National Geographic : 1963 Nov
the trail specially prepared for travelers like ourselves. There was a rough-hewn wooden seat and even a traditional pipe for the pleas ure of the weary walker-and also for the use of any spirits, evil or otherwise, who happen to be passing. "But as you see," added Lawrence, "many of my people still keep to the old ways." After more than an hour's walk, we came to our goal, a Land Dyak longhouse. Ter raced, it stretched up a hill as far as I could see, then dipped and wound snakelike into jungle on the other side. It was home to more than 70 families. Stilts kept it high off the ground. Under neath, pigs rooted and chickens clucked. Women pounded rice on the veranda above; men repaired their fish nets. A ringing bell sent children scattering from their tiny school. They tumbled down the longhouse terraces to their family entrances. Cities Lure Dyaks From Longhouse I wondered about the children. What would happen to them, after education? "Do they want to leave the longhouse?" I asked Law rence. He frowned. Plainly the subject was a painful one. "Yes," he said at last. "I'm afraid they do. Education makes them restless. Life in the longhouse, work on the land-these things no longer seem enough for them. It's a prob lem. There aren't many jobs in the towns. And the country must depend on agriculture. I don't know the answer." Shy but hospitable, the longhouse families guided me into their cool, dim dwelling places beyond individual doors, offered me food and drink, and talked of their lives. Their poverty was plain; their staple diet rice and whatever vegetables, fish, or meat they could add. Yet they did not complain. "We manage," said a young Dyak, summing up their attitude. "We have less sickness now, and some of our children go to school." "Will Malaysia make any difference to you?" I asked. "Malaysia?" He examined the word won deringly. "Malaysia?" He had never heard of it. For him, Sara wak was the world. After I had explained, he asked wistfully, "Do you think it will mean a better life?" Land; food; life. I had begun to see how desperate was the struggle for mere existence among the remoter peoples of Sarawak. Back in Kuching I was joined by NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC staff photographer Winfield 764 Parks, and together we flew up to Sibu, main Dawn awakens Singapore's harbor. Sails center for nearly half of Sarawak's land area and a third of its population. On Sibu's busy wharves, near the mouth of the great Rajang River, we saw our first Ibans -the original "wild men from Borneo." Also called Sea Dyaks, because of their pirate past, they are people of magnificent physique. Old er men still boast elaborate tattoos and wear rings in distended ear lobes (page 737). Numbering about a quarter-million, the Ibans constitute the biggest single racial group in Sarawak. Proud and self-confident, they are today the most politically advanced and knowledgeable of all Borneo's indige nous peoples.