The Dayak
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The Dayak

Borneo's Friendly Farmers

Borneo's Friendly Farmers

Dayak is a generic term that has no precise tribal significance. It is applied to any of the indigenous peoples of the interior
of the island.

The Dayak tribe are the aboriginal people of Borneo (the largest of the Southeast Asian islands), inhabitants of the state of Sarawak, the Dayak people come from six tribes: Klemantan, Penan and Kenyah (those with the oldest settlement); Keyan, Murut and Iban (who
arrived in the zonain and subsequent epochs). Dayak people show the age-old mixture of Malay, Chinese and negritos elements. Dayak population is estimated at 2.2 million.


  • Region is Southern Asia

  • Climate here is Tropical

  • The challenge here is Intense

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers



Dayaks are hunters and farmers; Most Dayak village economies depend on the shifting cultivation of hill rice for subsistence and Fishing is a secondary source. In the seventies, most Dayak abandoned hunting because of religious beliefs.


The Dayaks live in large houses even two hundred meters long, divided into individual dwellings, able to accommodate until fifty families as well as public spaces for cooking, blacksmithing, ceremonies and social life. Dayak longhouse is the focal point of all the social activities.


Social Structure

traditionally, three primary strata of society are recognized: the upper stratum (family and near of the village chiefs), the middle stratum (ordinary villagers), and the lower (captives of war). Class distinctions have lost much of their meaning for the younger generation, but are still recognized by elders.


Dayak peoples have adopted Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. The vast majority of the population today is Christian. Dayak traditional indigenous religion is called Kaharingan, and is a form of animism.


Longhouse domicile is a social choice and a way of living in the community. In only one building there's a door and an apartment for every family that choose to live together under the supervision of a longhouse chief.

Dayak make the forest part of their economy, from which they extract products such as honey and rattan to sell, tubers and fruits for food, and herbs, leaves and roots for medical purposes. But they always leave small areas of the jungle intact so that they always have food when the drought comes.


They speak an Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) language.


They were traditionally skilled weavers and producers of iron weapons who transported through rivers on a small boat driven by long poles.

The blowgun-which can be up to three meters long-is constructed in such a way as to start the arrow without any problem. It is made of wood and, sometimes, the arrow is soaked in poisons produced by the resins of some trees.

Dayak weave rattan. They make pieces adorned with magical amulets, ancient beads, crocodile teeth, bear claws and dog fangs that they use for decoration.


The praying and propitiation to gods to obtain favours are held in a series of ceremonies (bedara), intermediate rites (gawa) and major festivals (gawai).

There are different festivals for each category related to a major way of life such as agriculture, headhunting, fortune, health, death, procreation and weaving.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

In the old days, the Dayak were headhunters and most Dayak men got tattoos to commemorate successes on hunting expeditions and women tattooed birds and spirits. Today you can see old men still tattooed and some women who live in the interior of the jungle.

The Dayaks currently number one million; however, they are threatened with extinction due to growing deforestation (industrialization) and forced migration policies.

Photo credit Boat in Kuching Lawall

Photo credit Dayak golden searcher

Photo credit Dayak people smoking

Photo credit Hornbill head worn by Dayak

Photo credit Dayak longhouse

Photo credit Fishing village