazines". Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  22. ^ "PWK perlu kreatif pelbagaikan ekonomi tingkatkan pendapatan pekebun kecil". Utusan Borneo (Sarawak). 23 February 2017. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  23. ^ "Sarawakian lass crowned Miss World Malaysia". The Daily Express. 11 September 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  24. ^ Jeremy Veno (2 September 2018). "Up close and personal with local beauties". The Borneo Post. Retrieved 13 September 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]