The Practice of Ngayau among the Dayak Tribes is Often Misunderstood by Outsiders

The portrayal of a Dayak man prepared for ngayau in a book by King.

Borneo is synonymous with the Dayak people. Across all reputable academic references, it's stated that "Dayak are the indigenous custodians of the land and earth of Borneo."

Therefore, it's essential to familiarize oneself with one of the customs or cultures of the indigenous Bornean tribes, namely the Dayak, which consists of 7 major ethnic groups and 407 sub-ethnic groups, with a current global population of 8,300,000.

Headhunting means

Headhunting, to those outside the Dayak community, often carries misconceptions. It's often viewed as a barbaric and aimless tradition, lacking any deeper significance. 

Yet, beneath its surface, lies a profound philosophical underpinning.

Headhunting means: going to war (Fridolin Ukur in the book Tantang Jawab Suku Daya (1971).

Headhunting comes from the word kayau which means "enemy" (Lontaan, 1975 page 532).

Perjanjian Damai Tumbang Anoi

It is worth noting that inter-Dayak headhunting was agreed to be ended by the Great Borneo Dayak on July 22 - July 24, 1894, when  Perjanjian Damai Tumbang Anoi (the Great Assembly of Tumbang Anoi) was held in the village of Huron Anoi Kahayan Ulu, Central Kalimantan. For those who are not fully familiar, here are the goals/motivations of Ngayau.

1. Acquiring additional spiritual power.

2. Seeking revenge.

3. The enemy's head is believed to enhance the structural integrity of buildings (U. Lontaan (1975: 533-537)).

4. Survival (self-defense).

5. Protecting agriculture.

In contemporary times, Ngayau : combating poverty

Additionally, in contemporary times, Ngayau can also mean combating poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, and poverty in various fields. In their era, in the hinterlands of Kalimantan, the Dayak tribes lived in a society rich in traditions and beliefs.

One word that encapsulates much of their identity and culture is "Ngayau." This word holds deep significance in their lives - going to war.

Ngayau, more than just warfare, is an effort to defend oneself, especially in inter-tribal competition among the Dayak people. The origin of the word "Ngayau" is intriguing because it derives from "kayau," which literally means "enemy." For the Dayak tribes, conflict and warfare are integral parts of their history and culture.

Warfare often stems from inter-tribal conflicts involving their enemies. Such conflicts often colored the lives of the Dayak people in Kalimantan.

Like many conflicts in history, the Dayak tribes also understood that peace is a noble aspiration. On May 22 - July 24, 1894, a historic event occurred in the village of Huron Anoi Kahayan Ulu, Central Kalimantan. 

This event is known as the Great Assembly of Tumbang Anoi, where the Dayak tribes agreed to end the tradition of warfare that had long characterized their lives.

The practice of Ngayau has various goals and motivations behind it. Firstly, they believe that through Ngayau, they can acquire additional spiritual power, which will strengthen them spiritually. 

Additionally, revenge often serves as a strong driver in this practice - defeating enemies as a form of retaliation for past wrongs or injustices. 

There is a belief that the heads of enemies taken in warfare possess magical powers. 

This belief holds that enemy heads can be used to enhance the structural integrity of buildings, providing supernatural protection. This is strong evidence of how culture and spirituality are closely intertwined with their daily lives.

More than just warfare, Ngayau is also an effort to defend oneself, especially in inter-tribal competition among the Dayak people. 

Furthermore, this practice is sometimes linked to the protection of agriculture and vital resources for the survival of the Dayak people.

Ngayau serves as a window into the rich cultural and spiritual world of the Dayak tribes. While war may have dominated their history, efforts such as the Great Assembly of Tumbang Anoi represent a strong push for peace and conflict resolution, while also preserving their deep-rooted traditions.
(Rangkaya Bada)

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