The Pagan Tribes of Borneo
Charles Hose and William McDougall

Part 8 out of 11

Those who are accustomed to all the complex comforts and resources of
civilisation, and to whom all these resources hardly suffice to make
tolerable the responsibility and labour of the rearing of a family,
can hardly fail to be filled with wonder at the thought of these gentle
savages bearing and rearing large families of healthy well-mannered
children in the damp jungle, without so much as a permanent shelter
above their heads. The rude shelter of boughs and leaves, which is
their only house, is perhaps made a little more private than usual for
the benefit of the labouring woman. The pregnant woman goes on with
her work up to the moment of labour and resumes it almost immediately
afterwards. She at once becomes responsible for the care of the
infant. The only special treatment after childbirth is to sit with the
back close to a fire, so as to heat it as much as can be borne. The
delivery is sometimes aided by tightly binding the body above the
gravid uterus in order, it would seem, to prevent any retrogression of
the process. While the mother goes about her work in camp, the infant
is usually suspended in a sling of bark-cloth from a bent sapling or
branch, an arrangement which enables the mother to rock and so soothe
the child by means of an occasional push. When travelling or working
in the jungle the mother carries the infant slung upon her back,
either in a bark-cloth or a specially constructed cradle of plaited
rattan such as is used by the Kayans. The infant is suckled from one
to two years, and then takes to the ordinary diet of boiled wild sago,
varied with other animal and vegetable products of the jungle.

The children begin to help in the family work at a very early age. They
are disciplined largely by frequent warnings against dangers, actual
and suppositious, of which they remain acutely conscious throughout
life. This discipline no doubt contributes largely to induce the air
and the attitude of timid alertness which are so characteristic of the
Punan. Harmony and mutual help are the rule within the family circle,
as well as throughout the larger community; the men generally treat
their wives and children with all kindness, and the women perform
their duties cheerfully and faithfully.

The religious beliefs and practices of the Punans are similar to
those of the Kayans, but are less elaborated. They observe a simpler
system of omens, of which the behaviour and calls of lizards and
grasshoppers and of the civet cat (ARCTOGALE) are the chief. They
pray to Bali Penyalong, who seems to be the principal object of
their trust. This being is probably conceived anthropomorphically,
but his human qualities are not so clearly marked as in the case of
the gods of the settled tribes. They make no images in human form,
and we do not know that Bali Penyalong is supposed by them to have
a wife. The only image used in rites is the wooden image of the
crocodile, which is carried from place to place with every change of
camp. In communicating with the omen-creatures, fire and the frayed
sticks are used in much the same way as by the Kayans. Their rites
involve no animal sacrifices, and they do not look for guidance or
answer to prayer in the entrails of animals. It seems probable that
the Punans in each region have absorbed some of their religious and
superstitious notions from the settled tribes of the same region;
for in each region the Punan beliefs are different, showing more
or less affinity to those of the settled tribes. It is an obscure
question whether all their religious belief has been thus absorbed
from more cultured neighbours, or whether the Punans represent in this
and other respects the perpetuation (perhaps with some degeneration
or impoverishment) of a more primitive culture once common to the
ancestors of all, or the greater part of, the tribes of Borneo.[175]
The fact that the principal divinity recognised by them bears the same
name (Bali Penyalong) as the chief god of the Kenyahs is compatible
with either view.

Beside Bali Penyalong the Punans are aware of the existence of other
divinities, which, however, are very obscurely conceived and seldom
approached with prayer or rite. As regards the land of shades and
the journey thither, Punan beliefs are closely similar to those of
Kenyahs and some of the Klemantans. Their account of the journey of
the dead includes the passage of a river guarded by a great fish and a
hornbill (see Chap. XIV.). But they practice no burial and no funeral
rites. As soon as a man dies in any camp, the whole community moves
on to a new camp, leaving his body under one of their rude shelters,
covered only with a few leaves and branches.

Their view of the life after death seems to involve no system of
retribution and to be wellnigh devoid of moral significance. Their
religious beliefs probably influence their conduct less strongly than
do those of the Kayans; for among the latter such beliefs certainly
make strongly for social conduct, I.E. for obedience to the chiefs
and for observance of custom and public opinion; but in the Punan
community the conditions of life are so simple and so nearly in harmony
with the impulses of the natural man that temptations to wrong-doing
are few and weak; external sanctions of conduct, therefore, are but
little needed and but little operative.

Danger assails the Punan on every side and at all times, hence
alertness, energy, and courage are the prime virtues; courage
is rated highest, and a woman looks especially for courage in her
husband. But though courageous and active, Punans are not pugnacious;
as was said above, they rarely or never fight against one another,
and the nomadic groups of each region maintain friendly relations
with one another. Within each group harmony and mutual helpfulness
is the rule; each shares with all members of the group whatever
food, whether vegetable or animal, he may procure by skill or good
fortune. On returning to camp with a piece of game, a Punan throws
it down in the midst and it is treated as common property. If he has
slain a large pig or deer, too heavy for him to bring in unaided, he
returns to camp and modestly keeps silence over his achievement until
some question as to his luck is put to him; then he remarks that he
has left some small piece of game in the jungle, a mere trifle. Three
or four men will then set out and, following the path he has marked
by bending down twigs on his way back to camp, will find the game
and bring it in. If a present of tobacco is made to one member of
a group of Punans, the whole mass is divided by one of them into as
many heaps as there are members of the band present; and then each
of them, men and women alike, takes one heap for his or her own use,
the one who divided the mass taking the heap left by the rest.

In spite of their shyness and timidity, they respond readily to
kind treatment. They are never seen on the rivers, as they have
no boats and cannot easily be persuaded to venture a trip in a
boat. It is possible to make many expeditions through the jungle
without getting any glimpse of them. One of us (C. H.) had lived in
the Baram district six years before succeeding in seeing a single
Punan. The history of his first meeting with Punans may serve to
illustrate their timidity, caution, and good feeling. On making a
long hunting trip on the slopes of Mount Dulit, he took with him a
Sebop who was familiar with Punans and their language. For some days
no trace of them was seen; but one morning freshly made footprints
were observed round about the camp. The following night a cleft stick
was set up at some twenty paces from the camp with a large cake of
tobacco in the cleft, and on the stick a mark was carved which would
be understood by the Punans as implying that they were at liberty to
take the tobacco. This is a method of opening communications and trade
with them well known to the Klemantans. In the morning the tobacco had
disappeared, and fresh foot prints showed that its disappearance was
due to human agency. The following night this procedure was repeated,
and in the course of the day Punan shouts were heard, coming from a
distance of some hundreds of yards. The interpreter was sent out with
instructions to parley and, if possible, to persuade the Punans to come
into camp. Presently he returned with two shy but curious strangers,
who squatted at some distance and were gradually encouraged to come to
close quarters. After staying a few minutes and accepting presents of
tobacco and cloth, they made off. On the following day they returned
with eight male companions, bringing a monkey, a hornbill, and a rare
bird, all killed with their poisoned darts; and they enquired how
much rubber they should bring in return for the tobacco. They were
told that no return was expected, but, understanding that animals of
all sorts were being collected, they attached themselves to the party,
lent their unmatched skill to adding to the collections, and brought
in many rare specimens that now repose safely in the Natural History
Museum at South Kensington. They soon gained confidence and took up
their sleeping quarters under the raised floor of the rough hut; and,
when after some weeks the time for parting came, they voluntarily
took a prominent part in carrying down the collections to the boats,
and went away well satisfied with the simple presents they received.

Punans never build boats or travel on the water of their own initiative
and agency. In fact they dislike to come out from the shade of the
forest on to a cleared space or the stony bed of the river. They are
very conservative in spite of their intercourse with more advanced
tribes, and they harbour many irrational prejudices. They entertain
a particular aversion to the crocodile, an aversion strongly tinged
with awe. They will not kill it or any one of their omen-beasts. They
are very shy of whatever is unfamiliar. Many of them will not eat
salt or rice when opportunity offers.

The medicine men or DAYONGS of the Punans are distinguished for
their knowledge and skill, and are in much request among the other
tribes for the catching of souls and the extraction of pains and
disease. They are therefore fairly numerous; but, as among the other
peoples, the calling is a highly specialised one, though not one which
occupies a man's whole time or excuses him from the usual labours of
his community. Their methods do not differ widely from those of the
Kayan and Kenyah DAYONGS.

The Punan has great faith in charms, especially for bringing good luck
in hunting. He usually carries, tied to his quiver, a bundle of small
objects which have forcibly attracted his attention for any reason,
E.G. a large quartz crystal, a strangely shaped tusk or tooth or
pebble, etc., and this bundle of charms is dipped in the blood of
the animals that fall to his blow-pipe.

As regards dress and weapons the Punan differs little from his
neighbours. A scanty waist-cloth of home-made bark-cloth, or equally
scanty skirt for the woman, strings of small beads round wrists or
ankles or both, numbers of slender bands of plaited palm-fibre below
the knees and about the wrists, and sometimes a strip of cloth round
the head, make up his costume for all occasions.

All his belongings are such as can easily be transported. He carries
a sword, a small knife, a blow-pipe with spear-blade attached, and a
small axe with long narrow blade for working camphor out of the heart
of the camphor-tree. Besides these essential tools and weapons, which
he constantly carries, the family possesses sago-mallets and sieves,
dishes and spoons or spatulas of hard wood, and tongs of bamboo for
eating sago,[176] a few iron pots,[177] large baskets for carrying
on the back, a few mats of plaited rattan, and small bamboo boxes.

These are the sum of the worldly goods of a Punan family, and it would,
we suppose, be difficult to find another people who combine so great
a poverty in material possessions with so high a level of contentment
and decent orderly active living.

Although his material possessions are so few, the Punan is not capable
of fashioning all of them by his own independent efforts. All his
metal tools he obtains from the Kayans (or other tribes) who are his
patrons. But everything else he makes with his own hands. The long
blow-pipe of polished hard-wood, which is his favourite weapon, he
makes by the same methods and as well as the Kayans. But the iron rod
which he uses in the process of boring the wood he cannot make. This
illustrates his intimate dependence on other tribes, and seems to
imply that the blow-pipe, at least in the highly finished form in
which it is now used, cannot have been an independent achievement
of the Punans. They are especially skilful in the plaiting of rattan
strips to make baskets, mats, and sieves. They do little wood-carving,
but carve some pretty handles for knives and decorative pieces for
the sword-sheaths from the bones of the gibbon and deer. They are
expert also in making bamboo pipes with which to imitate the calls
of the deer and of some of the birds.

Hunting, tracking, and trapping game are the principal and favourite
pursuits of the men; they display much ingenuity in these pursuits
and attain a wonderful skill in the interpretation of the signs of the
jungle. For example, a Punan is generally able to read from the tracks
left in the jungle by the passage of a party of men, the number of the
party, and much other information about it. They are expert scouts,
and, when their neighbourhood is invaded by any party whose intentions
are not clearly pacific, they will follow them for many days, keeping
them under close observation while remaining completely hidden.

The Punan has few recreations. His highest artistic achievement
is in song. His principal musical instrument is a simple harp made
from a length of thick bamboo (Fig. 86); from the surface of this
six longitudinal strips are detached throughout the length of a
section of twenty inches or more, but retain at both ends their
natural attachments. Each strip is raised from the surface by a pair
of small wooden bridges, and is tuned by adjusting the interval
between these. The only other musical instrument is a very simple
"harmonica." A series of strips of hard-wood, slightly hollowed and
adjusted in length, are laid across the shins of the operator, who
beats upon them with two sticks. But the finest songs are sung without
accompaniment and are of the nature of dramatic recitals in the manner
of a somewhat monotonous and melancholy recitative. To hear a wild
Punan, standing in the midst of a solemn circle lit only by a few
torches which hardly seem to avail to keep back the vast darkness of
the sleeping jungle, recite with dramatic gesture the adventures of
a departing soul on its way to the land of shades, is an experience
which makes a deep impression, one not devoid of aesthetic quality.

