This article describe our ancestors who did not migrate into Sarawak from the Kapuas Valley. There were at least two such groups who migrated into Sarawak via Cape Datu – the offspring of Sabatin and his son, Drom another group who came to the coast of Sarawak near Bukit Merudu, not far from Brunei.
Long before the migration of the Dayaks to the Batang Ai and its tributaries and beyond the fifteenth generation mark, Sabatin and his son Drom have landed at Cape Datu. Cape Datu is situated at the southwestern boundary between Sarawak and Indonesian Borneo. According to Iban genealogies, members of the seven different races in Sarawak have traced their descent back to these ancestors.
Migration to Bukit Merudu
The third group of ancestor also remote and pre-fifteenth generation, from whom some Iban claimed descent, arrived in Sarawak at Bukit Merudu near Brunei. Their leader was Pateh Simpong, who once cut down a breadfruit tree (tekalong) and turned it into a cobra.
He was said to be the offspring of a Javanese trader named Abang Musa whose forebears had come long ago from the Middle East.
Pateh Simpong eventually settled at Pulau Semakau near Brunei Bay. His son, Pateh Pejap was a tax collector probably for the Sultan of Brunei, although this claim has not been verified. Pateh Pejap was stationed in Bintulu.
It was Pateh Pejap’s son named Rajah Rendah that moved southward and settled near the mouth of the Mukah River. But from this place he migrated back to the Kapuas River valley in Indonesian Borneo. And one of Rajah Rendah great-great grandsons named Pateh Ambau1 was the Iban leader who led the Iban migration back into Sarawak. He was mentioned in the earlier article – First Iban Families.
Today as results of generations of intermarriage, many Ibans are descended from all three of these migration stream into Sarawak, namely the Kapuas stream, the Cape Datu stream and the Bukit Merudu stream. Among the three, the Kapuas stream was the most important.
Clearing Old Jungle
According to the tusut2, the migrations written in First Iban Families took place between the eleventh and sixteenth generations ago. On the basis of calculations made regarding later ancestors (for whom we have definite dates) it appears that one Iban generation is estimated to be twenty-five years. Therefore, it means the estimated period of the Iban pioneer settlement in the major rivers of the Second Division is 275 years ago. This is roughly at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
We can assumed that there were some Ibans living at various places in the Batang Lupar, the Saribas and all of their major tributaries. Undoubtedly large areas of the region remained empty from habitants or were thinly inhabited. The constant movement of the Iban people in search of fresh land makes it likely that once settled areas were frequently deserted in the course of time.
If these suggestions are correct, there is a 150 years elapsed between the end of the pioneer settlement period and the arrival of the semi-European regime of James Brooke in 1841. This lapse did not legally extend to the Sea Dayak country until 1853.
The source of this period is not uniform because much of the traditional oral material has already been lost. My interviewee have collected a great deal of such material concerning the Saribas River and its tributaries of Layar, Paku, Padeh, Rimbas and Entanak. This was partly because the interviewee was from that area himself and it is also due to the fact that the Saribas people have tended to retain more of their own history than other groups of Iban. For some areas such as the Skrang, very little is remembered partly due to the migration of leading families to other rivers which is mostly in the Third Division. In any case the following narrative will inevitably seem to have a Saribas flavor. It is not meant to suggest that other areas were less important or interesting, it is just that we know less about them.
The Paku and Anyut
A wealth of material has survived concerning the history of the Paku, a tributary of the Saribas, which joins that river below the modern town of Betong. In fact, it may well be that the Paku is the best-documented river in Sarawak. From the days of Tindin right down to the present, the major events, leaders and migrations of the Paku people are all known to some degree. Even though many of the details are missing, this record is unique for its continuity and relative completeness. It will be recalled that the initial pioneer settlers in the Paku were Tindin who made a peaceful agreement with the Bukitans and Rusak, who at a later date was the first Iban to make contact with the Lugus – the not yet Malay people of the Saribas coast. Both Tindin and Rusak settled in Lower Paku at no great distance from each other. The descendants of Rusak although wealthy and influential people never had many political influences beyond their own longhouses. But the heirs of Tindin and his grandsons remained important in the political affairs of Paku for generations to come.
