The Pagan Tribes of Borneo
by Charles Hose and William McDougall
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The lobe of the ear is perforated and distended to a loop some two inches in length, in which a brass ring is worn. Just above this loop a small hole through the shell is usually made, and from this a small skein of beads depends. Similar ear ornaments are worn by Kenyahs and some of the Klemantans, but not by Muruts, and by few individuals only among Punans and Sea Dayaks. Many of the latter wear a row of small brass rings inserted round the margin of the shell of each ear (Fig. 2).

Many of the men wear also bracelets of shell or hard wood.

Although the dress of the men is so uniform in essentials throughout the country, it gives considerable scope for the display of personal tastes, and the Sea Dayak especially delights in winding many yards of brilliantly coloured cloth about his waist, in brilliant coats and gorgeous turbans[32] and feathers, and other ornaments; by means of these he manages to make himself appear as a very dressy person in comparison with the sober Kayan and with most of the people of the remoter inland regions, who have little but scanty strips of bark-cloth about the loins.

The universal weapons of the country are sword and spear, and no man travels far from home without these and his oblong wooden shield. Some of the peoples are expert in the use of the blowpipe and poisoned dart. The blow-pipe and the recently introduced firearms are the only missile weapons; the bow is unknown save as a plaything for children,[33] and possibly in a few localities in the extreme north.[34]

The dress of the women is less uniform than that of the men. The Sea Dayak woman (Pls. 29 and 30) wears a short skirt of cotton thread woven in curious patterns of several colours, reaching from the waist almost to the knee; a long-sleeved jacket of the same material, and a corset consisting of many rings of rattan built up one above another to enclose the body from breast to thigh. Each rattan ring is sheathed in small rings of beaten brass. The corset is made to open partially or completely down the front, but is often worn continuously for long periods. She wears her hair tied in a knot at the back of her head.

The principal garment of the women of all the other peoples is a skirt of bark or cotton cloth, which is tied by a string a little below the level of the crest of the hip bone; it reaches almost to the ankle, but is open at the left side along its whole depth. It is thus a large apron rather than a skirt. When the woman is at work in the house or elsewhere, she tucks up the apron by drawing the front flap backwards between her legs, and tucking it tightly into the band behind, thus reducing it to the proportions and appearance of a small pair of bathing-drawers. Each woman possesses also a long-sleeved, long-bodied jacket of white cotton similar to that worn by the men; this coat is generally worn by both sexes when working in the fields or travelling in boats, chiefly as a protection against the rays of the sun. The women wear also a large mushroom-shaped hat similar to that worn by the men. With few exceptions all the women allow the hair to grow uncut and to fall naturally from the ridge of the cranium, confined only by a circular band of rattan or beadwork passing over the occiput and just above the eyebrows.

The principal ornaments of the women are necklaces and girdles of beads, earrings, and bracelets. A well-to-do Kayan woman may wear a large number of valuable beads (see Pls. 28 and 31). The bracelets are of ivory, and both forearms are sometimes completely sheathed in series of such bracelets. The ear-rings are the most distinctive feature of the Kayan woman's adornment. The perforated lobes of the ears are gradually drawn down during childhood and youth, until each lobe forms a slender loop which reaches to the collar-bone, or lower. Each loop bears several massive rings of copper (Pl. 20), whose combined weight is in some cases as much as two pounds.[35] Most of the Kenyah women also wear similar earrings, but these are usually lighter and more numerous, and the lobe is not so much distended. The women of many of the Klemantan tribes wear a large wooden disc in the distended lobe of each ear, and those of other Klemantan tribes wear a smaller wooden plug with a boss (Pl. 32). The children run naked up to the age of six or seven years, when they are dressed in the fashion of their parents.

On festive occasions both men and women put on as many of their ornaments as can be conveniently worn.

Deformation of the Head

Some of the Malanaus, a partially Mohammedan tribe of Klemantans, seated about the mouths of the Muka, Oya, and Bintulu rivers of Sarawak, have the curious custom of flattening the heads of the infants, chiefly the females. The flattening is effected at an early age, the process beginning generally within the first month after birth. It consists in applying pressure to the head by means of a simple apparatus for some fifteen minutes, more or less, on successive days, or at rather longer intervals. The application of the pressure for this brief space of time, on some ten to twenty occasions, seems to suffice to bring about the desired effect. The pressure is applied while the child sleeps, and is at once relaxed if the child wakes or cries. The apparatus, known as TADAL (see Fig. 3), consists of a stout flat bar of wood, some nine inches in length and three wide in its middle part. This wider middle part bears on one surface a soft pad for application to the infant's forehead. A [inverted T] strap of soft cloth is attached by its upper extremity to the middle of the upper edge of the wooden bar; and each end of its horizontal strip is continued by a pair of strings which pass through holes in the ends of the bar. The strings are brought together on the front of the bar at its middle and passed through the centre of a copper coin[36] or other hard disc. The bar is applied transversely to the forehead of the infant; the vertical strap runs back over the sagittal suture; the transverse strap is drawn tightly across the occiput, and the required degree of pressure is gradually applied by twisting the coin round and round on the front of the bar, and so pulling upon the strings which connect the ends of the bar on the forehead with the ends of the strap across the occiput (Pl. 33).

The effect produced is of course a flattening of brow and occiput and a broadening of the whole head. The motive seems to be the desire to enhance the beauty of the child by ensuring to it a moon-like face, which is the most admired form. The Malanaus seem to be by nature peculiarly round-headed; the question whether this is due to the effects of head-flattening practised for many generations, must be left to the investigations of the Neo-Lamarckians. They are also a peculiarly handsome people, and it seems more likely that, taking a pride in their good looks, they have, like so many other peoples, sought to enhance the beauty of their children by accentuating a racial peculiarity.


All the tribes except the Punans build houses of one type; but the size and proportions, the strength of the materials used, and the skill and care displayed in the work of construction, show wide differences. The houses of the Kayans are perhaps better and more solidly built than any others and may be taken as the type. Each house is built to accommodate many families; an average house may contain some forty to fifty, making up with children and slaves some two or three hundred persons; while some of the larger houses are built for as many as a hundred and twenty families, or some five to six hundred persons. The house is always close to a river, and it usually stands on the bank at a distance of 20 to 50 yards from the water, its length lying parallel to the course of the river. The plan of the house is a rectangle, of which the length generally much exceeds the width (Pl. 34).

Its roof is always a simple ridge extending the whole length of the house, and is made of shingles of BILIAN (ironwood) or other hard and durable kind of wood. The framework of the roof is supported at a height of some 25 to 30 feet from the ground on massive piles of ironwood, and the floor is supported by the same piles at a level some 7 or 8 feet below the cross-beams of the roof. The floor consists of cross-beams morticed to the piles, and of very large planks of hard wood laid upon them parallel to the length of the house. The projecting eaves of the roof come down to a level midway between that of the roof-beams and that of the floor, and the interval of some 4 to 5 feet between the eaves and the floor remains open along the whole length of the front of the house (I.E. the side facing the river), save for a low parapet which bounds the floor along its outer edge. This space serves to admit both light and air, and affords an easy view over the river to those sitting in the house. The length of the house is in some cases as much as 400 yards, but the average length is probably about 200 yards. The width of the floor varies from about 30 to 60 feet; the whole space between roof and floor is divided into two parts by a longitudinal wall of vertical planks, which runs the whole length of the house. This wall lies not quite in the middle line, but a little to the river side of it. Of the two longitudinal divisions of the house, that which adjoins the river is thus somewhat narrower than the other; it remains undivided in its whole length. The other and wider part is divided by transverse walls at intervals of some 25 or 30 feet, so as to form a single row of spacious chambers of approximately equal size. Each such chamber is the private apartment of one family; in it father, mother, daughters, young sons and female slaves, sleep and eat (Pl. 37). Within each chamber are usually several sleeping-places or alcoves more or less completely screened or walled off from the central space. The chamber contains a fireplace, generally merely a slab of clay in a wooden framework placed near the centre. The outside wall of this side of the house is carried up to meet the roof. The entrance of light and air and the egress of smoke are provided for by the elevation on a prop of one corner of a square section of the roof, marked out by a right-angled cut, of which one limb runs parallel to the outer wall, the other upwards from one extremity of the former. This aperture can be easily closed, E.G. during heavy rain, by removing the prop and allowing the flap to fall into its original position.

The front part of the house, which remains undivided, forms a single long gallery serving as a common antechamber to all the private rooms, each of which opens to it by a wooden door (Pls. 36, 38). It is in a sense, though roofed and raised some 20 feet above the ground, the village street, as well as a common living and reception room. Along the outer border of the floor runs a low platform on which the inmates sit on mats. One part of this, usually that opposite the chief's apartment in the middle of the house, is formed of several large slabs of hardwood (TAPANG or Koompassia), and is specially reserved for the reception of guests and for formal meetings. The platform is interrupted here and there by smaller platforms raised some 3 or 4 feet from the floor, which are the sleeping quarters assigned to the bachelors and male visitors. At intervals of some 30 or 40 feet throughout the gallery are fireplaces similar to those in the private chambers; on some of these fire constantly smoulders.

