History of the Dayak People

The consensus interpretation in modern anthropology is that nearly all indigenous peoples of South East Asia, including the Dayaks, are descendants of a larger Austronesian migration from Asia, thought to have settled in the South East Asian Archipelago some 3,000 years ago. The first populations spoke closely-related Austronesian languages, from which Dayak languages are traced. About 2,450 years ago, metallurgy was introduced; it later became widespread.

The main ethnic groups of Dayaks are the Bakumpai and Dayak Bukit of South Kalimantan, The Ngajus, Baritos, Benuaqs of East Kalimantan, the Kayan and Kenyah groups and their subtribes in Central Borneo and the Ibans, Embaloh (Maloh), Kayan, Kenyah, Penan, Kelabit, Lun Bawang and Taman populations in the Kapuas and Sarawak regions. Other populations include the Ahe, Jagoi, Selakau, Bidayuh, and Kutais.

The Dayak people of Borneo possess an indigenous account of their history, partly in writing and partly in common cultural customary practices. In addition, colonial accounts and reports of Dayak activity in Borneo detail carefully-cultivated economic and political relationships with other communities as well as an ample body of research and study considering historical Dayak migrations.

In particular, the Iban or the Sea Dayak exploits in the South China Seas are documented, owing to their ferocity and aggressive culture of war against sea dwelling groups and emerging Western trade interests in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Coastal populations in Borneo are largely Muslim in belief, however these groups (Ilanun, Melanau, Kadayan, Bakumpai, Bisayah) are generally considered to be Islamized Dayaks, native to Borneo, and heavily influenced by the Javanese Majapahit Kingdoms and Islamic Malay Sultanates.

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