For about five generations after the death of Tindin, they ruled the entire district. Later, as will be recounted, they shared control of Paku and its tributaries with another great family and they themselves continued to rule only the Upper Paku.
The Story of Radin
After the death of Rusak, his son Radin moved from Nanga Sekundong to live at Batu Anchau. It happened that while he and his people were building their houses, swarm of bees clustered on both ends of the ridge of the roof. Radin naturally regarded this as an omen. He inquired the older people of what it meant. They could not give him any definite answer but they assured him that it did not mean trouble for the people of the house.
Some months after Radin and his people lived in the new house, they held a house warming festival (Gawai Pangkong Tiang). A short time after the feast was over; a Maloh silversmith arrived at the house. This stranger whose name was Nyerubong was welcomed by all because of his skill bensama3. Meanwhile, Radin was still worried about the bee-swarm omen and he asked Nyerubong about it. The silversmith said according to the Maloh belief it meant that Radin would be a successful war leader but he and his people would have to leave the house after some years or suffer from serious sickness.
After three years, Nyerubong left to return to his own people in what is now Indonesian Borneo. He planned to lead a force back to raid Radin’s house. Before Nyerubong left, the Dayaks due to their skill in silver works welcome most Maloh. Before he left, Nyerubong also asked an old lady from Radin’s house to draw some blood from his head by means of suction cups4.
While Nyerubong was returning home, he met the Maloh chief named Apai Kejuang at Upper Padeh. Apai Kejuang was just leading his warriors to fight Radin. Nyerubong then told him about Radin’’ omen and willingly accepted the invitation of the Maloh chief to guide the war party to Radin’s house. However, the surrounding Padeh Dayaks who were relatives and neighbours of Radin soon realised of the plot and they sent a messenger to warn Radin of the Maloh attack.
Radin instantly summoned all his warriors in the Paku, including Bakak (Asu Rangka) and the other sons of Demong and Rinda to help him to defend his house. Instead of waiting for the Maloh attack, Radin and the other warriors took the offensive method and met the Maloh at Wong Gerugu. Most of the Maloh were killed while some ran away into the jungle.
Among the heads of the slain, Radin and his people easily identified that of Nyerubong by the wound on his head as yet to heal which was left by the medical treatment he had undergone at Radin’s house.
Two days later some Dayaks from the Padeh went down the Padeh River to purchase nipah salt from the Malays. Near Wong Garan, they noticed reflections in the water and looking up they saw three men scaling the branches of a fig tree over head. Recognizing the men as Maloh, they climbed the tree and killed these half-starved survivors of the battle with Radin.
In honour of his successful counter attack against the Maloh, Radin decided to hold a Gawai Burong of the variety known as Gawai Gerasi Papa, the highest and the most sacred feast of its kind. To this feast, Radin invited all the war leaders and other influential and high-ranking people. As they were feasting some of the older guest said to him that the image of Gerasi papa must be removed from the longhouse three days after the feast is over and that the house must be vacated on that day. This is in accordance to the tradition founded by Singalang Burong.
As soon as the three days ends, Radin removed the image and place it on the playground opposite the longhouse (mandong rumah). However, he did not vacate the house and not long after that the house suffered from a deadly smallpox epidemic. Radin did not know that disease was infectious so he did not order his people to flee. Instead he told them that no one should leave the house for fear of evil spirits.
One night as he was lying sleepless worried by the constant deaths in his longhouse, Radin heard the music of a lovely song, which seemed to be coming from a man paddling a boat in the Paku River below his house.
…Jera asai sida di Nanga Matop Raya diempa
Bujang Sekilili Ambun…
It serves them right, those living at the mouth of Matop Raya to be eaten by Bujang Sekilili Ambun.
Radin heard this song on three successive nights. On the third evening after the song had awakened him, he heard a voice calling and then a person walking to and from on the dark verandah of the longhouse. The next day as Radin considered these mysterious events, he made plans to hide himself and attack whatever was threatening his people.
That night Radin took his nyabur5 and hid himself inside a roll of mating not far from the end of the longhouse. As he was hiding the ghost which had been the cause of the disturbances came walking along the verandah as like the previous nights. Prowling and hunting about the house, he gradually approached Radin uttering the word legak legu – special words used by hungry ghost to describe the sweet smell of a human flesh, which they crave.
When he drew near Radin jumped from his hiding place and cut down the invisible spirit. He heard something fall to the floor but of course he could not see it.
The next morning when Radin investigated the spot he could find no trace of bloodshed or struggle. Puzzled, he went to the playground where the giant Gerasi papa image had been placed following the feast. He found that the image had been slashed as if by a nyabur sword and thrown to the ground.
Radin could not understand why this image has tortured his people in such a cruel way. Hence, he summoned all the other chiefs of Paku to seek their advice. They told him that he had been cursed for placing such a powerful and sacred image facing the longhouse. They advised him to vacate the longhouse and live elsewhere.
Radin and his people agreed to build a temporary house known as dampa as they have to move without any delay. And since Radin had buried many of his people in the ground of the longhouse, it became a burial ground, which is still used to the present day.
Radin’s descendants have not been rulers but they are honoured as members of his family and have often married into the families of chiefs.
During the time of Radin, the grandsons of Tindin were the leaders in Paku. Despite the fact they were the children of the marriage between Rinda and Demong the peace which this marriage had achieved did not last long. The Ibans in the Paku multiplied rapidly while the Bukitans who suffered from constant Iban attacks gradually moved away to the Krian and Julau rivers.
Bakak the youngest son of Rinda and Demong6 married a woman of Batang Ai and went to live at her house. It was after this that Kelanang is was one of the leaders in Paku, and his followers started to clear the jungle in Middle Paku and Upper Samu for planting padi. It is also at this time that the Ibans began to suffer from attacks made by the closely related tribes of the Belions and the Serus. However these attacks were not yet serious. Even under the leadership of Tuah who succeeded his father Kelanang, the Ibans could still continue to work their newly cleared farmlands in the comparative place.
His son Seing who was followed in turn by his son Busu succeeded Tuah. While Busu was living at Nanga Beduru, a powerful chief named Sang came from the Layar to live on the left bank of the Paku River at Emperan Medang not far from Busu’s house. The arrival of Sang marked the beginning of an important division of authority in the Paku region.
This division did not become apparent until another generation because at the time of Sang’s arrival there was still plenty of land for all. Because the region is still thinly populated, there was very little need to recognise the division of land rights. However at a later period, the heirs and descendants of Sang came to hold authority and land rights in a recognised area consisting of the Anyut and the Lower Paku. This division persisted until the time of Linggir (Mali Lebu) who after the arrival of the English Rajah, ruled over the land in the Paku watershed.
Not long after his arrival, Sang held a great festival at his house at Emperan Medang near Nanga Beduru. Sang invited many brave men and famous leaders including Busu, Mawar, Biak, Meling, Gerijih (Ai Marang) and his brother Bangkam. The entire guests enjoyed themselves thoroughly until the time came for the grand berayah dance. The upriver girls laughed at the dance of young Gerijih and his brother Bangkam and said that their dance was like that of the Malays.
Shamed by the taunts of the girls the two young brothers slipped away to bath in the river. When they have finished bathing, Gerijih discovered petrified bamboo shoot lying on his loincloth. On the following night he dreamed that the goddess Kumang appeared and told him that this stone which had been carefully saved was a charm that would make him a great war leader.
When Sang’s feast was over Busu’s only son Uyut (Bedilang Besi) did not return to his father’s house. Instead he stayed behind and married Nangku, a daughter of Sang.
When Busu heard about this, he became angry and immediately set of for Sang’s house in order to claim back his son. When he arrived, Busu told him that he had lost his dog and had come back to fetch it back. Sang pointed out that he had already agreed to let Uyut marry his daughter. However, Busu replied that Uyut is his only son and a very brave man and that he could not afford to lose him.
Sang agreed that although he had only one son, he had many followers who are capable of defending themselves against the Belions and Serus. While Sang’s own case was just the opposite. He had many children but not enough followers. After a long conversation, Busu finally saw the logic of this argument. He finally agreed to the marriage of his son on condition that Sang would name Uyut to succeed him as chief rather than his own sons, Changgai and Lanchang. Sang promptly accepted as he greatly admired the bravery, intelligence and diplomatic skills of Uyut.
