A Report on Longhouse Communities in the Anap River Basin: Based on Household Surveys
[Yumi Kato][Hiromitsu Samejima][Masahiro Ichikawa]

A Report on Longhouse Communities in the Anap River Basin: Based on Household Surveys

Yumi Kato(Hakubi Center for Advanced Research, Kyoto University)
Hiromitsu Samejima(Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University)
Masahiro Ichikawa (Department of Agriculture, Kochi University)


 This is a report on surveys of villages in the Anap River Basin of Sarawak, Malaysia. The aim of the surveys was to collect basic information and to figure outline of the longhouse communities in Anap River Basin. This report documents our itinerary and presents excerpts from the interviews carried out by Masahiro Ichikawa, Hiromitsu Samejima, and Yumi Kato on August 23–25, 2011. We conducted interviews in Rh. Mawang and Rh. Entri in the Upper Anap Basin; Rh. Gerina, Rh. Banda, and Rh. Jatun in the middle Anap Basin; and Rh. Jalong in the lower Tatau Basin (Figure 1). The Ibans constitute the majority in the Rh. Mawang, Rh. Entri, and Rh. Gerina longhouses. The Bekatans constitute the majority in the Rh. Banda and Rh. Jatun longhouses. Both the Tataus and Ibans are mixed in the Rh. Jalong longhouse.
 The interview questions included the reasons for migration; the history of the forestry product trade; and the current situation of the villages economy, subsistence activities, and intermarriage. We also asked about hunting and wildlife around the longhouses. We present below an overall picture of each longhouse.

Figure 1: Fieldwork sites

Figure 1: Fieldwork sites

Rh. Mawang (Nanga Takan)
 In Rh. Mawang, Ichikawa and Kato carried out interviews about migration history and the forestry product trade. Samejima conducted interviews about hunting and wildlife.
 The villagers mainly made their living by rice cultivation. They only grew hill paddy but had sufficient harvest every year. Additionally, this longhouse was in the operational area of a logging company, Zedtee, and many had worked at Zedtee since 1992. At the time of the interviews, roughly 75 percent of the households have some members working at Zedtee. In addition, a few villagers were working at other logging companies such as Rimbunan Hijau, Shin Yang, and Samling. Only a small number were working in cities, and a large number of households stayed in the village.
 As for hunting, the villagers caught roughly forty wild boars a year and between twenty and forty sambar deers. They caught about twenty muntjacs (barking deer) a year. The villagers recognized four types of wild boars, four types of muntjacs, three types of sambars, and two types of mouse deer. The names of those types are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: The types of wild boar and deer recognized by the villagers of Rh. Mawang

Table 1: The types of wild boar and deer recognized by the villagers of Rh. Mawang

The migration history of Ibans in the Upper Anap River region

 The five villages in the Upper Anap River Basin (Rh. Mawang, Rh. Entri, Rh. Belong, Rh. Sayong, and Rh. Gasah) migrated from Julau in the upper Kanowit River, a branch of the Rajang River (Figure 2). They moved in 1940s. When they were migrating, they asked for and were granted permission from the government administrator in Sibu. The pre-migration longhouse was a roughly fifteen-minute ride on the boat (15 horsepower) from Nanga Julau and had fifteen households. The villagers made their livings by collecting rubber latex in Julau, but the price was too low, not proportionate to the hard work. Additionally, all of the areas surrounded the village became temuda (secondary forests). Thus, the villagers moved to the new location to seek uncultivated forests where they could hunt wild boars and fish.
 The current village chief himself moved in 1964, when he was not yet married. When he migrated with other villagers, they went down the Kanowit River to reach the Rajang River. They went up the Rajang River to Kapit, where he spent a night in the boat. On the following day, they went farther up the Rajang River to reach the Pelagus River. They spent a night at Rh. Massam along the Iran River, an upper stream of the Pelagus River. After that, they walked six hours, carrying their luggage, from the Dapu River, farther upstream of the Iran River; after going over the hill, he reached the Kilong River, a small distance downstream of the current longhouse along the Anap River. The Bekatans, who inhabited there previously, already left to lower Anap. A total of twenty households moved from Julau, and they were gradually joined by two or three households from Sarikei, four or five households from Saratok, four or five households from Skrang, and seven households from Assan (a small distance upstream of Sibu); all of these groups were Ibans (see Figure 2). Other Iban groups also immigrated into this Upper Anap, but because they migrated without permission, these groups were let to relocate again to the Pila River and Julau River.
 In the 1960s, their longhouse was at the Rengas River (on the other side of the mouth of the Kilong River) and thatched with palm leaves. At that time, they cultivated hill paddy and made their living by selling rattan and illipe-nut (Shorea spp.) in Kapit bazaar.
 Between 1973 and 1974, government let them to join a group resettlement along the Sekuau River, in the middle reaches of the Oya River to empty the Upper Anap and to isolate communists group from the villagers, because of the government’s anti-communist policies. People who were resettled along the Sekuau River were not only from the Upper Anap River Basin but also from various places, including Kapit, Bintangor, and Biduk. In 1974, the administrator of Sri Aman issued licenses to the Chinese communists as contractors for logging and school building and the Ibans came back to the Upper Anap River Basin in 1975.
 The villagers have made their living by gathering rattan and illipe-nut and selling both in Kapit bazaar. During the 1970s, the Chinese from Tatau sometimes visited the village to buy illipe-nut. Recently, illipe-nut tree flowered in August 2009. The nuts became available in March and April 2010, and all households in the village collected it, but the price was very low.
 On the right-hand side when traveling down Nanga Dakat from Rh. Mawang, there is a graveyard for the Bekatans who lived Upper Anap from 1920 to 1930 or so, but we missed it. There is also a place called “Pemali Bukit Tugong” near Rh. Enteri. This is the graveyard for eighteen to twenty Kenyah from Baram who lost their lives in the fight with the Ibans in the mid-nineteenth century (before the rule by Brooke’s government). Bukit Tugong was a warpath used by the Kenyah in the past. The path led to various places such as Merit, Kanowit, Belaga, and Pelagus along the Rajang River. When people pass the Bukit Tugong now, they place a piece of woods to console the souls.

