THE MISUSE OF THE WORD “DYAK.”


CHAPTER II. 
THE MISUSE OF THE WORD "DYAK." 

Name applicable to one class only — Meaning — Ka-daya-n — Daya — Dutch misnomer— Orang daya — 
Restricting its use — Movements of Sea Dyaks — We (ban — A nickname — New names — Meyer's 
investigations — Veth's opinion — The • waddlitig * theory— Other similar words — Daya a tribal 
name — Dajaksch — First use of word Dyak — Not a collective name— The spread of the word — 
Various spellings — Similar words again — Further evidence wanted — Dyak in Chalmers' Vocabu- 
lary — Probable explanation — Sea Dyak for ' man ' — Land Dyaks and Sea Dyaks not the same 
people — Dyak Darat and Dyak Laut — Sir James Brooke's error — Name to be restricted— No 
equivalent for Sea Dyaks. 

The term Dyak appears to have been given a more widespread significance 
than it is entitled to, and people are thereby misled. The first English Rajah^ 
Sir James Brooke, says of the word, in his diary : '* Though all the wild 
people of Borneo are by Europeans called Dyaks, the name properly is only 
applicable to one particular class inhabiting parts of the north western coast 
and the mountains of the interior." (Mundy i. 234.) Sir Chas. Brooke, 
the present Rajah, states : " The generic term Dyak (or properly called 
Dya by themselves) in many dialects simply means inland, although among 
many of the branch tribes the term is not known as being referable to them- 
selves, further than in its signification as a word in their language. Some of 
the interior populations, even as far off as Brunei, are called Ka-daya-n. Then 
again, the Maiiu or Malanau name for inland is Kadaya, although the generic 
term applied to themselves is Malanau, the origin of which is unknown. 
Again, the name of the numerous tribes situated far in the interior of Rejang, 
although a distant branch of the Malanau tribe, are called Kayan, and our own 
more immediate people Daya, or as more generally known, Dyak, The land 
Dyaks' word for inland is Kadayo.'' (i. 46.) 

When Mr. Bock's book appeared, Mr. C. A. Bampfylde, writing from 
Fort Kapit, Rejang River, February, 1882, to the ** Field '' newspaper, says : 

** The Dutch error of applying the name Dyak to all the inland tribes is 
here repeated, the author styling as Dyaks all those tribes he met ; whereas, 
properly speaking, they are amalgamated with the Kayans, Kiniahs, Punans, 
and other branch -tribes who inhabit the heads of the Barram, Rejang, Balleh, 
Kapuas, Banjer, Koti or Mahkam, and Bulongan rivers. The Piengs pre- 
dominate in the upper waters of the Mahkam. The above-mentioned tribes 
are not known as Dyaks, nor do they style themselves as such ; they are 
known by their own names, such as Kayan, Pieng, Kiniah, Punan, Cajaman, 
Skapan, Tugat, Ukit, Bakatan, and other Dyaks, though sometimes calling 
themselves Aurang-Daya (aurang, or * orang ' as written in English, man, 
men), in their own language style themselves as * aurang iban ' (a name given 



40 H. Ling Roth. — Natives of Sarawak and Brit. N. Borneo. 

them by the aborigines), but to them, and to them only, do the Malays apply 
the word daya, which means inland, interior, and from this word arise the 
names Ka-daya-an (a tribe inhabiting a branch of the Brunei) and Kayan. 
The Malays are known to the Sea Dyaks by the name of ' Laut ;' to the 
Melanau and Kayan tribes by the name of ' Klieng.' The Dyaks are purely 
distinct from the above-mentioned tribes, among whom, on the other hand, 
great similarity in language and customs may be traced, and who are, in all 
probability, aborigines of Borneo, which the Dyaks certainly are not. There 
are two distinct tribes of Dyaks, the Land- and Sea- Dyaks." 

Mr. A. Hart Everett is equally emphatic : '* May I suggest that ethnologists 
should make a more sparing use of the term * Dyak ' when treating of the 
Malay Archipelago ? It should only be applied to tribes who themselves use it 
as the distinctive appellation of their people. As more than one tribe so uses it, 
there should always be prefixed some word still further limiting its application 
in each particular case. As employed by Malays, who are followed both by 
Dutch and English travellers, the word has scarcely better standing-ground 
in a scientific terminology than has * Alfuro.' 