It was after the marriage of Uyut and Nangku that both Sang and Busu and their followers began to clear the jungle along the Paku and its tributaries. Busu and his people worked on the right bank while Sang and his followers worked on the left bank.
Just before Sang started to work, he directed his two sisters, Nasa and Inchoh and their husbands to clear trees along the Sekundong and on the Upper Serudit streams, while he and his followers worked along the left bank of the Paku and up both banks of the Anyut.
When Sang’s workers had gone up the Anyut (as far as Jitu), they entered this stream and in the Upper Jitu they met Nasa and Inchoh who had crossed from Serudit. While he was felling trees in Ulu Jitu, Sang held a Gawai Diri feast near the Buot tributary. That stream was called Sungai Bediri. It is here that Sang made a hornbill statue during the feast.
After the feast, Sang returned to the main Anyut River and lived at Lubok Belabak where his wife Salaka died of old age. After the death of his wife, he moved again up the river to Nanga Pagalong where he held a Gawai Antu feast in honour of his deceased wife.
Before such a big feast, it was the custom of the ancient Dayaks to obtain the necessary supply of fish by using tubai fishing. Sang did his fishing in Lower Anyut. After the poisonous derris milk had been thrown into the river, a man named Apai Galong went to sleep on a dead tree trunk to wait for the stunned fish to float to the surface of the water. As he was lying there, a Seru suddenly shot him with a poison dart which struck him in the testicle and he died from this wound. Because of his death, the small stream where the incident occurred is still known as Sungai Pegalong.
After the death of this man, war with the Serus and Belions became much more serious. The lives of the Ibans in the Anyut and Paku were constantly threatened by wandering bands of enemy. At the height of this trouble, the Serus succeeded in killing a great chief, which cause them to become even more troublesome.
The victim was Blaki, the son-in-law and successor of Busu. Busu’s only son, Uyut had moved away to marry the daughter of Sang which was mentioned earlier. Since Uyut moved away, Blaki inherited Busu’s position as leader in the Upper Paku.
The Serus came by way of the Asam and down the tributary of the Rimbas towards Sungai Ulai, a tributary of the Bayor. From here they crossed over to the Paku drainage and went down that river till they came to Blaki’s padi farm where he lived with his wife Bremas. Bremas was the daughter of Busu. The Serus killed both of them and took their heads.
On hearing of this tragedy, Blaki’s brother named Jimbai went to catch up with the Serus. It was believed that Jimbai was a strong man, so strong that he could jump over the stream.
At Penkaru, Jimbai met the Serus who had stopped to collect fruits from the wild engkeranji trees. Two Serus who had been posted as lookouts and were guarding the heads of Blaki and Bremas were killed and the others fled into the jungle.
Jimbai and his companions buried the heads of Blaki and Bremas at the foot of a large tapang tree at Ulu Sungai Randau, on the sides of Bukit Tampak Panas. Bukit Tampak Panas lies at the watershed between the Rimbas and the Paku rivers. They declared this tapang tree should forever remain the property of the descendants of Blaki and of the men who had recovered his head and that of his wife.
After the death of Blaki, enmity between the Ibans, the Serus and the Belions naturally became worse. By this time the Bukitans had been dominated by the Ibans and were now utilised by them in their struggle against the Serus. The Bukitans were not always willing helpers but they were extremely useful due to their skills in jungle warfare and knowledge of the country.
Although Sang and Uyut could order the Bukitans of Paku to help them, they felt that there were not enough. For this reason, Sang directed Uyut to request an Iban chief of Skrang named Apai Ranggau to lead the Paku people. Apai Ranggau agreed but demanded that in the event of death to his men, he must be compensated by the gift of two Paku Bukitans to be sent to him in Skrang.
