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Penan and the Pulong Tau National Park: historical links and contemporary life.


A number of people live adjacent to the Pulong Tau National Park (PTNP): the Lun Bawang to the north, the Kelabit to the east and south, the Sa'ben to the southeast, and the Penan to the west and south. This paper is a general description of the seven groups of Penan, four settled and three semi-settled, found around the Park and looks at Penan historical links to the general Park area and their contemporary way of life. It takes account of their social structure, livelihood, daily activities, and dependence on the forest and its resources. It looks at migration history, contact with outsiders, and relationships with non-Penan neighbors. Penan interactions with, and perceptions of their surroundings as well as their views of the Park are also described. An earlier and slightly different version of this paper was prepared for the International Tropical Timber Organization in Kuching as a source of socio-economic data on the people living adjacent to the Park.

The four settled Penan groups are located at Long Sabai on the Tutoh River and at Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A," and Ba' Tik "B," on the Nyela, a tributary of the Kubaan which, in turn, is a tributary of the Tutoh. The three semi-settled groups are located at Long Anying (1) on the Tutoh and at Long Tab and Ba' Ba' Medamut on the Kubaan. Information on the seven groups was obtained through interviews in the settlements I visited. I visited Long Sabai on March 28-31, 2007, Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A,'" and Ba' Tik "B" on April 28-May 2, 2007, and the semi-settled group at Long Anying on July 3-6, 2007. I also visited the same semi-settled group twice in 2008, on April 15-17 and Junel4-17 at their new location of Long Taha, not far downriver from Long Anying. I was not able to visit Long Tah and Ba' Medamut, but information concerning these two communities was obtained through interviews with Penan at Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A," and Ba' Tik "B."

Early Accounts

Banks (1937:435) mentioned that there used to be Penan on the eastward side of the Tama Abu Range, but that there are none living there today. Another early record that relates to the Penan around the Pulong Tau National Park is found in a short article by Tom Harrisson (1949) published in the Sarawak Museum Journal. In it, he described in some detail the "spiritual and social culture as well as material life" of groups of Penan he called "the Magoh Punans" (1949:134-146). They occupied, at that time, the area between the Kuba'an, an upriver tributary of the Tutoh; and the Malinau, a downriver tributary of the Tutoh (Harrisson 1949:135). Penan elders in the four settlements recognized the names Tama Laje and Agut mentioned in Harrisson's article. According to them, Tama Laje was a well-known Penan leader with the rank of Penghulu, residing on the Malinau River, and Agut was a leader of a nomadic band that foraged along the Tepen River. Agut was perhaps the father of Tabaran Agut, currently the headman of a band of nomadic Penan foraging on the Tepen River. The two named Penan leaders were part of a larger group of Penan roaming the Tutoh and Magoh, whose descendants include the semi-nomadic groups currently residing at Long Anying, Long Tah, and Ba' Medamut. The Penan of Long Sabai, Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A" and "B" said that they might be the descendants of the groups described by Harrisson.

In 1990, I did a head count of the nomadic Penan in the Magoh area (Langub 1990). With the help of Tabaran Agut of Ba' Tepen and Ubong Magih (f), a former resident of the Kuba'an, who married Galang Ayu of Long Kidah in the Magoh, I recorded the names of members of two groups of Penan in the Kuba'an area. Some of these people still reside there and are listed in this report. For example, Melai Naa was mentioned in 1990 as the headman of the settled Penan of Ba' Tik. He is now the headman of Ba' Tik "A."

In 1992, Peter Brosius conducted three months of research among four groups of nomadic and semi-nomadic Penan east of the Pulong Tan National Park. His observations were first summarized in an interim report submitted to the State Planning Unit in December 1992 and were later published in various academic writings (Brosius 1992c, 1995, 1997, 2006, 2007). His main observation was that the Penan were extremely worried about being surrounded by logging activities which resulted in the destruction of wild sago (the staple food of the nomadic Penan), rattan (their main source of cash income), the disappearance of game (their main source of protein), and the pollution of rivers and streams. Brosius also observed the tendency of groups to fission into smaller groups due to the inability of the surrounding area to provide larger groups with enough food resources (Brosius 1992: 6-7).

In her thesis on hunting patterns and wildlife densities in the upper Baram, Cynthia Chin (2002) has provided some basic information on the community of Long Sabai, such as number of households, population, occupations, and daily activities.

Most of the information contained in this report was obtained from interviews with the headmen of the four settlements and from informal conversations with people, both men and women of different age groups during my visits.

Brief Ethnographic Background on the Penan in Sarawak

There are slightly more than 13,000 Penan in Sarawak. (2) Their population may be divided into Eastern and Western Penan (cf. Needham 1972). (3) The Eastern Penan comprise all of those groups living roughly to the east of the Baram River, that is, along the true right bank of the Baram and in the Limbang Division, while the Western Penan are located around the watershed of the Rejang and along the Silat River (a true left bank tributary of the Baram). There are also Western Penan settlements along the Tin jar River in the Baram District, along the Jelalong River and coastal areas of the Bintulu District, and in the Suai-Niah area of the Miri District. Historically and in terms of dialect, these latter groups are Western Penan.

Although the two groups recognize each other as one people, there are differences between them in terms of dialect, family and group size, and other sociocultural matters (Brosius 1988b:11):

First, the Eastern Penan live in small groups with a range of 20 to 40 members, while the Western Penan live in large groups of 60 to 200 members. Average household size for Eastern Penan is 4 persons while that of Western Penan is 7. Extended families rarely occur among the Eastern Penan, but are more frequent among the Western Penan. Second, the Eastern Penan tend to build their camps on ridge tops, generally at some distance from sources of water, while Western Penan build their camps adjacent to rivers and streams. The Eastern Penan camps are of short duration, occupied from I to 3 weeks, but the Western Penan have a two-tiered settlement system with large, central base camps inhabited for up to I year, and dispersed short-duration sago camps. Third, the Eastern Penan have smaller foraging areas with frequent overlap of areas used by different bands. The Western Penan have large foraging areas with little overlap of areas used by different groups. Fourth, the Eastern rely primarily on blowpipes to hunt a wide range of game species while the Western Penan use dogs and spears, with wild boars being the primary game? Blowpipe hunting is of secondary importance to the Western Penan. Fifth, institutions of leadership are less developed among the Eastern Penan while they are strong, with recognition of aristocratic status for some individuals, among the Western Penan. Sixth, the Eastern Penan have a shallow knowledge of genealogies, whereas the Western Penan have extensive genealogical knowledge, extending to more than seven generations.

The settled groups, by contrast, grow hill rice: they also plant fruit trees and other crops such as tapioca and sugar cane. in the Upper Baram area, a few settled Penan communities have even adopted the irrigated rice farming technology of their Kelabit neighbors, while in the coastal area of Bintulu and Suai-Niah some Penan communities, living in single Malay-style houses, cultivate cash crops such as rubber, pepper, and cocoa. In fact, the Penan of Jambatan Suai have participated in large-scale oil palm plantations. Among all settled Penan, rice has replaced the traditional sago as their staple food.

The Penan are well documented, their principal ethnographers thus far being Rodney Needham in the 1950s and Peter Brosius in the 1980s. Needham (1954a, 1954b; 1959, 1965, 1971, 1972) concentrated his research on Penan social organization and pioneered the study of death names. Brosius (1986, 1988a, 1988b; 1990, 1991, 1992a, 1992b, 1992c; 1993, 1995, 1997, 2006, 2007) has written extensively on historical and cultural topics, as well as on Penan ecological adaptations. He has also written extensively on the significance of death names. A Danish anthropologist, Johannes Nicolaisen (1976a, 1976b; 1978) carried out one year's research among the Penan of Belaga District and published three articles on them before his untimely death. His focus was on their ecological status as gatherers and hunters, their death names, and history.

Both during the colonial era and following the incorporation of Sarawak into the Malaysian Federation, various civil servants have written about the Penan. During the colonial period, these included Tom Harrisson (1949), who wrote rather generally about Penan living in Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan; and Ian Urquhart (1951, 1957, 1959a, 1959b), who wrote on general aspects of Penan life and language. Among the more recent civil servants writing on the Penan are Peter Kedit (1978), who undertook a survey of Penan cultural ecology among the Penan around the Mulu National Park, and myself (Langub 1974, 1975, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996a, 1996b, 2001, 2004). My own work has focused on general aspects of Penan life, as well as ecological adaptations and development.

There is also a serious literature on the Penan by amateur ethnographers. Notable among these is Guy Arnold, a member of the 1955 Oxford University Expedition to Borneo, who collected useful information on the Penan Geng, who at that time were still nomadic and lived in the Usun Apau Plateau area (Arnold 1958, 1959). Another publication worthy of note is that of Bruno Manser (1996), a Swiss artist and environmentalist, and an ardent campaigner for the indigenous rights of the Penan against intruding logging companies. Manser lived for six years during the mid- 1980s with groups of nomadic Penan in the Tutoh and Limbang watersheds. The books of two local journalists, James Ritchie (1994) and Khaider Ahmad (1994) also deal with the consequences of logging among the nomadic Penan of Tutoh and Limbang.

