DISCOVER LAND OF HORNBILL & LAND BELOW THE WIND
Sarawak is rich in history and heritage. It is also known as Land of The Hornbills. The population comprises of local ethnic groups namely Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Melanau and other minor tribes plus the Malays, Chinese and Indians living together in harmony for more than a century.
The Iban race, once known as “Sea Dayaks”, built their longhouses to last 15 to 20 years, or, until the farm land in the surrounding area was exhausted. Then they packed up their goods and chattels and moved inland, upriver, along the coast, wherever fresh farm lands looked promising. About one-third of all Sarawakians are Iban; while some of them live in towns or individual houses, a large number still prefer longhouses.
The Bidayuh race, accounting for 8.4% of Sarawak’s population live mainly within the catchment of the Sarawak and Sadong rivers. Early European travelers gave them the name “Land Dayaks” because they lived in the steep limestone mountains, near the watershed area of West Sarawak, in what was then Dutch Borneo.
The Kayan, the Kenyah, the Kelabit, the Lun Bawang and the other minor tribes…these are the Orang Ulu, gentle and graceful people – as reflected in their songs, music and dances.
Orang Ulu, “up-river dwellers”, is a useful if vague term to describe the central Borneo people living in Sarawak. Accounting for 5.5% of the total population, the Orang Ulu comprises the Penan, the Kayan and Kenyah, living in the middle and upper reaches of Sarawak’s longest rivers, the Kelabit and Lun Bawang groups in the highlands proper.
The Melanau people making up 5.8% of Sarawak’s population, now mostly living in the central coastal region, were once more widely scattered. They traditionally lived near the sea within reach of pirates. As a means of protecting themselves, the Melanaus built massive houses forty feet above the ground.
The Melanaus differ from most other Borneo people in one important aspect: they eat Sago in preference to rice. Sago palms originally grew wild in the coastal swamps, and the Melanaus took it upon themselves to cultivate these plants. The ten-metre high palm trunk accumulates starch. It swells just before flowering indicating the right time for harvesting by felling.
The largest indigenous ethnic groups of Sabah’s population are the Kadazan Dusun, the Bajau and the Murut.
The largest ethnic group of Sabah, the Kadazan Dusuns form about 30% of the state’s population. Actually consisting of two tribes; the Kadazan and the Dusun, they were grouped together as they both share the same language and culture. However, the Kadazan are mainly inhabitants of flat valley deltas, which are conducive to paddy field farming, while the Dusun traditionally lived in the hilly and mountainous regions of interior Sabah.
The second largest ethnic group in Sabah, the Bajaus make up about 15% of the state’s population. Historically a nomadic sea-faring people that worshipped the Omboh Dilaut or God of the Sea, they are sometimes referred to as the Sea Gypsies. Those who chose to leave their sea-faring ways became farmers and cattle-breeders. These land Bajaus are nicknamed ‘Cowboys of the East’ in tribute to their impressive equestrian skills, which are publicly displayed in the annual Tamu Besar festival at Kota Belud.
The third largest ethnic group in Sabah the Muruts make up about 3% of the state’s population. Traditionally inhabiting the northern inland regions of Borneo, they were the last of Sabah’s ethnic groups to renounce headhunting. Now, they are mostly shifting cultivators of hill paddy and tapioca, supplementing their diet with blowpipe hunting and fishing. Like most indigenous tribes in Sabah, their traditional clothing is decorated with distinctive beadwork.