Over one of these fireplaces, generally one near the middle of the great gallery, is hung a row of human heads (Pl. 38), trophies obtained in war, together with a number of charms and objects used in various rites.[37]

Alongside the inner wall of the gallery stand the large wooden mortars used by the women in husking the PADI. Above these hang the winnowing trays and mats, and on this wall hang also various implements of common use — hats, paddles, fish-traps, and so forth.

The gallery is reached from the ground by several ladders, each of which consists of a notched beam sloping at an angle of about 45[degree], and furnished with a slender hand-rail. The more carefully made ladder is fashioned from a single log, but the wood is so cut as to leave a hand-rail projecting forwards a few inches on either side of the notched gully or trough in which the feet are placed. From the foot of each ladder a row of logs, notched and roughly squared, and laid end to end, forms a foot-way to the water's edge. In wet weather such a foot-way is a necessity, because pigs, fowls, and dogs, and in some cases goats, run freely beneath and around the house, and churn the surface of the ground into a thick layer of slippery mire.

Here and there along the front of the house are open platforms raised to the level of the floor, on which the PADI is exposed to the sun to be dried before being husked.

Under the house, among the piles on which it is raised, such boats as are not in daily use are stored. Round about the house, and especially on the space between it and the brink of the river, are numerous PADI barns (Pl. 40). Each of these, the storehouse of the grain harvested by one family, is a large wooden bin about 10 feet square, raised on piles some 7 feet from the ground. Each pile carries just below the level of the floor of the bin a large disc of wood horizontally disposed, and perforated at its centre by the pile; this serves to prevent rats and mice gaining access to the bin. The shingle roof of the bin is like that of the house, but the two ends are filled by sloping surfaces running up under the gables. There are generally also a few fruit trees and tobacco plants in the space cleared round about the house; and in the space between it and the river are usually some rudely carved wooden figures, around which rites and ceremonies are performed from time to time.

Kayan villages generally consist of several, in some cases as many as seven or eight, such houses of various lengths, grouped closely together. The favourite situation for such a village is a peninsula formed by a sharp bend of the river.

Of the houses built by the other peoples, those of the Kenyahs very closely resemble those of the Kayans. The Kenyah village frequently consists of a single long house (and with the Sea Dayaks this is invariably the case), and it is in many cases perched on a high steep bank immediately above the river. Some of the Klemantans also build houses little if at all inferior to those of the Kayans, and very similar to them in general plan. But in this as in all other respects the Klemantans exhibit great diversities, some of their houses being built in a comparatively flimsy manner, light timber and even bamboos being used, and the roof being made of leaves. The houses of the Muruts are small and low, and of poor construction.

The Sea Dayak's house differs from that of the Kayan more than any of the others. The general plan is the same; but the place of the few massive piles is taken by a much larger number of slender piles, which pass up to the roof through the gallery and chambers. Of the gallery only a narrow passageway alongside the main partition-wall is kept clear of piles and other obstructions. The floor is of split bamboo covered with coarse mats. An open platform at the level of the floor runs along the whole length of the open side of the house. There are no PADI barns about the house, the PADI being kept in bins in the roofs. The roof itself is low, giving little head space. The gallery of the house makes an impression of lack of space, very different to that made by the long wide gallery of a Kayan or Kenyah house.

Although the more solidly built houses, such as those of the Kayans, would be habitable for many generations, few of them are inhabited for more than fifteen or twenty years, and some are used for much shorter periods only. For one reason or another the village community decides to build itself a new house on a different and sometimes distant site, though the new site is usually in the same tributary river, or, if on the main river, within a few miles of the old one. The most frequent causes of removal are, first, using up of the soil in the immediate neighbourhood of the village, for they do not cultivate the same patch more than three or four times at intervals of several years; secondly, the occurrence of a fatal epidemic; thirdly, any run of bad luck or succession of evil omens; fourthly, the burning of the house, whether accidentally or in the course of an attack by enemies.

On removing to a new site the planks and the best of the timber of a well-built house are usually towed along the river to the spot chosen, and used in the construction of the new house.

After the houses the most important of the material possessions of the people are their boats. Each family possesses at least one small boat capable of carrying seven or eight persons, and used chiefly for going to and from the PADI fields, but also for fishing and short journeys of all kinds. In addition to these the community possesses several larger boats used for longer journeys, and generally at least one long war-boat, capable of carrying 50 to 100 men. Each boat, even one of the largest size, is hollowed from a single log, the freeboard being raised by lashing narrow planks to the edge of the hollowed log. In the middle of a large boat is a section, the freeboard of which is raised still higher, and which is covered by an arched roof of palm leaves. The boat is crossed at intervals of some three feet by seats formed of short planks, each supported at both ends by projections of the main timber, to which they are lashed with rattan. In travelling on the lower reaches of the rivers, the rowers sit two on each bench, side by side and facing the bow. On the upper reaches, where rapids abound, a deck is made by laying split bamboos along the length of the boat upon the benches, and the crew sits upon this deck in paddling, or stands upon it when poling the boat over rapids.

In addition to the clothes, houses, and boats, and the domestic animals mentioned above, and to the personal ornaments and weapons to be described in later chapters, the material possessions of the Kayans consist chiefly of baskets and mats.

The baskets are of various shapes and sizes, adapted to a variety of uses. The largest size holds about two bushels of PADI, and is chiefly used for transporting grain from the fields to the house (Fig. 4). It is almost cylindrical in shape, but rather wider at the upper end. Four strips of wood running down from near the upper edge project slightly below, forming short legs on which the basket stands. The upper end is closed by a detachable cap, which fits inside the upper lip of the basket. It is provided with a pair of shoulder straps, and a strap which is passed over the crown of the head. These straps are made of a single strip of tough beaten bark. One end of it is attached to the foot of the basket; a second attachment is made at the middle of the height, forming a loop for the one shoulder; the strip is then looped over to the corresponding point on the other side, forming the loop for the head, and then carried down to the foot of the basket on that side to form the loop for the other shoulder.

A smaller cylindrical basket, very neatly plaited of thin and very pliable strips of rattan, is used for carrying the few articles which a man takes with him in travelling — a little rice and tobacco, a spare waist cloth, a sleeping mat, perhaps a second mat of palm leaves used as a protection against rain, a roll of dried banana leaves for making cigarettes, perhaps a cap for wear in the house, and, not infrequently nowadays, a bright coloured handkerchief of Chinese silk. The lip of the basket is surrounded by a close set row of eyes through which a cord is passed. To this cord a net is attached, and is drawn together in the centre of the opening of the basket by a second cord, in order to confine its contents. This basket is provided with shoulder straps only.

In addition to these two principal baskets, each family has a number of smaller baskets of various shapes for storing their personal belongings, and for containing food in course of preparation (Fig. 5).

The mats are of many shapes and sizes. The largest are spread on the raised part of the floor, both of the gallery and of the private chambers, when a party sits down to eat or converse. Each individual has his own sleeping mat, and each family has a number of mats used for drying, husking, winnowing, and sieving the PADI.

The bamboo water-vessel consists of a section of the stem of the bamboo, closed at the lower end by the natural septum, the upper end having a lip or spout formed at the level of the succeeding septum. A short length of a branch remains projecting downwards to form a handle, by means of which the vessel can be conveniently suspended. These vessels are used also for carrying rice-spirit or BORAK; but this is stored in large jars of earthenware or china. The native jar of earthenware is ovoid in shape and holds about one gallon, but these are now largely superseded by jars made by the Chinese.

Each family possesses some dishes and platters of hardwood (Figs. 6 and 7), and generally a few china plates bought from traders; but a large leaf is the plate most commonly used.

Rice, the principal food, which forms the bulk of every meal, is boiled in an iron or brass pot with lip, handle, and lid, not unlike the old English cauldron; it has no legs, and is placed on a tripod of stones or suspended over the fire. This metal pot, which is obtained from the Chinese traders, has superseded the home-made pot of clay (Fig. 8) and the bamboo vessels in which the rice was cooked in former times. A larger wide stewpan is also used for cooking pork, vegetables, and fish. The Kayans smoke tobacco, which they cultivate in small quantities. It is generally smoked in the form of large cigarettes, the finely cut leaf being rolled in sheets of dried banana leaf. But it is also smoked in pipes, which are made in a variety of shapes, the bowl of hardwood, the stem of slender bamboo (Fig. 9). Sea Dayaks chew tobacco, but smoke little, being devoted to the chewing of betel nut.

In every house is a number of large brass gongs (TAWAK), which are used in various ceremonies and for signalling, and constitute also one of the best recognised standards of value and the most important form of currency. Besides these largest gongs, smaller ones of various shapes and sizes are kept and used on festive occasions (Pl. 45). All these gongs are obtained through traders from Bruni, China, and Java.

Beside the gongs a Kayan house generally contains, as the common property of the whole household, several long narrow drums (Fig. 10). Each is a hollow cylinder of wood, constricted about its middle, open at one end, and closed at the other with a sheet of deer-skin. This is stretched by means of slips of rattan attached to its edges, and carried back to a stout rattan ring woven about the constricted middle of the drum; the skin is tightened by inserting wedges under this ring.

In most houses two or three small brass swivel guns may be seen in the gallery, and a small stock of powder for their service is usually kept by the chief. They are sometimes discharged to salute a distinguished visitor, and formerly played some small part in repelling attacks. The domestic animals of the Kayans are fowls, goats, pigs, and dogs. The latter live in the house, the others run free beneath and around the house.