Social Organization

Two levels of social organization of the groups under discussion are examined: the household and the community.

The Family Unit. The household (lamin) is the basic unit of production, consumption, procreation, and education. It is a corporate group that owns, for instance, its own tabau andja'an, baskets and mats used in the production of sago flour; plots of land for the cultivation of rice (among semi-settled groups); and is responsible (together with other members of the community) for bringing up children. The average family size of the four settled groups is 3.94 members and of the three semi-settled groups, 3.93 members. The largest household size in both the settled and semi-settled groups is eight members. Eastern Penan couples tend to form separate households after the birth of their first child.

The Community. The village or settlement is the primary unit of social and political identity. Each village or settlement has its own headman. Basically, the duties of the headman include maintaining social relationships among village members, resolving conflicts, and acting as an intermediary between the local population and the outside world, especially the government. The village or settlement is essentially a kin-based group mainly made up of closely related individuals. The degree of relatedness is a function of group size and in smaller groups individuals are closely related. It is here that Eastern and Western Penan differ. Eastern Penan communities are smaller and less stable, with families and individuals moving from one group to another quite frequently. This is reflected in the Penan settlements around the Pulong Tau National Park. For instance, in my headcounts of the semi-nomadic Penan, a few individual names appear in more than one settlement.

There are two Penan regional chiefs in Baram District with the rank of Penghulu. One of them resides at Long Latei on the Apoh, the other at Long Beruang in the Upper Baram. The Penan around the Pulong Tau National Park are not sure which Penghulu has jurisdiction over them. Neither Penghulu has visited their settlements. According to the District Office population data, there are over 9,000 Penan in Baram District, spread over a wide area of the interior. The Penan told me that they deserve more than two Penghulu as the Kelabit, with a population of 5,000, have one Pemanca and three Penghulu.

Each community is proud of its existence and exerts its individuality. One of the more critical aspects of Penan community structure is the nature of relations among community members, between communities, as well as between them and their non- Penan neighbors, particularly timber companies. Few Penan have a positive opinion of timber companies. Despite this, some settlements have established workable relationships with the companies in order to obtain favors such as building materials, or even of getting the company to build them a longhouse. The nature of relationships between particular groups of Penan with timber companies also has implications for relationships between different Penan communities. There are cases of strained relationships between villages that have cordial relationships with timber companies and those that do not.

Perceptions of their surroundings and the National Park

The Penan look at their surroundings as the source of livelihood, a home, and a place within which they organize activities. One remark that constantly came up in my conversations with them was: hun akeu' na' at tong tana', akeu'na 'at urip; murong kening ki', "when I look at the forest, I see life; it makes me happy." In fact, the forest was considered by the Penan to be a "big store," "bank," or "supermarket."

For both the settled and semi-settled groups, the immediate surroundings are converted into farms where they cultivate hill rice, cassava, fruit trees etc. Beyond the immediate surroundings are areas where they harvest wild sago when they run short of rice or cassava. These are also areas where they hunt and collect forest products such as rattan and gaharu (incense wood). They are also connected to various places in the landscape through the migrations of their ancestors, old camp sites, and burial sites. These sites, although not physically visible due to regrowth of vegetation, exist in memories, and information concerning them is passed down through the generations. The present generation may not know the exact locations of old camps or the burial sites of long-dead ancestors, but they know the watersheds within which these sites are located. Sites such as these not only link the present generation historically to these places but serve to establish rights to exploit resources in the area. It is within the particular area of their surroundings that a band or group of Penan exercises stewardship. Such an area comprises the group's tana' pengurip (foraging area). As mentioned earlier, in the Eastern Penan region, tana' pengurip of one group may overlap with another, and groups involved in such overlaps have mutual understandings on the use of the area.

In their exploitation of resources, the Penan employ an ecologically sound harvesting strategy of sustained yield management known as molong. The idea of molong is to mark and preserve resources for future use. Molong serves two purposes: it acts as a monitoring device to track the quantity of resources over a tract of forest where the Penan exercise stewardship; and as a check to prevent over-exploitation of these resources.

In their exploitation of the tana 'pengurip they rotate their harvest of resources from one location to another to allow for regeneration of the harvested area to which they will return sometime in the future when resources there have regenerated to maturity. When they harvest food resources, for instance, they harvest only the amount they need, leaving the rest for the future. When they do this, they are said to minut the resource, or use it wisely. An old man explained minut as kon dawai-dawai or 'to eat slowly,' with the idea that the resource lasts for a long time. However, when someone in the process of harvesting the resource harvests more than he needs, and leaves what he cannot use or eat to waste, he is said to ngeburah (waste) the resource. Although there is no legal sanction against those who ngeburah resources, in pre-Christian times, it was believed that the offender would incur supernatural wrath, which frightened the Penan. In addition, the offender might lose the respect of community members, be 'seva', which, given the face-to-face nature of their society, a Penan could ill-afford. Another way of dealing with the situation would be for the headman to nebara' (advise) the offender not to repeat the same mistake in the future. The whole idea was to leave the forest in as good a condition as the present generation inherited it from their ancestors, conscious of the fact that their descendants will someday want to walk in their footsteps.

Of concern to the Penan today is the destruction of much of the forest by logging activities, and in some places, by oil palm plantations. Destruction of the forest means the destruction of many of the resources that the Penan depend upon for their livelihood. When the land is destroyed, life becomes harder to live (tusa pita urip). When nothing is done to prevent further destruction, there is a feeling of hopelessness (be' pu'un pengalan); people set up blockades on the logging roads to express their frustrations and to draw the attention of the authorities. A cynical individual suggested that timber blockades are "invitation cards" to come to a negotiation table, apat inah bari'tebukeu' tebai irah pepane. At all the five settlements that I visited, some individuals openly admitted to having taken part in logging blockades.

In all the settlements I visited, the Penan said that they welcome the idea of the Pulong Tau National Park largely because they hate what logging has done to their surroundings. It has caused ugly scars of soil erosion, pollution of rivers and streams, and destruction of forest resources that are food, trade items, and medicines to the Penan.

As they live adjacent to the Park, they are given rights of access to it, and to harvest resources therein on a sustained yield basis. They also see opportunities of employment as guides and porters for research scientists and tourists in the future. What the Penan would like to see is for the park management to document local knowledge of their surroundings as well as their resource management strategy for future generations. A step in this direction has recently been undertaken under the ITTO project (Tipot, Henry, and Paul Chai 2008).





Daily Activities

The main activities of the four settled Penan groups are cultivating hill rice by the swidden method, hunting, fishing, and gathering. They also plant cassava to supplement rice. The three groups of semi-settled Penan plant cassava. I was told that during the past few years some families have cultivated small plots of hill rice; however, as semi-settled groups, they still spend a lot of time hunting and gathering.

Rice cultivation. The four groups of settled Penan started cultivating rice around the time of the Brunei Rebellion. Although rice has replaced wild sago as the staple, the latter is still eaten, in fact, most people above the age of 50 still prefer sago to rice. Cassava is planted as a readily available replacement for rice when there is a shortage, which I was told did occur in the past. I was told by the people of Long Sabai, Long Lobang, and Ba' Tik "A" that during the past three years, they have always had enough rice to last from one harvest to another, whereas the people of Ba' Tik "B" said they experienced a sufficient rice harvest some years and shortages in others. However, a rice shortage is not a major concern as they also rely on cassava and wild sago. Overall, the four settlements always have enough food to eat. Besides rice, cassava or sago, game, fish, and other food resources are still easily available in the nearby forest.

When I visited Long Anying in July 2007, the semi-settled Penan there were facing a shortage of sago. The shortage was attributed to the fact that quite a number of people had been sick the previous month, leaving not enough people to go to the forest to harvest sago. During that visit a number of young people had gone to Batu Lulau on the opposite bank of the Tutoh to extract sago flour. With regard to the two other semi-settled Penan groups of Long Tab and Ba' Medamut, I was told that when they face a food shortage they come over to visit Long Lobang and Ba' Tik "A" to share the food of the settled groups, sharing being an important Penan value.

Hunting. Hunting and fishing are important activities that provide much-needed protein. In the four settled communities, three types of hunting are practiced: with dogs and spears, blowpipes, and shotguns. At Long Sabai, hunting with dogs and spears is popular, while in the other three settlements blowpipes are mostly used. Hunting with shotguns is the most effective method, but the communities have only a few shotguns. Besides, it is difficult to obtain a regular supply of cartridges in the interior. Among the semi-nomadic groups, blowpipes are the main hunting equipment used.

