War and Slavery in Dayak Land: Background of the Tumbang Anoi Encounter 1894



The history book of the Dayaks, which is explored, written, and published 'olo itah' the Dayak people, is important. 

Why is it important? Because the history of the Dayaks is written and published by the Dayak people. 

The all-Dayak book

Certainly, unlike history books of the Dayaks written by foreigners, they are inevitably full of bias due to the interpreter's interpretations and misperceptions and the lack of knowledge of the author. This book is different! 

Therefore, it is truly valuable.

The book is titled to reflect the essence of its content, namely Perang dan Perbudakan di Tanah Dayak: Latar Belakang Pertemuan Tumbang Anoi 1894 (War and Slavery in Dayak Land: Background of the Tumbang Anoi Encounter 1894.

The Appearance of the Opening of the Great Tumbang Anoi Meeting in front of the Damang Batoe longhouse at Tumbang Anoi, Gunung Mas District, Central Kalimantan today.
Photo documentation: Tropen Museum.

In 1894, at the Tumbang Anoi Peace Meeting, the Dayak people resolved their own issues through a gathering facilitated by the Dutch Colonial Government. This sentence encapsulates the author's message.

I am not discussing all of Borneo, only the Afdeeling Dajaklandeen and its surroundings. This area became the epicenter that drove the Tumbang Anoi meeting in 1894.

On May 22nd, we commemorated the 130th anniversary of the Tumbang Anoi Peace Meeting. The peak was on July 24th, marking 130 years since 1894. 

At the Betang Damang Riboe longhouse, on May 22nd, several warring tribal chiefs gathered and agreed to settle chronic disputes. The meeting began with 21 gunshots and a speech in Malay by the Dayak Land Controller (A.C. de Heer), translated into Ngaju Dayak by Raden Yohanes Karsa Negara (chief of the Small Dayak River district).

Furthermore, on July 24th, 1894, at the same location, a similar procession took place but with a larger participation for closure.

Residen Tromp's report

At the end of the event, a solemn oath was taken by the attending tribal chiefs, as recorded in Residen Tromp's report:

Finally, besides the aforementioned closure and peace terms, the chiefs and notable figures present took an oath declaring their satisfaction with the meeting's decisions and pledging to assist the Government in maintaining peace and prosperity in their respective communities. The oath-taking ceremony took place on July 24th, followed by traditional peace-making rituals among the chiefs and representatives involved. Four buffaloes, given as gifts by the Government, were sacrificed as symbols of peace.

All activities took place at Betang Damang Riboe, known as described by Barth and Tromp in their reports. The Dayak people know it as Damang Batu, the head village of Tumbang Anoi.

Is the Tumbang Anoi 1894 Meeting truly significant history?

Among Dayak scholars, there are at least two perspectives on the Peace Meeting. First, it is seen as the resurgence of the Dayak people, a turning point in their civilization from the past to the present. Second, it is viewed as a dark chapter in Borneo's history, signifying Dutch colonial domination over the Dayak people.

Adherents of both perspectives have their reasons, thus both hold elements of truth and error.

In the book "War & Slavery in Dayak Land," I elaborate that the Dayak had been under Dutch authority since Prince Nata Dilaga or Penembahan Batoe (the ruler of Banjar) signed agreements with the Dutch East India Company in 1787. 

Under these agreements, the Sultan ceded the Banjar region to the company, ruling it as a leased territory. These agreements were reaffirmed by Sultan Sulaiman in 1808 and further detailed by Sultan Adam in 1826. Sultan Sulaiman and Sultan Adam's agreements solidified the appointment of Sultans, Mangkubumi, and Palace Officials with the consent of the Dutch East India Government in Batavia.

Returning to the land-government agreement, summarized as follows; the Bakumpai region along the Barito, Kahayan, Katingan, Kapuas, Kotawaringin, Tabanio, Paser Territories, Kutai, Berau, Sukadana, the Lower Sintang River (Sintang, Sanggau, Sekadau) colonies, including Banjar (tax payment), are then under Dutch rule. The agreement between Sultan Adam and M.H. Holewijn was written in article 4, agreed to by the Martapura Palace on May 4, 1826.

