Iban migration to Sibuti.
In 1927 Sergeant Barat and T.R. Dian anak Kinchang applied for permission from H.H. the Rajah, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, to migrate to Sibuti. Their application was approved and Dian went first to live in Sibuti in the same year. In the following year ex-Sergeant Barat came with his followers and joined Dian’s longhouse at Mamut. They lived together at this settlement for five years, and then separated in order to expand their agricultural lands.
After they had separated, Dian and Barat visited the Undup near Simanggang for the purpose of inviting their relatives and friends to migrate with them to Sibuti. After they had persuaded enough followers, they returned to Sibuti. On Dian’s return he moved down to live at Pidek, while Barat and his followers stayed on at Mamut.
In 1927, when Dian and his followers first arrived in Sibuti, the first important thing he did was to cleanse the land with the blood of five pigs as was the Iban custom. Two of the pigs were killed at Nanga Bakas, two at Mamut, and one when Dian built his first longhouse in the land. Three years after he had settled in Sibuti, T.R. Lutin and T.R. Unal followed from Undup. On their arrival Dian and Barat advised T.R. Unal and his followers to live at Kelitang, while T.R. Lutin was told to settle with his people at Kuap in the Ulu Sibuti. In 1927 before H.H. The Rajah approved their application to migrate, he asked them to develop the Sibuti lands for agricultural purposes other than rubber planting. If they obeyed His Highness’s wish, the Rajah promised not to tax their labour. It was because of this command that no land taxes were demanded from these settlers before the Second World War.
During the Japanese occupation many of them planted rubber trees in the area. These trees are today tappable, which gives the Sibuti Iban a little money in addition to the return from their yearly padi crop. All the Iban migrants to Sibuti from the Second Division were animists, or people lapsed from the Anglican Church. The animists still held to their ancestral religion up to a few years ago, at which time the Roman Catholic and Anglican Missions came to proselytize. At present very few have been converted, as they are reluctant to forget their ancestral religion founded by Petara Simpulang Gana, Singalang Burong and Anda Mara, the religion of their ancestors from ages past. They are at the present time still celebrating many traditional festivals, such as the Gawai Batu, Gawai Umai and Gawai Burong.
On their arrival in 1927, the first cemetery they made in Sibuti was Pendam Keseput, where they buried Buli anak Busor, the first man to die in the new country.
Before the Iban migrated to Sibuti from the Saribas River in the Second Division, Nyauh anak Ambok who had married at Malang in the Bakong, Baram, wrote a letter to Orang Kaya Janai, a Miri by race (or Mirek) and a chief of the Sibuti River, to apply for land in this river to which he might migrate.
The Orang Kaya Janai told Nyauh that he would accept him and his followers to come and settle in the Sibuti. After gaining this approval, Nyauh from Malang wrote a letter to his mother Rini at Lubau in the Saribas, telling her that he had found good land for settlement in the Sibuti River. In her reply Rini told Nyauh that she had no intention of leaving Saribas. On learning this Nyauh and his wife visited her in the Saribas, but while they were there his wife died. Due to her death Nyauh completely dismissed the idea of migrating elsewhere.
Some years later, his cousin Jeragan, who lived at Bakong, Baram, wrote a letter to Nyauh. He said, “It will be a great loss to you, if you fail to migrate to the land which has been given to you by Orang Kaya Janai in Sibuti.” On receiving this encouraging letter, Nyauh again urged his mother to migrate with him. “If I fail to take this fertile land in Sibuti, I am sure it will be an irreparable loss to you and me as well as to our future descendants,” said Nyauh to his mother. Hearing her son’s decision, Rini agreed to follow him.
After his mother had agreed to migrate, Nyauh invited Mulok anak Malina and Entering anak Jiram of Lubau to see the new land in the Sibuti. When they came they found that Orang Kaya Janai had died, so they met with his successor, T,K. Haji Mat of Sibuti.
On meeting them, before he could permit their migration, as approved by the late Orang Kaya Jenai, Haji Mat gathered all the Malay, Dale’ and Miri leaders in the Sibuti together. At this meeting these leaders approved the applications of the Undup Iban from the Batang Lupar. To confirm their agreement Haji Mat wrote a letter for the Saribas Dayaks to take to the Resident, Mr. Aplin at Miri.
When Mr. Aplin met them, he sent them back to Sibuti to see Wan (now Tuanku) Bujang, to discuss again the Saribas Iban migration with the Sibuti chiefs. After the discussion was over Wan Bujang directed Abang Entassin to survey the land in the Bakas stream, a left tributary of the Sibuti into which these Iban would migrate. After the land had been surveyed, the Iban were given all the land above the Kedayan settlement at Nanga Bakas.
After the Saribas migration to Sibuti had been agreed to by the Government, Mr. Aplin ordered Nyauh and his followers to return to Saribas via Kuching, in order to bring a letter to the Resident of the First Divison. On their arrival at Kuching, the Resident of the First Division sent them to H.H. The Rajah. They met His Highness who approved of their migration but would not allow them to leave Saribas until ex-Sergeant Barat and his followers had proved that they could live on friendly terms with the indigenous people in Sibuti.
Some weeks after they had arrived at Lubau in the Saribas, a Malay Native Officer called them to the Betong fort. This Officer told them that their application to migrate to Sibuti had been cancelled by the Government. If they wanted his help he told them, he would consult the Government on their behalf. Hearing this, Nyauh became worried. He and his two friends went to Sibuti to ask why they were no longer allowed to migrate after the Rajah had approved the movement. When they came to Sibuti they were told by Wan Bujang that there had been no such change of attitude towards their migration. So they returned to the Saribas. They did not see this Malay Native Officer at Betong fort again.
Three years after ex-Sergeant Barat had migrated to Sibuti, Nyauh and his Saribas Dayaks came to the area by chartered Chinese launch. This launch made three trips to transport them at a total cost of $1,500/-. The price of rubber at this time was $37- per picul. At this time, in 1932, ex-Penghulu Asun, rebel chief of Entabai, was at the height of his power. On their arrival in the Sibuti they first hired land for farming from Wan Mahmud of Nanga Satap. After the harvest was over, they moved up to Nanga Bakas where they made offerings (tasih ai) to the God of water by sacrificing three medium-sized pigs. After this, they built their first longhouse at Tembawai Tinting, inside Kadayan land above Nanga Bakas.
After the Sibuti River had become thickly populated with Second Division Iban, the Rajah appointed ex-Sergeant Barat to be the first Penghulu of the area.
Extract from articles originally written by Benedict Sandin & Professor Clifford Sather.
Re-compile for weblog publication by Gregory Nyanggau Mawar.
Published in the Sarawak Musuem Journal, Volume XLVI, titled “Source of Iban Traditional History”, Part 1, 2 & 3.