Photograph 1: Children playing in the clear Anap River in front of
Rh. Mawang in the evening Photograph 2: With the village chief of Rh. Mawang and other interviewees

Figure 2: Rivers around the Tatau River

Figure 2: Rivers around the Tatau River

Rh. Enteri (Nanga Takan)
 Ichikawa and Kato conducted a household survey. The ancestors of the villagers lived in Rh. Assan along the Julau River, and it was the same village with Rh. Mawang reported above. After migration to the Anap River, their longhouse was still called as Rh. Assan.
 There was pepper-processing equipment in the longhouse. In 2004, as part of a government agriculture project, all households planted more than 1,000 pepper trees and sold approximately 1,500 kg. However, the trees died of disease in the third year. Rice cultivation was not as widely practiced as in Rh. Mawang. Not many people were working at Zedtee and many were working in the cities. They previously collected illipenuts. Recently, the illipe-nut trees bore nuts in 2010, and the oil was stocked for home consumption.
 In the upper Anap River Basin, many children attend a primary school in Pelagus and a junior high school in Kapit. The primary school in Pelagus was built in 1975. The villagers wanted to have a primary school in the upper Anap River.
 Some people from Rh. Enteri lived in Kapit. There were also a small number of people moving to Tatau. In general, the communities in upper Anap River region were closely connected with Kapit than with Tatau.
 The Ibans’ migration from the Rajang River region to the upper Anap River Basin continued until recently. The last migration from Pila River, a branch of Rajang River occurred in 1983.
 Among five villages in the upper Anap River Basin, Rh. Mawang, Rh. Entri and Rh. Bilong were longhouses where relatively large and many households stayed in the villages. On the other hand, both Rh. Sayong and Rh. Gasah had smaller populations, and the numbers of households staying in the village were small.

Rh Gerina (Nanga Malat)
 This was an old longhouse with many people. We interviewed the village chief about their subsistence activities, the history of the longhouse, and hunting. Kato also interviewed about the saltlick.
 The villagers had migrated from the Selangau River, a branch of the Mukah River (see Figure 2). The first move from Mukah took place in 1941 and the second one in 1959. There were thirty households in Mukah at that time. Because it was difficult to cultivate rice and hunt wild boars in Mukah, they moved to the Anap River. They took a ship from Mukah to Tatau, and from Tatau they used paddling boats. When they migrated here, the Bekatans had already split into two villages in the middle Anap River region. In the 1940s and 1950s, the villagers cultivated rice and visited Tatau by paddleboat to sell dammar, jelutong (both natural latex), rattan, wild boars, and fish. It took four days to reach Tatau and five days to get back to the village. In the 1980s, many villagers left the village to join Rh. Nyalo (thirty households) in Kuala Tatau. Only six households stayed in the village at that time. However, three years later, five households returned. At the time of our interviews, there were twenty-three households and every household stayed in the longhouse.
 The longhouse was actively engaged with rice cultivation and hunting. All households cultivated hill paddy. They had never cultivated swamp paddy. The rice harvest was sometimes sufficient but sometimes not. As for hunting, roughly, thirty wild boars and thirty sambars a year were caught, but few common muntjacs were caught. A few villagers worked at Zedtee and at a plantation company.