Fishing. Three types of equipment are used to fish: cast nets (jala), hang nets (pukat), and hook and line (lesai). The most popular method is fishing with cast nets. At the four settled settlements fishing is a productive activity with each trip bringing in a sufficient catch of fish for the family's meal. However, this is not the case with the semi-settled Penan of Long Anying. They complain that timber workers in the nearby Shin Yang Timber Camp at Long Kubaan have depleted the fish population in the area. During my four-day stay at Long Anying, the Penan did not catch a single fish from the few fishing trips they organized.

Gathering. Gathering was an important activity during the nomadic days. Foods such as wild sago, shoots, mushrooms and ferns, as well as medicinal plants, were gathered from the forest. They also gathered jungle produce such as camphor, jelutong (a wild latex-producing tree of the species Dyera costulata), damar (resins from species of dipterocarp trees), gaharu (incense wood from species of Aquilaria), bezoar stones (gallstones to which the Chinese attribute medicinal properties), and rattan for making mats and baskets. These were brought to the barter trade centers (tamu) located in various parts of the Baram District, and barter traded with their settled neighbors: the Kenyah, Kayan, and Berawan. Barter trade activities were supervised by the government to prevent the Penan from being taken advantage of by the local traders. Government-supervised tamu are no longer organized; the last one was held in 1976 (Langub 1984). Moreover, most of these jungle products have been largely depleted, and the animals that are likely to have bezoar stones are now protected under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998. A few individuals still go deep into the forest to collect gaharu which, according to them, is quite difficult to locate due to over-harvesting. Many still spend a lot of time going into the forest to process wild sago, collect other food items, medicinal plants, and rattan to weave mats and baskets.

Penan Groups Adjacent to PTNP

The Settled Penan. As mentioned earlier, the four settled Penan communities near the Pulong Tau National Park are Long Sabai, Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A," and Ba' Tik "B." Long Sabai is located on the southern side of the Pulong Tau at the confluence of Tutoh and Sabai. It takes one or two days of hard walking through rugged terrain to reach Long Sabai from Long Lobang, the nearest of the three settlements on the western side of the National Park. Long Lobang and Ba' Tik "A" are located at the Nyela; Long Lobang at the confluence of the Nyela and Lobang; and Ba' Tik "A" at the confluence of the Nyela and Tik, a one and a half hour walk downriver from Long Lobang. Ba' Tik "B" is located on the Tik River, about an hour's walk from Ba' Tik "A."

The four settlements comprise 142 households, and a population of 218 people: 111 males and 107 females. Figure 1 shows the population distribution of these settlements.

The settled and semi-settled groups consider the land areas they currently occupy as their place of origin (okoo bu 'un), or ancestral land (tana' pohoo). They point to numerous burial sites, and sites of old camps used by their ancestors as evidence to support their claim.

Long Sabai

Location. As mentioned earlier, Long Sabai is located on the southern tip of the Pulong Tau National Park, at the confluence of the Tutoh and Sabai rivers. The settlement is about 3 kilometers from the Park. It is the furthest settlement on the Tutoh. To reach it, one takes an hour's flight in a small plane from Miri to Long kellang, a 4- hour walk from Long Lellang to Aro Kangan, and an hour's outboard ride from Aro Kangan to Long Sabai.

Population. Long Sabai comprises 22 families, and a population of 100 people: 55 males and 45 females. Seven families comprising 20 individuals were previously living at Ba Keramu, and a family comprising 7 individuals at Long Belusu, located downriver from Long Sabai. These families agreed to move to Long Sabai. The population census also reveals that 13 individuals from neighboring Penan settlements are residing in Long Sabai, following marriages or are staying with relatives: 4 females and 1 male from Ba' Lai; 2 females from Long Sait; I male from Ba Berang; 3 males from Long Kepang, I male from Long Main, and 1 male from Long Belok, in the Apoh. There are also two non-Penan individuals, both male, residing in Long Sabai: a Sa'ben from Long Banga, and a Lun Dayeh from Long Midang, Kecamatan Krayan, East Kalimantan. They are married to Penan women of the village.

The age distribution of Long Sabai is shown in Figure 2 below.


Education. Despite the remoteness of Long Sabai, a respectable number of individuals have some form of formal education. Of the 36 individuals between the age of 5 and 19, 22 are attending school: 13 at the primary school, Long Lellang, and 7 at junior secondary school, Bario. The other 14 either did not go to school or dropped out. The reason given for dropping out was financial.

The village census indicates that there are 41 persons between the age of 20 and 49. Of these 41 individuals, 18 attended school: 12 at primary level (did not continue to the secondary level due to financial constraints), 4 at junior secondary, and 2 at senior secondary. It is interesting to note that 9 people between the ages of 40 and 70 are able to read printed words in Penan. They attended adult education classes organized for church elders by the Borneo Evangelical Mission (BEM). The Sidang Injil Borneo (5) (SIB) continued the program in parts of interior Northern Sarawak. The main purpose of this adult education program was to teach church elders to read the Bible in their own language. Three of the 9 individuals mentioned, two females and one male, went for further training in reading and writing at Long Bedian and Lawas. They were later appointed as pastors. One of them, in his 70s, has now retired. Some of these retired pastors are active in local church activities.

Table 1 shows the number of people still attending school, those who have finished their schooling, and those who attended the adult education classes organized by the Borneo Evangelical Mission.

History. The upper Tutoh used to be inhabited by several bands of nomadic Penan. Over the years some bands have moved out of the area to other parts of the Baram and Limbang districts, specifically to the Selungo, Akah, and Magoh in the Baram, and the Madihit and Adang in the Limbang. Three groups remained in the upper Tutoh: one group at Long Sabai, another at Ba Keramu, and a family at Long Belusu. All except one family from the Ba Keramu group and the family at Long Belusu have moved to Long Sabai; members of that remaining family have indicated their intention to move to Long Sabai at some point in the near future.

Despite the isolation and difficult access to the outside world, the Penan of Long Sabai have said that they prefer to stay where they are. The reasons are as follows:

* They consider the upper Tutoh as their okoo bu'un, place of origin. They have historical and emotional attachments to the area through burial grounds of long-dead ancestors and sites of old camps. They know the river system, where the sago and rattan are and the location of salt licks and pig wallows.

* They claim that the upper Tutoh is rich in food: wild sago, vegetables, fruit, game and fish. It also has a rich diversity of medicinal plants.

* They also claim that the land is quite fertile, proven by the good harvests they have had.

* The absence of other groups competing for land and resources.

The headman, Pusa Luding, said that he is the eighth generation of his family to live in the Upper Tutoh. His genealogy is shown in Figure 3. (6)

During their nomadic days, the Penan generally traveled great distances, from one river system to another. However, the group at Long Sabai did not. They moved mainly within the area of the upper Tutoh and its tributaries, between the Labid and Kerurai, a tributary of the Sabai. Their foraging area, tana' pengurip, includes the Selunok and Sabai including its tributaries, the Lawan and Kerurai. These rivers are now part of the Pulong Tau National Park and are known to the Penan by different names, Labid River as Kalit, Selunok as Dat, Lawan as Pedereng, Sabai as Kuren, and Kerurai as Kelure. The group made their living in these river systems, moving from one resource area to another, in a circle, returning to previous harvested areas that had regenerated. They also followed pig migrations during fruit seasons.

Contact with Outsiders. Since time immemorial the Penan of Long Sabai have been in contact with their neighbors, the Kelabit and Kenyah, through social visits and also through barter trade meetings (tamu). A few marriages have taken place between the Penan and their Kelabit and Kenyah neighbors. Village eiders say that it was through tamu organized by the government that the Penan had the opportunity to meet government officials during the Brooke and Colonial periods. Five places were designated as tamu centers for the Penan of the upper Baram, Selungo and Tutoh: Lid Matu on the Baram, Long Suit and Long Sele on the Selungo, and Sungai Layun and Long Melinau on the Tutoh. The presence of government officials was to ensure that trade was conducted fairly. The District Officer normally brought along one of his Sarawak Administrative Officers, a Hospital Assistant to dispense medicine, and other relevant officers.


The headman, Pusa Luding, as a young man, remembers meeting Ian Urquhart, a well-liked Colonial District Officer in Baram, during a tamu at Lid Matu. It was at that tamu that Urquhart suggested to the Penan that they consider moving to Long Mau on the Baram, below Lid Matu. The main reason for Urquhart's proposal was to get the Penan close to the school and clinic at Lid Matu. It also meant that government officers would be able to visit them more regularly. However, none of the Penan agreed to the proposal. The headman also mentions having met another Colonial Baram District Officer, Malcolm McSporran at Long Akah. He also asked them to move downriver, near Long Lellang. Again, the Penan did not agree to leave the upper Tutoh.