In dancing, the Punan attains only a very modest level. The men dance
upon a narrow plank (for the good reason that they have nothing else
to dance upon); and the exhibition is one of skilful balancing on this
restricted base while executing a variety of turning movements and
postures. The women dance in groups with very restricted movements
of the feet, and some monotonous swaying movements of the arms and
body. The men also imitate the movements of monkeys and of the hornbill
and the various strange sounds made by the latter.

The most striking evidence of the low cultural standing of the Punan
is the fact that he cannot count beyond three (the words are JA,
DUA, TELO); all larger numbers are for him merely many (PINA). Yet,
although in culture he stands far below all the settled agricultural
tribes, there is no sufficient reason for assuming him to be innately
inferior to them in any considerable degree, whether morally or
intellectually. Any such assumption is rendered untenable by the fact
that many Punans have quickly assimilated the mode of life and general
culture of the other tribes; and there can be no doubt, we think, that
many of the tribes that we have classed as Klemantan and Kenyah are
very closely related to the Punans, and may properly be regarded as
Punans that have adopted Kayan or Malay culture some generations ago.


Moral and Intellectual Peculiarities

In this chapter we propose to bring together a number of observations
which have found no place in foregoing chapters but which will throw
further light on the moral and intellectual status of the pagan tribes.

We have seen that among the Kayans the immediate sanction of all
actions and of judgments of approval and disapproval is custom, and
that the sanction of custom is generally supported by the fear of
the TOH and of the harm they may inflict upon the whole house. The
principle of collective or communal responsibility of the household,
which is thus recognised in face of the spiritual powers, as well
as in face of other communities, gives every man an interest in
the good behaviour of his fellows, and at the same time develops
in him the sense of obligation towards his community. The small
size of each community, its separation and clear demarcation by its
residence under a single roof, its subordination to a single chief,
and its perpetual conflict and rivalry with other neighbouring
communities of similar constitution, all these circumstances also
make strongly for the development in each of its members of a strong
collective consciousness, that is to say, of a clear consciousness
of the community and of his place within it and a strong sentiment of
attachment to it. The attachment of each individual to his community is
also greatly strengthened by the fact that it is hardly possible for
him to leave it, even if he would. For he could not hope to maintain
himself alone, or as the head of an isolated family, against the
hostile forces, natural and human, that would threaten him; and
it would be very difficult for him to gain admittance to any other

It is only when we consider these facts that we can understand how
smoothly the internal life of the community generally runs, how few
serious offences are committed, how few are the quarrels, and how few
the instances of insubordination towards the chief, and how tact and
good sense can rule the house without inflicting any other punishment
than fines and compensatory payments.

And yet, when all these circumstances have been taken into account,
the orderly behaviour of a Kayan community must be in part regarded as
evidence of the native superiority of character or disposition of the
Kayans. For though the Sea Dayaks, Klemantans, and Muruts, live under
very similar conditions, they do not attain the same high level of
social or moral conduct. Among the Muruts there is much drunkenness
and consequent disorder, and the same is true in a less degree of
the Sea Dayaks; among them and some of the Klemantan tribes quarrels
within the house are of frequent occurrence, generally over disputed
ownership of land, crops, fruit-trees, or other property. And these
quarrels are not easily composed by the chiefs. Such quarrels not
infrequently lead to the splitting of a community, or to the migration
of the whole house with the exception of one troublesome member and
his family, who are left in inglorious isolation in the old house.

But the higher level of conduct of the Kayans is in most respects
rivalled by that of the Kenyahs, and some importance must therefore be
attributed to the one prominent feature of their social organisation
which is peculiar to these two peoples, namely a clearly marked
stratification into three social strata between which but little
intermarriage takes place. This stratification undoubtedly makes
for a higher level of conduct throughout the communities in which it
obtains; for the members of the higher or chiefly class are brought
up with a keen sense of their responsibility towards the community,
and their example and authority do much to maintain the standards of
conduct of the middle and lower classes.

We have said that almost all offences are punished by fines only. Of
the few offences which are felt to require a heavier punishment,
the one most seriously regarded is incest. For this offence, which is
held to bring grave peril to the whole house, especially the danger of
starvation through failure of the PADI crop, two punishments have been
customary. If the guilt of the culprits is perfectly clear, they are
taken to some open spot on the river-bank at some distance from the
house. There they are thrown together upon the ground and a sharpened
bamboo stake is driven through their bodies, so that they remain pinned
to the earth. The bamboo, taking root and growing luxuriantly on this
spot, remains as a warning to all who pass by; and, needless to say,
the spot is looked on with horror and shunned by all men. The other
method of punishment is to shut up the offenders in a strong wicker
cage and to throw them into the river. This method is resorted to as
a substitute for the former one, owing to the difficulty of getting
any one to play the part of executioner and to drive in the stake,
for this involves the shedding of the blood of the community.

The kind of incest most commonly committed is the connection of
a man with an adopted daughter, and (possibly on account of this
frequency) this is the kind which is most strongly reprobated. It
is obvious also that this form of incest requires a specially strong
check in any community in which the adoption of children is a common
practice. For, in the absence of severe penalties for this form of
incest, a man might be tempted to adopt female children in order to
use them as concubines. We find support for this view of the ground of
the especially severe censure on incest of this form in the fact that
intercourse between a youth and his sister-by-adoption (or VICE VERSA)
is not regarded as incest, and the relation is not regarded as any bar
to marriage. We know of at least one instance of marriage between two
young Kenyahs brought up together as adopted brother and sister.[178]
Of other forms of incest the more common (though, it should be said,
incest of any form is very infrequent) are those involving father
and daughter, brother and sister, and brother and half-sister.

The punishment of the incestuous couple does not suffice to ward off
the danger brought by them upon the community. The household must be
purified with the blood of pigs and fowls; the animals used are the
property of the offenders or of their family; and in this way a fine
is imposed.

When any calamity threatens or falls upon a house, especially a great
rising of the river which threatens to sweep away the house or the
tombs of the household, the Kayans are led to suspect that incestuous
intercourse in their own or in neighbouring houses has taken place;
and they look round for evidences of it, and sometimes detect a case
which otherwise would have remained hidden. It seems probable that
there is some intimate relation between this belief and the second
of the two modes of punishment described above; but we have no direct
evidence of such connection.[179]

All the other peoples also, except the Punans, punish incest with
death. Among the Sea Dayaks the most common form of incest is that
between a youth and his aunt, and this is regarded at least as
seriously as any other form. It must be remembered that, owing to
the frequency of divorce and remarriage among the Sea Dayaks, a youth
may find himself in the position of step-son to half a dozen or more
divorced step-mothers, some of them perhaps of his own age, and that
each of them may have several sisters, all of whom are reckoned as
his aunts; therefore he must walk warily in his amorous adventures.

Sexual perversion of any form is, we think, extremely rare among
the pagan tribes of Borneo. We have never heard of any case of
homosexuality on good authority, and we have never heard any reference
made to it; and that constitutes, to our thinking, strong evidence
that vice of that kind is unknown among most of the tribes. It is
not unknown, though not common, among the Malays and Chinese, and,
if cases occur sporadically among the pagans, they are presumably
due to infection from those quarters.


Kayans, as we have seen, have no scruple in shedding the blood
of their enemies, but they very seldom or never go to war with
other Kayans; and the shedding of Kayan blood by Kayans is of rare
occurrence. To shed human blood, even that of an enemy, in the house
is against custom. Nevertheless murder of Kayan by Kayan, even by
members of the same house, is not unknown. In a wanton case, where
two or more men have deliberately attacked another and slain him,
or one has killed another by stealth, the culprit (or culprits)
would usually be made to pay very heavy compensation to relatives,
the amount being greater the higher the social status and the greater
the wealth of the culprit; the amount may equal, in fact, the whole
of his property and more besides; and he might, in order to raise the
amount, have to sell himself into slavery to another, slavery being
their only equivalent to imprisonment. The relatives would probably
desire to kill the murderers; but the chief would generally restrain
them and would find his task rendered easier by the fact that, if
they insist on taking the murderer's life, they would forfeit their
right to compensation.[180] The amount of the compensation to be paid
would not depend upon the social standing of the murdered man, but
the fine paid to the house or chief would be heavier in proportion
to his rank. But we have knowledge of cases in which chiefs have,
with the approval of the house, had a murderer put to the sword. The
murderer who has paid compensation has, however, by no means set
himself right with the household; they continue to look askance
at him. Set fights or duels between men of the same house are very
rare. If a Kayan of one house kills one of another, his chief would
see that he paid a proper compensation to the relatives, as well as
a fine to his own house. If a man killed his own slave, he would be
liable to no punishment unless the act were committed in the house;
but public opinion would strongly disapprove.

'Running AMOK' is not unknown among Kayans, though it is very rare. If
a man in this condition of blind fury kills any one, he is cut down and
killed, unless he is in the house; in which case he would be knocked
senseless with clubs, carried out of the house into the jungle,
and there slain.

Drunkenness during an act of criminal violence is regarded as a
mitigating circumstance, and the fines and compensation imposed would
be of smaller amount than in a case of similar crime deliberately

Suicide is strongly reprobated, and, as we have seen, the shades of
those who die by their own hands are believed to lead a miserable and
lonely existence in a distressful country, Tan Tekkan, in which they
wander picking up mere scraps of food in the jungle. Nevertheless,
suicides occur among Kayans of both sexes. The commonest occasion
is the enforced separation of lovers, rather than the despair of
rejected lovers. We have known of two instances of Kayan youths who,
having formed attachments during a long stay in a distant house and
who then, finding themselves under the necessity of returning home
with their chief and unable to arrange marriage with their fair ones,
have committed suicide. The method most commonly adopted is to go
off alone into the jungle and there to stab a knife into the carotid
artery. The body of a suicide is generally buried without ceremony
on the spot where it is found. Suicides of women are rarer than those
of men; desertion by a lover is the commonest cause.

Dishonesty in the form of pilfering or open robbery by violence
are of very rare occurrence. Yet temptations to both are not
lacking. Fruittrees on the river-bank, even at some distance from
any village, are generally private property, and though they offer a
great temptation to passing crews when their fruit is ripe, the rights
of the proprietor are usually respected or compensation voluntarily
paid. Theft within the house or village is practically unknown. Even
before the European governments were established, Malay and Chinese
traders occasionally penetrated with boat-loads of goods far into
the interior; and now such enterprises are regularly and frequently
undertaken. Occasionally a trader establishes himself in a village
for months together, driving a profitable trade in hardware, cloth,
tobacco, etc. These traders usually travel in a small boat with a
company or crew of only two or three men, and they are practically
defenceless against any small party of the natives who might choose
to rob or murder them. Such traders have now and again been robbed,
and sometimes also murdered, by roving bands of Sea Dayaks, but we
know of no such act committed by Kayans or Kenyahs. The trader puts
himself under the protection of a chief and then feels his life and
property to be safe.

It would not be true to say that the Kayans or any of the other
peoples are always strictly truthful. They are given to exaggeration
in describing any event, and their accounts are apt to be strongly
biassed in their own favour. Nevertheless, deliberate lying is a
thing to be ashamed of, and a man who gets himself a reputation as
a liar is regarded with small favour by his fellows.

The Kayans, as we have said elsewhere, are not coarse of speech,
and both men and women are strictly modest in respect to the display
of the body. Though the costume of both sexes is so scanty, the
proprieties are observed. The Kayan man never exposes his GENITALIA
even when bathing in the company of his fellows, but, if necessary,
uses his hands as a screen. The bearing of the women is habitually
modest, and though their single garment might be supposed to afford
insufficient protection, they wear it with an habitual skill that
compensates for the scantiness of its dimensions; they bathe naked
in the river before the house, but they slip off their aprons and
glide into the water deftly and swiftly; and on emerging they resume
their garments with equal skill, so that they cannot be said to expose
themselves unclothed. The same is true of most of the other tribes,
with the exception of the men of Kenyah and Klemantan communities
that inhabit the central highlands; these, when hauling their boats
through the rapids, will divest themselves of all clothing, or will
sit naked round a fire while their waist-cloths are being dried,
without the least embarrassment.