The material possessions of the other peoples differ little from those of the Kayans. Almost every Sea Dayak possesses, and keeps stored at the back of his private chamber, one or more large vases. These were formerly imported from China, but are now made by the Chinese of the towns in Borneo. The commonest of the highly prized jars are of plain brown brightly glazed earthenware, standing about three feet in height on a flat bottom (Pl. 48); each is ornamented with a Chinese dragon moulded in relief (BENAGA), or some scroll designs which, though very varied, go by the name of RUSA (=deer) and NINGKA. A Dayak will give from 200 to 400 dollars for such a jar. Rarer and still more highly prized is a jar similar to these, but wider, very highly glazed, and bare of all ornament save some obscure markings. Eight perforated "ears" project just below the lip, and serve for the attachment of a wooden or cloth cover. This jar occurs in two varieties, a dark green and a very dark brown, which are known respectively as GUSI and BERGIAU, the latter being the more valuable. Other smaller and less valued jars are the PANTAR and the ALAS. The jars of the kinds mentioned above are valued largely on account of their age; probably all of them were imported from China and Siam, some of them no doubt centuries ago. Besides these old jars there are now to be found in most of the Sea Dayak houses many jars of modern Chinese manufacture, some of which are very skilful imitations of the old types; and though the Dayak is a connoisseur in these matters, and can usually distinguish the new from the old, he purchases willingly the cheap modern imitations of the old, because they are readily mistaken by the casual observer for the more valuable varieties (Pl. 47).

A few large vases of Chinese porcelain, usually covered with elaborate designs in colour, are to be found in most of the houses of the other peoples (Pl. 47).


The Social System

The Kayans constitute a well-defined and homogeneous tribe or people. Although their villages are scattered over a wide area, the Kayan people everywhere speak the same language and follow the same customs, have the same traditions, beliefs, rites, and ceremonies. Such small differences as they present from place to place are hardly greater than those obtaining between the villagers of adjoining English counties. Although communication between the widely separated branches of the people is very slight and infrequent, yet all are bound together by a common sentiment for the tribal name, reputation, tradition, and customs. The chiefs keep in mind and hand down from generation to generation the history of the migrations of the principal branches of the tribe, the names and genealogies of the principal chiefs, and important incidents affecting any one branch. At least fifteen sub-tribes of Kayans, each bearing a distinctive name, are recognised.[38] The word UMA, which appears in the names of each group, means village or settlement, and it seems probable that these fifteen sub-tribes represent fifteen original Kayan villages which at some remote period, before the tribe became so widely scattered, may have contained the whole Kayan population. At the present time the people of each sub-tribe occupy several villages, which in most cases, but not in all, are within the basin of one river.

In spite of the community of tribal sentiment, which leads Kayans always to take the part of Kayans, and prevents the outbreak of any serious quarrels between Kayan villages, there exist no formal bonds between the various sub-tribes and villages. Each village is absolutely independent of all others, save in so far as custom and caution prescribe that, before undertaking any important affair (such as a removal of the village or a warlike expedition), the chief will seek the advice, and, if necessary, the co-operation of the chiefs of neighbouring Kayan villages. The people of neighbouring villages, especially the families of the chiefs, are also bound together by many ties of kinship; for intermarriage is frequent.

As was said above, a Kayan village almost invariably consists of several long houses. Each house is ruled by a chief; but one such chief is recognised as the head-chief of the village.

The minor and purely domestic affairs of each house are settled by the house-chief, but all important matters of general interest are brought before the village-chief. In the former category fall disputes as to ownership of domestic animals and plants, questions of compensation for injury or loss of borrowed boats, nets, or other articles, of marriage and divorce, and minor personal injuries, moral or physical. The matters to be settled by the head-chief sitting in council with the subordinate chiefs are those affecting the whole village, questions of war and peace and of removal, disputes between houses, trials for murder or serious personal injuries.

The degree of authority of the chiefs and the nature and degree of the penalties imposed by them are prescribed in a general way by custom, though as regards the former much depends upon the personal qualities of each chief, and as regards the latter much is left to his discretion. The punishments imposed are generally fines, so many TAWAKS (gongs), PARANGS (swords) or spears, or other articles of personal property. On the whole the chief plays the part of an arbitrator and mediator, awarding compensation to the injured party, rather than that of a judge. In the case of offences against the whole house, a fine is imposed; and the articles of the required value are placed under the charge of the chief, who holds them on behalf of the community, and uses them in the making of payments or presents in return for services rendered to the whole community.

The chief also is responsible for the proper observation of the omens and for the regulation of MALAN (tabu) affecting the whole house; and, as we shall see, he takes the leading part in social ceremonies and in most of the religious rites collectively performed by the village. He is regarded by other chiefs as responsible for the behaviour of his people, and above all, in war he is responsible for both strategy and tactics and the general conduct of operations.

For the maintenance of his authority and the enforcement of his commands the chief relies upon the force of public opinion, which, so long as he is capable and just, will always support him, and will bring severe moral pressure to bear upon any member of the household who hesitates to submit.

In return for his labours on behalf of the household or village the Kayan chief gains little or nothing in the shape of material reward. He may receive a little voluntary assistance in the cultivation of his field; in travelling by boat he is accorded the place of honour and ease in the middle of the boat, and he is not expected to help in its propulsion. His principal rewards are the social precedence and deference accorded him and the satisfaction found in the exercise of authority.

If the people of a house or village are gravely dissatisfied with the conduct of their chief, they will retire to their PADI-fields, building temporary houses there. If many take this course, a new long house will be built and a new chief elected to rule over it, while the old chief remains in the old house with a reduced following, sometimes consisting only of his near relatives.

The office of chief is rather elective than hereditary, but the operation of the elective principle is affected by a strong bias in favour of the most capable son of the late chief; so in practice a chief is generally succeeded by one of his sons. An elderly chief will sometimes voluntarily abdicate in favour of a son. If a chief dies, leaving no son of mature age, some elderly man of good standing and capacity will be elected to the chieftainship, generally by agreement arrived at by many informal discussions during the weeks following the death. If thereafter a son of the old chief showed himself a capable man as he grew up, he would be held to have a strong claim on the chieftainship at the next vacancy. If the new chief at his death left also a mature and capable son, there might be two claimants, each supported by a strong party; the issue of such a state of affairs would probably be the division of the house or village, by the departure of one claimant with his party to build a new village. In such a case the seceding party would carry away with them their share of the timbers of the old house, together with all their personal property.

The Kenyahs form a less homogeneous and clearly defined tribe than the Kayans; yet in the main their social organisation is very similar to that of the Kayans, although, as regards physical characters and language as well as some customs, they present closer affinities with other peoples than with the Kayans, especially with the Klemantans. The Kenyah tribe also comprises a number of named branches, though these are less clearly defined than the sub-tribes of the Kayan people. Each branch is generally named after the river on the banks of which its villages are situated, or were situated at some comparatively recent time of which the memory is preserved. In many cases a single village adopts the name of some tributary stream near the mouth of which it is situated, and the people speak of themselves by this name. Thus it seems clear that the named branches of the Kenyah tribe are nothing more than local groups formed in the course of the periodical migrations, and named after the localities they have occupied.[39]

The foregoing description of the relations of a Kayan chief to his people applies in the main to the Kenyah chief. But among the Kenyahs the position of the chief is one of greater authority and consideration than among the Kayans. The people voluntarily work for their chief both in his private and public capacities, obeying his commands cheerfully, and accepting his decisions with more deference than is accorded by the Kayans. The chief in return shows himself more generous and paternal towards his people, interesting himself more intimately in their individual affairs. Hence the Kenyah chief stands out more prominently as leader and representative of his people, and the cohesion of the whole community is stronger. The chief owes his great influence over his people in large measure to his training, for, while still a youth, the son or the nephew of a chief is accustomed to responsibility by being sent in charge of small bodies of followers upon missions to distant villages, to gather or convey information, or to investigate disturbing rumours. He is also frequently called upon to speak on public occasions, and thus early becomes a practised orator.

Among Klemantans, Muruts, and Sea Dayaks each house recognises a headman or chief; but he has little authority (more perhaps among the first of these peoples than among the other two). He acts as arbitrator in household disputes, but in too many cases his impartiality is not above suspicion, save where custom rigidly limits his preference.

Among both Kayans and Kenyahs three social strata are clearly distinguishable and are recognised by the people themselves in each village. The upper class is constituted by the family of the chief and his near relatives, his aunts and uncles, brothers, sisters, and cousins, and their children. These upper-class families are generally in easier circumstances than the others, thanks to the possession of property such as brass ware, valuable beads, caves in which the swift builds its edible nest, slaves, and a supply of all the other material possessions larger in quantity and superior in quality to those of the middle- and lower-class families.

The man of the upper class can generally be distinguished at a glance by his superior bearing and manners, by the neatness and cleanliness of his person, his more valuable weapons, and personal ornaments, as well as by greater regularity of features. The woman of the upper class also exhibits to the eye similar marks of her superior birth and breeding. The tatuing of her skin is more finely executed, greater care is taken with the elongation of the lobe of the ear, so that the social status of the woman is indicated by the length of the lobe. Her dress and person are cleaner, and generally better cared for, and her skin is fairer than that of other women, owing no doubt to her having been less exposed to the sun.