When the Long Lellang Airstrip was under construction in the early 1970s, the Baram District Officer suggested that the Penan move near Long Lellang in order to justify the construction of the airstrip that would serve a larger population. Once again, the Penan refused. They told each District Officer that the upper Tutoh was their ancestral homeland where they have historical and socio-cultural ties to the landscape.

Christianity. Christianity was introduced to the Penan in the late 1950s through their Kelabit, Kenyah, and Kayan neighbors. They remember three Australian missionaries of the Borneo Evangelical Mission who had worked with the Penan: Ken Nightingale, Phyllis Webster, and Majorie Britza. Although they did not visit Long Sabai, the Penan often met them at the Kenyah village of Lid Matu and Kelabit village of Long Dati (which later moved to Long Lellang). A number of Penan attended the adult education classes organized by the Borneo Evangelical Mission at Lid Matu and at the Kayan village of Long Bedian on the Apoh, and met these missionaries there. A few young Penan also attended the BEM Bible School in Lawas. The Penan of Long Sabai built a chapel and a house for a pastor in the settlement. As they have no resident pastor presently; the task of organizing church services every Sunday is undertaken by the church elders. Penan in all the settlements interviewed consider conversion to Christianity important in one social aspect: it enhanced social interaction between them and their neighbors.

Settlement. The Penan of Long Sabai first settled down either in the mid or late 1960s. When they made this decision, they told the Baram District Officer that they would settle in the upper Tutoh, in the area where their ancestors had lived as nomads. They did not wish to settle in areas suggested earlier by various District Officers. Aban Lenyau Jau, brother of the Temenggong Oyong Lawai Jau, who was present at the Penan meeting with the District Officer, said that it was a fair suggestion and supported the move. According to the Long Sabai headman, Pusa Luding, the two Kelabit headmen of Long Lellang "A" and Long Lellang "B," Lun Raja and Sena'an Bala did not object to the Penan settling in the upper Tutoh. In fact, they were happy with the move.

The Penan first settled at Long Penakoh, on the Tutoh, about an hour upriver by outboard motor from Long Sabai. In the 1970s they moved downriver and built their houses on the true left bank of the Tutoh, opposite the mouth of the Sabai. It was from here that the village got its name, Long Sabai. In the mid 1980s they moved again, to the present site, on the true right bank of the Tutoh, just below the mouth of the Sabai.

Farming. When the Penan first settled in the 1960s, they cultivated cassava, and a year or two later, hill rice. Cassava, sugar cane, and various kinds of vegetables were intercropped with rice. Some of their farms were on the temuda left by the Kelabit who now reside at Long Lellang. Those who fanned on Kelabit temuda obtained permission from the owners. According to the Penan, the four individual Kelabits who used to farm in Long Sabai at the time they made the decision to settle down were: Raja Bala, Ngelawan Tepun, Tuked Rink and Maren Bala. At that time the Kelabit were living at Long Dati, about an hour's outboard journey and two hours walk on foot from Long Sabai. According to the Penan, since the Kelabit moved to Long Lellang, none of the owners have come back to farm their temuda. At Long Lellang, the Kelabit gave me a list of people having temuda at the Long Sabai area. The list contains names slightly different from those given to me by the Penan. The names of temuda owners and their heirs are in Table 2.

The Penan also opened new areas of land between Long Sabai and Long Penakoh for their farms. They did this so that they would have their own temuda to fall back on, should the former owners decide to claim them back. At the moment there is no dispute over temuda land between the Penan and Kelabit. Should this become an issue in the future, the appropriate authority to deal with this is the district administration and the Native Court. The villagers express interest in adopting wet rice cultivation. Some of them have visited Bario and Ba Kelalan and are impressed with the irrigation system of the Kelabit and Lun Bawang. There is adequate fiat land at Long Sabai that could be converted into wet rice fields.

Livelihood The Penan are self-sufficient in rice and have adopted it as their staple food. Despite this, they still go to the forest to process sago. The Penan of Long Sabai rotate their consumption between rice, cassava, and sago. They do this to avoid the monotony of sticking to just one particular staple. The people of Long Sabai raise chickens mainly for domestic consumption. Some are also sold to the Kelabit at Long Lellang.

Game and fish are still plentiful in Long Sabai. This is so because the place is isolated, difficult to get to, and so hunting pressure from the outside is minimal. In her study on hunting patterns and wildlife densities, Chin (2002:102) says that of the three sites she studied, the hunting success in Long Sabai was the highest, at 82.4% compared with Long Main 56.8%, and Ba Buboi 19%. Long Sabai is also rich in jungle vegetables, shoots, and fruit.

The Penan of Long Sabai are poor, however, in terms of cash. Shortage of money is pressingly felt when children go to school, especially to secondary schools in Bario or Marudi. Of the 36 persons between the ages of 5 and 19, 14 did not go to school or have dropped out mainly due to financial constraints.

Income and Employment. In the past Penan collected various forest products to trade with their neighbors at barter trade (tamu) centers in the Baram District. Most of these resources have been depleted. Ten to 20 years ago, gaharu was a big income earner for some families. In the mid 1980s and early 1990s, the headman of Long Sabai made several trips to Brunei, Labuan, and Kuala Lumpur with some Kelabit friends to sell gaharu. Today, it is extremely difficult to locate gaharu in the forest. Rattan is still plentiful in the Long Sabai area and is collected and woven into mats and baskets for local use. In the past, such products were brought by the Penan to tamu to barter trade with their neighbors. Since tamu were discontinued in 1976, there has been no market for these items. The odd travelers passing through Long Sabai might buy one or two rattan baskets, but such travelers rarely exceed ten a year. In the past ten years, a number of researchers have come to Long Sabai to conduct research on wildlife and resource inventories and have employed local people, both men and women, as informants, guides, and porters. This provided cash income to some families.

During the off-farming season, a few Penan go to Long Lellang to look for odd jobs with Kelabit families after making prior arrangements with them. They are paid between RM 15 and RM20 per day depending on the type of work. There are three young Penan families staying at Long Lellang while looking after children attending school. They are also employed by the Kelabit to do odd jobs. They normally go back to Long Sabai during the farming season, leaving one of the parents to look after the children.

Penan can be good guides for jungle trekkers. A German tourist was extremely happy with his two Penan guides (one in his 30s, and the other 16) who guided him trekking from Long Lellang to Bario for seven days, despite the fact that the two men are not certified tourist guides. The tourist was very impressed by his guides' knowledge of the landscape, plants and animals, and the speed at which they could build shelters for them to sleep in the jungle. The same tourist went trekking in the jungle of Sabah with certified tourist guides, but they were not as knowledgeable and competent as his two Penan guides. The two Penan guides told me that they were each paid RM 100 per day. Young Penan say they like to guide tourists as it brings good pay; but the number of tourists trekking between Bario and Long Lellang is small and far between. Two brothers, one 30 years old, the other 27, with Form 5 education, are employed by medium sized companies in Miri, with monthly salaries. Both are married with young children. As the nature of their employment is not permanent, the likelihood is that they will eventually return to Long Sabai.

Houses. The families live in single houses built on stilts. The houses are made of timber with zinc roofs supplied by a timber company, and built by the Penan. There are three persons in the village with some basic carpentry skills: Balang Weng, Romeo Pusa, and Matius Robin. Presently there are 14 family houses. Seven of the Penan families still live in Ba' Keramu, and one at Long Belusu. It is learnt that they will move to Long Sabai when the community decides to build a new longhouse.

Views on Timber Blockades. Long Sabai has not been affected by logging, but individuals from the village have taken part in blockade activities at various locations, such as the Magoh, Layun, Akah, and Upper Limbang. They did this to declare their sympathy with those whose way of life has been disrupted and to show solidarity with the Penan community. They do not see anything wrong with setting up blockades as this is done to exercise their rights to protect resources important for their livelihood. Blockades, according to them, are an expression of frustration and helplessness meant to draw public attention when authorities do not listen to the problems caused by logging.

Views on the National Park. Based on information given to them by officials of the Forest Department and ITTO, the Penan do not think that the National Park would in any way affect their livelihood. They believe that the Park is good for them as they are given rights of access to harvest resources within it on a sustained yield basis. They also see the National Park as a source of employment, as informants on indigenous knowledge and as guides and porters for visiting researchers and scientists.

Views on One Settlement. The Penan of the four settlements were asked what their views were if there is a proposal for them to settle in one big settlement so that basic amenities such as a school, clinic, and so forth could be built for them. The Penan of Long Sabai feel that the idea of one settlement for the Penan around Pulong Tau National Park is not feasible. They feel firmly attached to Long Sabai, an area rich in food resources. They would not like to move out from the area to either Long Lobang or Ba' Tik "A," and live in one big settlement. They also feel that the Penan of Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A" and Ba' Tik "B" would not like to move to Long Sabai, either.