How did the Banjar state dominate such a vast Kalimantan area? To fully understand this, read Hikayat Banjar; A study in Malay historiography, published by Johanes Jacobus Ras (Professor of Javanese literature and language at Leiden University) and the 13th pupuh of the Negarakertagama Book (Majapahit history). These two sources refer to the areas mentioned in the Sultan and Dutch agreement as Majapahit conquest territories. In the Hikayat Banjar, these areas were taxed to Banjar every east season. To understand this, please read Antony Reid's book Southeast Asia 1450-1680; The country Below the Wind.

The submission of the Dayak country to the Dutch

The submission of the Dayak country to the Dutch has a reason. I elaborate extensively in CHAPTER VI – THE DAYAKS IN THE BANJAR WAR in the book War & Slavery in Dayak Land. I agree with Marko that it is not the Dayak's fault, but the failure of Banjar's aristocrats to negotiate with the Dutch (Marko, 2023; 115). We should note that the Dutch came to the Banjar state because they were invited and requested by the Sultan (Dijck, 1863;13, Rees I, 1865; 5). 

In 1631, the Banjar Sultan's envoy built an alliance with the Dutch company in Batavia because Banjar was afraid of Javanese attacks. Banjar decided to pursue maturation with Mataram, considered a symbol of Majapahit at the time. Dijck mentioned that Banjar even asked the Dutch company to ban the Javanese from entering Banjar.

The second request from Banjar occurred in 1787. At that time, Prince Nata requested assistance from Batavia troops to fight against the Prince Amir. Because the Dutch-led troops in Banjar at the time refused to provide military assistance when Prince Nata was attacked by Prince Amir, Prince Nata requested Batavia (Ven, 1861; 99). So, Dutch military cooperation with Banjar, actually at Banjar's own request.

This event was written by Rees with the sentence; Fear of safety and fear of falling into the kingdom into the hands of Prince Amir made Prince Nata more willing to submit his authority to the Dutch company rather than to Prince Amir (Rees I, 1865; 8)

Therefore, in the War & Slavery in Dayak Land book I describe that the Dayaks have been subjugated by the Dutch long before the Tumbang Anoi Peace Meeting, if indeed it is called subjugation. However, the Dayak tribal chiefs themselves were delighted to be under the Dutch flag. Because under the Sultan's Flag, the population had to give 10 percent of the harvest to the Sultan, pay head taxes from 4 - 11 guilders to the Sultan, pay land rent, military taxes, boat taxes, etc., but the Sultan did not care about the problems of the Dayaks, namely mutual killing (kayau-asang) and slavery.

It's a bit different when under the Dutch flag, where the Dutch only collected taxes on pepper and levy taxes on incoming goods. Dutch officials, say civil gezaghebber Maks and Bangert (this position was later known as a controller) turned for months to Dayak villages, beginning discussions about stopping kayau and asang, distributing coffee and cotton seeds (in history, rubber was also distributed by the Dutch), and suggesting Dayak people join the industry by planting both types of plants. That's why when Bangert led the Marabahan and Dusun districts, the Mangkatip and Sihong no longer kayau, and slavery decreased. Also in the Kuala Kapuas and surrounding areas near Maks, the habit of mutual killing (due to kayau - asang) in the region is increasingly reduced.

Regarding kayau, asang, and slavery in the past, this was actually a problem in Borneo. The Sultans and Penembahan can be said to have completely failed to control this issue. The Sultan is recorded as wanting to resolve disputes between Dayak clans only by Sultan Kutai and Sintang. Elsewhere, these rulers seemed helpless.

Tromp himself described in his report to Batavia that creating peace in Borneo was a task of the Dutch East India Government. For this reason, the Tumbang Anoi 1894 meeting was long designed. The chosen time was May to June 1894, waiting for the Dayak people to finish the harvest. Because in addition to logistics from Banjarmasin carried by the Boni ship, the Dayak people around Tumbang Anoi and Melawi cooperated to provide logistics (food and drink). So, great mutual assistance occurred at that meeting.

