Migration to the Niah and Suai Rivers.
The first Iban migration to the Niah River took place in 1934 when Awang Itam was a Native Officer at the Niah sub-District Office. The first group of migrants was led by Panau of Skaloh from the Skrang and Undup Rivers in the Second Division.
A month later came Renggan and his followers from the Tatau River. Renggan and his people migrated to Niah to follow his uncle Lium who had married a Penan woman named Durang, the sister of Tabilan of the Niah River. Three years after the arrival of Panau and Renggan and their followers, Manggoi and Andam came to the Niah River with their followers from Simanggang. The rest of the Niah Iban arrived later than these three groups. After the Niah River had become thickly populated with Iban, the Rajah appointed Manggoi to be the first Penghulu in that area.
The first Iban chief to migrate to the Suai River was Utik, son of Tugang of Bangat, Skrang. He was the nephew of the well-known warrior Jabu apai Umping of the Bangat in lower Skrang. After he had become friendly with the local Penans, Untik went home to call his relatives to join him. These people now live at the house of Mamat, a son of Utik, at Basri Dangkar in the upper Suai River. The second Iban group to come to the Suai was led by ex-Police Inspector Gindi from the Undup near Simanggang.
Before the Iban migrated to Niah, it is said that the Penan roamed about in the forest hunting wild animals for food. They did not farm, as did the Dayak, but depended on the pantu palm for their staple food. When they first met the Iban, they did not want to eat rice. With regard to burial, the Penan had no special cemetery, but just buried their dead underground anywhere or in holes in trees in the forest. After they lived together with the Iban for some time, the Penan began to make for themselves a special graveyard at Nanga Kelebus. Now this cemetery is used by the Iban, while the Penan buries their dead in the Moslem graveyard.
Manggoi said that when he first came to Niah in 1934, he found that the Niah, Sibuti and Suai Rivers were still thickly populated by Penans, the original inhabitants. The first man he met on his arrival was a Penan chief, Duman, wfto lived with his people in a longhouse at Nanga Lemaus. At this meeting Duman assured Manggoi that they surely could live peacefully together in the Niah River. Eventually after the death of Duman, his son-in-law Pajawing was appointed to succeed him as chief. Unfortunately two years later he died. After the death of Pajawing the Penan community dispersed. Some moved to Suai and lived under chief Sogon, while those who remained at Niah moved downriver to live together with the Malays and eventually adopted their religion. In recent years only a few have remained pagan; those live together with their semi-chief Tabilan along the Tanjong Belipat.
Eventually, at the turn of the century, the Skrang, Saribas, Batang Ai and other adjacent rivers of the Second Division of Sarawak became badly over-populated, which caused many of the people of these rivers to migrate to new places like the Mukah, Balingian, Oya, Bintulu, Anap, Tatau and Baram Rivers. Later, because of the same problem, as well as to follow their kindred who had already migrated, many more Iban from the Second and Third Divisions applied to the Government either to migrate to the places mentioned above or to migrate elsewhere, to unexplored rivers, such as the Suai, Niah, Belait and Limbang.