Long Lobang

Location. Long Lobang is located on the western side of the Pulong Tau National Park, at the confluence of the Nyala and Lobang Rivers, about 0.5 kilometer from the National Park. Long Lobang is accessible from Bario by walking through the National Park, a tough two-day walk. It can also be reached from Miri by a logging road in one day; however, it is necessary to walk from the end of the logging road for about one and half hours to reach the village.

Population. Long Lobang is a small settlement comprising 13 families and a population of 52 persons. They live in two blocks of a newly-built longhouse provided by Shin Yang Timber Company. They moved into the two-block longhouse in September, 2004.

There are seven individuals, all Penan from other areas, who, with one exception, came following marriages with the people of the village. Of the seven individuals, six are females and one male. Three of the females were originally from Long Kerong on the Selungo; and one each from Long Napir in Limbang District, Long Beruang in the upper Baram, and Ba' Pengaran in the Akah. The male is from Ba' Tik "A." The age structure of the village is shown below.

Education. Of the population of 52 persons, 24 have some formal education: l0 males and 14 females. In terms of levels, 20 have primary, while 4 have secondary education. Of the 20 with primary education, four did not reach Primary Six, but dropped out because of financial reasons. Of the 21 persons between the ages of 5 and 19, only six are in school. Of the remaining 15, 6 left school after completing Primary Six or dropped out, two could not attend school because they did not have birth certificates, one is physically handicapped, while the other six did not go to school because of financial difficulties.

Three village elders, one male and two females, have attended the BEM adult education classes, specifically to enable them to read the Bible in Penan. Table 3 shows the number of persons who have obtained the different levels of education.

History. The Penan of Long Lobang say that they have always lived on the Kuba'an and its tributaries. Like most nomadic groups, they did travel outside the Kuba'an area into the Tutoh, Akah, Selungo, and Magoh, but returned to the Kuba'an, the area they consider to be the home of their ancestors.

During the Brooke and Colonial periods, if a tamu was held on the Malinau, they moved to the Magoh and stayed in the area for a few weeks or a month to look for food before they continued their journey, carrying their jungle trade items to Long Melinau, below the present Mulu National Park HQ. If the tamu was to be held in Layun, they moved to the Upper Tutoh; or if it was in the Selungo, they moved to the Upper Akah, and so on. On their journey from their home to the tamu meeting place, groups were bound to meet at some points along the way. Such meetings provided opportunities to exchange news and information, and renew friendship between groups. During such meetings single people would look for future spouses. After weeks or perhaps months of traveling, they would return to the Kuba'an and its tributaries, the Nyela, Lobang, Laleh, and Rakidah.

Their immediate settled neighbors in the Kuba'an were the Kelabit of Pa' Tik (7), located exactly on the same site where the Penan village of Ba' Tik "A" is now. They visited the Kelabit at Pa' Tik mainly to exchange jungle produce for essential items such as Kelabit salt, utensils, and bush knives. After years of friendship, the Kelabit extended an invitation to the Penan to settle down nearby. Colonial District Officers had also encouraged them to settle down.

They eventually settled around the time of the Brunei Rebellion, establishing a village on the true left bank of the Nyela, opposite the Kelabit village of Pa' Tik. They grew cassava and hill rice on small plots of land. However, they did not stay long in the village to look after the rice fields and cassava gardens. After planting, they left for the forest to process sago, hunt, or collect rattan and other jungle produce, remaining in the forest for weeks and even months. They would return to the village for a short time to inspect their rice fields and gardens, and went back to the forest. It was only at harvest time that they stayed in the village for a longer period. While having their houses at Ba' Tik, they also established farms and gardens at Long Lobang, building temporary huts there. Sometime in the early or mid 1990s, they began to stay more permanently at Long Lobang. By 2001 they decided to stay permanently at Long Lobang after a timber company built them a longhouse.

Contact with Outsiders. The Kelabit of Pa' Tik were the first outsiders the Penan had contact with. As mentioned earlier, their visits were mainly to trade. The Penan also made trips to the distant Kenyah village of Lio Matu, the Kayan village of Long Bedian, and also met with the Berawan people at the tamu on the Malinau River, in what is now the Mulu National Park. These trips were made when they came to attend the barter trade meetings. A few individuals made specific trips to Lio Matu and Long Bedian to attend adult education classes for church elders organized by the Borneo Evangelical Mission. The Penan look back at barter trade meetings as important events. The meetings provided opportunities to meet government officials and discuss matters affecting them. They also got medical treatment from the traveling dressers accompanying the District Officers.

Christianity. They probably converted to Christianity in the mid 1950s, while visiting the Kelabit village of Pa' Tik where they attended church services. They took their conversion seriously after church elders attended the adult education classes.

Settlement. As mentioned earlier, they settled around the time of the Brunei Rebellion together with the group under Melai Na' of Ba' Tik. In the mid 1990s, they split from Melai's group to establish the present settlement of Long Lobang.

Farming. As mentioned earlier, they started farming when they first settled down in the early 1960s, but did not take the activity seriously. After planting they left for the forest, leaving what they had planted to grow on its own. They became more serious about farming after they moved to Long Lobang and began intercropping cassava and vegetables with hill rice.

Last year's harvest was good and virtually all families had enough rice to last them until the next harvest. Whether they have enough rice is not of great concern to them, as they can always rely on cassava and wild sago. In terms of a general food supply, it is not a problem. Nevertheless, they have expressed interest in wet rice cultivation. Some of them have visited Bario, Ba' Kelalan, and the Lutut valley in the Kerayan in East Kalimantan, and are impressed by the wet rice irrigation system of the Kelabit, Lun Bawang, and Lun Dayeh. The Penan of Long Lobang are thinking seriously about adopting wet rice cultivation and feel that this is a development project that the Agriculture Department should introduce to them. There is adequate flat land in Long Lobang that can be converted into wet rice fields. Many families raise chickens mainly for domestic consumption, but some are sold to timber workers or to visitors passing through the village. Some of the older Penan do not eat chicken as, traditionally, they consider it inappropriate to eat anything that is raised or domesticated.

Income and Employment. The Long Lobang residents consider themselves as full-time subsistence farmers. However, they still devote a considerable amount of time to hunting and gathering, especially during the off-farming season. In the past, they used to spend a lot of time collecting jungle produce for barter trade, but this activity has been drastically reduced as there are no longer government-supervised barter trade meetings. A Kayan from Long Bedian runs his own trade meetings with nomadic Penan living in areas between the Mulu National Park and the Pulong Tau National Park once a month, and the Penan of Long Lobang sometimes participate in this event, bartering rattan mats and baskets for essential items such as salt, sugar, coffee, cooking utensils, and sundries.

Some of the young men earn money as informants or as guide-cure-porters for scientific expeditions, or for the occasional tourists passing through the area. During the off-farming season, they may go to Bario and look for employment with the Kelabit. Timber companies in the area are willing to employ Penan, but so far none has accepted the offer.

Houses. Shin Yang Timber Company built a two-block longhouse for the settlers. It is a sturdy, clean, and well-ventilated longhouse. The Penan moved into the two blocks in September 2004. No Penan was involved in the construction of the longhouse. The work was contracted to the Kayan of Long Bedian, and the Penan were told that their involvement was not required. This is a pity as Penan involvement would have been a useful learning experience for them. It would also have created a sense of achievement and ownership. A group of Christian professionals from Singapore and Miri donated a 12 hp. electric generator to the village in 2004. They get their supply of fuel from the Shin Yang timber camp located at the confluence of the Kuba'an and Tutoh Rivers.

Views on Timber Blockades. The Penan of Long Lobang said they have taken part in a number of blockades in the Layun, Magoh, and Tutoh. According to them, blockades are erected when timber companies and the government ignore the hardships of the people caused by the destruction of food resources, game, and economic activities due to logging. They erect blockades as a last resort to draw public attention to their plight. As we were discussing the topic of blockades, a young woman remarked that "a blockade is an invitation to talk." Their view is that, as legitimate occupants of the area, they have the right to defend their way of life and livelihood.

Views on the National Park. They welcome the idea of a National Park and foresee that it will not adversely affect their livelihood. As they live close to the Park, they see it as a source of employment for local people, as informants, guides and porters, and perhaps as permanent employees in the future.





View on One Big Settlement. The idea of one big settlement for the Penan around the Park is good, but they are sceptical that it is achievable. They have just had a new longhouse built, and they do not like the idea of moving to another place to live in one big settlement. If the site for the big settlement is Long Lobang, they doubt that other settlements would join them.

Ba' Tik "A"

Location. Ba' Tik "A" is located west of the Pulong Tau National Park, slightly above the confluence of the Nyela and Tik. It is about two kilometers away from the Park. The village is nestled on a large padang (open field) used as a helicopter landing pad as well as a soccer field for British soldiers during Konfrontasi. A perfect spot, its surroundings are picturesque. The settlement is within the area of the former Kelabit village of Pa' Tik.

