“Sea Dayak” Ibans (Part 1)
According to statistics, in mid-2002, approximately 29.14 percent or 603,735 people out of Sarawak’s total population of 2,071,506 were the Ibans. They remain at the top of the population ladder as their numbers continue to increase annually. Also known as the Sea Dayak, they can be found mainly in Miri, Sibu, Bintulu, Sarikei, Sri Aman, Kuching, Kapit, Mukah and Betong. The term Sea Dayak is quite unsuitable when referring to the Iban community as most of them live deep in the interior of the highland areas and depend on agricultural activities. For a while, the term Sea Dayak was acceptable and considered by the West as the most appropriate with reference to the Ibans. This was because when James Brooke first came to Sarawak, the Ibans had conducted expeditions by sea by adapting the skills of the Iranum and Bajau communities. Initially, the term Iban refers to ‘person’ or ‘human being’ and not a term for the race. However, it is now officially used as a term for the Iban race.
Based on the writings of Stephanie Morgan (1968), the Ibans belonged to the Proto-Malay group from the Kapuas Valley in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. In mid 16th Century (1630s) or 15 generations ago, the Ibans migrated to Sarawak via the Kumpang Valley and settled at Batang Ai. Later, they split up and moved to other parts of the state. When James Brooke came to Sarawak in 1839, most of the Ibans resided in the Second Division and by end of the 19th century, they could be found in most parts of Sarawak. One of the important aspects of the Iban community is the practice of living in longhouses which is a symbol of unity and solidarity among them. Nowadays, some of them no longer occupy such accommodation. Unlike the Dayak tribe that encompassed various races, the ethnic Iban community is the most homogeneous tribe that do not have specific ethnic groups, language, values, tradition, beliefs, customs as well culture.
As stated by Erik Jensen (1962) in a gathering held in 1961 between the tuai rumah, lemambang, tuai burong and Iban penghulu from Batang Lupar, Batang Ai, Saribas and Batang Krian in Simanggang (Sri Aman), the community was in agreement about many things including customs, folklores and oral literature even though they were separated by time and distance. The language, belief, culture and customs of the Ibans in Sarawak are almost similar to the Muallang Dayak and Village Dayak in Kalimantan, Indonesia. (Last Update: 25 October, 2010)
Evading Communist Terror
There is not much of an interesting story in the naming of Nanga Jagau. However, Penghulu Juni Temenggong Masam informed that the occupants of the 24 long houses in the new settlement originated from the upper end of Ngemah River. In the area, villagers frequently were being attacked by the terrorising communist at that particular time.
Therefore in 1973, Sarawak State Government through Rajang Area Security Command (RASCOM) centralised in Sibu urged the people to move to the new settlement provided. The aim was to provide ease for the authorities to monitor their security. The Relocation Scheme covers the areas of Nanga Jagau, Nanga Bulok, Nanga Ngungun and Nanga Pasai. People were being given the permission to choose their unit for them to live in. As time goes by, at present there are 24 long houses stood sturdily in the Nanga Jagau Relocation Scheme.