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Modern history
War and independence

In 1940, just before the Japanese invasion, Dutch Borneo had about 2,4 milion inhabitants and the British protectorates 800,000. Of the 7800 Europeans, 7000 lived in the Dutch part, concentrated along the oil-rich eastern coast. Most worked in Balikpapan, a small dynamic city with 30,000 residents. Others lived in Samarinda and Tarakan, where the pure oil didn't need extra procession.
The Dutch parts of Borneo had a totally different way of development of the British parts. The ethnographer and adventurer Tom Harrisson described this as following:'Little is so different as the approach of the Dutch and Brooke about the local population. The people of Brooke did everything to protect themselves from islamic influences from outside. Islamic and christian missionaries, merchands, profit-hunting Chinese and Europeans, civil servants, police, servants and especially lawyers were all kept outside the inlands. The population was encouraged to maintain it's own way of living, so peace could be maintained.
The remote inlands of Dutch Borneo east of Sarawak was comparable with that of the neighboring country, but the government was totally different in the Dutch area (before 1945).
The most nessecary features for education, elementary medical care, even iron cables which were meant to cross rivers and canyons, was not available in Sarawak. The Dutch civil servants were able to find the inlands. The Dutch put much into the development of Borneo, but kept it's own interests, understandably, as most important idea.

In Sarawak there was hardly anything like government. The locals profited from disorder, but it eventually turned bad for the several British which were ruling the country to badly.
The Dutch encouraged missions. This fitted into their new policy over the local population. This so-called 'ethical' policy, as they thought, in both benefit. They wanted to 'westernize' the local population and handed over the pioneering to the missionaries.

The Second World War

In Eastern Borneo, the most important oil-producing centers - Balikpapan and Tarakan - soon fell in Japanese hands. The Europeans which didn't capitulate, travelled inland to Long Nawang, in peace the only Dutch governmental centre of any importance in the inland area. They hoped to be safe here.
Tom Harrisson wrote the following tragedy: ' Eventually there were fairly much Dutch and English subjects in Long Nawan, including some Americans, among them missionaries. The refugees felt very safe over there. They underestimated the Japanese, expecting that their troops would never endeavour the hard and long journey through the jungle. The occupying force warned they would take action when the Europeans were not surrendering voluntary. A few months later several kenyah from the south entered with the message that a big group of Japanese soldiers was only a few days marching from the military post. The Dutch commander didn't believe the story; he put the Kenyah in small, dirty cabins, which were used for the daily needs of the Dutch. Three days later the cabins were occupied by the unfortunate women and wifes of the European and British, they were all killed.
Harrisson himself was dropped by parachute in the highlands of Kelabit. Against the time the Americans dropped their atomic bombs above Japan, he had organised a good guerrilla army. With his action 'ten for a Japanese head', he managed to get the Dayak population on his side.
The Dutch which had retrackted from the upstream part of the Mahakam river or in Long Nawang, were captured by Japanese troops. After they dug their own grave, they were decapitated. About the reactions of the Dayak, until not too long ago headhunters, is not much known. What we do know is that escaped Dutch were 'adopted' by the Dayak leader of Penihing Dayak. Others were decapitated by a mandau in the Müller Range. Their head were given to the Japanese in the village of Putussibau along the Kapuas river, together with their wifes.
Australian trops formed the front line of the allied army which entered Borneo from three strategical pints: Brunei, Tarakan and Balikpapan. Their effort was not really needed, because Borneo was outside the attack route to Japan and the Japanese didn't really form a threat from here. But McArthur had to put the troops somewhere. It was considdered to use Balikpapan as a base for the invasion of Jawa, but the general staff decided something else. In Balikpapan, with it's seven seaport-gates, big oil refinery and two airports, the most heavy fights took place. While the battle was still happening, McArhtus allowed the press to make pictures of him. When the Japanese eventually capitulated, Borneo became Dutch once more, just as what happened to the rest of Indonesia.


But the country was not aiming at subjecting to it's former ruler again. Strong resistance, mainly on Jawa, and several diplomatical manouvres lead to the call for independence in 1945. The Netherlands didn't recognise the government, and only have Indonesia sovereignty four years later. Kalimantan did not play an important role during the battle for independence, but it had important military role in the Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia. Because both camps realized Sukarno was not looking for more land, but only internal political power, no big fights were fought. Dayak at both sides of the borders used the opportunity to headhunt several people, the ultimate way to show courage.

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