The history of the Iban is committed to memory and recorded in a system of writing on boards (papan turai) by the initiated shamans (lemambang). Elaborate genealogies go back to 15 generations or more with a surprising degree of accuracy. Some genealogies are as long as 25 generations and can still be connected with actual places and incidents. A genealogy (tusut) normally begins with the most remote ancestor and is a list of who married and begat whom. Sometimes, the ancestors are characterised in short descriptions. Other songs contain historical information as well, for example the pengap, a ritual chant sung during each major festival, that recounts deities and the deeds of the ancestors.
According to oral histories, the Iban arrived in western Sarawak from Indonesia about 1675. After an initial phase of colonising and settling the river valleys, displacing or absorbing the local populations of Bukitans and Serus, a phase of internecine warfare began. Local leaders were forced to resist the tax collectors of the Malay sultans (Brunei). At the same time, Malay influence is felt, and Iban leaders begin to be known by Malay titles like Orang Kaya. Several of the Malays active on the river-estuaries claimed to be descendants of the prophet, like Indra Lela, Sharif Japar and Sharif Sahap. Sharif Ahmit was killed by the Iban. The Bajau and Illanun, coming in galleys from the Philippines plundered in Borneo and were fought by the Iban, for example by the famous Lebor Menoa from Entanak near modern Betong. Oral history recounts how Lebor Menoa encountered Chinese traders who came in ships to the Saribas in order to sell cooking pots, brass pots, pottery bowls, shell armlets and cowry shells for padi. Besides that, the Ibans were also engaged with the Orang Ulu of northern Sarawak, the Bidayuh of southern Sarawak, the Kantu and other Indonesian ethnic tribes from eastern Sarawak. They managed to control the eastern coastline of Sarawak.
The Malay leader Indra Lela, brother of Lela Wangsa of Lingga and Lela Pelawan incited the Saribas and Skrang Ibans to warfare against the Sebuyau Dayaks in order to control them. The Saribas were led by Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana of the Padeh, in alliance with Linggir of Paku (Mali Lebu), Bunyau of Entanak and Bulan of Ulu Layar. The Skrang were led by Rentap (Libau), Orang Kaya Gasing and Orang Kaya Ra. About 1834, the Skrang made a raid on Banting Hill, inhabited by Balau Dayaks and Malays, who suffered heavy losses. Three years later, Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana made war on the Undup Ibans who had killed his brother, and utterly defeated them, taking many captives and looting a famous guchi jar that was thought to have magical properties. The surviving Undup Ibans took refuge in the Kapuas valley and Lingga and later settled in the area of Salimbau. Only under the rule of Brooke did they return to Banting hill, which had meanwhile been settled by the Skrang.
The Sebuyau Sea Dayaks under Orang Kaya Temenggong Jugah of Lundu attacked Paku on the Saribas at about the time. He attacked Matop, and most inhabitants fled. Ca. 1838, the Balau Sea Dayaks raided the Saribas, Krian, a place east of the Saribas, and Skrang under the leadership of Lang and his son-in-law Orang Kaya Janting to avenge their previous losses and revenge for their disturbed peace and harmonies lives. As before the Balau Sea Dayak never has make any engagement with any ethnics since they are just a farmers and lives in a peace and prosperity until the attacked of Saribas and Skrang Iban.
The Iban fell under the rule of Rajah James Brooke in 1835. The Iban leader Libau (Rentap) resisted Brooke from his fortress on Mount Sadok. The Ibans of Lingga, the Undup Ibans and the Sebuyau fought for Brooke. Those groups of Iban or sea Dayak are known as traitors to Iban people. Ironically, Rentap received full support from Balau Sea Dayak in his missions against Rajah rather than his own sub ethnics.
Thereafter the Iban became vital allies of the Brooke dynasty, with the defeat of both Rentap and later the last rebel leader Asun. Warfare between Dayak peoples continued to be an intermittent problem for the regime until the Great Peacemaking in Kapit in 1924, when the Rajah Vyner also consolidated the support of the Iban by appointing one of their great war heroes Koh Anak Jubang (1870-1956) Temenggong or paramount chief. Koh became a member of the advisory council of the state, the Council Negri, and converted to Christianity in 1949. He was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Chiefs and the Order of the British Empire.
During the Japanese occupation of Sarawak from 1942-5 the Iban also played a role in guerilla warfare against the occupying forces, particularly in the Kapit Division where headhunting was temporarily revived towards the end of the war. At this time Sarawak came under the temporary military administration of the Australian forces, who were particularly prominent in the liberation of Borneo.The Rentap says that he will be anywhere although besides or behind IBAN and be like our god.Like he says “AGI IDUP AGI NGELABAN” and that mean that if he still life, he still attack”
cerdit to sempurai
Mr.J @ Bungai Pengrindu
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