The men of the upper class work in the PADI-fields and bear their share of all the labours of the village; but they are able to cultivate larger areas than others owing to their possession of slaves, who, although they are expected to grow a supply of PADI for their own use, assist in the cultivation of their master's fields. For the upper-class women, also, the labours of the field and the house are rendered less severe by the assistance of female slaves, although they bear a part both in the weeding of the fields, in the harvesting, and in the preparation of food in the house.

The chief's room, which is usually about twice as long as others, is usually in the middle of the house; and those of the other upper-class families, which also may be larger than the other rooms, adjoin it on either side.

In all social gatherings, and in the performance of public rites and ceremonies, the men of the upper class are accorded leading parts, and they usually group themselves about the chief. Social intercourse is freer and more intimate among the people of the upper class than between them and the rest of the household.

The upper class is relatively more numerous in the Kenyah than in the Kayan houses, and more clearly distinguishable by address and bearing.

The middle class comprises the majority of the people of a house in most cases. They may enjoy all the forms of property, though generally their possessions are of smaller extent and value, and they seldom possess slaves. Their voices carry less weight in public affairs; but among this class are generally a few men of exceptional capacity or experience whose advice and co-operation are specially valued by the chief. Among this class, too, are usually a few men in each house on whom devolve, often hereditarily, special duties implying special skill or knowledge, E.G. the working of iron at the forge, the making of boats, the catching of souls, the finding of camphor, the observation and determination of the seasons. All such special occupations are sources of profit, though only the last of these enables a man to dispense with the cultivation of PADI.

The lower class is made up of slaves captured in war and of their descendants, and for this reason its members are of very varied physical type. An unmarried slave of either sex lives with, and is treated almost as a member of, the family of his or her master, eating and in some cases sleeping in the family room. Slaves are allowed to marry, their children becoming the property of their masters. Some slave-families are allowed to acquire a room in the house, and they then begin to acquire a less dependent position; and though they still retain the status of slaves, and are spoken of as "slaves-outside-the-room," the master generally finds it impossible to command their services beyond a very limited extent, and in some cases will voluntarily resign his rights over the family. But in this case the family continues to belong to the lower class.

The members of each of these classes marry in nearly all cases within their own class. The marriages of the young people of the upper class are carefully regulated. Although they are allowed to choose their partners according to the inscrutable dictates of personal affinities, their choice is limited by their elders and the authority of the chief. Many of them marry members of neighbouring villages, while the other classes marry within their own village.

A youth of the upper class, becoming fond of some girl of the middle class, and not being allowed to marry her (although this is occasionally permitted), will live with her for a year or two. Then, when the time for his marriage arrives (it having perhaps been postponed for some years after being arranged, owing to evil omens, or to lack of means or of house accommodation), he may separate from his mistress, leaving in her care any children born of their union, and perhaps making over to her some property — as public opinion demands in such cases. She may and usually will marry subsequently a man of her own class, but the children born of her irregular union may claim and may be accorded some of the privileges of their father's class. In this way there is formed in most villages a class of persons of ambiguous status, debarred from full membership in the upper class by the bar-sinister. Such persons tend to become wholly identified with the upper or middle class according to the degrees of their personal merits.

Marriages are sometimes contracted between persons of the middle and slave classes. In the case of a young man marrying a slave woman, the owners of the woman will endeavour to persuade him to live with her in their room, when he becomes a subordinate member of their household. If they succeed in this they will claim as their property half the children born to the couple. On the other hand, if the man insists on establishing himself in possession of a room, he may succeed in practically emancipating his wife, perhaps making some compensation to her owners in the shape of personal services or brass ware. In this case the children of the couple would be regarded as freeborn. It is generally possible for an energetic slave to buy his freedom.

Less frequent is the marriage of a slave man with a free woman of the middle class. In this case the man will generally manage to secure his emancipation and to establish himself as master of a room, and to merge himself in the middle class. In the case of marriage between two slaves, they continue to live in the rooms of their owners, spending by arrangement periods of two or three years alternately as members of the two households. The children born of such a slave-couple are divided as they grow up between the owners of their parents.

On the whole the slaves are treated with so much kindness and consideration that they have little to complain of, and most of them seem to have little desire to be freed. A capable slave may become the confidant and companion of his master, and in this way may attain a position of considerable influence in the village. A young slave is commonly addressed by his master and mistress as "My Child." A slave is seldom beaten or subjected to any punishment save scolding, and he bears his part freely in the life of the family, sharing in its labours and its recreations, its ill or its good fortunes. Nothing in the dress or appearance of the slave distinguishes him from the other members of the village.

The Family

Very few men have more than one wife. Occasionally a chief whose wife has borne him no children during some years of married life, or has found the labours of entertaining his guests beyond her strength, will with her consent, or even at her request, take a second younger wife. In such a case each wife has her own sleeping apartment within the chief's large chamber, and the younger wife is expected to defer to the older one, and to help her in the work of the house and of the field. The second wife would be chosen of rather lower social standing than the first wife, who in virtue of this fact maintains her ascendancy more easily. A third wife is probably unknown; public opinion does not easily condone a second wife, and would hardly tolerate a third. In spite of the presence of slave women in the houses, concubinage is not recognised or tolerated.

The choice of a wife is not restricted by the existence of any law or custom prescribing marriage without or within any defined group; that is to say, exogamous and endogamous groups do not exist. Incest is regarded very seriously, and the forbidden degrees of kinship are clearly defined. They are very similar to those recognised among ourselves. A man may under no circumstances marry or have sexual relations with his sister, mother, daughter, father's or mother's sister or half sister, his brother's or sister's daughter; and in the case of those women who stand to him in any of these relations in virtue of adoption, the prohibitions and severe penalties are if possible even more strictly enforced. First cousins may marry, but such marriages are not regarded with favour, and certain special ceremonies are necessitated; and it seems to be the general opinion that such marriages are not likely to prove happy. Many young men of the upper class marry girls of the same class belonging to neighbouring villages of their own people, aid in some cases this choice falls on a girl of a village of some other tribe. A marriage of the latter kind is often encouraged by the chiefs and elder people, in order to strengthen or to restore friendly relations between the villages.

The initiative is taken in nearly all cases by the youth. He begins by paying attentions somewhat furtively to the girl who attracts his fancy. He will often be found passing the evening in her company in her parents' room. There he will display his skill with the KELURI, or the Jew's harp, or sing the favourite love-song of the people, varying the words to suit the occasion. If the girl looks with favour on his advances, she manages to make the fact known to him. Politeness demands that in any case he shall be supplied by the women with lighted cigarettes. If the girl wishes him to stay, she gives him a cigarette tied in a peculiar manner, namely by winding the strip which confines its sheath of dried banana leaf close to the narrow mouth-piece; whereas on all other occasions this strip is wound about the middle of the cigarette. The young man thus encouraged will repeat his visits. If his suit makes progress, he may hope that the fair one will draw out with a pair of brass tweezers the hairs of his eyebrows and lashes, while he reclines on his back with his head in her lap. If these hairs are very few, the girl will remark that some one else has been pulling them out, an imputation which he repudiates. Or he complains of a headache, and she administers scalp-massage by winding tufts of hair about her knuckles and sharply tugging them. When the courtship has advanced to this stage, the girl may attract her suitor to the room by playing on the Jew's harp, with which she claims to be able to speak to him — presumably the language of the heart. The youth thus encouraged may presume to remain beside his sweetheart till early morning, or to return to her side when the old people have retired. When the affair has reached this stage, it becomes necessary to secure the public recognition which constitutes the relation a formal betrothal. The man charges some elderly friend of either sex, in many cases his father or mother, to inform the chief of his desire. The latter expresses a surprise which is not always genuine; and, if the match is a suitable one, he contents himself with giving a little friendly advice. But if he is aware of any objections to the match he will point them out, and though he will seldom forbid it in direct terms, he will know how to cause the marriage to be postponed.

