Simson, at 77 years old, is the Last Generation of Long-Eared Dayaks.

Simson. Photo documentation of the author.

If you ever find yourself in Kalimantan, whether intentionally or not, make sure to visit Pampang, a Dayak cultural village just a stone's throw away from Samarinda. 

There, take the opportunity to meet some of the last remaining Dayaks with long ears. It's an incredibly rare chance!

Long-eared Dayaks? Yes, that was a tale from days of yore. Nowadays, encountering Dayak men and women with elongated ears has become incredibly rare. 

Simson, a 76-year-old Kenyah, is regarded as the guardian of the betang/lamin house in Pampang, Samarinda, East Kalimantan. Simson is the last generation of long-eared Dayaks.

To distinguish men from orangutans or monkeys

If we delve deeper and understand the philosophy behind these long ears, their meaning becomes clearer. Our judgments can be flawed due to limited information and data, often leading to conclusions that align with our perceptions—much like these long ears.

"With no more Dayaks possessing long ears, what distinguishes them from monkeys and orangutans?" I pondered.

"To distinguish themselves from orangutans or monkeys," explained Simson, "the Dayak people have developed many unique characteristics." 

I admired his response.

Beyond their behavior and attitudes, the Dayak people have crafted numerous ways to differentiate themselves from orangutans and monkeys. Among these distinctive features are their notably long ears.

Will no longer be easy to find Dayaks with long ears

Looking ahead, if there are no more Dayaks with long ears, how would they be differentiated from monkeys and orangutans?

An intriguing question, but the answer isn't simple. The distinction lies in behavior and reasoning. Humans, by definition, are rational animals.

In the future, it will no longer be easy to find Dayaks with long ears. Besides the influence of modernization and international interaction, contemporary Dayaks are increasingly difficult to distinguish from Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Koreans, and even Westerners.

Therefore, in the era of Simson and his friends at the Pampang longhouse, a small remaining group of Dayaks still living in the interior of Kalimantan, they still have long ears. It can be guaranteed that in 5 to 10 years, Dayaks with long ears will only exist in memories. They will no longer be visible to the naked eye.

The Dayaks no longer need to elongate their ears, which once distinguished them from orangutans, because the forests of Kalimantan are being devastated by deforestation from mining, logging, palm oil plantations, and development.

-- Masri Sareb Putra

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