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Who Is The Target In The Dayak Tradition Of Headhunting

The Netherlands as the initiator of the end of the Ngayau tradition

The tradition of beheading the Dayak tribe does exist.

Ngayau Tribal Chief: Kompas,com

It is believed that the custom and tradition of beheading by the Dayak tribe has existed for a long time, perhaps as old as the history of the existence of the Dayak tribe itself. However, the story and testimony of an explorer named Carl Alfred Bock with his travel notebook entitled "The Head Hunter"  clarifies the rumors and opens the eyes of the world.

The tradition of beheading in Dayak terms is called Ngayau, according to the assessment of people outside the Dayak tribe who call themselves researchers, this tradition is based on several motives.

a. For the Ngayu Dayak tribe who inhabit the jungles of Central Borneo, the Ngayau tradition is to complete a sacred ceremony, a traditional ceremony called TIWAH which is associated with the death of members in their community. Human heads had been beheaded as a medium to deliver the souls of people who have died to the highest realm.

b. Ngayau for the Dayak Kenyah, is associated with a ceremony called MAMAT which is the end of the mourning period and at the same time as an initiation ceremony for tribal warriors to enter the status system.

High status is indicated by pinning the fangs of a panther in the earlobe, hornbill feathers as a headdress, and tattoos with certain designs for warriors who succeed in headhunting.

c. In the Iban Dayak community, headhunting is not only for a ceremonial procession called GAWAI which has a mystical nuance but is also a celebration in the community.

According to Miller, an explorer in his book "Black Borneo" who said that the tradition of headhunting is closely related to Supernatural powers, the Dayaks believe that the most powerful source of magical power is in the human head, which is obtained by headhunting.

This belief in the magic power of the head is implemented through a series of rituals ranging from gathering to certain mystical nuances of treatment. Then supernatural powers are channeled for various aims and purposes.

The arguments presented above are not wrong but incomplete, especially to the point of sticking to the Black Borneo label.

As humans who live in the forest, the peaceful atmosphere is like a vein in the flesh even though on the other hand the Dayaks are a closed society. The Dayaks are peace-loving people so the target of Ngayau is only aimed at people outside their community who are considered to be a threat, the threat can be from other Dayak tribes outside of tribal relatives who have been in a war before, and it could also be that the threat comes from white or black foreigners who intend "wicked". Evil for them not only threatens their lives directly but also threatens their place and source of life, namely the forest.

In Dayak Meratus and Dayak Maanyan, the tradition of Ngayau is practiced as a war strategy, where the target is the head of the enemy soldier's leader to undermine the morale of his subordinate soldiers so that the war can be ended early with victory. Unlike other Dayaks who treat the head as a display to emit a symbol and source of supernatural power. Dayak Meratus and Dayak Maanyan bury their severed heads to end the supernatural powers they contain.

The Dutch in particular and the British at that time pinned the title to the Dayak people as " Barbaric Borneo". The labeling was none other because the Dutch and the British considered Ngayau as a threat to their freedom and presence.

Between the Ngayau threat from the Dayaks and the Barbaric Borneo labeling that the Europeans pinned, there is a chain of cause and effect. This explains that headhunting for the Dayak tribe is not without cause.

If it is true that the Dayaks are barbarians, of course the world has never read the writings of Carl Alfred Bock's journey "The Head Hunter". As stated in the previous article, for Dayak Tring Mr. Bock is not a threat so his presence can be accepted peacefully. The peacefully marked by the visit of the leader of the Dayak Tring tribe named Sibou Mobang to the residence of Mr. Bock. The tribal chief even presented a pair of human skulls  to Mr. Bock.

Historical records remind the arrival of Europeans, especially the Dutch and the British in Borneo in the late 18th to early 19th centuries. That was namely during the euphoria of the industrial revolution in Europe. They come with economic motives and profit-taking to remove coal and oil deposits from customary lands, that have been handed down for centuries by the Dayak people.

What the Dayaks saw with the arrival of the Dutch and the British at that time were trees falling and the ground being ravaged by excavations, the rivers becoming cloudy even though the soil and forests and rivers were their source of life.

The Ngayau tradition made the Dutch in particular feel uncomfortable and insecure. With the initiation and sponsorship of the Dutch government in 1894, all representatives of the indigenous Dayak people living on Borneo were gathered. They gathered and a forum was formed, a forum known as the Tumbang Anoi Peace Meeting. The essence of the Tumbang Anoi meeting is to immediately end the Ngayau tradition of the Dayak tribe. Although the negotiations were tough, (it is said that it took months) in the end the Tumbang Anoi Peace  meeting resulted in the decision to end the Ngayau tradition.  Sanctions of customary law are accompanied by fines for those who violate.

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