There is no Kayan word known to us that could properly be translated
as justice or just, injustice or unjust. Yet it is obvious that they
view just conduct with approval and unjust with disapproval; and they
express their feelings and moral judgments by saying laconically of
any particular decision by a chief, TEKAP or NUSI TEKAP. But the
word TEKAP is of more general application than our word 'just,'
and might be applied to any situation which evokes a judgment of
moral approval; for example, on witnessing any breach of custom or
infringement of tabu a Kayan would say NUSI TEKAP; TEKAP, in short,
is applicable to whatever is as it ought to be.

Specialised terms for moral qualities of character and conduct are,
however, not lacking. A just and wise chief would be said to be TENANG;
but this word implies less purely a moral quality than our word
justice and more of intellectual capacity or knowledge or accuracy;
the word is more especially applied as a term to describe the quality
of a political speech which meets with approval. The word HAMAN means
skilful, or clever, or cunning, in the older sense of capable both
physically and intellectually. A man who fights pluckily is said
to be MAKANG, and the same word is applied to any daring or dashing
feat, such as crossing the river when it is dangerously swollen. To
disregard omens would be MAKANG also; it seems, therefore, to have
the flavour of the word rash or foolhardy.

SAIOH means good in the sense of kindly, pleasantly toned, or
agreeable. JAAK is bad in the sense of a bad crop or an unfortunate
occurrence, or a sore foot, I.E. it conveys no moral flavour. Morally
bad is expressed by SALA; this is used in the same sense in Malay
and may well be a recently-adopted word. In general the language
seems to be very poor in terms expressive of disapproval, adverse
judgments being generally expressed by putting nusi, the negative or
primitive particle, before the corresponding word of positive import;
thus a cowardly act or man would be denounced as NUSI MAKANG.

We think it is true to say that, although they thus distinguish
the principal qualities of character and conduct with appropriate
adjectival terms, they have no substantival terms for the virtues
and vices, and that they have not fully accomplished the processes
of abstraction implied by the appropriate use of such highly abstract

As regards the influence of their religious beliefs on the moral
conduct of the Kayans, we have seen that the fear of the TOH serves
as a constant check on the breach of customs, which customs are in
the main salutary and essential for the maintenance of social order;
this fear does at the least serve to develop in the people the power
of selfcontrol and the habit of deliberation before action. The part
which the major spirits or gods are supposed to play in bringing
or fending off the major calamities remains extremely vague and
incapable of definition; in the main, faithful observation of the
omens, of rites, and of custom generally, seems to secure the favour
of the gods, and in some way their protection; and thus the gods
make for morality. Except in regard to that part of conduct which is
accurately prescribed by custom and tradition, their influence seems to
be negligible, and the high standard of the Kayans in neighbourliness,
in mutual help and consideration, in honesty and forbearance, seems
to be maintained without the direct support of their religious beliefs.

The high moral level attained by individuals among the Kayans
and Kenyahs, and less frequently by Klemantans, is, we think,
best exemplified by the enlightened and public-spirited conduct of
some of the principal chiefs. It might have been expected that the
leading chiefs of warlike and conquering peoples like the Kayans and
Kenyahs, which, until the advent of the European governments, had
never encountered any resistance which they could not break down by
armed force, would have been wholly devoted to conquest and rapine;
and that a chief who had acquired a high prestige and found himself
able to secure the adhesion in war of a number of other chiefs and
their followers would have been inspired with the barbarous ideals
of an Alexander, a Napoleon, a Chaka, or a Cetewayo. But though some
of them have shown tendencies of this kind, there have been notable
exceptions who have recognised that chronic hostility, distrust, and
warfare, which had always been characteristic of the relations between
the various tribes and villages, were an unmixed evil. Such men have
used their influence consistently and tactfully and energetically to
establish peaceful relations between the tribes. Unlike some savage
chieftains of warrior tribes in other parts of the world, such as
some of those produced by the Bantu race, or those who established
the great confederation of the Iroquois tribes, they have not sought
merely to bring about the combination of all the communities of
their own stock in order to dominate over or to exterminate all
other tribes. They have rather pursued a policy of reconcilement
and conciliation, aiming at establishing relations of friendship and
confidence between the communities of all languages and races. One
such powerful Kenyah chief of the Baram district, Laki Avit, had
earned a high reputation for such statesmanship before the district
was incorporated in the Raj of Sarawak. His policy was to bring about
intermarriages between the families of the chiefs and upper-class
people of the various tribes. Tama Bulan (see Pl. 27), the leading
Kenyah chief of the same district at a later time, spared no efforts
to bring about friendly meetings between chiefs of different tribes,
for the purpose of making peace and of promoting intercourse and
mutual understanding.[181] It should be added that these peacemaking
ceremonies are generally of lasting effect; the oaths then taken are
respected even by succeeding generations. Tama Kuling, who a decade
ago was the most influential of the Batang Kayan chiefs, had also
spontaneously pursued a similar policy.[182]

It has been said of many savage peoples that they recognise no natural
death, but believe that all deaths not due to violence are due to
black magic. No such statement can be made of the Kayans; few, if
any, deaths are ascribed by them to the efforts of sorcerers. Natural
death is recognised as inevitable in old age, and disease is vaguely
conceived as the effect of natural causes; though as to what those
natural causes are they have no definite ideas. This attitude is shown
by their readiness to make use of European drugs and of remedies for
external application. Quinine for fever, and sulphate of copper for
the treatment of yaws, are most in demand. Cholera and smallpox are the
great epidemic diseases which have ravaged large areas of Borneo from
time to time. The Kayans recognise that both these diseases spread up
river from village to village, and that to abstain from intercourse
with all villages lower down river and to prevent any one coming up
river contributes to their immunity. With this object the people of
a tributary stream will fell trees across its mouth or lower reaches
so as to block it completely to the passage of boats, or, as a less
drastic measure, will stretch a rope of rattan from bank to bank
as a sign that no one may enter (Pl. 183). Such a sign is generally
respected by the inhabitants of other parts of the river-basin. They
are aware also of the risk of infection that attends the handling of
a corpse of one who has died of epidemic disease, and they attempt
to minimise it by throwing a rope around it and dragging it to the
graveyard, and there burying it in a shallow grave in the earth,
without touching it with the hands.[183]

The Kayans have some slight knowledge of the medicinal properties
of some herbs, and make general use of them. They administer as
an aperient a decoction of the leaves of a certain plant, called
OROBONG, which they cultivate for the purpose on their farms. The
root of the ginger plant is used both internally and for external
application. A variety of vegetable products are used in preparing
liniments; the basis most in request for these is the fat of the
python and of other snakes, but wild pig's fat is used as a more
easily obtainable substitute.

There is a small common squirrel (SCIURUS EXILIS), the testicles of
which are strikingly large in proportion to his body. These organs are
dried and reduced to powder, and this powder, mixed with pig's fat,
is rubbed over the back and loins in cases of impotence.[184]

Kayan mothers treat colic in their children by chewing the dried root
of a creeper (known as PADO TANA) with betel nut, and spitting out
the juice on the belly of the patient.

Some of the coastwise Klemantans make use of a bitter decoction of a
certain creeper as a remedy for jungle fever. It is asserted by Kayans
and others that the Punans make use of the poison of the IPOH tree
(the poison used on their darts) as an internal remedy for fever. It
is said also (probably with truth, we think) that the Punans also
apply the IPOH poison to snake-bites and to festering wounds.[185]


Broken limbs are bound round with neat splints made of thin slips
of bamboo tied in parallel series. Little effort is made to bring
the broken ends of the bones into their proper positions or to reduce
dislocations. Abscesses are not usually opened with the knife, but are
rather encouraged to point, and are then opened by pressure. A cold
poultice of chopped leaves is applied to a bad boil or superficial
abscess, and it is protected from blows and friction by a small cage of
slips of rattan. Festering wounds are dressed with the chewed leaves
or the juice of the tobacco plant, or are washed with a solution of
common salt. But a clean wound is merely bound up with a rag; or,
if there is much haemorrhage, wood ashes are first applied. They
practise no more efficient methods for arresting haemorrhage.

Headache is treated by tugging the hair of the scalp in small bundles
in systematic order. Massage of the muscles is practised for the relief
of pain, and massage is applied to the abdomen in cases of obstinate
constipation; in certain cases they claim to break up hard lumps in
the belly by squeezing them with the hands. Bodily aches and fatigue
are relieved by pulling and bending the parts of the limbs until all
the joints crack in turn.

Cupping is perhaps the most frequently practised surgical
operation. Severe internal bruising from falls or heavy blows is the
usual occasion. The operation is performed by scratching the skin
with the point of a knife, and then applying the mouth of a bamboo cup
previously heated over the fire. The cup is a piece of bamboo some five
or six inches in length and an inch or rather more in diameter. Its
edge is thinned and smoothed. Several of these may be simultaneously
applied in a case of extensive bruising. Since this operation, like
tatuing, involves the shedding of blood, some small offering, such
as a few beads, must be made to the patient by the operator.

The Kayans have distinct numerals up to ten (JI, DUA, TELO, PAT,
LIMER, NAM, TUSU, SAYA, PITAN, PULU). Those from eleven to nineteen
are formed by prefixing PULU ( = ten) to the names of the digits;
and those from twenty to twenty-nine by prefixing DUA PULU ( =
two twenty); and so on up to JI ATOR ( = one hundred). Two hundred
is DUA ATOR, three hundred is TELO ATOR, and so on up to MIBU ( =
one thousand). All or most of the other tribes (except the Punans)
have a similar system of numerals, though the numbers beyond the
first ten are little used. In counting any objects that cannot be
held in the hand or placed in a row, the Kayan (and most of the other
peoples) bends down one finger for each object told off or enumerated,
beginning with the little finger of the right hand, passing at six to
that of the left hand, and then to the big toe of the right foot, and
lastly to that of the left foot. When all the names or objects have
been mentioned, he holds the toe reached until he or some one else
has told off the number; if the number was, say, seventeen, he would
keep hold of the second toe of the left foot until he had counted up
the number implied by that toe, either by means of counting or by
adding up five and five and five and two; unless the count ends on
the little toe of the left foot, when he knows at once that the number
is twenty. If a larger number than twenty is to be counted, as when,
for example, a chief has to pay in tax for each door of his house,
he calls in the aid of several men, who sit before him. One of these
tells off his fingers and toes as the chief utters the names of the
heads of the rooms; and when twenty have been counted in this way,
a second man begins on his fingers, while the first continues to
hold on to all his toes. A third and a fourth man may be used in the
same way to complete the count; and when it is completed, the total
is found by reckoning each man as two tens, and adding the number of
fingers and toes held down by the last man. The reckoning of the tens
is done by addition rather than multiplication. Both multiplication
and division are almost unknown operations.

When a chief is getting ready to pay in the door tax of two dollars a
door, he does not count the doors and then multiply the number by two:
he simply lays down two dollars for each door and pays in the lot,
generally without knowing the sum total of the dollars. If a chief
were told to pay in the tax for half his doors only, he would not
know how to carry out the instruction. Subtraction is accomplished
only in the most concrete manner, E.G. if a man wished to take away
eight from twenty-five, he would count out twenty-five of the objects
in question, or of bits of leaf or stick, then push away eight and
count up the remainder. A dodge sometimes adopted, especially by the
Kenyah, for counting the persons present, is to take a fern-leaf with
many fronds, tear off a half of each frond, handing each piece to
one of the men, until every man present affirms that he has a piece,
and then to count the number of torn fronds remaining on the stalk.

It will thus be seen that the arithmetical operations of the Kayans
are of an extremely concrete character; those of the other tribes
are similar (with the exception again of the Punans, who do not count
beyond three); though many of the Klemantans get confused over simple
counting and reckoning, which the Kayans accomplish successfully.

Tama Bulan, the Kenyah chief whom we have had occasion to mention in
several connections, obtained and learnt the use of an abacus from a
Chinaman, and used it effectively. This deficiency in arithmetic is,
however, no evidence of innate intellectual inferiority, and there
seems to be no good reason to doubt that most of the people could
be taught to use figures as readily as the average European; those
children who have entered the schools seem to pick up arithmetic with
normal rapidity.