Let's move on to the outcomes borne by Borneo after those 130 agreements. To keep this focused and thorough, I'll use the terms popularized by Elisa Sumandie in her book, 'Betang Baru'. 'Betang Lama' refers to the existence of the Dayak people before the Tumbang Anoi Agreement in 1894. 'Betang Baru', on the other hand, describes the condition of the Dayak people after the Tumbang Anoi Agreement.

In the book 'WAR & SLAVERY IN DAYAK LAND', I narrate the Dayak people Before the Tumbang Anoi Agreement in Chapter VII, and After Tumbang Anoi in Chapter VIII. Here, I'll just provide a brief summary.

Before the Tumbang Anoi Agreement, the Dayak people were closed off from the outside world. They practiced three 'ha' traditions—'hakayau', 'hasang', 'habunu' (hunting, raiding, killing)—and had a social hierarchy with noble, free, and slave (hamba) classes.

Regarding the conditions in the Dayak lands (Barito, Kapuas Murung, Kahayan, Katingan, Mantaya, Seruyan), we can refer to writings by Prichard, Pires, Perelaer, Rees, Schwaner, Pijnapple, Ras, Dick, Ven, Rutte, Michielsen, Ullman, Bock, Bangert, Maks, Tromp, and others. They have narratives about Dayak lands. Bangert found slaves being used as commodities in Barito, Schwaner documented laws regarding the crucifixion of slaves in the Dusun area, Michielsen found that the price of a slave was much lower than that of a buffalo in Katingan, and Tromp even recorded the price of a slave as only 15 reals or 30 guilders (while a medium-sized pig was worth 20 guilders).

Moreover, the Asang War and Kayau War fostered animosity between Dayak clans, creating enduring feuds. While kayau was purely about obtaining heads, asang had many interests—acquiring heads, capturing rewar slaves (prisoners), and gaining possessions from the defeated. Both kayau and asang fueled long-standing grudges.

The Asang War even resembled wars between kingdoms. The Dayak people were already using firearms and artillery in battles. Writings by Schwaner, Pijnapple, Maks, and Perelaer discuss this. Battles like those between Temenggung Surapati and Mawong lasted for months.

A few Dayak people had access to education

Before the Tumbang Anoi Agreement, only a few Dayak people had access to education, mainly in places like Pulau Petak, Mangkatip, and Marantuhu. Bangert reported that the village head of Mangkatip could read and write Latin and Arabic due to schooling in Pulau Petak, while Soeta Ono studied with Daninger in Marantuhu. This was recorded in Bangert's 1857 travelogue. 

As Marko (2003) revealed, by 1848, there were already 500 people on Pulau Petak who could read and write, as noted in Ambo's letter to the Germans. In other areas, Dayak people had no contact with education at that time.

Before the Tumbang Anoi event in 1894, most Dayak people lived inside 'kuta'. Kuta were high wooden fences made of ulin wood, where people sought refuge from kayau and asang. Typically, those inside kuta were hunters and asang perpetrators. Kuta usually surrounded betang houses.

For example, the Kuta Tampang betang, noted by Maks during his visit in 1853, was led by Awat. It stood on ulin wood posts 20 feet (6 meters) high, with a length of around 860 feet (258 meters) and housed 250 residents. This grand betang was surrounded by sturdy ulin palisades.

Kuta were generally owned by the noble class. I extensively discuss kuta in Chapter V of the book 'WAR & SLAVERY'. Inside kuta, there were certainly noble groups, free people, and slaves. Among the slaves were jipen (debtors), rewar (captured individuals), and abdi (purchased slaves). 

Foreigners or 'tamuei' were not allowed to stay in kuta; instead, they were accommodated in places like balai tomoi or tamuei. During his visits, Schwaner often stayed in Balai Tamuei.

Therefore, it's apt to refer to the old betang as closed, as Sumandie expressed. When closed, inhabitants of the old betang received no new information. 