Uyut agreed to the condition and after his meeting with Apai Ranggau he made plans to return to Paku with his new reinforcement of Skrang Bukitans. Unfortunately the Bukitans who were the subject of his transaction did not cooperate. They were afraid that Uyut might cheat and kill them. Hence, they told Uyut that they would come by themselves and meet him at Bukit Sapindah, opposite the mouth of the Penom River in Ulu Paku during the coming full moon. Uyut then returned alone to Paku. On the appointed day, Uyut took some of his followers to the meet the Skrang Bukitans at Bukit Sapindah as had been arranged. After they arrived, Uyut ordered one of his men named Rasai to call out to the Bukitans in their own language. Rasai apparently did not speak the Bukitan language well. In any case the Bukitan understood him to say the following words.
Wan jempelik, wau manomik
Makan putut, makan penyambut
The words literally means:
Come out, come quickly
So that you are killed by our spears
So that you are kill by our swords
Naturally on hearing these words the Bukitan leader, Peluin directed his followers to hide themselves. So Uyut again called for them to come out and this time he used the Iban language. And this time the Bukitans emerged from the jungle. When they explained what Rasai had said, Uyut realised that his words had been unsuitable.
The Bukitans were still fearful of Iban treachery. They would not agree to accompany Uyut in his boats. Instead Peluin again insisted on travelling alone to Anyut where he arranged to meet Uyut at Tebiang Sangkoh, above the mouth of the Udau stream.
It was during this conversation that the Iban realised that the Bukitans knew the names of all the streams, hills ridges and other features of this country.
Not long after the arrival of these Bukitans in the Anyut, Sang died of old age at Rantau Pulor and was succeeded by Uyut who led his followers to clear the jungle along the Anyut River. When they reached the place where the Udau stream enters the Anyut, Uyut ordered Garan (who had been one of Sang’s trusted warrior) to lead a party to clear the land along the Udau stream. Garan agreed to do this on condition that he is to be accompanied by another brave man. Uyut then ordered his brother-in-law, Changgai to join the party. Changgai remained at work with Garan in the Udau for three years before returning to rejoin Uyut at the Anyut stream.
Because of that, Changgai and his descendants have owned only three pieces of land at Udau below Wong Tabulan – those that Changgai cleared during his three years there.
Uyut have two brave warriors who always dared to farm far from other people. The two warriors are Nyanggun and his brother Ganing who are sons of Ingging.
Uyut moved his house two more times before he died, each time going further up the Anyut stream. His first stop was Nanga Birau and then to Nanga Linggit. It was at Nanga Linggit that Uyut eldest son, Linggir decided to hold a Gawai Diri feast.
According to the Sea Dayak custom, this feast, only an experienced war leader should hold the fifth of the nine stages of the Gawai Burong.
Linggir was undoubtedly a very brave man, but he was young and certainly far less experienced than Uyut who was his father. Linggir already made a statue of a hornbill in preparation for his feast when the older people of the house warned him that it would be presumptuous for him to hold a feast while Uyut still lived. They said that such an action might anger Singalang Burong.
Linggir did not want to ignore the curse of Singalang Burong so he agreed that the feast should be Uyut’s celebration.
According to the Iban tradition, before the Gawai Diri may be held, the patron of the feast must lead his warriors for a war expedition. Hence, Uyut and his men set off to raid the Kantu Dayaks of Merakai in what is now the Indonesian Borneo, in order to get fresh heads. But before they came back all the things that they had gathered for the feast including tuak wine and many delicacies began to go bad. So the brother-in-law of Uyut named Malang (Pengarah) decided to go ahead with the feast without Uyut and his warriors.
When Uyut and his men returned a victorious expedition, they were naturally outraged by what Malang had done. Uyut and his followers made a decision to expel Pengarah from the Anyut. Malang then retreated down the Anyut to live in the Serudit stream.
After the expulsion of Malang, Uyut went on to clear more jungle in the Bujut stream. His final home was at Tembawai Tinting where he died at an old age. After his death, his brother-in-law Changgai and Lanchang lived at Tembawai Tingkah. From there they moved up the Anyut and lived at Tembawai Pasir. It was at Tembawai Pasir that they declared all the jungle in the Anyut watershed should be the heritage of their descendants.
After the death of Uyut, his son-in-law Renggi succeeded him as the leader partly due to the fact that none of Uyut’s owns son was capable.
