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The Madurese and the Dayak

The following is a look at the two warring ethnic groups on Kalimantan island - the indigenous Dayaks and the migrant Madurese settlers. Indigenous Dayaks and Malays make up about 40 percent of the population in Indonesia's four Kalimantan provinces. Ethnic Chinese, holders of much of the region's wealth, make up about 12 percent of the population, and Madurese settlers only about 8 percent.
The Dayaks and Madurese have been involved in several physical conflicts over the years. The bloodiest ones include the current clashes in Sampit, Central Kalimantan, and the violence that took place in Sambas, West Kalimantan, in 1999. The current clashes between indigenous Dayaks and Madurese settlers in Sampit, which erupted on Feb. 18, have claimed hundreds of lives, mostly Madurese, and forced tens of thousands of Madurese into makeshift refugee centers.
About 3,000 people were killed and tens of thousands displaced in 1999 when Malays, backed by Dayak tribesmen, attacked Madurese migrants in Sambas. Kalimantan or Borneo, the third largest island in the world at 736 square kilometers, is shared by three countries - Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The 539.500 square kilometers of Indonesia's part of Borneo island is divided into four provinces - West, East, Central and South Kalimantan.

The Dayaks

The Dayaks are divided into seven main tribes - Dayak Ngaju, Dayak Kayan, Dayak Iban, Dayak Klematan, Dayak Murut, Dayak Punan and Dayak Danum. The seven tribes are divided into smaller subtribes. The Dayaks originally lived near the rivers along Kalimantan's coast, but gradually moved inland as migrant settlers began to occupy their lands.
According to the head of the Association of East Kalimantan Dayaks, Julianus Sulaiman, the word "dayak" was derived from the Dutch word "dayaker", meaning a wild community. Before Dutch colonialists outlawed the practice in the late 19th century, the Dayaks had a well-deserved reputation as headhunters. Sociologist Sarosa Hamongpranoto from Mulawarman University in Samarinda said the ancient Dayak tradition of decapitating their enemies was closely related to the wedding ceremony, with the heads of the enemies being given to brides as dowry. The tradition was called ngayau, but Sarosa believes it has long been abandoned.
Sarosa claims the Dayaks are basically a peaceful people, saying they avoid conflict and choose to avoid the increasing economic competition in Kalimantan. "They (Dayaks) are friendly, extroverted and like to avoid conflict. Some social problems are settled through ancient traditional institutions, in which the elderly are regarded as the wisest people in solving any problem," Sarosa said.
The Dayaks, who number about two million in Kalimantan, are largely Christians, but some still hold ancient animistic beliefs, knows as Kaharingan. Traditionally they live in groups along rivers in longhouse communities with no more than a few hundred members. Their livelihood has traditionally depended on the cultivation of rice, along with fishing, hunting and the logging of rain forests.
Some groups, however, live as nomads, opening up forests for their simple plantations and then moving on to other areas. In recent years, many Dayaks have taken jobs in the island's gold, tin and copper mines, industries which are mostly run by settlers or foreign companies.

The Madurese

The 5,300-square-kilometer Madura island is located in the province of East Java, just a few kilometers from Surabaya, the provincial capital. The island is a major supplier of salt to many parts of Java, and also to other areas of Indonesia. The Madurese are staunch Muslims. Many Islamic boarding schools have been established on the island, which has contributed to the teaching of Islam in East Java and other areas of Java.
Due to overcrowding on the island and soil that is unfit for cultivation, many Madurese travel to other parts of the country to earn a living. The Madurese began arriving in Kalimantan in large numbers in 1960s as part of the government-sponsored transmigration program. As migrant settlers, the Madurese are well known for their toughness and solidarity among themselves.
In Kalimantan, their numbers reach up to 100,000. They mostly compete with locals in the lowest levels of the economy. A Madurese sociologist, Abdul Latief Wiyata, stressed that there were prevailing stereotypes of Madurese that were mostly incorrect, but were still believed by many people. "The Madurese often are associated with the clurit (a traditional sharp weapon), the karapan sapi (traditional cow racing) and violence," he said.
According to Latief, the Madurese are hard workers and have a strong grip on old traditions that are rich with Islamic teachings - a picture that explains why the Madurese cannot accept the Dayak habit of keeping dogs and eating pork, dogs and pigs being two animals forbidden by Islam.

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