Saturday, December 18, 2010

Iban Aggressive Expansion (part 2)

Recent expansion:
The main expressions of the second surge of restlessness were migration to the Rejang, which continued an old trend partly under new impulsion; “intertribal warfare”, which may be seen as a natural outgrowth of the local territorial rivalries of periods I and II, extended farther by more settled and regionally consolidated populations; and piracy, which shaded off from the above intra-Iban conflicts, through attacks on mixed and weaker groups, to predatory sea-raiding on non-Ibans far down the coast of Kalimantan. On this vast scale of numbers involved and distances covered, raiding was something quite new; it seemed to be a sparking-over of the resurgent aggressive drive, an expansion not at all connected with ecology. Land was available to the north and east; the pirates went southwest for heads. The Europeans, who could understand taking a head as souvenir of a warrior’s valour, found the emphasis on simple quantity a wanton exacerbation, and blamed as instigators the Malays – with whom the Ibans, as their population continued to expand, had come into closer contact along the coast.3
Undoubtedly the Malays did encourage Iban warfare, among Ibans themselves (Indra Lela) and against Malay-ruled peoples who evaded contribution. They sanctioned raids in return for a share of the plunder, and at times joined with the Ibans, dividing work and spoils in a manner which showed that the value systems of the two cultures were conveniently complementary: “Their pilots are Malays, who always show the way; the spoil is the property of the pilots, the women and children and skulls are the property of the Dayaks.”4 Each group in fact made use of the other, for the Ibans were strong enough to resist being manipulated against their will, and had, moreover, the ever-present option of migration. (It was evident then, and still more so under the Brookes, that what the Ibans considered political oppression was as much of an impetus as the desire to avoid a feud.) The techniques of piracy may have been learned under Malay guidance, though at this time or earlier some Ibans were serving apprenticeship on Illanun pirate ships while others, such as Unggang (Lebor Menoa), adopted their methods and fought against them; but the uses to which the techniques were put were purely Iban, and often Malays themselves were their victims. The indiscriminate emphasis on a quantity of heads, as far as it existed, may well have grown from the novelty of the entire situation. These raids were not in the traditional context of inter-group hostility, and would usually not be reciprocated; the most dangerous part of a raid on land was getting away, but these shore-dwellers, if they had boats large enough to give chase, would rarely be left with either the men or the daring to do so.
The nomadic groups that the Ibans had attacked before were few in number, but their defeat freed vast areas of good land, Here the raiders made no settlement (for which, according to Mr. Sandin, they were criticized by more migration-minded leaders); unable to gain prestige by working his well-earned forests, the raider made up the lack in heads alone. Each warrior owed the first bead or captive that he took to his war leader, which meant that he must take several to get some of his own; and as more heads were taken, the prestige value of small numbers fell, evidently creating an inflationary spiral to be stopped only by force.

source= Tansang Kenyalang


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