If the chief and parents favour the match, the young man presents a brass gong or a valuable bead to the girl's family as pledge of his sincerity. This is returned to him if for any reason beyond his control the match is broken off. The marriage may take place with very little delay; but during the interval between betrothal and marriage the omens are anxiously observed and consulted. All accidents affecting any members of the village are regarded as of evil omen, the more so the more nearly the betrothed parties are concerned in them. The cries of birds and deer are important; those heard about the house are likely to be bad omens, and it is sought to compensate for these by sending a man skilled in augury to seek good omens in the jungle, such as the whistle of the Trogan and of the spider-hunter, and the flight of the hawk from right to left high up in the sky. If the omens are persistently and predominantly bad, the marriage is put off for a year, and after the next harvest fresh omens are sought. The man is encouraged in the meantime to absent himself from the village, in the hope that he may form some other attachment. But if he remains true and favourable omens are obtained, the marriage is celebrated if possible at the close of the harvest. If the marriage takes place at any other time, the feast will be postponed to the end of the following harvest.[40] After the marriage the man lives with his wife in the room of his father-in-law for one, two, or at most three years. During this time he works in the fields of his father-in-law and generally helps in the support of the household, showing great deference towards his wife's parents. Before the end of the third year of marriage, the young couple will acquire for themselves a room in the house and village of the husband, in which they set up housekeeping on their own account. In addition to these personal services rendered to the parents of the bride, the man or his father and other relatives give to the girl's parents at the time of the marriage various articles which are valuable in proportion to the social standing of the parties, and which are generally appropriated by the girl's parents.[41]

Divorce is rare but not unknown among the Kayans. The principal grounds of divorce are misconduct, desertion, incompatibility of temper and family quarrels; or a couple may terminate their state of wedlock by mutual consent on payment of a moderate fine to the chief. Such separation by mutual consent is occasioned not infrequently by the sterility of the marriage, especially if the couple fails to obtain a child for adoption; the parties hope to procure offspring by taking new partners; for the desire for children and pride and joy in the possession of them are strongly felt by all. The husband of a sterile wife may leave the house for a long period, living in the jungle and visiting other houses, in the hope that his wife may divorce him on the ground of desertion, or give him ground for divorcing her. On discovery of misconduct on the woman's part the husband will usually divorce her; the man then retains all property accumulated since the marriage, and the children are divided between the parents. The co-respondent and respondent are fined by the chief, and half the amount of the fine goes to the injured husband. Misconduct on the part of the man must be flagrant before it constitutes a sufficient ground for his divorce by his wife. In this case the same rules are followed. Among the Kayans the divorce is not infrequently followed by a reconciliation brought about by the intervention of friends; the parties then come together again without further ceremony. There is little formality about the divorce procedure. In the main it takes the form of separation by mutual consent and the condonation of the irregularity by the community on the payment of a fine to the chief.


Adoption is by no means uncommon. The desire for children, especially male children, is general and strong; but sterile marriages seem to be known among all the peoples and are common among the Kenyahs. When a woman has remained infertile for some years after her marriage, the couple usually seek to adopt one or more children. They generally prefer the child of a relative, but may take any child, even a captive or a slave child, whose parents are willing to resign all rights in it. A child is often taken over from parents oppressed by poverty, in many cases some article of value or a supply of PADI being given in exchange. Not infrequently the parents wish to have the child returned to them when their affairs take a turn for the better, owing to a good harvest or some stroke of luck, and this is a frequent cause of dissensions. Usually the adopted child takes in every way the position of a child born to the parents.

Some of the Klemantans (Barawans and Lelaks in the Baram) practise a curious symbolic ceremony on the adoption of a child. When a couple has arranged to adopt a child, both man and wife observe for some weeks before the ceremony all the prohibitions usually observed during the later months of pregnancy. Many of these prohibitions may be described in general terms by saying that they imply abstention from every action that may suggest difficulty or delay in delivery; E.G. the hand must not be thrust into any narrow hole to pull anything out of it; no fixing of things with wooden pegs must be done; there must be no lingering on the threshold on entering or leaving a room. When the appointed day arrives, the woman sits in her room propped up and with a cloth round her, in the attitude commonly adopted during delivery. The child is pushed forward from behind between the woman's legs, and, if it is a young child, it is put to the breast and encouraged to suck. Later it receives a new name.

It is very difficult to obtain admission that a particular child has been adopted and is not the actual offspring of the parents; and this seems to be due, not so much to any desire to conceal the facts as to the completeness of the adoption, the parents coming to regard the child as so entirely their own that it is difficult to find words which will express the difference between the adopted child and the offspring. This is especially the case if the woman has actually suckled the child.

Proper Names

The child remains nameless during the first few years, and is spoken of as UKAT if a boy, OWING if a girl, both of which seem to be best translated as Thingumybob; among the Sea Dayaks ULAT (the little grub) is the name commonly used. It is felt that to give the child a name while its hold of life is still feeble is undesirable, because the name would tend to draw the attention of evil spirits to it. During its third or fourth year it is given a name at the same time as a number of other children of the house.[42] The name is chosen with much deliberation, the eldest son and daughter usually receiving the names of a grandfather and grandmother respectively. Male and female names are distinct. The name first given to any person is rarely carried through life; it is usually changed after any severe illness or serious accident, in order that the evil influences that have pursued him may fail to recognise him under the new name; thus the first or infant name of Tama Bulan was Lujah. After bearing it a few years he went through a serious illness, on account of which his name was changed to Wang. Among the Klemantans it is usual under these circumstances to name the child after some offensive object, E.G. TAI (dung), in order to render it inconspicuous, and thus withdraw it from the attention of malign powers. After the naming of a couple's first child, the parents are always addressed as father and mother of the child; E.G. if the child's name is OBONG, her father becomes known as TAMA OBONG, her mother as INAI OBONG, and their original names are disused and almost forgotten,[43] unless needed to distinguish the parents from other persons of the same name, when the old names are appended to the new; thus, Tama Obong Jau, if Jau was the original name of Tama Obong; and thus Tama Bulan received this name on the naming of his first child, Bulan (the moon), and when it is wished to distinguish him in conversation from other fathers of the moon he is called Tama Bulan Wang. If the eldest child OBONG dies, the father, Tama Obong Jau, becomes OYONG JAU; if one of his younger children dies, he becomes AKAM JAU; if his wife dies, he becomes ABAN JAU; if his brother died, he would be called YAT JAU; and if his sister, HAWAN JAU; and if two of these relatives are dead, these titles are used indifferently; but the deaths of wife and children are predominant over other occasions for the change of name. An elderly man who has no children receives the title LINGO, and a woman, the title APA prefixed to his or her former name. A widow is called BALU. The names of father and mother are never assumed by the children, and their deaths do not occasion any change of name, except the adoption of the title OYAU on the loss of the father, and ILUN on the loss of the mother. These titles would be used only until the man became a father. When a man becomes a grandfather his title is LAKI (E.G. LAKI JAU), and this title supersedes all others. A child addresses, and speaks of, his father as TAMAN, and his mother as INAI or TINAN, and all four grandparents as POI. The parent commonly addresses the child, even when adult, as ANAK, or uses his proper name. A father's brother is addressed as AMAI, but this title is used also as a term of respect in addressing any older man not related in any degree, even though he be of a different tribe or race. They use the word INAI for aunt as well as for mother, and some have adopted the Malay term MA MANAKAN for aunt proper. The same is true of the words for nephew and niece — the Malay term ANAK MANAKAN being used for both.

The terms used to denote degrees of kinship are few, and are used in a very elastic manner. The term of widest connotation is PARIN IGAT, which is equivalent to our cousin used in the wider or Scotch sense; it is applied to all blood relatives of the same generation, and is sometimes used in a metaphorical sense much as we use the term brother. There are no words corresponding to our words son and daughter, ANAK meaning merely child of either sex. There are no words corresponding to brother and sister; both are spoken of as PARIN, but this word is often used as a title of endearment in addressing or speaking of a friend of either sex of the same social standing and age as the speaker. The children of the same parents speak of themselves collectively as PANAK; this term also is sometimes used loosely and metaphorically. A step-father is TAMAN DONG; father-in-law is TAMAN DIVAN; forefather is SIPUN, a term used of any male or female ancestor more remote than the grandparents; but these are merely descriptive and not terms of address. A man of the upper class not uncommonly has a favourite companion of the middle class, who accompanies him everywhere and renders him assistance and service, and shares his fortunes (FIDUS ACHATES in short); him he addresses as BAKIS, and the title is used reciprocally. A title reciprocally used by those who are very dear friends, especially by those who have enjoyed the favours of the same fair one, is TOYONG (or among the Sea Dayaks — IMPRIAN).

This list includes all the important Kayan terms used to denote personal relations and kinship, so far as we know; and we think it very improbable that any have escaped us. There seem to be no secret names, except in so far as names discarded on account of misfortune are not willingly recalled or communicated; but a child's name is seldom used, and adults also seem to avoid calling on one another by their proper names, especially when in the jungle, the title alone, such as OYONG, or ABAN being commonly used; apparently owing to some vaguely conceived risk of directing to the individual named the attentions of malevolent powers.[44]

The foregoing account of the social organisation of the Kayans applies equally well to the Kenyahs, except that some of the titles used are different. The Klemantans and Muruts, too, present few important differences except that the power of the chiefs is decidedly less, and the distinction of the social strata less clearly marked, and slaves are less numerous. The Sea Dayak social organisation is also similar in most of its features. The most important of the differences presented by it are the following: — Polygamy is not allowed, and occurs only illicitly. Both parties are fined when the facts are discovered. Divorce is very common and easily obtained; the marriage relation, being surrounded with much less solemnity, is more easily entered into and dissolved. Infidelity and mutual agreement are the common occasions of divorce. Either party can readily secure his or her freedom by payment of a small fine. There are both men and women who have married many times; a tenth husband or wife is not unknown; and a marriage may be dissolved within a week of its consummation.

The Sea Dayak, like all the other peoples, regards incest very seriously, and the forbidden degrees of kinship are well understood and very similar to those of Kayans.

A Sea Dayak village consists in almost every case of a single house, but such houses are generally grouped within easy reach of one another. Very few slaves are to be found in their houses, since the Ibans usually take the heads of all their conquered enemies rather than make slaves of them.