Photograph 3: The approach to Rh. Garina
A very long pier stretching from the river
Rh. Banda (Kerangan Paji)
 Ichikawa and Kato conducted interviews on subsistence activities and Samejima car ried out interviews on local animal names. We also asked about the Bekatans’ history of migration and split along the Anap River and about the forestry product trade. Processing and crafting rattan were active and found everywhere in the longhouse. In addition to those engaged with rice cultivation, there were many who worked for logging companies or in the cities. Besides, many villagers follow the Ibans’ traditional belief, not Christianity.

The history of the Bekatans’ migration in the middle Anap River region

 The Bekatans’ history goes back to the Kapuas River, West Kalimantan. From the Kapuas River, they migrated to Sarawak and lived for many years in Kanowit. From Kanowit, some of them migrated farther, to Selangau. Although one group stayed in Kanowit, the other group reached Takan in the upper Anap River region via Pelagus1. They lived in Takan for a long while, however during the reign of James Brooke, the government ordered them to move downstream and they moved to the mouth of the Malat River, in the middle reaches of the Anap River. This was when Tuan Ot and Taun Inyi2 ruled in this area. After that, the government ordered them to move again, and they moved to the lower Paum River (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Map of the middle Anap River region

Figure 3: Map of the middle Anap River region

 The Bekatans’ migration history in the middle Anap River region was as follows. I n the late nineteenth century, Meraing led the group, and roughly, fifteen households lived at the mouth of the Paum River. After that, when Asai was the leader, they moved to the Palung River. Asai was a leader for ten years when Abang Cai3 ruled the area, and he died in 1944. He was succeeded by Beruang Gawan in 1944, and the villagers lived in a longhouse comprising of eighteen households made of ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri ). They then split into two villages. A group led by Beruang Gawan was ten households and stayed at Nanga Pelawan. The other group led by Lantai Jaban was eight households, syaed at Kerangan Paji. These villages became today’s Rh. Jatun and Rh. Banda, respectively.  Former sites of longhouses are called tevawei in Bekatan. The list of tevawei at the time of the interviews is shown in Table 2.

Table 2: The locations of the Bekatans’ tevawei in the middle Anap River

Table 2: The locations of the Bekatans’ tevawei in the middle Anap River

Photograph 4: An Interview conducted at Rh. Banda Photograph 5: With the interviewees
 During the time, that Asai was the chief (around 1940), the villagers gathered rattan, dammar, and illipe-nut and sold them to the Chinese in Tatau. They cultivated rice, but the yield was small, so they often ate sago. In the past, all households made mats with rattan.
 After the logging companies started to operate, the number of animals decreased. At the time of our interviews, the villagers could catch at most one wild boar a year, and the same applied to sambar deer. They rarely caught muntjacs. In the past, they had used spear for hunting but use rif les and traps nowadays.

Rh. Jatun (Nanga Pelawan)
 Because the village chief was away at Tatau, we conducted interviews with the longhouse residents. We interviewed about cash crop cultivation and the relationships with logging companies. Ichikawa and Kato carried out a household survey and conducted interviews on marriage with other ethnic groups.
 There were many who worked at the logging companies or in the cities, in addition to rice cultivation, in this longhouse. They cultivated only hill paddy, and the yield was always sufficient. Just as in Rh. Banda, rattan craft was very active in Rh. Jatun. Rattan was collected from the hill behind the longhouse. When hunting, no dogs were used and the hunters traveled on foot in the forest. There were still many secondary forests behind the village, and they hunted there. In the previous week, they had caught four wild boars.
 There were roughly thirty villagers working at the logging companies. Many worked at Shin Yang, and no one worked at Zedtee. Three worked at an oil palm plantation and one at an acacia plantation. Ten or so young women worked in the city as waitresses. Even though the villagers wanted to plant oil palm by themselves, they could not start because the seeds were not available.
 Different from the upstream villages, intermarriage with other ethnic groups were not rare in Rh. Jatun. There were more people married with Kayans than Ibans. In addition, in the Bekatan villages, there are marriage relationships with Bekatans in other regions.