Population. Ba' Tik "A" is a small settlement comprising 8 households and a population of 35 people. Out of this population, four are Penan from other villages: 2 from Long Kerong, one each from Long Kawi and Ba' Ajeng. They came to Ba' Tik "A" following marriages with the local people. When they first established a settlement here, the group comprised four bands of former nomads, each group made up of members closely related by blood or marriage. Over the years, three groups left the settlement, reverting to nomadic life. The remaining group under the present headman, Melai Na', also split into three groups, leaving the present population of a mere 35 individuals. Figure 5 shows the age structure of the Penan settlement of Ba' Tik "A."

Education. Eight of the children are currently attending school in Bario, four in the primary school and four in the secondary school. Six of the adults in their 30s and 40s have had primary education. Two individuals in their 20s and 30s attended the adult education classes organized by the Sidang Injil Borneo Church. This is a continuation of the adult education program introduced by the Borneo Evangelical Mission. Table 4 shows the number of persons who have obtained the different levels of education.

History. The Penan of Ba' Tik "A" claim that they have always lived in the Kuba'an and its tributaries, the Rekidah, Nyela, Lobang, and Laleh. But they also moved into the Magoh, Tutoh, Selungo, and Akah. They even crossed the Baram River into the Silat, Selio, and as far as the Usun Apau in Western Penan territory. The headman talked fondly of meeting Western Penan with whom Eastern Penan seldom meet. Even though they traveled far, they would return to the place they call their ancestral land, tana' pohoo.

Around the time of the Brunei Rebellion in December 1962, they were invited by the Kelabit headman of Pa' Tik, Lupong Bala, to settle near the Kelabit longhouse. The Penan built their huts on the true left bank of the Nyela, opposite the Kelabit longhouse. At the time the Kelabit were on the verge of moving to Bario. The majority of the Pa' Tik Kelabit are now settled at Arur Dalan, Bario. The Penan headman recalls that there were only two resident Kelabit families when they built their huts.

When they first settled at Ba' Tik, they comprised four nomadic bands. Leaders of these bands were Wee Salau, Kurau Kusin, Pelisi Agan Jeluan, and Melai Na'. Except for the band under Melai Na', the other bands were all from the Magoh. After a few years of living in the Ba' Tik area, Wee Salau, Kurau Kusin, and Pelisi Agan Jeluan led their bands back to the Magoh. They said that they had to go back to their own place, their ancestral land, tana' pohoo. Pelisi Agan Jeluan took his group back to the Upper Magoh, Wee Salau and Kurau Kusin brought their own groups back to the Lower Magoh, close to the Mulu National Park. Sometime in the early or mid 1990s, a splinter group led by Kuya Akeh moved up the Nyela to farm around the Long Lobang area. At that time they moved back and forth between Ba' Tik "A" and Long Lobang, but by 2001 the group spent more time at Long Lobang than Ba' Tik "A." In 2004 a new longhouse was built for them, and this made their stay in Long Lobang permanent.

In 2001, Melai's son, Samuel, moved up the Tik River to establish another settlement called Ba' Tik "B" following a disagreement between them over the marriage of the latter to a nomadic Penan girl. Today, Ba' Tik "A" comprises only eight families with a population of 35 people.

Contact with Outsiders. The Penan of Ba' Tik "A" had a good relationship with the Kelabit of Pa' Tik. They traded with the Kelabit and were often guests. They also traded with the Kenyah, Kayan, and Berawan whom they met at trade meetings in the Selungo, Layun, and Malinau. It was during these trade meetings that they also had contacts with various colonial officers. Melai's group is perhaps the only Eastern Penan from the Tutoh area to have lived with the Western Penan.

Christianity. As regular guests of the Kelabit of Pa' Tik, the Penan followed the Kelabit to attend church services in the village. Over the years they realized that they have become Christians unconsciously, conducting their own payer meetings. The Penan take Christianity seriously and use it as a guiding principle in their lives.

Settlement. Ba' Tik "A" is a perfect site for a village. It is unfortunate that not many Penan live here. The headman extended an invitation to the semi-nomadic Penan of Long Tah to join him, but their reply has always been: "give us time to think about it." He is also not happy that his own son left the village to form a small settlement up the Tik River at Ba' Tik "B." He is hoping that he will return one day to Ba' Tik "A" with the people of Ba' Tik "B", as the place they occupy is located in a narrow valley without room for village expansion.

Farming. They have been planting hill rice and cassava since the early 1960s and claim they have enough rice to last them from one harvest to the next. Like the other settled Penan in the area, they rotate their food around rice, cassava, and sago. The forest is still important to the Penan, and they go there every other day to hunt, process sago, and collect rattan, fruit, and vegetables.

Income and Employment. There is no cash employment in the area. Although there are a few nearby logging companies, they are not interested in working with them. During the gaharu boom, they made quite a lot of money, but this resource is now difficult to locate. To earn a bit of cash, the few young people in the settlement go to Bario to look for work with Kelabit families.

Houses. Most of the families live in single houses built by the British Army during Konfrontasi. The headman's house is still in good condition. On the hill slope leading to the padang where the main village is located are several empty houses left by the Penan who now reside at Long Lobang. They are thinking of building new houses.

Views on Timber Blockades. The Penan of Ba' Tik "A" say that putting up a blockade is a waste of time, but if they don't do anything they have nobody to blame other than themselves for not standing up for their rights. They say that when the loggers come in they normally tell them the "sensitive" areas to avoid. When this is not adhered to they go to see the company manager or lodge a complaint at the District Office, Marudi. If no action is taken, they go to Shabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) to get help to write a letter of complaint to the highest State authorities. When all fails, they have no other choice but to erect a blockade or a series of blockades along the timber road.

Views on the National Park The villagers say that the Pulong Tau National Park is a good idea. They look at the Park as a way to prevent loggers from destroying the environment. It protects the land, conserves flora and fauna, and prevents landslides and pollution of rivers and streams. The Penan say that they will exercise the right of access to the Park with care. They have been living in the forest since time immemorial and know how to look after it.

Views on One Big Settlement. The headman says that the idea of one big settlement for the Penan around Pulong Tau National Park is good, but doubts whether it is achievable. if there is a serious move to regroup all the Penan around the Park, Ba' Tik "A" would be a good location. He, however, doubts that the people of Long Lobang would want to come back to Ba' Tik "A," much less those of Long Sabai. What he proposes instead is for the group at Ba' Tik "B" to join Ba' Tik "A" to form a sizable community.

Ba' Tik "B"

Location. Ba' Tik "B" is located on the true left bank of the Tik River, one and a half hours' walk from Ba' Tik "A" and about one kilometer from the National Park.

Population. Ba' Tik "B" comprises nine households and a population of 31 people. Except for the headman, Samuel Melai, and a Berau Dayak from East Kalimantan, the remaining group members were recently nomadic. During my visit to the settlement there were five people at home: the headman, his wife, their niece, the Berau Dayak, and another fellow villager, Pase Tingang. The rest of the villagers were in the forest processing sago or collecting rattan. Of the nine households, six are offshoots of one family, that of Padeng Sega and his wife Runan Tingang. Padeng and Runan have five children with their own nuclear families. An Indonesian Dayak from Berau is married to one of their daughters. Their son, Dawat Padeng, is married to a Penan from Ba' Adang in the Limbang District. Another Penan from the Adang is married to the granddaughter of Padeng and Runan. In fact, everyone in the nine households is closely related by blood or marriage. The age distribution of the settlement is shown in Figure 6.

Education. Of the 11 people between the ages of 5 and 19, 5 are attending school. All the 5 pupils are enrolled in the government primary school at Bario: 2 in Primary Two, I in Primary Four, 1 in Primary Five, and 1 in Primary Six. Four individuals, 2 males and 2 females, between the ages of 30 and 44 have formal education at the primary level. Two individuals, both female, attended the Sidang Injil Borneo Adult Education classes and are able to read the Bible in Penan. Only two adults have formal education up to the secondary level: the headman, Samuel Melai, and the Berau Dayak from East Kalimantan.

History. The people of Ba' Tik "B" are from the family of Padeng Sega and his wife Runan Tingang. In the head count I did for nomadic Penan in 1990, I found Padeng's family among the group of nomadic Penan, under the leadership of Bala Tingang, then foragimg in the general area of Kuba'an. About twelve years ago, the headman, Samuel Melai, then living in Ba' Tik "A," married one of Padeng's daughters, Ganit Padeng. Samuel persuaded his father-in-law and his children to settle down. In 2001, they established a settlement on the Tik River, with Samuel as its headman. They grew cassava and planted hill rice on temuda left by the Kelabits who had moved to Bario in the early 1960s.