Inheritance of Property

At a man's death his property is divided between his widow and children. But in order to prevent the disputes, which often arise over the division of inheritance, an old man may divide his property before his death. The widow becomes the head of the room, though a married son or daughter or several unmarried children may share it with her. She inherits all or most of the household utensils. Such things as gongs and other brass ware, weapons, war-coats, and boats, are divided equally among the sons, the eldest perhaps getting a little more than the others. The girls divide the old beads, cloth, bead-boxes, and various trifles. The male slaves go to the sons, the female slaves to the daughters. Bird's nest caves and bee trees might be divided or shared among all the children.

It happens not infrequently that one son or daughter, remaining unmarried, continues to live in the household of the parents and to look after them in their old age. To such a one some valuable article, such as a string of old beads or costly jar, is usually bequeathed.

Among the Sea Dayaks the old jars, which constitute the chief part of a man's wealth, are distributed among both sons and daughters; if the jars are too few for equal distribution, they are jointly owned until one can buy out the shares of his co-owners.

The members of a Kayan household are bound together, not merely by their material circumstances, such as their shelter under a common roof and their participation in common labours, and not merely by the moral bonds such as kinship and their allegiance to one chief and loyalty to one another, but also by more subtle ties, of which the most important is their sharing in the protection and warning afforded to the whole house by the omen-birds or by the higher powers served by these. For omens are observed for the whole household, and hold good only for those who live under the one roof, This spiritual unity of the household is jealously guarded. Occasionally one family may wish for some reason, such as bad dreams or much sickness, to withdraw from the house. If the rest of the household is unwilling to remove to a new house, they will oppose such withdrawal, and, if the man insists on separating, a fine is imposed on him, and he is compelled to leave undisturbed the roof and all the main structure of his section of the house; though the room would be left unoccupied. Conversely Kayans are very unwilling to admit any family to become members of the household. They never or seldom add sections to a house which has once been completed; and young married couples must live in their parents' rooms, until the whole household removes and builds a new house. Occasionally a remnant of a household which has been broken up by the attack of enemies is sheltered by a friendly house; but the newcomers are lodged in the gallery only until the time comes for building a new house, when they may be allowed to build rooms for themselves, and to become incorporated in the household. Another plan sometimes adopted is to build a small house for the newcomers closely adjoining the main house, but joined to it only by an open platform.

Appendix to Chapter V

Tables showing Kinship of the Kenyahs of Long Tikan (Tama Bulan's house) in the Baram District of Sarawak.

We have made out tables showing the kinship of the inhabitants of several Kenyah long houses and of one Sea Dayak house, following the example and method of Dr. W. H. R. Rivers. These tables have not revealed to us indications of any peculiar system of kinship; but we think it worth while to reproduce one of them as an appendix to the foregoing chapter. The table includes all the inhabitants of the house living in the year 1899, as well as those deceased members of whom we are able to obtain trustworthy information. The arrangement is by door or room, but since on marriage some shifting from one room to another takes place, some individuals appear under two doors.

In these tables the names of males are printed in ordinary type, those of females in italics; and the following signs are used: —

= for married to.

= indicates the children of a married couple.

implies that the individual below whose name it occurs reached adult life, but died without issue.

implies a child dead at early age, sex and name unknown.

[male] implies male child not yet named.

[female] implies female child not yet named

? individual of unknown name.

(1) Sidi Karang's Door.

Sidi Karang = SIDI PENG (A Long Paku Kenyah). Baiai Gau = ULAU. x

Other Members of the Room.

Tama Aping Layong = BALU BUON. Lutang (nephew of Sidi Karang). SUKUN.

Mang = BORU TELLUN. Luat = ? Lim. o Ukang. o Lesun = BALU ULAN. Usun. Luyok = OYONG TURING. (See Door 6.) Linjau. o ITANG WING = Lara Wan.

(2) Ajong's Door.

Mawa Ontong (Long Belukun Kenyah) = ? (Long Belukun Kenyah woman). BALU LARA. Anjong = NGINO (Long Tikan). [male] [female] x x

(3) Mawa Jungan's Door.

Mawa Hungan (see Imoh's door) = MAWA UJONG. x x x x x x x Weak-minded. Kading. [female]

(4) Imoh's Door.

Jilo = ? Imoh = TINA APING POYONG, (sister of NGINO, see Door 2) formerly = Tama Aping Lalo. (see Door 5). Lirim.

(5) Pallavo's Door.

Maga = ?

PALLAVO (unmarried at 60).

Tugan (weak-minded slave). o

Tama Aping Lalo = (1st wife) TINA APING POYONG (see Door 4) = (2nd wife) USUN (Likan Kenyah).

Anie Tapa (weak-minded) = ? Tigiling (weak-minded).

(6) Oyong Turing's Door.

Seling = ? Sidi Ontong = ? OYONG LUJOK = Oyong Turing. x Maga.

BALU ATING = ? Laro Libo (Long Palutan Kenyah) = LARA ULAU. ASONG. Sapo. Lalo. LUNGA. USUN. SINGIM. x x x x

(7) Balu Kran's Door.

Lingan (a Likan Kenyah) = ? Tama Aping Mawa = BALU KRAN (see Door 8). LAUONG. Siggau. Oyu Apa. [female] weak-minded.

(8) Balu Uding's Door.

Sawa Taja = ? BALU KRAN. BALU UDING = Mawa Imang. Oyu Suo. Luat. o

KENING (unmarried sister of Mawa Imang).

(9) Aban Moun's Door.

Kamang. Aban Moun = TELUN. Tama Sook Bilong = TINA SOOK BUNGAN. Sook (weak-minded). x unnamed. x unnamed. Tama Aping Salo = ? (Long Belukun Kenyah). x unnamed. x unnamed. TINA APING ODING.

(10) Aban Magi's Door.

Aban Magi (see Door 13) = TINA APING KRAN. Anie Liran.

(11) Lara Wan's Door.

Mawa Liva = (1st wife) TINA WAN = (2nd wife) UTAN URING Lara Wan = LARA LANAN (Long Paku). Jalong. Katan. JULUT. Jawing. Kuleh. Balu Mening. o

(12) Tama An Lahing's Door.

Batan = TINA LAHING. Tama an Lahing = TINA AN PIKA. ODING = Balari. x x ULAU. SILALANG. x BALU TATAN = Wan Tula (son of Balaban). Tago. Ballan. x KENING. Tama Owing Laang = NOWING UBONG (daughter of Aban Imang, an Uma Poh Kayan). MENING. MUJAN. x

(13) Oyu Irang's Door.

Sorang (Long Tikan) = SINJAI (Long Tikan) (sister of Aban Magi, see Door 10; and Lara Libo, see Door 6). x x Oyu Irang. Pakat. Kupit.

Other members in the Room.

BALU TUBONG (sister of Sorang) = ? (a Long Tikan man).

ABING URAI (sister of Balu Tubong) = Aban Madan (Long Paku).

(14) Balu Usan's Door.

BALU USAN (Long Palutan) = Aban Siliwa (Long Palutan). x Oyu Sijau.

BALU MENO (niece of Balu Usan) = Aban Meggang (Long Peku). Lirong. o ULAN. [female]

(15) Balu Buah's Door.

Tegging = BALU MUJAN. BALU BUAH = Lara Lalu (Long Belukun Kenyah). x x x x UTAN URING. Abing Liran = LOONG LAKING. UTAI USUN. BAYIN. Apa. Baja. [female] [female]

(16) Oyong Kalang's Door.

Oyong Kalang (Long Palutan Kenyah) = OYONG NONG (Long Palutan Kenyah). x x Sago = ? INO. Angin. Ngau. Uya.

(17) Sidi Jau's Door.

Tama Owing Lawai (Lepu Tau) = TINA OWING KLING (sister of Tama Bulan Wang). Sidi Jau = PAYAH LAH (Uma Poh Kayan). Kuleh. Libut. Balari = UDING. x x

Other People in the Room.

TINA APING UDING (Long Palutan) = Tama Aping Toloi (Long Tikan). POYONG. ULAU. LOGAN.

BALA KEYONG = Aban Batu. Oyu Baung.

Oyu Lalu = ? LUJOK.

Aban Jok (Murut x Kayan).

KANGIN (sister to Mang, see Door 1).

Aban Oyu (Murut) = BALU MONG.

(18) Aban Tingan's Door.

Aban Langat (Punan) = TINA OYU (Punan). Aban Tingan = BELVIUN (2nd wife). Kalang. Paran. MUJAN. x

Brothers. Tama Lim Balari = ? Balari. Livang. Laki Ludop (see Door 19) = OAN BUNGAN (Long Belukun). Tama Bulan (see Door 19). Aban Tingan = PAYA (1st wife, daughter of Paran Libut, his 1st cousin). Wan. LAN = Balan (Long Belukun Kenyah) Aping. o JULAN. Madang. Tina Owing Kling (see Door 17).


Aban Muda (Murut) = NUING LABAI Nawam. URAI. SUAI. Nurang.

Abo = BALU VANG. Oyu Biti.

Jipong. [female]

Oan Igan, child of Mapit (Long Palutan), brother of Jilo (see Imoh's room).

Apoi Lujah } brothers.

ULAU (Kalabit).


(19) Tama Bulan's Door.

