Kenyah People – Kalimantan (Borneo)


The Kenyah people are an indigenous, Austronesian-speaking people ofBorneo, living in the remote Baram (Lio Mato, Long Selaan, Long Moh, Long Mekaba, Long Jeeh, Long Belaong, Long San, Long Silat, Long Tungan and etc), Data Kakus, Data Surau,Sg. Senep, Long Dungan, Long Busang, Long Beyak, Bintulu, Miri, Sungai ASAP, Long Bulan, Long Jawe and Belaga regions in SarawakMalaysia and the remote Apau Kayan, Bahau (Bau), Benua Lama & Baru and Mahakam regions in East KalimantanIndonesia.

Kenyah Dance

Kenyah people are divided into various tribes including the Uma Bakah, Lepo Anan, Lepo Tau, Lepu Jalan, Lepo’ Tepu, Uma Kelap, Badeng (Jamok, Lepo Aga’), Bakung, Kayan, Penan, Lepu Kulit, Uma Alim, Uma Timai, Uma Lasan, Lepo Ma-ot, Sambop, Lepo Ke’, Lepo Ngao, Ngurek, Kiput, Long Ulai, Long Tikan, Long Sabatu, Lepo Ga, Lepo Dikan, and Lepo Pua

Kenyah people
Total population 45,000
Regions with significant populations BelagaBintuluMiriSarawakMalaysia and East KalimantanIndonesia
Language Kenyah
Religion ChristianityBungan

1. Culture and economy

The Kenyah people, traditionally being swidden agriculturalists and living inlong houses (uma dado’), is an umbrella term for over 40 sub-groups that mostly share common migration histories, customs and related dialects. Kenyah people lived in long houses in a small communities. Each long house consists of families who choose their own leader (headman). When they have any event or celebration such as harvest festival they will normally use the long house verandah (oseh bi’o) to gather and deliver speeches to guide their youngsters. Normally this harvest festival celebration (tau bio Ramay o o Ajau, pelepek uman) is a major festival because most of them are still farmers.

2. Religion

Almost all Kenyah people are Christian. Before they became Christian they believed in ‘Bungan Malan Peselong Luan’ (a traditional form of animism). But now there are only a small number of Kenyah people that still believe in Bungan. When they die they believe they go to Alo Malau (heaven) with theirancestors (tepun).

3. Population

Statistical figures, based on the Indonesian and Malaysian national censuses collected in 2000, recorded a total of 44,350 Kenyah people in East Kalimantan and 24,906 in Sarawak. [1]

4. Origins

The Usun Apau (aka Usun Apo) plateau(in the Peliran river valley) or Apo Kayan Highlands (a remote forested plateau in Malaysian and Indonesian border) in the present-day Indonesian province of East Kalimantan was the largest concentration site of Kenyah populations between the late 19th century to the early 1980s.

5. Languages

The Kenyah languages are a small family of Austronesian languages.

Borneo Dayak with the tattoed bodies

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