To the average Malaysian (by that I mean the ones from Lepehland), Dayak means natives who still live on trees and ride turtles to Malaya (yes, some people still call it that). Actually, they generalize. If you’re from Borneo, oh well, it’s so green. There can’t possibly be cars right?
At risk of turning this post into a long preachy piece on the stupidity of our western cousins, better move on.
According to the Kalimantan Review (Nov 1999), Dayak is the collective name for around 405 ethno-linguistic groups of the Borneo Island. One common feature is they live (or used to) along rivers, mountain tops and highlands, practise paddy shifting cultivation, and collect jungle produce.
Interesting fact. There’s a Dayak King, in Kalimantan Barat, named Singa Bansa, the 6th ruler to sit on the Hulu Aik throne at Menyumbung Village, Sandal District, Ketapang Regency (Chang Pat Foh). Not many people know this. I don’t. Apparently the Hulu Aik Kingdom was established around the year 700 at Krio River. Anyone from Kalbar can verify this?
Considering the size of Kalimantan, it’s not surprising that they contain more diverse Dayak ethnic groups compared to Sarawak or Sabah. Sadly, efforts to truly document all the ethnic groups are sometimes conflicting, sometimes missing. There has not been (as far as I know), any written, current record on all the ethnic groups. Only the bigger, major groups are researched/documented while the minority slowly dwindle or assimilate into the nearest group.
Sarawak Museum (formerly the best ethnography museum in SEA), as everyone knows, lies quietly near Padang Merdeka, collecting dust. Researches are being done and carried out by foreign researchers. No new exhibits (more like rotating old stock), the same old thing lying within it’s empty halls. Sad, that we’re slowly losing our cultural heritage, dying with the old because the new ain’t that interested. And the people who are supposed to do something about it, is sitting in their air-conditioned offices pushing pencils (pens, whatever).
Yeah, why not build an aluminium smeltering plant which would never pollute the environment because we don’t have enough money to fund and promote our own culture?