Laki Ludop = BUNGAN (see Door 18). Tama Bulan Wang = (1st wife) PENG = (2nd wife) PAYAH WAN (Uma Poh Kayan). BULAN = Luja (Uma Plian Kayan). Balari and Livang (1st cousins of Tama Bulan, adopted by him as sons). OBONG = Wan (son of Aban Tingan her 1st cousin). LEVAN. Linjau.



For all the peoples of the interior of Borneo, the Punans and Malanaus excepted, the rice grown by themselves is the principal food-stuff. Throughout the year, except during the few weeks when the jungle fruit is most abundant, rice forms the bulk of every meal. In years of bad harvests, when the supply is deficient, the place of rice has to be filled as well as may be with wild sago, cultivated maize, tapioca, and sweet potatoes. All these are used, and the last three, as well as pumpkins, bananas, cucumbers, millet, pineapples, chilis, are regularly grown in small quantities by most of the peoples. But all these together are regarded as making but a poor substitute for rice. The cultivator has to contend with many difficulties, for in the moist hot climate weeds grow apace, and the fields, being closely surrounded by virgin forest, are liable to the attacks of pests of many kinds. Hence the processes by which the annual crop of PADI is obtained demand the best efforts and care of all the people of each village. The plough is unknown save to the Dusuns, a branch of the Murut people in North Borneo, who have learnt its use from Chinese immigrants. The Kalabits and some of the coastwise Klemantans who live in alluvial areas have learnt, probably through intercourse with the Philippine Islanders or the inhabitants of Indo-China, to prepare the land for the PADI seed by leading buffaloes to and fro across it while it lies covered with water. The Kalabits lead the water into their fields from the streams descending from the hills.

With these exceptions the preparation of the land is everywhere very crude, consisting in the felling of the timber and undergrowth, and in burning it as completely as possible, so that its ashes enrich the soil. After a single crop has been grown and gathered on land so cleared, the weeds grow up very thickly, and there is, of course, in the following year no possibility of repeating the dressing of wood ashes in the same way. Hence it is the universal practice to allow the land to lie fallow for at least two years, after a single crop has been raised, while crops are raised from other lands. During the fallow period the jungle grows up so rapidly and thickly that by the third year the weeds have almost died out, choked by the larger growths. The same land is then prepared again by felling the young jungle and burning it as before, and a crop is again raised from it. When a piece of land has been prepared and cropped in this way some three or four times, at intervals of two, three, or four years, the crop obtainable from it is so inferior in quantity that the people usually undertake the severe labour of felling and burning a patch of virgin forest, rather than continue to make use of the old areas. In this way a large village uses up in the course of some twelve or fifteen years all the land suitable for cultivation within a convenient distance, I.E. within a radius of some three miles. When this state of affairs results, the, village is moved to a new site, chosen chiefly with an eye to the abundance of land suitable for the cultivation of the PADI crop. After ten or more years the villagers will return, and the house or houses will be reconstructed on the old site or one adjacent to it, if no circumstances arise to tempt them to migrate to a more distant country, and if the course of their life on the old site has run smoothly, without misfortunes such as much sickness, conflagrations, or serious attacks by other villages. After this interval the land is regarded as being almost as good as the virgin forest land, and has the advantage that the jungle on it can be more easily felled. But since no crop equals that obtainable from virgin soil, it is customary to include at least a small area of it in the operations of each year.

Each family cultivates its own patch of land, selecting it by arrangement with other families, and works as large an area as the strength and number of the roomhold permits. A hillside sloping down to the bank of a river or navigable stream is considered the choicest area for cultivation, partly because of the efficient drainage, partly because the felling is easier on the slope, and because the stream affords easy access to the field.

When an area has been chosen, the men of the roomhold first cut down the undergrowth of a V-shaped area, whose apex points up the hill, and whose base lies on the river bank. This done, they call in the help of other men of the house, usually relatives who are engaged in preparing adjacent areas, and all set to work to fell the large trees. In the clearing of virgin forest, when very large trees, many of which have at their bases immense buttresses, have to be felled, a platform of light poles is built around each of these giants to the height of about 15 feet. Two men standing upon this rude platform on opposite sides of the stem attack it with their small springy-hafted axes (Fig. 11) above the level of the buttresses (Pl. 55). One man cuts a deep notch on the side facing up the hill, the other cuts a similar notch about a foot lower down on the opposite side, each cutting almost to the centre of the stem. This operation is accomplished in a surprisingly short time, perhaps thirty minutes in the case of a stem two to three feet in diameter. When all the large trees within the V-shaped area have been cut in this way, all the workers and any women, children, or dogs who may be present are called out of the patch, and one or two big trees, carefully selected to form the apex of the phalanx, are then cut so as to fall down the hill.[45] In their fall these giants throw down the trees standing immediately below them on the hillside; these, falling in turn against their neighbours, bring them down. And so, like an avalanche of widening sweep, the huge disturbance propagates itself with a thunderous roar and increasing momentum downwards over the whole of the prepared area; while puny man looks on at the awful work of his hand and brain not unmoved, but dancing and shouting in wild triumphant delight.

The fallen timber must now lie some weeks before it can be burnt. This period is mainly devoted to making and repairing the implements to be used in cultivating, harvesting, and storing the crop, and also in sowing at the earliest possible moment small patches of early or rapidly growing PADI together with a little maize, sugar-cane, some Sweet potatoes, and tapioca. The patches thus sown generally lie adjacent to one another. If the weather is fine, the fallen timber becomes dry enough to burn well after one month. If much rain falls it is necessary to wait longer in the hope of drier weather. Choosing a windy day, they set fire to all the adjacent patches after shouting out warnings to all persons in the fields. While the burning goes on, the men "whistle for the wind," or rather blow for it, rattling their tongues in their mouths. Some of the older men make lengthy orations shouted into the air, adjuring the wind to blow strongly and so fan the fire. The fire, if successful, burns furiously for a few hours and then smoulders for some days, after which little of the timber remains but ashes and the charred stumps of the bigger trees. If the burning is very incomplete, it is necessary to make stacks of the lighter timbers that remain, and to fire these again. As soon as the ashes are cool, sowing begins. Men and women work together; the men go in front making holes with wooden dibbles about six inches apart; the women follow, carrying hung round the neck small baskets of PADI seed (Fig. 12), which they throw into the holes, three or four seeds to each hole. No care is taken to fill in the holes with earth. By this time the relatively dry season, which lasts only some two months, is at an end, and copious rains cause the seed to shoot above the ground a few days after the sowing. Several varieties of PADI are in common use, some more suitable for the hillsides, some for the marshy lands. On any one patch three or four kinds are usually sown according to the elevation and slope of the part of the area. Since the rates of growth of the several kinds are different, the sowings are so timed that the whole area ripens as nearly as possible at the same moment, in order that the birds and other pests may not have the opportunity of turning their whole force upon the several parts in turn. The men now build on each patch a small hut, which is occupied by most of the able-bodied members of the roomhold until harvest is completed, some fourteen to twenty weeks after the sowing of the PADI, according to the variety of grain sown. They erect contrivances for scaring away the birds; they stick bamboos about eight feet in length upright in the ground every 20 to 30 yards. Between the upper ends of these, rattans are tied, connecting together all the bamboos on each area of about one acre. The field of one roomhold is generally about four acres in extent; there will thus be four groups of bamboos, each of which can be agitated by pulling on a single rattan. From each such group a rattan passes to the hut, and some person, generally a woman or child, is told off to tug at these rattans in turn at short intervals. Upon the rattans between the bamboos are hung various articles calculated to make a noise or to flap to and fro when the system is set in motion. Sometimes the rattan by which the system of poles is set in movement is tied to the upper end of a tall sapling, one end of which is thrust deeply into the mud of the floor of the river. The current then keeps the sapling and with it the system of bamboos swaying and jerking to and fro. The Kayans admit that they have learnt this last "dodge" from the Klemantans. The watcher remains in the hut all day long, while his companions are at work in the field; he varies the monotony of his task by shouting and beating with a pair of mallets on a hollow wooden cylinder. The watcher is relieved from time to time, but the watch is maintained continuously day and night from the time that the corn is about two feet above the ground until it is all gathered in. In this way they strive with partial success to keep off the wild pigs, monkeys, deer, and, as the corn ripens, the rice-sparrow (MUNIA).

When the hut and the pest-scaring system have been erected, the men proceed to provide further protection against wild pig and deer by running a rude fence round a number of closely adjacent patches of growing corn. The fence, some three to four feet high, is made by lashing to poles thrust vertically into the ground and to convenient trees and stumps, bamboos or saplings as horizontal bars, five or six in vertical row. When this is completed the men take no further part until the harvest, except perhaps to lend a hand occasionally with the weeding. This is the time generally chosen by them for long excursions into the jungle in search of rattans, rubber, camphor, and for warlike expeditions or the paying of distant visits.

