Dayak Customs and Culture: The Native People of Borneo

Getting to know people with the customs and culture of tourist destinations is very important. Here are some introductions if you ever decide to go on an eco-tour and cultural tour to the middle of the Dayak people, the original inhabitants of Borneo.

Scientific and academic studies regarding the customs of an ethnic group, always begin by placing a clan, community, group, ethnic group in a locus or area where they live (Jean D'Aspremont. 2021 and Peter Orebech, ‎ Fred Bosselman  , et al 2005). 

Read Borneo As A Choice Of Ecotourism And Historical Tourism Destinations

Why is that? When understood carefully, the reason is very strong and clear. A community, especially a community that is classified as "primitive", is not firstly seen from its way of life ( modus vivendi ) and way of being ( modus essendi ).

From the origin of the Latin word " primitīvus ", from the word  prīmus  (the first) primitive refers to the life of a people, ethnic group, which is unique to that place which first of all relies on unity and life that is one with the universe and the surrounding environment.

Thus, in its first and initial taste, what is called primitive is not primarily a matter of (cultural) backwardness. Nor is it measured from increasingly sophisticated technological advances, but seen from the human values ​​that emanate from the civilization of an ethnic group.

The Big Indonesian Dictionary  (KBBI) on the entry "primitive", we need to look at, and provide notes. As with dictionaries, of course the entries are mostly lexical definitions from vocabulary collectors. In it, in the process of compilation, most of the meanings of words are based on the interpretation, or understanding of the composer. The wider and deeper the interpreter's understanding of an object, the clearer the results of his interpretation will be. 

Keep in mind the following lexical definition of "primitive":

primitive /pri·mi·tif/   1  in very simple circumstances; not yet advanced (about civilization; backward):  culture --;  2  simple; ancient (not modern about equipment):  weapons --

 Thus, in Classical Logic, we call it the "content" and "extent" of a term. Content, or comprehension, refers to the overall meaning intended by a term. For example, the term "magnet" is any material that can attract ferrous metal. The area or extension is the whole thing designated by the term. For example, the term "animal" can refer to fish, cows, chickens, snakes, and so on which can be designated or referred to as animals.  

Between the content and the term area there is an inverse correlation. If one increases, the other will decrease. Conversely, if one decreases, the other will increase. In such a way, if we look carefully, the lexical definition, or the meaning from the dictionary, is not enough to explain a phenomenon. Moreover, comprehensively explaining an object of research. Therefore, as researchers and writers we are obliged to explore various inter-texts to explain phenomena.

Customs and Territory
Customs are the usual customs or practices associated with a particular community, place or situation. From the structure of this statement, it becomes material for the question, "Is it a certain place or condition that affects the people" or the people that affect the place and circumstances?

Presumably, the relationship between the two is not causal, which precedes or causes which. However, the relationship between people-customs-territory is a correlation relationship. That is, there is a relationship between the three factors. The elements enter into each other, influence each other; in such a way, so as to form what is called "customs".

Take the example of the correlation of these three elements on the island of Borneo. As it is known that Kalimantan is very broad, it is the third largest island in the world after Greenland and Papua Island. Kalimantan is a truly rich island. It is flowed by many large and small rivers, so much so that it is also known as the “island of a thousand rivers”. An important tropical forest in the world, Kalimantan has an area of ​​743,330 km² in terms of area, helping to shape the customs of the local community. 

In ancient times, before Hogendorf,  the controleur of  Banjarmasin in 1757 first used "Dajak" in his report to the Netherlands to refer to the collective name of the native population of the island of Borneo, so the natives themselves named the clan/group using the name of the river.  

Scientific and academic studies regarding the customs of an ethnic group, always begin by placing a clan, community, group, ethnic group in a locus or area where they live. How about in Kalimantan?

In West Kalimantan, according to the traditional elder of the Dayak Iban in Sungai Utik, Apai Janggut (2018), the Dayak people have been accustomed to calling themselves after the name of a river since ancient times. For example: Dayak Ketungau, Dayak Krio, Dayak Landak, Dayak Kendawangan, Dayak Jelai, Dayak Keria, Dayak Krio, and others which are also the names of the long and wide rivers in West Kalimantan. 

Read Nasalis Larvatus "Kera Belanda" : An Exotic Ecotourism In Borneo

Likewise, even today, in Central Kalimantan we often hear in narratives that there are still many people who use the name of a river to refer to certain tribes, for example: Katingan people, Kahayan people, Kumai people, Mentaya people, Seruyan people, Mendawai people, Jelai people , etc. Those are actually the names of the rivers in Central Kalimantan.

The self-naming based on the name of this river clearly shows that there is a correlation between people, customs, and their territory. Because it has a large area, beautiful nature, far apart, in daily communication the habits of the local people tend to speak in a high and loud tone of voice.

 It's not because they're angry, or for any other reason, it's because if they don't speak in a high and loud tone of voice, then the other person can't hear clearly. There is a lot of  noise  , such as: sounds of nature, strong winds, falling water, or long distances. 

Read Pampang Cultural House, East Kalimantan

In this example, we become aware that nature and the environment contribute to local habits or customs. Therefore, local customs or customs cannot be assessed superficially by only looking at external aspects or what is visible. This is because customs do not merely manifest in visible objects (artifacts/accessories/attributes), but also radiate in abstract things, such as: values, habits, thoughts, and concepts.

How nature influences local customs is also seen in the indigenous people of Kalimantan in terms of treating trees, bamboo and fruit trees. Nature, which is still beautiful and stores many sources of food, also forms the customs of the people of Kalimantan.  

For example, bamboo shoots in a bamboo clump cannot be taken all of them, they must be left over for their survival. Certain fruit trees are not allowed to cut down or prune their branches, because if they are damaged, it will take years for them to bear fruit again. 

For the natives of Kalimantan, nature is a living "refrigerator". That is why, nature should not be damaged. Let all animals, flora and fauna reproduce and grow in a free nature. If you need it, take enough, don't overdo it. Situations and natural conditions also shape humans and their customs. 

In a separate language, we will see how the customs of Kalimantan coexist and coevolve with nature and its environment. Meanwhile, on the other hand, there is adoption and adaptation of local customs to the outside world which cannot be dammed anymore.*)
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