The Iban or Sea Dayak are the once fierce headhunters of Borneo, observing the practice as late as World War II. They are located in the in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, specifically in East Malaysia. This paper deals with the Iban living in the Second Division or province of Sarawak. The Iban are currently (as of 1981) the most numerous and widespread of all native people in Sarawak, still living in longhouses along inland rivers amid the rainforests. They are a people in rapid transition, however. Their world is being stripped of its forests. Civilization is encroaching, bringing T.V.'s, radios, and money, luring away their young people. Their animistic way of life is slowly being smothered out, as is their culture, by the Malay educational and govern mental system. The older people continue in the way of their ancestors, farming padi, but observing fewer rituals and customs as the interest in such wanes in the longhouse.

Because of this extreme transition taking place, with Iban cultural material being suppressed by the government, I chose to try to capture the fading past and present life of the Iban in this ethnographic paper. The information contained herein was obtained during the period of July 1980 to February 1981 when my husband and I lived among the Iban, primarily in the Second Division village of Tuba, consisting of four longhouses. We also visited in many other villages, mainly in Second Division (thus the reason for the narrowed emphasis on the Than of Second Division). We were working in affiliation with the Government of Sarawak's Medical Department and the Seventh-day Adventist Health Project. Our purpose was to find constructive ways to interface western medicine with the Than traditional health system. During this period I had many opportunities to observe the Than culture, as we lived near the village center. My information thus 'Stems from three sources: 1) personal observation; 2) stories, accounts and information as told to me by the Iban; and 3) literature written by Iban, Malay and other authors which substantiated, clarified, and added depth to my observations. My own observations were recorded in daily log notes during the time we lived, ate, and slept with the people in their villages (kampongs) and longhouses.

This paper is therefore an ethnography of the Iban. It is composed of two volumes, the second volume consisting of photographs with captions and explanations, closely following the written material of the first volume. Its purpose is to portray the Iban of Second Division, capturing what is left of the old traditions, and looking at the present day person and changing outlook. Thus, as the Iban way of life is vanishing, the people being engulfed, as were others before them, by the modem mass of society, this paper aims to hold in suspended animation a little of their culture before it is lost to mankind.




Graduate School

First Advisor

John Elick

Second Advisor

Anees Haddad

Third Advisor

Won K. Yoon

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Ibans (Bornean people); Ethnology -- Borneo



Page Count

2 vol; xviii; 461

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

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This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


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