The Sea Dayaks sometimes deposit sums of money with the Government
officers, and they know accurately the number of dollars paid in;
but when they withdraw the deposit, they generally expect to receive
the identical dollars paid in by them.


The Kayans use two principal standards of length, namely, the BUKA and
the BUHAK. The former is the length of the span from finger-tip to tip
of outstretched arms; the latter is the length of the span from tip of
the thumb to tip of the first finger of the same hand. In buying a pig,
for example, the price is determined by the number of BUHAK required
to encircle its body just behind the forelegs. The half BUKA is also in
general use, especially in measuring rattans cut for sale, the required
length of which is two and a half BUKA. In order to express the half,
they have adopted the Malay word STINGAH, having no word of their own.

Distances between villages are always expressed in terms of the
average time taken by a boat in ascending the stream from one to the
other. Distances by land are expressed still more vaguely; for example,
the distance between the heads of two streams might be expressed
by saying that, if you bathe in one, your hair would still be wet
when you reach the other (which means about one hour); or a longer
distance, by saying that if you started at the usual time from one
of the places you would reach the other when the sun is as high as
the hawk (which means a journey from sunrise to about 10 A.M.), or
when the sun is overhead (I.E. noon), or when it is declining (about
3 P.M.), or when the sun is put out (sunset), or when it is dark.

In order to describe the size of a solid object such as a fish,
a Kayan would compare its thickness with that of some part of his
body, the forearm, the calf of the leg, the thigh, or head, or the
waist. In describing the thickness of the subcutaneous fat of a pig,
he would mention one, two, three, or even four fingers.

Cosmological and Geographical Notions

The more intelligent Kayans can give a fairly good general description
of the geographical features and relations of the district in which
they live. In order to do this a Kayan will map out the principal
features on a smooth surface by placing pieces of stick to represent
the rivers and their tributaries, and pieces of leaf to represent the
hills and mountains; he will pay special attention to the relations
of the sources of the various streams. In this way a Kayan chief of
the Baram would construct a tolerably accurate map of the whole Baram
district, putting in Bruni and USUN APO and the heads of the Rejang,
Batang Kayan, Tutong, and Balait rivers. He knows that all the rivers
run to the sea, though few Kayans have seen the sea or, indeed, been
outside the basin of their own river. To have been to another river,
or to have seen the sea, is a just ground of pride. He does not know
that Borneo is an island, though he knows that the white men and
the Chinese come from over the sea; he will confidently assert that
the sea is many times larger than the Baram river, even ten times as
large. They seem to regard the sea as a big river of which their main
river is a tributary.

Ibans sometimes speak of AIROPA (meaning Europe), which they take
to mean the river Ropa, as the home of the white man; and all the
tribesmen are apt to think of foreigners as living on the banks of
rivers in forest-covered country much like their own.

Although the Kayans do not observe the stars and their movements
for practical purposes, they are familiar with the principal
constellations, and have fanciful names for them, and relate
mythical stories about the personages they are supposed to represent
(Chap. XVII.).[186] They seem to have paid no special attention
to the planets. Inconsistently with the star myths, the stars are
regarded as small holes in the floor of another and brighter world,
and it is said that these holes have been made by the roots of plants
which have penetrated through the soil of that world.

The sky is regarded as a dome which meets the earth on every hand,
and this limiting zone is spoken of as the edge of the sky; but they
have no notion how far away this edge may be; they recognise that,
no matter how many days one travels in any one direction, one never
gets appreciably nearer to it, and they conclude, therefore, that
it must be very distant. They understand that the clouds are very
much less distant than the sky, and that they merely float about the
earth. Neither sun nor moon seems to be regarded as animated.

Two total eclipses of the sun have occurred in Borneo in the last
half-century. These, of course, caused much excitement and some
consternation.[187] The former of them serves as a fixed date in
relation to which other events are dated.

The traditional lore of the Kayans provides answers of a kind to many
of the deep questions that the spirit of enquiry proposes whenever
man has made provision against the most urgent needs of his animal
nature. Yet the keener intelligences among them do not rest satisfied
with these conventional answers; rather, they ponder some of the
deepest questions and discuss them with one another from time to
time. One question we have heard debated is -- Why do not the dead
return? Or rather, Why do they become visible only in dreams and even
then so seldom? The meeting of dead friends in dreams generally leaves
the Kayan doubtful whether he has really seen his friend; and he will
try to obtain evidence of the reality of the REVENANT by prayer and by
looking for a favourable answer in the liver of a pig, the entrails of
a fowl, or in the behaviour of the omen birds. They argue that persons
who have been much attached to their relatives and friends would surely
return to visit them frequently if such return were at all possible.

The relation of the sky to the earth remains also an open and disputed
question. One of us well remembers how, when staying in a Kenyah house,
he was approached by a group of youths who evidently were debating some
knotty problem, and how they very seriously propounded the following
question: -- If a dart were shot straight up into the air and went
on and on, what would become of it? Would it come up against the sky
and be stopped by it?

The whereabouts of the home of the white men, and how long is spent
on the journey thither, are questions often raised. Tama Bulan once
raised the question of the motion of the sun, and having been told
that really the earth revolves and that the sun only appears to move
round it, he argued that this could hardly be, since we see the sun
move every day. For a long time he said nothing more on this topic
to us, but it continued to occupy his mind; for some years later he
recurred to it and announced that he now accepted the once incredible
doctrine, because he had inquired concerning it of every European he
had been able to meet, and all had given him the same answer.

The methods of argument of the Kayans are characteristic and worthy
of a short description. As we have said, they are great talkers and
orators. They are by no means an impulsive people; far less so than
the Kenyahs or the Sea Dayaks. Although they are not a vivacious or
talkative people in general intercourse, every undertaking of any
importance is carefully discussed in all its aspects, often at what we
should consider unnecessary length, before the first step is taken;
and in such discussions each man likes to have his say, and each is
heard out patiently by his fellows. They have a strong belief in the
efficacy of words; this is illustrated by the copious flood of words
which they pour out whenever they perform any religious or other rite.

In arguing or persuading, or even threatening, they rely largely on
indirect appeals, on analogy, simile, and metaphor, flavoured with
a good deal of humour of a rather heavy kind. Or they may convey a
strong hint by describing a professed dream in which the circumstances
under discussion are symbolised.

The following incident illustrates this mode of speech. Two
Kayans quarrelled over the sale of a pig. The current price was
a dollar a BUHAK (I.E. the span from finger-tip to thumb-tip, see
vol. ii. p. 212). The buyer had insisted on measuring it by spans
from thumb to tip of second finger, whereas the customary span is to
the tip of the index finger. The case was brought before the chief,
who of course might have contented himself, but not perhaps the
purchaser, by authoritatively laying down the law of custom. He,
therefore, being a man of tact and experience, thrust out his second
finger and pointed it at the purchaser of the pig, saying, "Suppose
any one pointed at you like that, instead of with the index finger;
you would all laugh at him." All the people sitting round laughed,
and the purchaser went away convinced of the propriety of using the
index finger in measuring a pig.

To illustrate the way in which a chief may exert influence in matters
in which he has no footing for the exercise of formal authority, we
cite the following bit of history. It is an ancient custom of the
Kayans to have in the house a very large LAMPIT (the mat made of
parallel strips of rattan), the common property of the household,
which is spread on the occasion of the reception of visitors to
serve as a common scat for guests and hosts. The Kayans of the Baram,
under the individualising influences of trade and increasing stocks
of private property, neglected to renew these communal mats; and thus
the good old custom was in danger of dying out. This was observed with
regret by an influential chief, who, therefore, found an opportunity
to relate in public the following story. "A party of Kayans," he said,
"once came over from the Batang Kayan to visit their relatives in the
Baram. The latter dilated upon the benefits of the Rajah's government,
peace, trade, and the possibility of fine dress for themselves and
their wives and of many other desirable acquisitions, all for the small
annual payment of two dollars a door. The visitors looked about them
and confessed that they still had to be content with bark clothing,
bamboo cups, and wooden dishes; 'but,' they added, 'if you come to
our house you will at least find on the floor a good LAMPIT on which
we can all sit together.' " The story quickly went the round of the
Kayan villages in the Baram, with the result that large LAMPITS quickly
came back into general use and the good old custom was preserved.

The Kayans have a keen sense of humour and fun. As with ourselves, the
most frequent occasions of laughter are the small mishaps that happen
to one's companions or to oneself; and practical jokes are perpetrated
and appreciated. For example, at the time when the wild pigs were dying
in large numbers, a boat-load of Kayans working up-river encountered
a succession of pigs' carcases floating down, most of them in a state
of decomposition and swollen with gases. A practical joker at the bow
conceived the notion of prodding the carcases with his spear and thus
liberating the foul-smelling gases for the benefit of those who sat
in the stern of the boat, to their great disgust and the amusement
of those on the forward benches. Again -- a Klemantan example -- a
chewer of betel-nut and lime sometimes prepares several quids wrapped
carefully in SIRIH leaf, and sets them aside till they are required. On
one occasion, while the crew of a boat landed to cook their dinner,
a youngster carefully opened such a quid and substituted a piece of
filth for the betel-nut. When the victim of the joke spat out the
morsel, spluttering with disgust and anger, the crew was moved to loud
laughter, which they tried in vain to suppress out of consideration
for the feelings of the victim; for no one likes to be laughed at.

But, although the Kayans have a strong sense of the ridiculous, their
laughter is not so violent and uncontrollable as that of Europeans
is apt to be, and it is not so apt to recur from time to time at the
mere recollection of an amusing incident.

We refer to some of the stories reproduced in Chapter XVII. as examples
of the less crude forms of humour appreciated by the people. These
stories are repeated again and again, without failing to amuse those
who are perfectly familiar with them. AEsop's fables transposed into a
Bornean key were, we found, much appreciated. In a large proportion of
the entertaining stories of the Kayans, as well as of the other tribes,
the point of the story depends on some reference to sexual relations
or actions But such references are not, as a rule, coarsely put, but
rather hinted at merely, often in a somewhat obscure way; E.G. such
a story may terminate before the critical point is reached with some
such phrase as "Well, well, what of it?" and a shrug of the shoulders.

The tendency of the Kayans to laconic speech is well illustrated by
their way of referring to well-known stories or fables with one or
two words, in order to sum up or characterise a situation -- much as
we say "sour grapes!"

Like all other varieties of mankind (some few savage tribes perhaps
excepted), the Kayans and other tribes are apt to distort the truth in
their own favour, in describing from memory incidents that seriously
affect their interests. When a party has allowed itself to commit some
reprehensible action, such as over-hasty and excessive reprisals,
a whole village, or even several villages, may conspire together
more or less deliberately to "rig up "some plausible version of
the affair which may serve to excuse or justify the act in the
eyes of the government. A good PENGHULU[188] will set about the
investigation of such an affair with much tact and patience. He
will send for those immediately concerned and patiently hear out
their version of the incident. If it departs widely from the truth,
he will find reason to suspect the fact. But, instead of charging the
men with untruthfulness, or attempting to extort the truth by threats,
or bullying, or torture (as is so often done in more highly civilised
courts), he keeps silence, shrugs his shoulders, and tells them to go
away and think it over, and to come back another day with a better
story. In the meantime he hears the version of some other group,
who view the affair from a different angle, and thus puts himself in
a position to suggest modifications of the new version of the former
group. When he has in this way gathered in a variety of accounts of
the incident, he find himself in a position to construct, by a process
of moral triangulation, an approximately correct picture; this he now
lays before the party immediately concerned, who, seeing that the game
is up, fill in the details and supply minor corrections. Throughout
this process the tactful PENGHULU never shuts the door upon his
informants or tries to pin them down to their words, or make them
take them back; rather he keeps the whole story fluid and shifting,
so that, when the true account has been constructed, the witnesses
are not made to feel that they have lost their self-respect.

