Multiethnic Society of Central Sarawak: An Ethnographic Analysis

In Anthropogenic Tropical Forests: Human–Nature Interfaces on the Plantation Frontier
Chapter: 5
Book Chapter

This chapter discusses the historical formation and current features of society in the Kemena and Tatau river basins in Bintulu, central Sarawak, where various ethnic groups live close together in a small area as a result of the historical migration of each group. We refer to previous studies and to interviews we conducted, mainly in 2011. Historically, Vaie Segan and Penan lived in the Kemena basin, Tatau lived in the Tatau basin, and Melanau and Malays came from the inhabited coastal areas. The basins’ ethnoscape changed along with migrations of various ethnic groups—Kayan, Punan Bah, Bekatan, Chinese, Iban and Kenyah—from neighbouring basins. These groups migrated through various routes from the south (Bah River), southeast (Bukit Lumut), east (Belaga River), northeast (Tinjar River, Suai River and Brunei), west (various places including Mukah, Oya, Saribas and Sri Aman) and southwest (Pelagus and Merit rivers). Factors that triggered migration included disease, natural disasters, topography, hydrology, economic interests, political crises, trade, land shortages, access to natural resources and marital relationships. The current multiethnic society is shaped from these multiple migrations and intermarriage. People’s ethnic backgrounds are therefore diverse in any given village, creating a coexistence of religions, languages, family histories and ethnic identities within a single community. There is thus wide variation within each ethnic group depending on the diversity of its members and the interaction with neighbouring communities.

Author:
Yumi
Kato
Jayl
Langub
Abdul Rashid
Abdullah
Ryoji
Soda
Motomitsu
Uchibori
Katsumi
Okuno
Noboru
Ishikawa
Date: