National Geographic : 1911 Aug
VOL. XXII, No. 8 WASHINGTON AUGUST, 1911 THIS AP NATIONAL NOTES ON THE SEA DYAKS OF BORNEO* BY EDWIN H. GOMES THE Bornean jungles are immense tracts of country covered by gigantic trees, in the midst of which are mountains clothed in ever green foliage, their barren cliffs buried beneath a network of creepers and ferns. The striking features are the size of the enormous forest trees and the closeness of their growth, rather than their loveli ness or brilliancy of color. In the tropi cal forests few bright-colored flowers relieve the monotony of dark green leaves and dark brown trunks and branches of trees. The prevailing hue of tropical plants is a somber green. The greater and lesser trees are often loaded with trailers and ferns, among which huge masses of the elkhorn fern are often conspicuous. But there is little color to relieve the monotony of all these somber hues. Here and there may be seen some creeper with red berries, and many bright-colored orchids hang high overhead. But it is impossible for the observer to gain a favorable position for beholding the richest blooms, which often climb far above him, turning their faces towards the sunlight above the roof of foliage. These regions are still inhabited by half-clad men and women, living quaint lives in their strange houses, observing weird ceremonies, and cherishing strange superstitions and curious customs, de lighting in games and feasts, and repeat ing ancient legends of their gods and heroes. But in a few years all these things will be forgotten; for in Borneo, as elsewhere, civilization is coming coming quickly-and all the distinctive Dyak customs will soon be things of the past. Already the Dyak is mixing with other races in the towns, and is changing his picturesque dress for Western cos tume. He is fast forgetting his old prac tices and his old modes of thought. The tropical forests of Sarawak were much the same years ago as they are today. But the life of the Dyak is al ready greatly changed and his lot im proved by the introduction of just rule, law and order, and respect for human life. For a moment let us go back to the past and try to picture the life of the Sea Dyak as it was some 6o years ago. In those days there was constant war fare between the different tribes, and the Dyaks lived together in large numbers in their long 'houses, which had stockades around them, so that they had some de fense against any sudden attack. Very often the young braves would make an expedition against some neighboring tribe, simply because they wanted to *Abstracted from Mr. Gomes' exceedingly entertaining narrative, "Seventeen Years Among the Sea Dyaks of Borneo," published by J. B. Lippincott Co.