It seems worth while to describe here one of a large class of incidents
which illustrate at the same time the workings of the native mind
and the way in which an understanding of such workings may be applied
by the administrator. The Resident of the Baram having heard of the
presence in the central no-man's land of a considerable population of
Kenyahs under a strong chief, TAMA KULING, sent friendly messages to
the latter. He responded by sending a lump of white clay, which meant
that he and his people recognised that they were of the same country
as the people of the Baram and that their feelings were friendly;
and with it came an elaborately decorated brass hook (Pl. 184), which
was to serve as a complimentary and symbolical acknowledgment of the
white man's power of binding the tribes together in friendship. He
sent also a verbal message acknowledging his kinship with the Kenyahs
of the Baram; but he added that he and his people were in the dark and
needed a torch (I.E. they wanted more explicit information about the
conditions obtaining in the Baram). In reply to these representations,
the Resident despatched trusty messengers to TAMA KULING bearing
the following articles: a large hurricane lamp for TAMA KULING, and
smaller ones for the other principal chiefs of the district: smaller
lamps again were sent for the heads of houses, and with them a large
stock of boxes of lucifer matches, which were to be dealt out to the
heads of the rooms of each house. In this way the desired torch was
provided for every member of their communities. With these symbols
went a large horn of the African rhinoceros, out of which TAMA KULING
might fashion a hilt for his sword.[189]

We were afterwards informed that, on the arrival of these symbolic
gifts, TAMA KULING called together the chiefs of all the surrounding
villages to receive their share, and to discuss the advisability
of accepting the implied invitation to migrate into the Baram. The
proposition was favourably received, and a large proportion of
the population of that region have since acted upon the resolution
then taken.

To the disjointed collection of remarks which make up this chapter
we venture to add the following observations. It has often been
attempted to exhibit the mental life of savage peoples as profoundly
different from our own; to assert that they act from motives, and
reach conclusions by means of mental processes, so utterly different
from our own motives and processes that we cannot hope to interpret
or understand their behaviour unless we can first, by some impossible
or at least by some hitherto undiscovered method, learn the nature of
these mysterious motives and processes. These attempts have recently
been renewed in influential quarters. If these views were applied to
the savage peoples of the interior of Borneo, we should characterise
them as fanciful delusions natural to the anthropologist who has spent
all the days of his life in a stiff collar and a black coat upon the
well-paved ways of civilised society.

We have no hesitation in saying that, the more intimately one becomes
acquainted with these pagan tribes, the more fully one realises the
close similarity of their mental processes to one's own. Their primary
impulses and emotions seem to be in all respects like our own. It is
true that they are very unlike the typical civilised man of some of
the older philosophers, whose every action proceeded from a nice and
logical calculation of the algebraic sum of pleasures and pains to
be derived from alternative lines of conduct; but we ourselves are
equally unlike that purely mythical personage. The Kayan or the Iban
often acts impulsively in ways which by no means conduce to further
his best interests or deeper purposes; but so do we also. He often
reaches conclusions by processes that cannot be logically justified;
but so do we also. He often holds, and upon successive occasions
acts upon, beliefs that are logically inconsistent with one another;
but so do we also.


Ethnology of Borneo

In the foregoing chapters it has been shown that the six groups which
we have distinguished by the names Kayans, Kenyahs, Klemantans, Muruts,
Nomads or Punans, and Ibans or Sea Dayaks, differ considerably from
one another in respect of material and moral culture as well as of
mental and physical characters. We have used these names as though the
groups denoted by them were well defined and easily to be distinguished
from one another. But this is by no means the case. Our foregoing
descriptions are intended to depict the typical communities of each
group, those which present the largest number of group-marks. Besides
these more typical communities, which constitute the main bulk of the
population, there are many communities or sub-tribes which combine
in some measure the characteristics of two or more of the principal
groups. It is this fact that renders so extremely difficult the
attempt to classify the tribes and sub-tribes in any consistent and
significant fashion, and to which is largely due the confusion that
reigns in most of the accounts hitherto given of the inhabitants of
Borneo. We believe, however, that the divisions marked by the six
names we have used, namely, Kayan, Kenyah, Klemantan, Murut, Punan,
and Iban, are true or natural divisions; and that the intermediate
forms are due, on the one hand, to crossing through intermarriage,
which takes place continually in some degree, and, on the other hand,
to the adoption of the customs and beliefs and traditions and to the
imitation of the arts and crafts of one natural group by communities
properly belonging to a different group. The main groups seem to
us to be separated from one another by differences of two kinds:
some by racial or ethnic differences, which involve differences of
physical and mental constitution, as well as by cultural differences;
others by differences of culture only, the racial characters being
hardly or not at all differentiated.

We propose in this chapter to attempt to justify these main
distinctions, and to define more nearly their essential nature and
grounds. This attempt must involve the statement of our opinion as
to the ethnic affinities of all the principal tribes. We are fully
aware that this statement can be only of a provisional nature, and
must be liable to modification and refinement in the light of further
observation and discussion. But we think that such a statement may
serve a useful purpose; namely, that it may serve as a basis upon
which such corrections and refinements may later be made.

The most speculative part of this statement must necessarily be
that which deals with the affinities of the tribes of Borneo with
the populations of other areas; but even here we think it better to
set down our opinion for what it may be worth, not concealing from
the reader its slight basis. We state in the following paragraph the
main features of the history of the tribes of Borneo as we conceive it.

The wide distribution of remnants of the Negrito race in the islands
round about Borneo and in the adjacent parts of the mainland of Asia
renders it highly probable that at a remote period Negritos lived in
Borneo; but at the present time there exist no Negrito community and
no distinct traces of the race, whether in the form of fossil remains
or of physical characters of the present population, unless the curly
hair and coarse features of a few individuals to be met with in almost
all the tribes may be regarded as such traces. These negroid features
of a small number of the present inhabitants are perhaps sufficiently
accounted for by the fact that slaves have been imported into Borneo
from time to time throughout many centuries by Arabs and Malays and by
the Illanum pirates; and some of these slaves were no doubt Negritos,
and some, possibly, Africans or Papuans.[190]

We leave open the question of an ancient Negrito population, and
go on to the statement that the present population is derived from
four principal sources. From a very early period the island has
been inhabited in all parts by a people of a common origin whose
surviving descendants are the tribes we have classed as Klemantans,
Kenyahs, and Punans. This people probably inhabited Borneo at a
time when it was still connected with the mainland. Their cultural
status was probably very similar to that of the existing Punans. It
seems not improbable that at this early period, perhaps one preceding
the separation of Borneo, Sumatra, and Java from the mainland, this
people was scattered over a large part of this area. For in several
of the wilder parts, where the great forest areas remain untouched,
bands of nomads closely resembling the Punans of Borneo are still
to be found, notably the Orang Kubu of Sumatra, and perhaps the
Bantiks of northern Celebes. The principal characteristics of this
primitive culture are the absence of houses or any fixed abode;
the ignorance of agriculture, of metal-working, and of boat-making;
and the nomadic hunting life, of which the blow-pipe is the principal
instrument. The chief and only important improvement effected in the
condition of the Punans since that early period would seem to be the
introduction of the superior form of blow-pipe of hard wood. This
cannot be made without the use of a metal rod for boring, and, since
none of the Bornean tribes which still lead the nomad life know how
to work metals, it may be inferred that they have learnt the craft
of making the SUMPITAN from more cultured neighbours, procuring from
them by barter the iron tools required -- as they still do.

It is impossible to make any confident assertion as to the affinities
of this widely diffused people from which we believe the Punans,
Kenyahs, and Klemantans to be descended. But the physical characters
of these tribes, in respect of which they differ but slightly from
one another, lead us to suppose that it was formed by a blending
of Caucasic and Mongoloid elements, the features of the former
predominating in the race thus formed. The fairness of the skin, the
wavy and even, in some individuals, the curly character of the hair;
the regular and comparatively refined features of many individuals; the
frequent occurrence of straight and aquiline noses; the comparatively
large, horizontal, or only slightly oblique, palpebral aperture;
the not infrequent absence of all trace of the Mongolian fold of the
eyelid and its slightness when present -- all these characters point
to the predominance of the Caucasic element in the ethnic blend.

On the other hand, the smooth yellowish skin, the long dark thick
hair of the scalp, and the scantiness of the hair on the cheeks,
chin, and lips; the rather broad cheek-bones, the prevailing slight
obliquity of the eyes, the rather narrow palpebral aperture, and
the presence of a slight Mongolian fold -- these characters (all
of which are found in a considerable proportion of these peoples)
are features that point to Mongol ancestry.[191]

It was said above that the skin of these tribes is of very pale yellow
colour. In this respect there is little to choose between them, but
on the whole the Punans are of rather lighter colour than the others,
and, as was said before, of a faintly green tinge. This difference
is, we think, sufficiently accounted for by the fact that the Punan
seldom or never exposes himself to full sunlight, whereas the others
are habitually sun-browned in some degree. But the lighter colour of
this whole group of tribes (as compared especially with the Kayans and
Ibans) cannot be explained in this way; for the habits and conditions
of life of Kenyahs and Klemantans are very closely similar to those of
the Kayans; and it must, we think, be regarded as a racial character.

The name Indonesian is perhaps most properly applied to this people
which we suppose to have resulted from the contact and blending
of the Caucasic and Mongoloid stocks in this corner of Asia. The
systematic ethnographers use this term in a vague and uncertain
manner. Deniker defines the Indonesians by saying that they comprise
"the little intermixed inland populations of the large islands (Dyaks
of Borneo, Battas of Sumatra, various "Alfurus" of Celebes, and certain
Moluccas)."[192] He seems doubtful whether the name Indonesian should
be applied to the eight groups of aborigines of Indo-China which
he distinguishes.[193] He recognises that the Indonesians and the
Malayans are of very similar physical characters, but distinguishes
them as two of four races which have given rise to the population of
the Malay Archipelago -- namely, Malayans, Indonesians, Negritos, and
Papuans. He regards the Indonesians (used in a wide sense to include
Malays) as most closely akin to the Polynesians; but he expresses no
opinion as to their relations to the Mongol and Caucasic stocks.

Keane describes the Indonesians as a Proto-Caucasic race which must
have occupied Malaysia and the Philippines in the New Stone Age. He
separates them widely from the Malays and Proto-Malays, whom he
describes as belonging to the Oceanic branch of the Mongol stock;[194]
and the "Dyaks" of Borneo are classed by him with strict impartiality
sometimes with the Proto-Malays, sometimes with the Proto-Caucasians.

If these oldest inhabitants of Borneo may be regarded as typical
Indonesians (and we think that they have a strong claim to be so
regarded), then we think that the usage of the term by both Keane and
Deniker errs in accentuating unduly the affinity of the Indonesians
with the Polynesians, and that Keane's errs also in ignoring the
Mongol affinities of the Indonesians.

The most plausible view of the relations of these stocks seems to us
to be the following. Polynesians and Indonesians are the product of an
ancient blend of southern Mongols with a fair Caucasic stock. In both
the Caucasic element predominates, but more so in the Polynesian than
in the Indonesian. We imagine this blending to have been effected at a
remote period in the south-eastern corner of Asia, probably before the
date at which Borneo became separated from the mainland. If, as seems
probable, this blending was effected by the infusion of successive
doses of Mongol blood from the north into a Caucasic population
that had previously diffused itself over this corner of Asia from
the west,[195] the smaller proportion of the Mongol element in the
Polynesians may be due to their having passed into the islands,
while the Indonesians remained on the continent receiving further
infusions of Mongol blood.

The separation of Borneo from the mainland then isolated part of the
Indonesian stock within it, at a period when their culture was still
in a very primitive condition, presumably similar to that of the
Punans. The Proto-Malays, on the other hand, represent a blending of
the Mongol stock (or of a part of the Indonesian race) with darker
stock allied to the Dravidians of India, which is perhaps properly
called Proto-Dravidian, and of which the Sakai of the Malay peninsula
(and, perhaps, the Toala of central Celebes) seem to be the surviving
representatives in Malaysia. In this blend, which presumably was
effected in an area south of that in which the Indonesian blend was
formed, the Mongol element seems to predominate.