" The following fact with regard to the Sea-Dyaks may be of interest. 
When Europeans first entered Sarawak the Kayans, properly so called, were 
dominant in the great Rejang River, and the Sea-Dyaks were strictly confined 
to the Batang Lupar, Saribas, and Kalakah rivers. Now the Sea-Dyak 
population of the Rejang is some 30,000, and the Rejang Dyaks are rapidly 
occupying the Oyah, Mukah, and Tatau rivers further up coast. On the 
original Sea-Dyak rivers the people always use the expression "we Dyaks*' 
when they mention their own race ; but on the Rejang the (expression " we 
Iban " will invariably be heard — the explanation being that the Kayans 
habitually designate Sea-Dyaks as " Ivan " among themselves, whence the 
Dyaks have applied the name ; but, having no v-sound in their language, they 
say " Iban." The Kayan proper is rich in v-sounds. I have been informed, 
though I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statement, that " Ivan " in 
Kayan is a term carrying with it a sense of opprobrium. However this may 
be, it is remarkable that so large a section of the Sea-Dyaks, who are so 
thoroughly dominant in Rejang, and are in constant daily communication with 
their original seat in the rivers to the westward, should in the course of some 
thirty years have come to habitually speak of themselves by the name given 
them by their foes. And it is the more surprising because the Sea-Dyaks 
generally give new names of their own to the geographical features of the 
district into which they immigrate." (Papar, North Borneo.) 

" That on the Rejang the Sea Dyaks should have adopted the name 
given them by their enemies is very curious, but it may, as we shall see later 
on, help to explain their present name of Sea Dyaks. But before going 
into that matter let us see what Dr. A. B. Meyer says, for Dr. Meyer has very 
carefully examined all that has been said about the origin of the word Dyak.* 
Writing in German he, of course, writes a j where we write a jy ; on account 
of other and lesser peculiarities I have thought it better to adhere to his 
spelling in giving the following summary of his investigations : — 

1 " Ueber die Namen Papua, Dajak und Alfuren." 



The Misuse of the Word " DyaW' 41 

Prof. Veth appears to have been the first to discuss the word.* Colonel 
Perelaer would derive it from the word dadajak = waddling and therefore 
looked upon it as a nickname.* As Hardeland in his Dajacksch-Deutches 
Dictionary* mentions this word Prof. Veth considered Perelaer's supposition 
correct but thought it strange that the Europeans should have adopted a 
nickname out of the native language. But Missionary Becker,* of Pulopetak, 
had already in 1849 made the same guess as to the origin of the word Dyak, 
and Perelaer may have copied him, as originally Perelaer did not give this 
explanation.* Dr. Meyer sought in vain for the word in neighbouring 
vocabularies. He finds in Lampit the word daja = deceit, and in Hardeland's 
Dictionary pardi-dajak = a sort of rice ; also Dajam = female name ; Dajan == 
lying together ; he also refers to two districts in South Borneo known as 
Little Dajak and Great Dajak.'' He says. Prof. Veth also refers to Crawford's 
mentioning of an unknown tribe on the north-west coast called Dyak : * The 
word is most probably derived from the name of a particular tribe, and in a 
list of the wild tribes of the north-western coast of Borneo furnished to me by 
Malay merchants of the country one tribe of this name was included.'® Dr. 
Meyer refers to the curious statement of Dr. Peter Braidwood, who, in referring 
to a poison from Borneo says, " Dajaksch is the name of a well-known native 
tribe in Borneo !'" and he mentions Bock's assertion that Dajaksch is the 
name of a tribe. According to one interpretation, says Dr. Meyer, the word 
Daya or Dayack means inland. Then Dr. Meyer continues : ** In order to 
understand more clearly the derivation of the word it would be well to see 
how early and by whom the word Dajak was first used in literature. 
Valentijn,^** 1726, does not appear to have known the expression, as he 
speaks of Borneers ; Buflfon," 1749, j"st as little, as he speaks of the 
inhabitants of Borneo, while he knows the name Papua very well ; Forrest, 
1779, likewise not ; Forster " still called the natives of Borneo Beyajos and 
not Dajaks. On the other hand Radermacher, " in the year 1780, uses the 
designation Dajak and Dajakker in such a way as to infer that it was 
commonly known in Batavia and the Netherlands-India in general. Locally, 
therefore, in those districts the term Dajaks for the natives of Borneo may 
have been in use earlier than in European literature, but its origin is 
certainly by no means so old as that of the name Papua. We may 
undoubtedly conclude that these people did not originally speak of themselves 

' Tijdschr. v. h. Aardrijkskundig Genootscbap te Amsterdam 1881, v. 182. (A. B. M.) 
3 Borneo van Zuid naar Noord 1881, i. 149. (A. B. M.) 

* Dayaksch-Deutch Worterbuch, Amsterdam 1859. (A. B. M.) 
^ Indisch Archief i. Jaarg. Deel i, 1849, 423. (A. B. M.) 

^ Etbnograpbische Beschrijving der Dajaks, 1871, 2. (A. B. M.) 

^ Eenige Reizen in de binnenlanden van Borneo. Togt van Banjer naar Becompaij en de Kleine 
Daijak : Tijdscbr. Ned. Ind. 1824. i. Jaarg. ii. 90. (A. B. M.) 
^ Crawfurd Descrip. Diet. Ind. Isl. 1856, p. 127. (A. B. M.) 

* The physiological actions of Dajaksch, an arrow poison used in Borneo. Edin. Med. Jour. 
1864, p. 12. (A.B. M.) 

"Vol. iii. 2, p. 251. (A.B.M.) 

" Hist. Nat. iii. p. 399. (A. B. M.) 