Photograph 6: Gathering rattan and rattan craft are very active in Rh. Jatun Photograph 7: In front of a waterfall in the middle Anap River region
Rh. Jalong (Nanga Buan)
 From Tatau town, Ichikawa left for the airport while Samejima and Kato again took a boat to visit Rh. Jalong. This was the longhouse of the Tataus people. Interviews were conducted about an old tale of Tatau’s population decline, the relationship between the Tataus and the Lugats, the history in the Tatau River region, and marriage to other ethnic groups. We also asked some families about their lineage.
 The longhouse residents had moved to the current location 11 years ago (in 2000 or so). Before that, they had built and lived in a longhouse consisting of eighteen households upstream of the current location. There were only two households left in the former location at the time of our interviews. The village chief at the time had assumed his position in 1987 and had served as the village chief for twenty-four years. Before that, Li anak Sare was the village chief, and there were seven households. Before that, in 1947 or so, Dimang anak Jarap (married to an Iban) was the village chief, and there were seven households. Before that, Beyang was the village chief. There has been only one longhouse here.
 The villagers were engaged with various occupations. They cultivated both hill and swamp paddy, but more households cultivated swamp paddy. Many of the seventeen households had recently started to cultivate rubber. Only one household cultivated oil palm. This was because it was difficult to grow the sapling. Other households were also planning to cultivate rubber when the road was constructed. Some residents of the longhouse worked in cities in Sarawak and some others worked even in Peninsula Malaysia and overseas. They caught wild boars mostly with snares in the nearby forest, they also hunted in the acacia plantation. Wild boards do not go near the acacia forest when the trees are young. However, when acacia start to bear fruits, wild boars come to the forest to eat the fruits.
 According to the Tataus, Tatau dialect is close to Lugat and Melanau, but not close to Sekapan, Kejaman, and Lahanan. Intermarriage with other ethnic groups was very common in this longhouse. Many were married to Ibans, and others were married to Bekatans, Chinese, Punans, Kenyahs, Melayus, Segans, and Lugats. According to the village chief, because every members of the village were relative in the past, marriage among the villagers was taboo. Because of this, they would look for marriage partners in other ethnic groups such as the Ibans and Punans, and by inviting the partners to live in the Tatau village, Tataus increased the population.

The history of the Tataus in the Tatau River Basin

 When the Penans were still living in the forest, the Tataus started to settle down. The Tataus previously lived on sago and did not eat rice. In Tatau language, former places of residence are called ugan. There were ugan in various places along the Tatau river, both in the forest and by the river.
 The Tataus once lived along the Takan River, at the uppermost reaches of the Anap River, and the Kakus River. There still remained durians planted by the Tataus along the Takan River. The Bekatans immigrated to Takan long after the Tataus lived there. When the Bekatans lived in Takan, the Tataus lived along the Penyarai River (see Figure 2). The pillars of the Tataus longhouse are still remained in the Penyarai River. They were huge pillars of ironwood. The Bekatans were sometimes engaged in headhunting and immigrated from the Rajang River. The Punans migrated from the Balui River before the Bekatan and the Ibans migrated after the Beketan. The Ibans were fearful headhunters in the past. Because the Ibans practiced headhunting, the Tataus used to hide in the forest in the upper river region.
 In the past, the population of Tataus was more than current population and widely distributed. Even now, there are Tataus’ bones in Bukit Bukuyat in the Main River. They often visited there by boat in the past. The bones were large and long. However, because of many supernatural disasters that happened in the Penyarai River and lower Basin of Tatau River, their population became very small. This supernatural disaster was called puru. In the past, people hesitated even to use the word puru. Even now, this word was not used very often.
 Keliring and salong, the Tataus’ burial poles, were found everywhere by the Tatau River. There were five kelirings and two salongs in Rantau Belak, roughly a fifteen-minute boat ride away. There had been a keliring on the path along the Kampung Melayu Tatau, but it was inundated and destroyed by a flood. In addition, there was a kelirings near Rh. Roni (Iban), another one in Rh. Saban (Iban) There were also kelirings along the Penyarai River, at Kuala Tengiliri and Kuala Miskin, but these were inundated. These episodes suggest that the Tataus once lived widely across the Tatau River Basin. It was very interesting to hear that the Tatau population began to decline after they shot a large snake. Because of space constraints, we will discuss this story further on a different occasion.

Concluding Remarks

 This report’s aim was to describe the overall picture of longhouse communities in the Anap River Basin. We captured the outline of the migration history, the history of the forestry product trade, and the basic economic activities in each longhouse. We also gathered basic information about the development around villages and about marriage relationship with other ethnic groups. However, the situation of each longhouse varied greatly, and it is impossible to consider the situations of the six longhouses we visited as a general condition of the all villages in Anap River Basin.
 The findings from the household surveys carried out on this interview will be compared with the findings from the household surveys carried out in the Kemena River region. The history of the forestry product trade will be published separately.

1:According to preceding studies, it is Merit.
2:It is not clear what kind of position Tuan Ot and Taun Inyi held.
3:We did not get the details of what kind of position Abang cai occupied
4:(Table 2)Laput in Bekatan means the mouth of the river.
5:(Table 2)Lirung in Bekatan means a stagnated or deep river.

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