After the separation of Borneo from the mainland, there came a long
period throughout which it remained an isolated area, the population
of which received no important accessions from other areas. It is
probable that during this period the Indonesian population of the
mainland continued to receive further infusions of Mongol blood;
for there is abundant evidence that for a long time past there has
been a drifting of Mongol peoples, such as the Shans, southwards from
China into the Indo-Chinese area.

We may suppose that during this period the knowledge and practice of
working iron, of building long houses and boats, and of cultivating
PADI, became diffused through the greater part of the population of
this corner of the Asiatic continent. This advance of culture would
have rendered possible the passage of these peoples to the islands
in boats. But it seems probable that no considerable incursion of
people from this area was effected until a comparatively recent date.

In Chapter II. we have mentioned the evidences of Hindu-Javan influence
on Borneo, to which must be ascribed the existence of the Buddhist
court at Bruni before the coming of the Malays, as well as traces of
Hindu culture in south Borneo, including the practice of cremation
by the Land Dayaks, the burning of the bones by other tribes, stone
carvings,[196] and articles of gold and fragments of pottery of Hindu
character. There must have been a certain infusion of Javanese and
perhaps Hindu blood at this time; but both in physical type and in
culture the surviving traces seem to be insignificant.

We have mentioned also in Chapter II. the early intercourse between
China and the Buddhist rulers of Bruni and other parts of north and
northwest Borneo, and the legend of an early settlement of Chinese
in the extreme north.

But these civilised or semi-civilised visitors and settlers were
separated from the indigenous Borneans by a great culture gap,
and they probably had but little friendly intercourse with them
and affected their culture but little, if at all; and though it is
possible that they bartered salt, metal, tools, and weapons, for
camphor and other jungle produce, their influence, like that of the
Malays, probably extended but a little way from the coasts in most
parts of the island. The higher culture of the indigenous tribes of
the interior has been introduced, we believe, by invasions of peoples
less widely separated from them in cultural level, who have penetrated
far into the interior and have mingled intimately with them. Three
such invasions may be distinguished as of principal importance:
that of the Kayans in the south and perhaps in the south-east, of the
Muruts in the north, and of the Ibans in the south-west. Each of these
three invading populations has spread up the course of the rivers to
the interior and has established its communities over large areas,
until in the course of the nineteenth century they have encountered
one another for the first time. Besides these three most numerous
and important invasions, there have been many smaller settlements
from the surrounding islands, especially from Java, Celebes, and the
Philippines, whose blood and culture have still further diversified
the population and culture of the tribes of Borneo and complicated
the ethnographical problems of the island.

Of the three principal invasions, that of the Kayans has been of most
effect in spreading a higher culture among the indigenous population.

There is good reason to believe that the Kayans have spread across
Borneo from the south and south-eastern parts, following up the
course of the large rivers until they reached USUN APO, the central
highlands, in which (see vol. i. p. 2) all the large rivers have their
sources. The tradition of such north-westward migration is preserved
among the Kayans of the Baram, who, according to their own account,
crossed the watershed into the basins of the western rivers only a few
generations ago. This tradition is in accordance with the fact that,
within the memory of men still living, they have spread their villages
farther westward along the banks of the Baram and the Rejang rivers,
driving back the Muruts northwards from the Baram. It is borne out
by the accounts of the Bruni Malays to the effect that the Brunis
first became acquainted with the Kayans some few generations ago,
and had known the Muruts long before the advent of the Kayans; and
further, by the fact that the Kayans have left their name attached to
many rivers both in the south and east, where the name Batang Kayan
(or Kayan River) is the common appellation of several rivers on which
Kayan villages are now very few.

The Kayans seem to have entered Borneo by way of the rivers opening
on the south coast, and gradually to have penetrated to the central
highlands by following up these rivers, pushing out communities every
few years to build new villages higher up the river in the course
of their unceasing search for new areas adapted to their wasteful
farming operations.

There can, we think, be little doubt that the Kayans are the
descendants of emigrants from the mainland, and that they brought
with them thence all or most of the characteristic culture that we
have described. But from what part exactly of the mainland, and by
what route, they have come, and how long a time was occupied by the
migration, are questions in answer to which we cannot do more than
throw out some vague suggestions.

We believe that the Kayans migrated to Borneo from the basin of the
Irrawadi by way of Tenasserim, the Malay Peninsula, and Sumatra; and
that they represent a part of the Indonesian stock which had remained
in the basin of the Irrawadi and adjacent rivers from the time of the
separation of Borneo, there, through contact with the southward drift
of peoples from China, receiving fresh infusions of Mongol blood;
a part, therefore, of the Indonesians which is more Mongoloid in
character than that part which at a remote period was shut up in
Borneo by its separation from the mainland. During this long period
the Kayans acquired or developed the type of culture characterised by
the cultivation of PADI on land newly cleared of jungle by burning,
the building of long houses on the banks of rivers, the use of boats,
and the working of iron.

The way in which in Borneo the Kayans hang together and keep touch
with one another, even though scattered through districts in which
numerous communities of other tribes are settled, preserving their
characteristic culture with extreme faithfulness, lends colour to the
supposition that the whole tribe may thus have been displaced step by
step, passing on from one region and from one island to another without
leaving behind any part of the tribe. The passage of the straits
between the Peninsula and Sumatra, and between Sumatra and Borneo,
are the parts of this tribal migration that are the most difficult
to imagine. But we know that Kayans do not fear to put out to sea in
their long war-boats. We have known Kayan boats to descend the Baram
River and to follow the coast up to Bruni; and we have trustworthy
accounts of such expeditions having been made in former days by
large war parties in order to fight in the service of the Sultan of
Bruni. The distance from the Baram mouth to Bruni (about 100 miles)
is nearly equal to the width of the broadest stretch of water they
must have crossed in order to have reached Borneo from the mainland
by way of Sumatra. This hypothetical history of the immigration of
the Kayans receives some support from the fact that a vague tradition
of having crossed the sea still persists among them. We attach some
importance to this Kayan tradition of their having come over the sea,
as evidence that they are comparatively recent immigrants to Borneo;
but the principal grounds on which we venture to suggest this history
of the Kayans and of their invasion of Borneo are three: first,
the affinities of the Kayans in respect of physical character and
culture to certain tribes still existing in the area from which we
believe them to have come; secondly, historical facts which go far
to explain such a migration; thirdly, their relations to other tribes
of Borneo. We add a few words under each of these heads.

I. As long ago as the year 1850, J. R. Logan, writing of highland
tribes of the basins of the Koladan and Irrawadi and the south-eastern
part of the Brahmaputra, asserted that "the habits of these tribes
have a wonderful resemblance to those of the inland lank-haired races
of Indonesia... . There is hardly a minute trait in the legends,
superstitions, customs, habits, and arts of these tribes, and the
adjacent highlanders of the remainder of the Brahmaputra basin,
that is not also characteristic of some of the ruder lank-haired
tribes of Sumatra, Borneo, the Philippines, Celebes, Ceram, and the
trans-Javan islands."[197]

This assertion, though, no doubt, rather too sweeping, seems to have
a large basis in fact, so far as it concerns the tribes of Borneo.

We have not been able to find that any one tribe of this part of
the mainland agrees closely with the Kayans in respect of physical
characters and all important cultural features. Nevertheless, very
many of the features of the Kayan culture are described as occurring
amongst one or another tribe, though commonly with some considerable
differences in detail. In attempting to identify the nearest relatives
of the Kayans among the mainland tribes, it has to be remembered that
all these have been subjected to much disturbance, in some cases,
no doubt, involving changes of habitat, since the date at which,
as we suppose, the Kayans left the continent. And since the Kayans,
from the time of their arrival in Borneo, have played the part of a
dominating and conquering people among tribes of lower culture, and
have imposed their customs upon these other tribes, without blending
with them or accepting from them any important cultural elements,
it follows that we must regard the Kayans as having preserved, more
faithfully than their relatives of the mainland, the culture which
presumably they had in common with them a thousand years or more ago.

Of all the peoples of the south-eastern corner of the continent,
the one which seems to us most closely akin to the Kayans is that
which comprises the several tribes of the Karens.[198] These have been
regarded by many authors (3) as the indigenous people of Burma. Their
own traditions tell of their coming from the north across a great river
of sand and of having been driven out of the basin of the Irrawadi at
a later date (1). At present the Karens are found chiefly in the Karen
hills of Lower Burma between the Irrawadi and the Salween and in the
basin of the Sittang River, which runs southwards midway between those
two greater rivers to open into the head of the Gulf of Martaban. But
they have been much oppressed by their more civilised neighbours, the
Burmese and the Shans, and their communities are widely scattered in
the remoter parts of the country and are said to extend into Tenasserim
far down the Malay Peninsula. By the Burmese they are called also
KAYENS or KYENS, the Y and R sounds being interchangeable in Burmese
(1 and 3).

Peoples generally recognised as closely akin to the KARENS are the
CHINS (who are also known as Khyens) (14) of the basin of the Chindwin,
the large western tributary of the Irrawadi; and the KAKHYENS (also
called KACHINGS and SINGPHO), who occupy the hills east of Bhamo and
the basin of the river Tapang in the borderlands of Burma and Yunnan
(7). The Nagas of Manipur and of the Naga Hills of Assam also seem
to belong to the same group of peoples, though less closely akin to
the Karens than the Chins and the Kakhyens.

It seems highly probable that all these, together with the Kayans,
are surviving branches of a people which occupied a large area of
south-eastern Asia, more especially the basin of the Irrawadi, for a
considerable period before the first of the successive invasions which
have given rise to the existing Burmese and Shan nations. The physical
characters of all of them are consistent with the view taken above,
namely, that they represent the original Indonesian population of which
the Klemantans of Borneo are the pure type, modified by later infusions
of Mongol blood. In all these occur individuals who are described as
being of almost purely Caucasic type and very light in colour.

Three principal tribes of Karens are distinguished, the Sgan, Pwo,
and Bwe. Of these the Bwe are also known as the Hill-Karens and seem
to have preserved their own culture more completely than the others,
though the Sgan are said to be the purest in blood, the lightest in
colour, and more distinctive in type than any other of the tribes
of south-eastern Asia (4). Of the Hill-Karens, Mason said, "Some
would be pronounced European. Indeed, if not exposed to the sun,
some of them would be as fair, I think, as many of the inhabitants
of northern Europe." Yet the commoner type of Karen is said to show
distinctly Mongoloid facial characters. Of those Karens who have
been least affected by their more cultured neighbours, we are told
that they live in small communities, each of which is governed by
a patriarch who is at once high priest and judge, and who punishes
chiefly by the infliction of fines. He raises no regular tax, but
receives contributions in kind towards the expenses of entertainment
(3). Several communities join together, sometimes under a leading
chief, in order to meet a common foe (3). They build long houses
in which a whole community of as many as 400 persons dwell together
(4). These houses are described as of Himalayic type. "It (the house)
is made by sinking posts of large size firmly in the ground and
inserting beams or joists through the posts eight feet from the ground,
and on these laying the floor with slats of bamboo." The walls and
partitions are mats of woven bamboo, and the roof is thatched with palm
leaves (4). This very incomplete description leaves it open to suppose
that the Karen house is very similar to that built by the Kayans when
for any reason the latter build in hasty and temporary fashion. But the
still more scanty description of another writer (3) implies that the
arrangement of the interior of the house is unlike that characteristic
of the Kayans. They frequently migrate to new sites.

The Karens cultivate PADI and prepare the jungle land for cultivation
by burning down the forest. They prepare from rice a spirit to which
they are much addicted. The hill tribes are truculent warriors and
head-hunters. Captives are made slaves. They use and make spears
and axes, and a cross-bow[199] with poisoned arrows. They rear pigs
and poultry, and train dogs to the chase. The men eradicate their
beards. They wear many small rings on the forearms and legs. The
lobes of the ear are perforated and often enormously distended (3).