Renggi was the grandson of the chief named Jantin (Moa Ari) of Padeh. His marriage to Pala who was the eldest daughter of Uyut is always being remembered due to the dowry that Uyut demanded.
Uyut demanded one valuable jar covered with a gong as the dowry from Renggi. Such a “bride price” is now referred to as the simbak kelambu and muka pintu – meaning that it serves to open the mosquito curtain and the door of his wife’s room.
While the descendants of Sang and Uyut continued to rule the Anyut, the Paku people were left without a leader when the Serus murdered Blaki. His sons, Bayang and Ugap and a daughter named Lada were still very young.
When Lada reached the age of thirteen, a war leader named Awan came from the Padeh to Nanga Meluang in the Samu to seek her hand in marriage. Awan who was about forty years old said that he was concerned about the safety of the leaderless Paku people who were surrounded by the Serus and other enemies. He modestly offered to take the responsibilities of leading them if they would consent to his marriage to Lada.
Uyut, Lada and other relatives agreed to Awan’s proposal. So he married the daughter of Blaki and became the Ulu Paku Ibans at Nanga Meluang. They continued to clear the jungle in the midst of the enemy in that area.
By the time of Awan, the division of the Paku between the heirs of Sang and those of Busu had become quite clear. The authority of Sang, who was still alive when Awan arrived extended over the Anyut and Lower Paku River, and it was this political heritage which he passed to his descendants like Uyut, Renggi and so on.
The Upper Paku remained under a separate authority of Awan who was the political heir of Busu and Blaki. As noted earlier, this division lasted until the days of Linggir (Mali Lebu) who ruled the entire Paku.
After several years of marriage, Awan and Lada still had no children. One night Awan had a dream where a spirit told him to look for a female child named Sawai whom he should adopt. Awan was troubled since he did not know any child by that name within the Paku region. After some weeks, he decided to visit the Rimbas to see if such a child could be found there. While he was walking along the verandah of a longhouse at Rapong, where he was spending a night, Awan heard a woman calling to her child.
“Don’t weep Sawai or the stranger will catch you.”
Awan immediately realised that his search was over and that his visit to the Rimbas was going to be successful. The next morning Awan told the child’s mother that he would like to adopt Sawai. The parent of the child readily agreed for they knew of Awan reputation as a brave and successful war leader. Awan then took his new daughter back to Paku. On his arrival at the landing place of his house, while he was bathing Sawai, Awan heard a bejampong bird omen on his right hand7 side. Upon hearing the omen, he knew that her descendants would be great and wealthy people.
Some years after he had adopted Sawai, Awan’s wife gave birth to a daughter named Jering. After this Awan moved from Nanga Meluang to live at Sungai Lelabi. Then he moved again successfully to Tembawai Engkabang and Nanga Jukun, which were only his temporary houses. He moved again to Tembawai Nunggi, Lubok Lauk and finally to Nanga Praak. At Nanga Praak, Awan divided up all the lands along the Buong and Buong Rambang among his followers as well as the land in the Praak and Banyang streams. These three streams are all the tributaries of Upper Paku. After he had completed his division, Awan died of old age. His son-in-law named Kaya who was the son of Kanang (Libau Dara) and the husband of Sawai succeeded him.
Kaya directed his warrior relative Bayang, the brother of Lada to live in a different longhouse from him in order to lessen the chance of a devastating surprise attack by the enemies. He named his brother Masing and his cousin Angga to settle all domestic disputes among the people and to direct farming activities. Kaya led his followers to live in a series of temporary settlements at Nanga Sungai Raya, Sungai Kasai and Sungai Burak in that order as they felled trees along the Upper Paku.
- Pateh Ambau led the Iban migration to Sarawak and built his house at Pengkalan Tabau in the Batang Ai. [↩]
- Tusut is a form of the Iban genealogy. [↩]
- Bensama is the Maloh tribe silver craftwork. [↩]
- This is a kind of Iban traditional medical treatment known as betandok rintai. [↩]
- Nyabur is the sword used by the Iban during war. [↩]
- Demong was the son of the Bukitan chief named Entinggi. [↩]
- The Iban are very significant of the direction from where the bejampong bird omen is heard. It defines a different meaning to the person who hears it. [↩]