Contact with the Outsiders. The settlers of Ba' Tik "B" are a part of groups of Penan that occupied the Kuba'an since time immemorial. The story of their contact with neighbors and the outside world is similar to the other groups mentioned earlier. Members of the group have traveled widely in the upper Tutoh, Akah, and Selungo, but consider the Kuba'an their ancestral land.

Christianity. They became Christians through contact with the Kelabits who used to live at Pa' Tik.

Settlement. The settlement is located in a narrow valley surrounded by steep hills. On the opposite bank from the settlement is a very steep hill, where the footpath to Bario snakes its way along the ridge.

Farming. The villagers grow both cassava and hill rice, but sago is still preferred by the older folks. The headman says that when they take good care of their farms they normally get a good harvest. But when the villagers spend more time in the forest hunting, looking for rattan, or processing sago, neglecting their farms, then they don't get a good harvest. He says that this is not of great concern to the villagers or him as there is plenty of wild sago, and also cassava to fall back on in times of rice shortage. They raise chickens, but the majority of the people in the settlement do not eat them. Some of the chickens are sold to the timber camp at the mouth of Kuba'an River.

Income and Employment. There is no cash employment. Gaharu was the main source of cash income, but this resource is now difficult to locate. There is no market for rattan mats and baskets. If they want to earn some money, they go to Bario to look for work with Kelabit families. During the past four years, a few people have been employed by reseachers as guides, informants, and porters.

Houses. During my visit, I saw four houses. Some families are sharing houses. All the houses were built by the Penan themselves. The houses look solid, but are poorly maintained.

Views on Timber Blockades. Speaking on behalf of his community, the headman, who I found to be an amiable person, cordial and knowledgeable on local matters, said that the Penan of Ba' Tik "B" have taken an active part in timber blockades in the Baram and Limbang Districts. Logging, as mentioned earlier and elsewhere (see also Brosius 1991, 1993, 1997, 2006, 2007), destroys food resources such as sago, the staple food of most Penan, rattan and other essential items; causes stream and river pollution; and felled tree branches obstruct pathways in the forest, making it difficult walk and locate resources. It is for these reasons that the Penan have put up blockades against logging operations in various parts of the Baram and Limbang Districts. For putting up these blockades, the Penan have been labelled "trouble-makers," "anti-development," etc. The headman said that the Penan do not deserve these labels; they are not opposed to logging per se, and recognize the rights of timber companies to harvest timber. He insisted that, by the same token, the authorities and timber companies should recognize the rights of the Penan to subsist on the forest. When the loggers bulldoze their way onto people's land as if nobody lives off the area, the Penan consider this not only insensitive to the rights of others, but mean and inconsiderate.

The Penan of Ba' Tik "B," like other Penan in the upper Baram area take the view that blockades are an expression of frustration and helplessness. They also express their determination to defend their way of life. As long as their rights are not recognized, they intend to continue to press for their recognition.

Views on the National Park. The headman said that as far as the people of his village are concerned, they are happy with the idea of turning the area into a national park. They view this as a positive way to prevent logging operations in the area. Although he and the villagers may not understand the detailed concept of a national park and what conservation means, from what they had heard, the idea is generally consistent with how the Penan people relate to the forest.

Views on One Big Settlement. The headman felt that one big settlement for the Penan around the Park is not practical. He personally felt that the three settlements, Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A," Ba' Tik "B," should remain where they are. After all, these settlements are not far apart, with only a one-hour walk between them. He said that the priority should be to encourage the three semi-settled groups to settle down with the existing settled Penan, the Ba' Medamut group to settle at Ba' Tik "B," the Long Tah group at Ba' Tik "A," and the Long Anying group at Long Lobang.

The Semi-Settled Penan

There are three groups of semi-settled Penan in the Kuba'an River area. They have established three base camps along the Tutoh and Kuba'an: Long Anying on the Tutoh, just below the confluence of the Tutoh and Kubaan; and Long Tah and Ba' Medamut on the Kuba'an. The population and number of households (Table 6) should be viewed as estimates as they were obtained from the Penan settlements of Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A," and Ba' Tik "B," not directly from the bands concerned. These three groups of semi-settled Penan are among a number of bands of nomadic Penan foraging the Tutoh, Magoh, and Kuba'an. They are descendants of the bands of nomadic Penan described by Harrisson in his 1949 article. Some names of individuals in the three semi-settled groups appear in the 1990 head count of nomadic Penan in the Tutoh, Magoh, and Kuba'an (Langub, 1990).

The three semi-settled groups have been living in the Tutoh-Kuba'an area side by side with the settled groups of Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A" and Ba' Tik "B" for as long as they can remember, sharing resources. A number of families were originally from the Magoh, being pushed further inland into the Kuba'an because of logging activities. Based on information obtained from the settled groups at Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A," and Ba' Tik "B", the three semi-settled groups cultivate cassava, with the group from Ba' Medamut also planting rice on a communal rather than household basis. Being semi-settled, they still spend a lot of time foraging in the forest. While the able-bodied members of the group are out in the forest, the older folks and small children remain in the base camp. The base camp is occupied all year round.

During my visit to Long Anying only a few people, mainly old people and young children, were at home. The others were out in the forest processing sago, hunting, or collecting rattan. A few young people were in Long Bedian either looking for wage work or visiting the rural clinic. The semi-settled Penan of Long Anying visit the settled Penan of Long Lobang quite frequently, while those at Long Tah visit Ba' Tik "A," and those at Ba' Medamut visit Ba' Tik "B." Periodically, the Penan of Ba' Medamut get reciprocal visits from the settled Penan of Ba' Tik "B." This is because several individuals in Ba' Medamut have siblings in Ba' Tik "B."

The frequent visits made by the semi-nomadic groups to the settled groups have been interpreted as an indication of interest on the part of the semi- settled groups to move and settle with the settled groups. However, this is not the case with the Penan of Long Anying. Although they visit Long Lobang quite frequently, they have no desire to settle there. They prefer to stay at Long Anying which is just across river from Batu Lulau, a hillock with abundant sago and fruit trees. I did not visit the groups residing at Long Tab and Ba' Medamut, nor meet anyone from there, so we do no know if their frequent visits to Ba' Tik "A" and Ba' Tik "B" mean that they will eventually move to these two settlements.

During my visit to Long Anying there was a shortage of food at the camp. This was the reason for the absence of young people, as they were out in the forest processing sago, hunting and gathering. When asked if food shortages were a frequent occurrence, the response was that food resources are still available in the forest, but that logging activities have made it difficult to locate them. The Penan of Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A," and Ba' Tik "B" felt that since the three groups at Long Anying, Long Tah, and Ba' Medamut occupy the area adjacent to the Pulong Tau National Park, they too should be given rights of access to it.

Summary and Conclusion

There are four settled Penan groups with a total of 52 households and 218 persons located west and south of the Pulong Tau National Park: Long Sabai, Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A", and Ba' Tik "B." Three semi-settled groups comprising 36 households and a population of 145 people have established base camps outside the western boundary of the Park: Long Anying (which later moved to Long Taha), Long Tah and Ba' Medamut.

The settled groups plant hill rice and cassava as their main food crops besides various kinds of fruit trees, sugar cane, and vegetables for side dishes. They go to the forest quite frequently to gather food items such as shoots, mushrooms, and other wild vegetables, medicinal plants and other forest produce such as rattan, gaharu and ketepe (wild rubber). Occasionally they go to the forest to process sago for the old folks who still prefer sago to rice or cassava. They hunt and fish frequently, still depending on the forest for many of their domestic needs. The semi-settled groups plant cassava and occasionally hill rice, either on a communal basis or by household. The go to the forest frequently to process sago, hunt, fish, and collect forest items, including medicinal plants. They occasionally visit their settled relatives at Long Lobang, Ba' Tik "A" and Ba' Tik "B," staying for days or weeks at a time.

Of the 218 settled Penan around the PTNP, 53 persons have primary education, 24 have secondary education, and 14 in their late 50s upward are able to read printed materials in Penan owing to the Borneo Evangelical Mission adult education program. This means that 42% of the settled Penan are literate. A small number of the semi-settled Penan children attend primary school at Bario.

During the Brooke and Colonial periods, the Penan moved, often over wide areas in the Upper Tutoh River and its tributaries, the Magoh, Kuba'an, and Sabai, looking for food, hunting, and gathering trade items to bring to trading centers located in various parts of interior Baram. Although they traveled widely, they eventually returned to home bases referred to as okoo 'bu 'un or tana 'pohoo. They are historically linked to where they are today through old camp sites and ancestral burial grounds.

Eastern Penan groupings are smaller than those of the Western Penan. The four settled groups have an average of 54 persons per settlement and the semi-settled groups of 49 per group. Settlements are basically kin-based with most individuals closely related. Composition of groups is fluid, with constant movement of individuals and households between groups. This poses difficulties for any proposal to resettle them in one large settlement. Given the emotional attachment of each group to the area it currently occupies, the idea of resettling the Penan around PTNP seems impractical.

