Borneo Dayak Peoples
Common interpretations in anthropology agree that nearly all the Dayaks tribes, are of a larger more common Austronesian migration from Asia, regarded to have settled in the South East Asian Archipelago some 3,000 years ago. The main Dayaks are the Bakumpai and Dayak Bukit of South Kalimantan, The Ngajus, and Baritos of Central Kalimantan, Benuaqs,Kayan and Kenyah of East Kalimantan, and the Ibans of West Kalimantan and Malay Borneo, Other populations are the nomadic Punan, which are live nowadays along the Border between Kalimantan and Sabah / Sarawak.
Coastal populations in Borneo are largely Muslim in belief, however these groups (Ilanun, Melanau, Kutai) are generally considered to be Islamized Dayaks, native to Borneo, and governed by the relatively high cultural influences of the Javanese Majapahit Kingdoms and Islamic Malay Sultanates, periodically covering South East Asian history.
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 labor 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 among Dayak tribes.
The main dependence on subsistence and mid-scale agriculture by the Dayak has made this group active in this industry. Nowadays, the Dayaks work in the mining industry, wood industry, and plantations of Borneo.
The Dayak indigenous religion is Kaharingan a form of animism which is categorized as a part of Hinduism in Indonesia. The practice of Kaharingan differs from group to group, and for example in some religious customary practices, when a noble (kamang) dies, it is believed that the spirit ascends to a mountain where the spirits of past ancestors of the tribe reside.
On particular religious occasions, the spirit is believed to descend to partake in celebration, a mark of honor and respect to past ancestries and blessings for a prosperous future.
Over the last two centuries, most Dayaks converted to Christianity which was introduced by European & American missionaries, and created a social bulwark against the spread of Islam. Relations, however in all religious groups are generally good. Despite the destruction of pagan religions in Europe by Christians, most of the people who try to conserve the Dayak’s religion are missionaries
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 meters long, usually located along a terraced at the river bank. At one side is a long communal platform, from which the individual households can be reached.
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. Headhunting was an important part of Dayak culture, there used to be a tradition of retaliation for old headhunts, which kept the practice alive.
Reports describe Dayak War parties with captured enemy heads. At various times, there have been massive coordinated raids in the interior, and throughout coastal Borneo. Metal-working is elaborately used for making mandaus ( machetes ). 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. The headhunting necessitated being able to draw the parang quickly.
For this purpose, the mandau is fairly short, which also better serves the purpose of trail cutting 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 the dresses are.
Under Indonesia’s transmigration program, settlers from densely-populated Java and Madura were encouraged to settle in the Kalimantan provinces, but their presence was, and still is, resented by Dayaks, Banjars and local Malays .
The large scale transmigration projects initiated by the Dutch and continued by the current national government, caused widespread breakdown in social and community cohesion during the late 20th Century. The systemic and violent attacks on Indonesian Madurese settlers, including mass executions of whole Madurese transmigration communities. Eventually, order was restored by the Indonesian Military but this was late in application. The Indonesian government have stopped the transmigration plan in 2001.