They address prayers and supplications for protection and prosperity to
a Supreme Being whom they address as "Lord of the heavens and earth"
(5). They believe also in a multitude of nature spirits, most of whom
are harmful. The fear of them occasions many ceremonial acts. The
taking of heads is said to be a means of propitiating these spirits
(3). They believe that during sickness the soul departs from the
body; and the medicine-man attempts to arrest it and to bring it
back to the body of the patient. In this and other rites the blood
of fowls (which they are said to venerate) (2) is smeared on the
participants. Divination by means of the bones of fowls and the
viscera, especially the liver of the pig, is in common use (5). The
souls of the dead go to a place in which they live much as in this
world. It is called ABU LAGAN[200] (3). In this abode of shades
everything is upside down and all directions are inverted (5). There
are no rewards and punishments after death (3). Parents take the names
of father and mother of So-and-so -- the name of their first child. The
knife with which the navel cord is cut at birth is carefully preserved
(5). Finally, the Karens are said to be distinguished by a lack of
humour, a trait which is well marked also in the Kayans.

In respect of all the characters and culture elements mentioned above,
the Karens resemble the Kayans very closely. Against these we have
to set off a few customs mentioned by our authorities in which they
differ from the Kayans.

The Karens eat everything except members of the cat tribe. They bury
the bodies of the dead after they have lain in state some three or
four days; and they hold an annual feast for the dead at the August
new moon. They ascribe two souls to man, one of a kind which is
possessed also by animals, tools, weapons, the rice, and one which
is the responsible soul peculiar to man.[201]

The bride is taken to the house of the bridegroom's father. Only
one tribe, namely, the Red Karens, practises tatu, and among them a
figure which seems to represent the rising sun is tatued on the back
of the men only (5). They weave a coarse cloth.

These differences are not very great, and their significance is
diminished by the following considerations. The Kayans may have
acquired their aversion to killing the dog through contact with
Malays. They bury the dead in the ground in the case of poor persons
or those dead of epidemic disease. And they have a tradition that they
formerly practised the weaving of cloth. They may also have acquired
the art of making and using the solid wooden blow-pipe from Malays;
and this would account for their having given up the use of the bow
and arrow as a serious weapon. On the other hand, the inferior houses
of the Karens, the lack of restrictions among them upon animal foods,
their earth burial -- all these may well be due to decay of custom
among an oppressed people; and the fact that they seem to make but
little use of boats may well be due to their having been driven
away from the main rivers and pushed into the hills. We have little
doubt that many more points of resemblance would be discoverable,
if we had any full account of the Karens as they were before their
culture was largely affected by contact with Burmese and Shans and
by the influence of the missionaries who have taught so successfully
among them for more than sixty years.

Among the elements of Kayan culture which are lacking or but feebly
represented among the Karens, some are reported among the tribes most
nearly allied to the Karens, and others among other peoples of the
same area.

Thus the peculiar Kayan custom of tatuing the thighs of women has a
close parallel in the tatuing of the thighs of men among all Burmese
and Shans; and the Kayans may well have adopted the practice from
them. Among the Shans there obtains the custom of placing the coffin on
upright timbers at some height above the ground (9). Among the Nagas,
and especially the Kuki Nagas,[202] who are said to be most nearly
allied to the Karens, beside a number of the culture elements which we
have noticed above as common to Karens and Kayans, other noteworthy
points of resemblance to the Kayans are the following: A system of
tabu or GENNA which may affect individuals or whole villages, and is
very similar to the MALAN of the Kayans; the practice of ornamenting
houses with heads of enemies, the motive of taking the head being to
provide a slave in Hades for a deceased chief; the use of human and
other hair in decorating weapons.[203]

Their method of attacking a village is like that of the Kayans,
namely, to surround it in the night and to rush it at dawn; they
obstruct the approach of an enemy to their village by planting in the
ground short pieces of bamboo sharpened and fire-hardened at both ends;
they use an oblong wooden shield or a rounded shield of plaited cane;
their blacksmiths use a bellows very like that of the Kayan smiths;
they husk their PADI in a solid wooden mortar with a big pestle
A LA Kayan; they floor their houses with similar massive planks;
they catch fish in nets and traps, and by poisoning the water; men
pierce the shell of the ear in various ways; omens are read from the
viscera of pigs, and the cries of some birds are unlucky; they worship
a Supreme Deity and a number of minor gods, E.G. gods of rain and of
harvest; they often sacrifice pigs and fowls to the gods, and omens
are always read from the slaughtered animals; those who die in battle
and in childbirth are assigned to special regions of the other world;
the women are tatued (on chest) to facilitate recognition in Hades;
in felling the jungle preparatory to burning it to make a PADI farm,
they always leave at least one tree standing for the accommodation
of the spirits of the place.

Other of the instruments, arts, and customs of the Kayans are found
widely spread in south-eastern Asia. Such are the small axe or adze
with lashed head; the musical instrument of gourd and bamboo pipes
with reeds; the bamboo guitar; the use of old beads and of hornbill
feathers for personal adornment; the making of fire by friction of
a strip of rattan across a block of wood.

II. Whether this people, of whom the Kayans, Karens, Chins, Kakhyens,
and Nagas, seem to be the principal surviving branches, came into
the Irrawadi basin and adjacent areas by migration from Central Asia
by way of the Brahmaputra valley, as Cross and McMahon (accepting
the tradition of the Karens) believe, or came, as Logan suggested,
eastward from Bengal, it seems certain that it has been divided into
fragments, driven away from the main rivers, and in the main pushed
southwards by successive swarms of migration from the north. This
pressure from the north seems to have driven some of the Karens down
into the Malay Peninsula, where they are still found; and it may
well be that, before the rise of the Malays as an aggressive people
under Arab leadership, the ancestors of the Kayans occupied parts of
the peninsula farther south than the Karens now extend, and possibly
also parts of Sumatra. If this was the case, it was inevitable that,
with the rise to dominance of the Mohammedan Malays in this region,
the Kayans must have been either driven out, exterminated, or converted
to Islam and absorbed. It seems probable that different communities
of them suffered these three different fates.

The supposition that the Kayans represent a part of such a population,
which was driven on by the pressure of Malays to seek a new country
in which to practise its extravagant system of PADI culture, is in
harmony with the probability as to the date of their immigration
to the southern rivers of Borneo; for the rise and expansion of the
Menangkabau Malays began in the middle of the twelfth century A.D.;
and the Kayans may well have entered Borneo some 700 years ago.

III. We have now to summarise the evidence in favour of the view that
the Kayans have imparted to the Kenyahs and many of the Klemantan
tribes the principal elements of the peculiar culture which they now
have in common.

We have shown that the culture of the Kenyah and Klemantan tribes
is in the main very similar to that of the Kayans, and that it
differs chiefly in lacking some of its more advanced features, in
having less sharply defined outlines, in its greater variability
from one community to another, and in the less strict observance of
custom. Thus the Kayans in general live in larger communities, each of
their villages generally consisting of several long houses; whereas
a single long house generally constitutes the whole of a Kenyah or
Klemantan village. The Kayans excel in iron-working, in PADI culture,
in boat-making, and in house-building. Their customs and beliefs
are more elaborated, more definite, more uniform, and more strictly
observed. Their social grades are more clearly marked. They hang
together more strongly, with a stronger tribal sentiment, and, while
the distinction between them and other tribes is everywhere clearly
marked and recognised both by themselves and others, the Klemantans
and Kenyahs everywhere shade off into one another and into Punans.

The process of conversion of Punans into settled communities that
assimilate more or less fully the Kayan culture is still going on. We
are acquainted with settled communities which still admit their
Punan origin; and these exhibit very various grades of assimilation
of the Kayan culture. Some, which in the lives of the older men were
still nomadic, still build very poor houses and boats, cultivate PADI
very imperfectly, and generally exhibit the Kayan culture in a very
imperfect state.

On the other hand, the Kenyahs have assimilated the Kayan culture more
perfectly than any other of the aborigines, and in some respects, such
as the building of houses, they perhaps equal the Kayans; but even they
have not learnt to cultivate PADI in so thorough a manner as to keep
themselves supplied with rice all through the year, as the Kayans do;
and, like the various Klemantan tribes,[204] they suffer almost every
year periods of scarcity during which they rely chiefly on cultivated
and wild sago and on tapioca. The Kayans, on the other hand, grow
sufficient PADI to last through the year, except in very bad seasons,
and they never collect or cultivate sago. The view that this relative
imperfection of the agriculture of the Kenyahs and Klemantans is due to
the recency of their adoption of the practice, is confirmed by the fact
that many of them still preserve the tradition of the time when they
cultivated no PADI. It seems that most of the present Kenyahs first
began to plant PADI not more than two, or at most three, centuries
ago. Some of the Kenyahs also preserve the tradition of a time when
they constructed their houses mainly of bamboo; this was probably
their practice for some few generations after they began to acquire
the Kayan culture. At the present day those Punans who have only
recently taken to the settled mode of life generally make large use
of the bamboo in building their small and relatively fragile houses.

The view that the Kayans have played this large civilising role is
supported by the fact that Kayan is the language most widely understood
in the interior, and that it is largely used for intercommunication,
even between members of widely separated Kenyah communities whose
dialects have diverged so widely that their own language no longer
forms a medium of communication between them; whereas the Kayans
themselves do not trouble to acquire familiarity with the Kenyah or
Klemantan languages.

If both Kenyahs and Klemantans represent sections of the aboriginal
population of nomadic hunters who have absorbed Kayan culture, it
remains to account for the existence of those peculiarities of the
Kenyahs that have led us to separate them from the tribes which we
have classed together as Klemantans. The peculiarities that distinguish
Kenyahs from Klemantans are chiefly personal characteristics, notably
the bodily build (relatively short limbs and massive trunks), the more
lively and energetic temperament, the more generous and expansive
and pugnacious disposition. These peculiarities may, we think, be
accounted for by the supposition that the aborigines from whom the
Kenyahs descend had long occupied the central highlands where most
of the Kenyah communities still dwell and which they all regard as
the homeland and headquarters of their race.

Of the Klemantan tribes some, E.G. the Aki, the Long Patas, and the
Long Akars, resemble more nearly the Kayans; others, E.G. the Muriks,
the Sebops, the Lirongs, the Uma Longs, the Pengs or Pinihings,
show more affinity with the Kenyahs. It seems probable that these
diversities have resulted from the assimilation of culture directly
from the Kayans by the one group and from the Kenyahs by the other. A
third group of Klemantan tribes such as the Long Kiputs, the Batu
Blah, and the Trings, scattered through the northern part of the
island, resemble more nearly the Muruts; and among these are found
communities whose culture marks them as descendants of nomads who
have assimilated the Murut culture in various degrees.

The Muruts

The Muruts differ somewhat as regards physical features from all the
other tribes, especially in having coarser but less Mongoloid features,
a longer skull, and a more lanky build of body and limbs. Their
intonation is nasal, and the colour of the skin slightly darker and
ruddier than that of the Klemantans.

Their culture differs so much as to lead us to suppose that it had
a somewhat different origin from that of the Kayans. They build long
houses; but these are comparatively flimsy structures, and they are
often situated at a distance from any navigable stream. Even those
Muruts who live on the river-banks make much less use of boats than
the other tribes, and all of them are great walkers. They have very
little skill in boat-making. Their most distinctive peculiarity is
their system of agriculture (see vol. i. p. 97), which involves
irrigation, the use of buffalo, the raising of two crops a year,
and the repeated use in successive years of the same land. Other
distinctive features are their peculiar long sword and short spear;
the absence of any axe and blow-pipe; the custom according to which
the women propose marriage to the men (Kalabits).

In the Philippine Islands a system of agriculture similar to that
of the Muruts is widely practised; and some of the tribes, though
their culture has been largely influenced by Spanish civilisation,
seem to be of the same stock as the Muruts; thus the Tagals of Borneo
are not improbably a section of the people known as Tagalas in the
Philippines, and the Bisayas of Borneo probably bear the same relation
to the Visayas of the Philippines.