" Bern, auf s. Reise 1783. p. 313. (A. B. M.) 

» Verb. Bat. Gen. vol. ii. (3 druk 1826) p. 44. (A. B. M.) 



42 H. Ling Roth. — Natives of Sarawak and Brit. N. Borneo, 

collectively as Dajaks. . . . After referring to Dr. Gabelentz* " mistaken 
notion on this point and after discussing the word Alfuro, Dr. Meyer comes 
back to the word Dajak and considers that the name may have spread from 
that of a single tribe much the same as the name Burni (now Bruni) has 
given its name to the whole island, and thinks the Chinese, who for many 
centuries have played an important part in Borneo, may have extended its 
use. He points out that the word Dajak is written in many ways, thus 
Daya, Diak, Dayer, Dyak, Daias, Daiaer, Daijak, and points out that the 
terminal k is quite without significance." " But," he continues, " the word 
dayah means in Sarawak language man, and dayah beruri = sorcerer ; in the 
Lundu dialect dayung = woman, and in Lara and Lundu (Ukewise in the 
north-west), daya = blood (Malay dara)}^ In any case we must not lose sight 
of the above word daya in our investigations among the north and north-west 
tribes, as failing any other explanation, it might herald a natural solution of 
the question. Many people call themselves merely * men.' '* Dr. Meyer then 
gives a list of words similar to Dyak with various significations taken from a 
variety of Philippine dialects and consequently considers the "waddling" 
theory as quite untenable. He concludes : " The origin of this word therefore 
remains less clear than that of Papua or Alfuro : but historical studies on one 
side and local studies on the other side will certainly yet explain more fully 
the word Dajak." Dr. Meyer could have gone a step further. 

In the Rev. Mr. Chalmers' Sarawak vocabulary — Sarawak lies in the 
heart of the Land Dyak country — we find the following : 



man 



merchant 
prisoner 
visitor . 
liar . . 



= dayah 



= dayah berdagang [Malay berdagang = to trade] 

= dayah takap 

= dayah numi 

— dayah kadong 

doctor (conjuror) = dayah beruri 

» 

So that the word dayah is quite a generic term for man. It would thus 
seem to me that Europeans, or probably before them the Malays, learned to 
call these people Dyaks because the generic term for man amongst them is 
dayah, but not because the people had that collective name for themselves, 
for as Sir James Brooke says they never so used it. (Keppel ii. 171.) 

It may be objected to this that the Sea Dyak generic term for man, 
husband, and male, being, according to Mr. Brooke Low, laki, how is it then 
that they too are called Dyaks ? The first man who divided the Dyaks into 
Land and Sea Dyaks was the first English Rajah, Sir James Brooke. At 
least, I am unable to find an author previous to him who so divided them, 
and I appear to be confirmed in my statement by Sir Hugh Low when he 
writes: "The Dyaks appear to be divided by many customs naturally into 

14 Gramm. der Dajak Sprache 1852, p. 5. (A. B. M.) 

^^ For an explanation as to the probable origin of the mistaken use of the k see Yen. Archd. 
Perham's paper on language, S. G. No. 136, and infra, 

'• According to Mr. Chalmers in Sarawak blood is deyah ; see also Yen Archd. Perham's paper 
already referred to. 



The Misuse of the Word " Dyak." 43 

two classes, which have been called by Mr. Brooke Land and Sea Dyaks" 
(p. 165). Sir James Brooke's words are; "The Dyaks are divided into Dyak 
Darrat [darat = ATy land in Malay] and Dyak Laut [laut=sea. in Malay^ 
or land and sea dyaks. The Dyak Lauts, as their name implies, frequent 
the sea; and it is needless to say much of them, as their difTerence from the 
Dyak Darrat is a difference of circumstance only." (Keppel ii. 174). But 
since then further intercourse with both peoples has shown a very wide 
difference in almost every particular. Regarding the use of the word darai, 
Dalrymple (p. 40) used it : " The inland people of Passir (E, Coast) are called 
Darat." 

Sir James Brooke appeared as the champion of the oppressed people 
now known as the Land Dyaks. It was through them he got to know of the 
Sea Dyaks, and no doubt the Land Dyaks spoke of those "men" as dayah, 
and hence he could only come to the conclusion they were the same people. As 
for the Sea Dyaks adopting the name of the Dyaks at all that would only be 
on a par with their adopting the name Iban on the Rejang river as mentioned 
by Mr. Everett. 

Whether the explanation I have just suggested as to the origin of the use 
of the word Dyak be the correct one or not, there remains the fact that the 
word should not be extended to any other peoples than those known as the 
Land and Sea Dyaks. It is even doubtful whether we should speak of Sea 
Dyaks, but then in their case we have the excuse that there is no other 
collective name for them. 



Design bv a Kavan Chief. 

See p. 3B. 

iLHdy Brooke Coll.l 

http://archive.org/stream/nativessarawaka01lowgoog/nativessarawaka01lowgoog_djvu.txt

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