The Penan consider their surroundings as a source of survival. They refer to their surroundings as a "bank" or "supermarket" that provides all their needs. Their relationship is one of stewardship, harvesting resources on a sustained yield basis, and conscious of the fact that they need to hand over these surroundings in good shape to succeeding generations. The Penan look at logging as a major obstacle to handing-over their surroundings in good condition to the coming generations. It is precisely for this reason that the Penan put up timber blockades to remind loggers not to cause unnecessary damages to the environment and to respect the rights of local people to continue their way of life on their own land.

The Penan in the surrounding area support the idea of a national park, particularly if they are given rights of access to it. They also see the park as a way to prevent logging activites in the area, and a source of possible future employment.


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Jayl Langub

Institute of East Asian Studies

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak

Kota Samarahan 94300

Sarawak, Malaysia

(1) The Penan of Long Aoying have moved to a new location called Long Taha. about 1 kilometer downriver on the Tutoh.

(2) From 2002 district population records kept at the District Offices, Baram, Belaga, Limbang, Miri, and Bintulu.

(3) Although these terms have now become established in the ethnographic literature, by geographic location, the two groups might more accurately be labelled, respectively, the "'Northern" and "Southern" Penan.

(4) The settled Eastern Penan of Long Sabai adopted hunting with dogs and spears alter they settled down.

(5) Sidang Injil Borneo or Evangelical Congregation of Borneo is an indigenous church established in 1963 by the Borneo Evangelical Mission comprising Christian missionaries from Australia and Great Britain. The Borneo Evangelical Mission came to Sarawak in the 1930s and by 1963, the year Sarawak, Sabah and the Malay Peninsula formed Malaysia, church administration and activities were handed over to the Sidang Injil Borneo. Sidang Injil Borneo is a self-administered independent church which trains its own pastors to look after its congregations.

(6) Normally Eastern Penan have shallow genealogical knowledge. The depth of Pusa Luding's genealogy is unusual for Eastern Penan.

(7) Pa' Tik in Kelabit means 'Tik River,' pa'=river, and Tik. the name of the river; similarly Ba' Tik in Penan also means 'Fik River.' ba'=river. and Tik the name of the river. Pa' Tik is used with reference to the Kelabit. and Ba' Tik with the Penan. The Kelabit migrated to Bario in the early 1960s, around the konfrontasi period (Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia. 1962-1966), to establish a new village at Arur Dalan.
Table 1 Educational attainment of the Penan of Long Sabai

 Left School

 P Fl-3 F4-5 6 Adult
 M F M F M F M F M F

10-14 1
20-24 1
25-29 1 1 1 1
30-34 1 1 1 1
35-39 1 1 1
40-44 1 2 1
45-49 1 1 1 1
50-54 1
55-59 3
60-64 1
65-69 1
70-Above 1
 6 7 2 2 2 0 0 4 5
Total 13 4 2 9

 Still in School

 P 1-3 4-5 6

 M F M F M F M F

5-9 4 4
10-14 1 4 4 1 1
15-19 1 1 1
 5 8 5 2 2
Total 13 7 2

Table 2--Names of Kelabit with temuda ownership in Long Sabai

Bil Owners Temuda Sites Descendants

 1. Lawai Adun Lg Biung George Phusu (Son of
 Lg Sinai Lawai Adun)

 2. Bilung Adun Lg Biung Peterus Raja (son of
 Lg Sinai Bilung Adun)

 3. Baru Aran Lg Biung Robin Aran (son of Baru
 Lg Sinai Aran)

 4. Baling Menu Lg Biung Dayang Menu (daughter of
 Lg Sinai Baling Menu)

 5. Tabaran Raja Lg Biung Paul Raja (son of Tabaran
 Lg Sinai Raja)

 6. Jalong Nabun Lg Biung William Bala (son of
 Lg Sinai Jalong Nabun)

 7. Temu Aran Lg Biung Freddile Abun (son of
 Lg Sinai Temu Aran)
 Arur Kangan

 8. Bala Paran Lg Sinai Rini Tuned (son of Bala

 9. Ngelewem Tepun Lg Sinai Padan Raja (son of
 Ngelawan Tepun)

10. Bala Riwat Aro Kangan Anderias Riwat (son of
 Bala Riwat)

11. Nadun Riwat Aro Kangan Anderia Riwat (son of
 Bala Riwat)

12. Kapung Aran Aro Kangan Singir Kapung (son of
 Kapung Aran)

Table 3 Educational attainment of the Penan of long Lobang

 Left School

 P F1-3 F4-5 6 Adult

 M F M F M F M F M F
10-14 2 2
15-19 1 1
20-24 2
25-29 1 2
30-34 1 3
35-39 1 1
40-44 1
10-54 2
65-69 1
 6 10 0 1 0 1 0 0 l 2
Total 16 1 1 0 3

 Still in School

 P 1-3 4-5

 M F M F M F

5-9 4
10-14 1
15-19 1
 4 0 0 0 2
Total 4 0 1

Table 4 Educational attainment of the Penan of Ba' Tik "A"

 Left School

 P Fl-3 F4-5 6 Adult

 M F M F M F M F M F
25-29 1
30-34 1 2 1
35-39 1
40-44 1 1
70-Above 1
 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
Total 6 0 0 0 3

 Still in School

 P 1-3 4-5 6

 M F M F M F M F
10-14 3 1 1
15-19 2 1
 3 1 2 2 0 0 0 0
Total 4 4 0 0

Table 5--Educational attainment of the Penan of Ba' Tik "t3"

 Left School

 P F1-3 F4-5 6 Adult

 M F M F M F M F M P
25-29 1
30-34 1 2 1
35-39 1
4o-a4 1 1
70-Above 1
 1 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
Total 4 2 0 0 3

 Still in School

 P 1-3 4-5 6

 M F M P M F M F
10-14 3 1 1
15-19 2 1
 3 1 2 2 0 0 0 0
Total 4 4 0 0

Table 6 Household number and population of semi-settled Penan

Group name Households Population

 M F T

Long Anying 15 22 37 59
Long Tah 9 16 15 31
Ba' Medamut 12 31 24 55
Totals 36 83 6l 145

Figure 1 Age distribution of the total population of the four Penan


70 & above 2 5
 65-69 3 1
 60-64 5 4
 55-59 4 2
 50-54 2 4
 45-49 4 2
 40-44 7 6
 35-39 11 8
 30-34 6 8
 25-29 11 8
 20-24 5 7
 15-19 8 11
 10-14 15 14
 5-9 16 14
 4 & below 12 13

Male = 111 persons
Female = 107 persons
Total = 218 persons

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 2 Age distribution of the population of Long Sabai


70 & above 1 4
 65-69 2 1
 60-64 2 1
 55-59 -- 2
 50-54 2 1
 45-49 4 2
 40-44 5 4
 35-39 3 5
 30-34 4 1
 25-29 5 3
 20-24 2 3
 15-19 6 2
 10-14 6 6
 5-9 9 6
 4 & below 4 4

Male = 55 persons
Female = 45 persons
Total = 100 persons

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 4 Age structure of the population of Long Lobang


70 & above -- --
 65-69 1 --
 60-64 -- --
 55-59 2 --
 50-54 -- 3
 45-49 -- --
 40-44 1 1
 35-39 1 1
 30-34 1 4
 25-29 5 2
 20-24 2
 15-19 2 4
 10-14 3 2
 5-9 5 5
 4 & below 4 3

Male = 25 persons
Female = 27 persons
Total = 52 persons

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 5 Age structure of the population of Ba' Tik "A"


70 & above 1 1
 65-69 -- --
 60-64 2 2
 55-59 -- --
 50-54 -- --
 45-49 -- --
 40-44 1 1
 35-39 3 --
 30-34 -- 3
 25-29 -- 1
 20-24 -- --
 15-19 -- 1
 10-14 2 5
 5-9 1 2
 4 & below 3 4

Male = 15 persons
Female = 20 persons
Total = 35 persons

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 6 Age structure of the population of Ba' Tik 'B'


70 & above -- --
 65-69 -- --
 60-64 1 1
 55-59 -- --
 50-54 -- --
 45-49 -- --
 40-44 -- --
 35-39 4 2
 30-34 1 --
 25-29 1 2
 20-24 3 2
 15-19 -- 4
 10-14 4 1
 5-9 1 1
 4 & below 1 2

Male = 16 persons
Female = 15 persons
Total = 31 persons

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Title Annotation:RESEARCH NOTES
Author:Langub, Jayl
Publication:Borneo Research Bulletin
Article Type:Company overview
Geographic Code:9MALA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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