It is the duty of the women to prevent the PADI being choked by weeds. The women of each room will go over each patch completely at least twice, at an interval of about one month, hoeing down the weeds with a short-handled hoe; the hoe consists of a flat blade projecting at right angles from the iron haft (Fig. 13). The latter is bent downwards at a right angle just above the blade, in a plane perpendicular to that of the blade, and its other end is prolonged by a short wooden handle, into the end of which it is thrust. The woman stoops to the work, hoeing carefully round each PADI plant, by holding the hoe in the right hand and striking the blade downwards and towards her toes with a dragging action. In working over the patch in this careful fashion some three weeks are consumed. In the intervals the women gather the small crops of early PADI, pumpkin, cucumbers, and so forth, spending several weeks together on the farm, sleeping in the hut. In a good season this is the happiest time of the year; both men and women take the keenest interest and pleasure in the growth of the crop.

During the time when the grain is formed but not yet ripe, the people live upon the green corn, which they prepare by gathering the heads and beating them flat. These are not cooked, but merely dried in the sun, and though they need much mastication they are considered a delicacy.

During the time of the ripening of the corn a spirit of gaiety and joyful anticipation prevails. It is a favourite time for courtship, and many marriages are arranged.

The harvest is the most important event of the year. Men, women, and children, all take part. The rice-sparrows congregate in thousands as the grain begins to ripen, and the noisy efforts of the people fail to keep them at a distance. Therefore the people walk through the crop gathering all ripe ears. The operation is performed with a small rude knife-blade mounted in a wooden handle along its whole length (Figs. 14, 15). This is held in the hollow of the right hand, the ends of a short cross bar projecting between the first and second fingers and between thumb and first finger. The thumb seizes and presses the head of each blade of corn against the edge of the knife. The cars thus cropped are thrown into a basket slung round the neck. As soon as a large basket has been filled by the reapers, its contents are spread out on mats on a platform before the hut. After an exposure of two or three days, the grain is separated from the ears by stamping upon them with bare feet. The separated grain passes through the meshes of the coarse mat on to a finer mat beneath. The grain is then further dried by exposure to the sun. When the whole crop has been gathered, threshed, and dried in this way, it is transported in the large shoulder baskets amid much rejoicing and merry-making to the PADI barns adjoining the house, and the harvest festival begins.

The elaborate operations on the BADI FARM that we have described might seem to a materialist to be sufficient to secure a good harvest; but this is not the view taken by the Kayans, or any other of the cultivators of Borneo. In their opinion all these material labours would be of little avail if not supplemented at every stage by the minute observance of a variety of rites. The PADI has life or soul, or vitality, and is subject to sickness and to many vaguely conceived influences, both good and bad.

Determination of the Seasons

The determination of the time for sowing the seed is a matter of so great importance that in each village this duty is entrusted to a man who makes it his profession to observe the signs of the seasons. This work is so exacting that he is not expected to cultivate a crop of PADI for himself and family, but is furnished with all the PADI he needs by contributions from all the other members of the village.

It is essential to determine the approach of the short dry season, in order that in the course of it the timber may be felled and burned. In Borneo, lying as it does upon the equator, the revolution of the year is marked by no very striking changes of weather, temperature, or of vegetation. In fact, the only constant and striking evidences of the passage of the months are the alternations of the north-east and the south-west monsoons. The former blows from October to March, the latter from April to September, the transitions being marked by variable winds. The relatively dry season sets in with the south-west monsoon, and lasts about two months; but in some years the rainfall during this season is hardly less abundant than during the rest of the year.

The "clerk of the weather" (he has no official title, though the great importance of his function secures him general respect) has no knowledge of the number of days in the year, and does not count their passage. He is aware that the lunar month has twenty-eight days, but he knows that the dry season does not recur after any given number of completed months, and therefore keeps no record of the lunar months. He relies almost entirely upon observation of the slight changes of the sun's altitude. His observations are made by the help of an instrument closely resembling the ancient Greek gnomon, known as TUKAR DO or ASO DO (Pl. 60).

A straight cylindrical pole of hardwood is fixed vertically in the ground; it is carefully adjusted with the aid of plumb lines, and the possibility of its sinking deeper into the earth is prevented by passing its lower end through a hole in a board laid horizontally on the ground, its surface flush with the surface of the ground which is carefully smoothed. The pole is provided with a shoulder which rests upon this board. The upper end of the pole is generally carved in the form of a human figure. The carving may be very elaborate, or the figure may be indicated only by a few notches. The length of the pole from the collar to its upper extremity is made equal to the span from tip to tip of outstretched arms of its maker, plus the length of his span from tip of the thumb to that of the first finger. This pole (ASO DO) stands on a cleared space before or behind the house, and is surrounded by a strong fence; the area within the fence, some three or four yards in diameter, being made as level and smooth as possible. The clerk of the weather has a neatly worked flat stick, on which lengths are marked off by notches; these lengths are measured by laying the stick along the radial side of the left arm, the butt end against the anterior fold of the armpit. A notch is then cut at each of the following positions: one notch about one inch from the butt end, a second opposite the middle of the upper arm, one opposite the elbow, one opposite the bend of the wrist, one at the first interphalangeal joint, one at the finger-tip. The other side of the rod bears a larger number of notches, of which the most distal marks the greatest length of the mid-day shadow, the next one the length of the mid-day shadow three days after it has begun to shorten, the next the length of the shadow after three more days' shortening, and so on. The mid-day shadow is, of course, the minimal length reached in the course of the day, and the marks denoting the changes in length of the shadow are arrived at, purely empirically, by marking off the length of the mid-day shadow every three days.

The clerk of the weather measures the shadow of the pole at mid-day whenever the sun is unclouded. As the shadow grows shorter after reaching its maximal length, he observes it with special care, and announces to the village that the time for preparing the land is near at hand. When the shadow reaches the notch made opposite the middle of the arm, the best time for sowing the grain is considered to have arrived; the land is therefore cleared, and made ready before this time arrives. Sowing at times when the shadow reaches other notches is held to involve various disadvantages, such as liability to more than the usual number of pests — monkeys, insects, rats, or sparrows. In the case of each successful harvest, the date of the sowing is recorded by driving a peg of ironwood into the ground at the point denoting the length of the mid-day shadow at that date. The weather prophet has other marks and notches whose meaning is known only to himself; his procedures are surrounded with mystery and kept something of a secret, even from the chief as well as from all the rest of the village, and his advice is always followed.

The method of observing the sun described above is universal among the Kenyahs, but some of the Kayans practise a different method. A hole is made in the roof of the weather-prophet's chamber in the long-house, and the altitude of the mid-day sun and its direction, north or south of the meridian, are observed by measuring along a plank fixed on the floor the distance of the patch of sunlight (falling through the hole on to the plank) from the point vertically below the hole. The horizontal position of the plank is secured by placing upon it smooth spherical stones and noting any inclination to roll. The sunbeam which enters this hole is called KLEPUT TOH (=the blow-pipe of the spirit).

Some of the Klemantans practise a third method to determine when the time for sowing is at hand, using a bamboo some feet in length which bears a mark at a level which is empirically determined. The bamboo is filled with water while in the vertical position. It is then tilted till it points towards a certain star, when of course some water escapes. After it has been restored to the vertical, the level of the surface of the remaining water is noted. The coincidence of this level with the mark mentioned above indicates that the time for sowing is come.

The Sea Dayaks are guided by the observation of the position of the Pleiades.

The appropriate season having been determined, it is necessary to secure good omens before the preparation of the land can be begun. A pig and a fowl having been sacrificed in the usual way, and their blood sprinkled upon the wooden figures before the house,[46] two men are sent out in a boat, and where they first see a spider-hunter they land on the bank and go through the customary procedures. The calls and appearances of various birds and of the MUNTJAC are of chief importance. Some of these are good, some bad in various degrees. When a preponderance of favourable omens has been observed, the men return to the house to announce their success. They will wait two whole days if necessary to secure a favourable result. During their absence a strict MALAN or LALI (tabu) lies upon the house; no stranger may enter it, and the people sit quietly in the house performing only the most necessary tasks. The announcement of the nature of the omens observed is made to the chief in the presence of a deeply interested throng of both sexes. If the omens observed are considered to be bad, or of doubtful import, the men go out for a second period; but if they are favourable, the women of each room perform the private rites over their stores of seed PADI, which are kept in their rooms. After the pros and cons have been fully discussed, the chief names the day for the beginning of the clearing operations.

At the beginning of the sowing the house is again subject to MALAN for one day. During the growth of the PADI various charms and superstitious practices are brought into use to promote its growth and health, and to keep the pests from it. The PADI charms are a miscellaneous collection or bundle of small articles, such as curious pebbles and bits of wood, pigs' tusks of unusual size or shape, beads, feathers, crystals of quartz. Kayans as a rule object to pebbles and stones as charms. Such charms are generally acquired in the first instance through indications afforded by dreams, and are handed down from mother to daughter. Such charms contained in a basket are usually kept in a PADI barn, from which they are taken to the field by the woman and waved over it, usually with a live fowl in the hand, while she addresses the PADI seed in some such terms as the following: "May you have a good stem and a good top, let all parts of you grow in harmony, etc. etc." Then she rapidly repeats a long customary formula of exhortation to the pests, saying, "O rats, run away down river, don't trouble us; O sparrows and noxious insects, go feed on the PADI of the people down river." If the pests are very persistent, the woman may kill a fowl and scatter its blood over the growing PADI, while she charges the pests to disappear, and calls upon LAKI IVONG (the god of harvests) to drive them out.

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