It seems probable, therefore, that this type of culture has been
carried into the north of Borneo by immigrants from the Philippines,
whither it was introduced at a remote period, possibly from Annam, the
nearest part of the mainland; or possibly it came to Borneo directly
from Annam.[205] It is probable that many of the tribes which we have
classed with the Muruts, on account of their possession of the Murut
culture, are, like the Klemantans and Kenyahs, descendants of the
ancient Indonesian population who have adopted the culture of more
advanced immigrants. The descendants of the immigrants who introduced
this type of culture are, we think, the Muruts proper, who claim that
name and dwell chiefly in the Trusan, the Padas, the Sembakong, the
Kerayan rivers, and in the head of the Kinabatangan; also the Kalabits
in the northern part of the upper basin of the Baram. It is these
which display most decidedly the physical peculiarities noted above.

As examples of Klemantan tribes that have partially adopted the Murut
culture we would mention the LONG KIPUTS, the BATU BLAHS, the TRINGS,
and the ADANGS in the head of the Limbang River; to the same group
belong the KADAYANS in the neighbourhood of Bruni, who, from contact
with their Malay neighbours, have become in large part Mohammedans
of Malay culture.

The Ibans (Sea Dayaks)

The Ibans stand distinctly apart from all the other tribes, both by
reason of their physical and mental peculiarities and of the many
differences of their culture; we have little doubt that they are the
descendants of immigrants who came into the south-western corner of
Borneo at no distant date. We regard them as Proto-Malays, that is
to say, as of the stock from which the true Malays of Sumatra and the
Peninsula were differentiated by the influence of Arab culture. A large
number of the ancestors of the present Ibans were probably brought to
Borneo from Sumatra less than two hundred years ago. Some two centuries
ago, a number of Malay nobles were authorised by the Sultan of Bruni
to govern the five rivers of Sarawak proper, namely, the Samarahan,
the Sadong, the Batang Lupar, the Saribas, and the Klaka rivers. These
Malays were pirate leaders, and they were glad to enrol large numbers
of pagan fighting men among their followers; for the latter were glad
to do most of the hard work, claiming the heads of the pirates' victims
as their principal remuneration, while the Malays retained that part
of the booty which had a marketable value. These Malay leaders found,
no doubt, that their pagan relatives of Sumatra lent themselves
more readily to this service than the less warlike Klemantans of
Borneo, and therefore, as we suppose, they brought over considerable
numbers of them and settled them about the mouths of these rivers. The
co-operation between the piratical Malay Tuankus and the descendants of
their imported PROTEGES continued up to the time of the suppression of
piracy by the British and Dutch half a century ago. It was from this
association with the sea and with coast-pirates that the Ibans became
known as the Sea Dayaks by Sir James Brooke; and to this encouragement
of their head-hunting proclivity by the Malays is no doubt due their
peculiarly ruthless and bloodthirsty devotion to it as to a pastime,
rather than (as with the Kayans and other tribes) as to a ceremonial
duty occasionally imposed upon them by the death of a chief.

It seems to us probable that the greater part of the ancestors of
the Ibans entered Borneo in this way. But there is reason to think
that some of them had settled at an earlier date in this part of
Borneo and rather farther southward on the Kapuas River. The BUGAUS,
KANTUS, and DAUS, who dwell along the southern border of Sarawak,
and some other Iban tribes in the northern basin of the Kapuas River,
are probably descendants of these earlier immigrants of Proto-Malay
stock. In most respects they closely resemble the other Iban tribes,
but they are distinguished by some peculiarities of language and
accent; their manners are gentler, their bearing less swaggering;
they are less given to wandering, and they have little skill in the
making and handling of boats. These are recognised by themselves and
by other Ibans as belonging to the same people; but they are a little
looked down upon by Ibans of the other tribes as any home-staying
rural population is looked down upon by travelled cosmopolitans.

This conjectural history of the immigration of the Ibans explains the
peculiar fact that, although all the Ibans of all parts are easily
distinguishable from all the other peoples, and although they all
recognise one another as belonging to the same people, they have no
common name for the whole group. They commonly speak of KAMI MENOA
(I.E. "we of this country") when they refer to their people as a whole;
and the Kayan designation of them as IVAN (immigrant or wanderer) has
been adopted by large numbers of them in recent years and modified into
Iban, so that the expression KAMI IBAN is now frequently used by them.

The identification of the Iban with a Proto-Malay stock is justified
by their language and physical characteristics. The former seems to be
the language from which Malay has been formed under Arab influence and
culture. It employs many words which are no longer current in Malay,
but which, as is shown by Marsden's MALAY DICTIONARY, were in use
among Sumatran Malays in the eighteenth century.

Since the Mohammedan populations which now are called Malay are of
mixed origin, they present no very well-defined or uniform physical
type. But of all Malays those of Sumatra and of the Peninsula are
generally recognised as presenting the type in its greatest purity;
and it is this type which the Ibans most closely reproduce. The
near resemblance of facial type between the Malays and the Ibans is
apt to be obscured for the casual visitor by the fact that the Iban
puts little or no restraint upon his expressions and is constantly
chattering, laughing, and smiling; whereas the Malay is taught from
childhood to restrain his expressions and to preserve a severe and
grave demeanour in the presence of strangers. But in private the
Malay relaxes, and then the resemblance appears more clearly.

The principal features of the Iban's culture which distinguish it from
that of the other tribes may be enumerated here. The Iban closely
resembles the Kayan in his method of cultivating PADI, but he is
even more careful and skilful, and generally secures a surplus. His
house differs characteristically from those of the Kayan type, and
resembles the long houses still inhabited by some Sumatran Malays,
in being comparatively small, and in having a framework of many
light poles rather than of heavy hardwood timbers, and a floor of
split bamboo in place of huge planks. In methods of weaving and dyeing
cloth and in the character of the cloths produced;[206] in the wearing
of ornamental head-cloths; in the weaving of mats and baskets with
the PANDANUS leaf and a large rush known as BUMBAN rather than with
strips of split rattan; in their methods of trapping and netting fish;
in the character of the sword and axe and shield as formerly used;[207]
in the use of the fire-piston;[208] in musical instruments and methods;
in the custom of earth burial; in the visiting and making of offerings
at the graves of noted men in the hope of supernatural aid, -- in
all these respects the Iban culture differs from that of the Kayans,
and closely resembles that of the Malays.

The Iban culture presents also certain features not common to other
peoples of Borneo and not found among the Malays; and all or most
are such as must have been exterminated among the Malays on their
conversion to Islam, if they had formed part of their culture in
their pre-Islamic period. Such are the religious beliefs and customs
of the Ibans with the cult of the PETARA; the NGARONG; the rite with
the clay crocodile for getting rid of farm pests (vol. ii. p. 88);
the use in weaving of a number of designs of animal origin; the
adornment of the edge of the ear with many brass rings; the lack of
any strict avoidance of killing dogs.

Thirdly, of the features of Iban culture which are common to them and
to the other tribes of Borneo, many seem to have been borrowed by them
from their neighbours, and often in an incomplete or imperfect manner;
such are the system of omenreading, the ritual slaughter of fowls and
pigs, much of their dancing and tatuing, the PARANG ILANG and wooden
shield, the feathered war-coat of skin, the KELURI or small bag-pipe,
and the fashion of wearing their hair, -- all these seem to have been
borrowed from the Kayans; the woman's corset of brassbound hoops,
from the Malohs; the mat worn posteriorly for sitting upon, from
the Kenyahs.[209]

Besides the three great invasions of foreign blood and foreign culture,
those borne by the Kayans, the Muruts, and the Ibans respectively,
there have been numerous minor invasions on all sides. In the following
paragraphs we make mention of those that seem to have been of most
importance in modifying the population and the culture of Borneo.

In the south there are traces of Javanese culture with its Hindu
elements among many of the tribes, but especially among the Land Dayaks
who occupy the southern extremity of Sarawak. These cremate their
dead; they set apart a separate round house for the trophies of human
heads, and in this the bachelors are expected to pass the nights. The
Malawis of South-East Borneo seem to be similar in many respects to
the Land Dayaks of Sarawak. The Land Dayaks have a reputation in
Upper Sarawak for quicker intelligence and more adaptability than
the other tribes, and hence are in much request for services of the
most various kinds. It is an interesting question whether this may be
due to a dash of Hindu blood; the facial type and the more abundant
growth of hair on the face would support an affirmative answer.

The Malohs are a well-marked tribe found on the Kalis and Mandai
rivers, tributaries of the Kapuas River. Physically they are marked
by exceptionally long narrow heads (index about 76). They speak
a language very different from those of the central and northern
parts of the island, but speak also the Iban language with a peculiar
accent. The Malohs alone of all the peoples of Borneo eat the flesh of
the crocodile. The most distinctive feature of their culture is their
skill and industry in brass working. Malohs supply a large proportion
of all the brass-ware to be found in the interior. This addiction to
brass-working suggests that they represent an immigration from Java,
which has long enjoyed a great reputation for its brass-ware and an
extensive market throughout the islands.

On the east coast are many communities of Bugis, who are mostly
Mohammedans and seem to have come from Celebes, where they are a
numerous people.

In the north and extreme north-west the Dusuns seem to be of Murut
stock with an infusion of Chinese blood and culture. They use a
plough drawn by buffalo in the PADI fields, which they irrigate

Round about the northern coasts are to be found many small bands
of Lanuns and Bajaus, living largely in boats. They are mostly
Mohammedans, and descend from the notorious piratical communities
whose headquarters were in the Sulu Islands and other islands off
the north-east coast.

In the foregoing pages we have said very little about the languages
spoken by the tribes of Borneo. Although one of us has a practical
command of the Kayan, Kenyah, Sea Dayak, and Malay languages,
and a tolerably intimate acquaintance with a number of the
Klemantan dialects, we do not venture upon the task of discussing
their systematic positions and relations to languages of other
areas. For this would be a task of extreme difficulty and complexity
which only an accomplished linguistic scholar could profitably
undertake. Nevertheless, we think it worth while to add a few words
regarding the bearing of the languages on the foregoing ethnological
discussion. It seems clear that in the main the differences and
affinities between the many languages and dialects spoken by the
pagan tribes bear out, so far as they are known to us, the principal
conclusions of our argument. The Sea Dayak or Iban tongue stands
distinctly apart from all the rest, and is indisputably very closely
allied to the Malay. The Kenyahs, Klemantans, and Punans speak a great
variety of tongues, which are, however, so closely similar, and the
extreme members of which are connected by so many intermediate forms,
that it would seem they may properly be regarded as but dialects of
one language. The Kayan language, on the other hand, stands apart from
both the Iban and the Klemantan languages, but is much nearer to the
latter than the former. The Kenyah dialects especially contain many
words or roots that appear also in the Kayan, and seem to be more
closely allied to it than is any of the Klemantan tongues. This may
well be due to the more intimate contact with the Kayans enjoyed by the
Kenyahs, who, as we have seen, have assimilated the Kayan culture more
completely than any other of the indigenous tribes, and who may well
have taken up many Kayan words together with other culture elements.

The Murut languages again seem to stand apart from the Iban, Kayan,
and Kenyah-Klemantan, as a distinct group whose vocabulary has little
in common with those others.[210]

In conclusion, we venture to make a suggestion which we admit to be
widely speculative and by which we wish only to draw attention to a
remote possibility which, if further evidence in its favour should
be discovered, would be one of great interest. We have throughout
maintained the view, now adopted by many others, of which Professor
Keane has been the principal exponent, namely, the view that the
Indonesian stock was largely, probably predominantly, of Caucasic
origin. In our chapter on animistic beliefs concerning animals and
plants, and in the chapter on religion, we have shown that the Kayans
believe in a multiplicity of anthropomorphic deities which, with Lake
Tenangan at the head of a galaxy of subordinate gods and goddesses
presiding over special departments of nature, strangely resembles
the group of divine beings who, in the imagination of the fathers
of European culture, dwelt in Olympus. And we have shown that the
system of divination practised by the Kayans (the taking of omens
from the flight and cries of birds, and the system of augury by the
entrails of sacrificial victims) strangely resembles, even in many
details, the corresponding system practised by the early Romans. Our


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