Thursday, December 23, 2010

Iban Agressive Expansion (part 3)

By Stephanie Morgan

 The more traditional, more lasting process of aggressive expansion up into the Rejang and Balleh was rather curiously accelerated by the Brooke regime, whose avowed interest was to keep the Ibans close at hand. Migration was under way well before the English, intending to control the pirate raids, built their forts in the Iban rivers; but the resulting official divisions into downriver and upriver groups gave a new impetus to population movements. As some Iban groups had co-operated for mutual benefit with Malays, so the same groups came to co-operate with the English. “Only Dayaks can attack Dayaks to make them feel in any way a punishment” said the Rajah Charles Brooke, and he made great use of Iban levies, conveniently costless: they came gladly, arranging if possible attacks on their own enemies, or taking advantage of the government’s.

The great Kayan expedition of 1863, while it thoroughly revenged the murder of Fox and Steele, in the process so completely broke the power of this other expansionist group that they never again resisted Iban migration into the Rejang.5 This went so far that some non-Iban interior tribes concluded that invading Ibans were always working for the Government. The rebellious pioneers took heads and raided; and after them came the equally deadly allies with official blessing, taking heads and burning longhouses, punishing them in the way most familiar to both. The inevitable result was that the upriver and downriver Ibans retained and practiced their ideology of aggression; and those upriver, who had most opportunity to migrate away and were most often raided to punish them for trying to do so, migrated even farther to be out of reach.

Both these aspects of Iban expansion and aggression in the nineteenth century – piracy, and movement to the north and east – were affected by outside pressures that suggested their form and direction; but it seems clear that neither Malays nor English had any real control over the wellsprings, the pace or the ultimate expression of Iban activity. The rare efforts to counteract this cultural drive (as with settlement in the Balleh) met with no more permanent success than did, in the long run, attempts to direct the urge for the formal rulers’ benefit. It is clear that in the matter of aggressive expansion Iban culture, while superficially highly adaptable, had a fundamental resistance to being changed.

*to be continues...

Source= Tangsang Kenyalang


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