They only communicated among themselves, obeyed the betang leader, and married only relatives known to the betang's inhabitants. Consequently, knowledge, innovation, and good relations with the outside world seemed impossible for inhabitants of the old betang.

Because of these conditions, Sumandie's term 'Huma Betang Philosophy' was indeed empty talk in the old betang (betang before the Tumbang Anoi Agreement). 

In the old betang, everyone obeyed the tribal chief. Slaves had no value. There was no equality there. Outside ideas based on knowledge could not enter the kuta environment. Suspicion and resentment thrived in the old betang.

In the Betang Baru, the 'Huma Betang Philosophy' became well-known jargon among many people today. The Dayak people are recognized as egalitarian, humanist, pluralist (consisting of various beliefs), and able to accept ideas from outside based on knowledge.

Characteristics of those living in the Betang Baru

Characteristics of those living in the Betang Baru include engaging with education and knowledge. Therefore, knowledge became the trigger for transforming culture. Living in diversity, loving one another, forgiving one another, and being governed by customary law only occurred in the Betang Baru. 

In the Betang Baru, Dayak people no longer worry about being victims of kayau and asang, being oppressed as slaves, or being arrogant because they have slaves. Dayak people only become free humans in the Betang Baru.

Indeed, the Tumbang Anoi Peace Meeting of 1894 was not the sole driver for the Dayak people to abolish the tradition of slavery, eliminate the tradition of mutual killing (kayau and asang). However, at least there, for the first time, it served as a gathering for tribal chiefs who had been at war.

Tromp admitted that gathering the tribal chiefs who had been enemies for so long was not easy. Tromp's concern was unrest at the meeting location because these tribal chiefs harbored grudges. However, that did not happen. The speech by the Tanah Dayak controller during the opening truly inspired them.

The meeting also became the place where tribal chiefs agreed on how to pay 'sahiring' (life sacrifice) and 'tipuk danum'. The narrative of the Tumbang Anoi meeting can only be found in Resident Tromp's report. 

Even if there are later writings on this, it may not have been written by historical figures. This is because the tribal chiefs present, it seems, only Raden Johanes Karsa Negara could write well. However, so far, Raden Yohanes' writings have not been known. 

That's why the book 'WAR & SLAVERY' includes Tromp's report, sourced from Barth's writing (Melawi controller). This report solely aids readers in understanding the complete Tumbang Anoi process.

But the essence is, the Tumbang Anoi Meeting of 1894 successfully eradicated much of the culture of slavery, kayau, and inter-river warfare among Dayak clans. For example, before the treaty was made, people from Kahayan-Kapuas-Katingan-Mentaya were hostile towards those from Barito-Mahakam, and people from Katingan-Mentaya-Seruyan were hostile towards those from Melawi. 

In other parts of Borneo, like Sarawak and Sabah, the cases were similar, but I won't elaborate here. After the treaty, the situation gradually improved.

Tumbang Anoi event of 1894 should not be viewed as the sole cause

Once again, the Tumbang Anoi event of 1894 should not be viewed as the sole cause.

Before the Tumbang Anoi Agreement, it seems that educational centers were only in places like Pulau Petak and Marantuhu (Sihong). 

However, after the Tumbang Anoi Agreement, schools equivalent to Standard Schools were established in Mandomai, Kasongan, Tewah, and other locations. And mission schools that reached the Dayak people in West and East Borneo seem to have thrived more after the Tumbang Anoi Agreement. 

Dutch schools, such as the Hollandsch-Inlandsche School in Borneo, seem to only exist in cities where the resident resides. This means they contributed less to the Dayak people. In the era of kings and conquests, so far, there is no data that these kings established schools for the Dayak people.

The schools established after the Tumbang Anoi Meeting not only transformed Dayak culture from Betang Lama to Betang Baru but also successfully formed brave Dayak activists with aspirations. 

Thus, the Dayak Union movement was born in 1919. The Dayak Union movement not only became the precursor to political movements but also became economic and literary movements.

-- Damianus Siyok

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