The Dayak Tribe: Guardians of the Borneo Rainforest Sustainability

The Dayak people

The Dayak tribe (Suku Dayak) is an indigenous group on Borneo Island (Kalimantan), spread throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Dayaks are mostly found in Indonesia's provinces, which are West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and East Kalimantan. The Dayak tribe in Indonesia has over 200 sub-tribes with distinct cultures, traditions, and languages. Despite their differences, one thing that unites them is a solid connection to the environment and a commitment to environmental protection.

The Dayak Culture

The Dayak people have a rich cultural heritage, which is reflected in their art, music, dance, and architecture. Their culture is distinguished by a strong connection to the environment, and they regard nature as sacred and must be protected. The Dayak people uniquely practice animism, believing that everything in nature has a soul and must be treated with respect. With this belief system, they have gained a thorough understanding of the natural world and its cycles.

The Dayak people have a rich oral tradition through which legends and stories are passed down through generations. These stories frequently contain a moral or ethical lesson emphasizing the importance of nature and the environment. In addition, the Dayak tribe has a complex system of taboos and rituals that govern their relationship with the environment. For example, certain forest areas are considered sacred and forbidden to disturb, whereas others are designated for hunting or gathering.

Environmental culture

The strong attachment of the Dayak tribe to the environment has given birth to a unique environmental philosophy. They consider the ecosystem to be a living entity that must be protected and preserved rather than a resource to be exploited. Because of this belief, they have adopted sustainable practices that ensure a sustainable ecosystem.

One of the Dayak people's primary practices is shifting farming. Instead of clearing large areas of forest for agriculture, the Dayaks practice breach farming, which entails clearing small areas of forest for farming and then leaving the forest to regenerate over several years. This practice contributes to the preservation of soil fertility and forest security.

The Dayak tribe also engages in selective logging, in which only mature trees can be harvested, and the younger trees are left to grow. This practice ensures that the forest remains healthy and productive so that new trees can replace those already harvested. The use of traditional medicine is another distinctive practice of the Dayak tribe. They are well-versed in the medicinal properties of plants, which they use to treat illnesses and injuries.

Additionally, they have a distinctive community-based conservation strategy. They created community forests, in which the forest is administered by the community as a whole. Society gains access to the resources it offers and still maintains the forest's sustainability.

Dayak's customary law

The Dayak tribe has customary laws and practices that govern how individuals and groups of people behave. They have created rules intended to safeguard the environment and guarantee the sustainable use of natural resources. Adat is a term for the unwritten customary law that governs behavior within the group and is used to describe customary law. Adat is upheld by a system of informal justice in which conflicts are arbitrated by elders and local authorities. This system is based on the consensus principle, where decisions are made through discussion and consultation as opposed to through formal legal procedures.

Dayak's customary law takes a proactive stance in environmental law breaches. The community adopts a preventive strategy by establishing rules and regulations to stop environmental damage, as opposed to waiting for violations to happen. For instance, the community may create regulations limiting the amount of forest timber that may be harvested or prohibiting hunting in specific areas during specific seasons.

The community may apply several sanctions if someone disobeys these guidelines. The offender may be subject to fines or other punishments from society as payment for the harm they have caused. In other instances, society might demand that the offender carry out a particular deed to repair the damage, like planting trees or cleaning up pollution.

In extreme cases, the community may resort to harsher measures such as ex-communication or expulsion. These are reserved for cases in which the offender has committed a serious violation that has resulted in significant harm to the environment or the community. In such cases, the offender may be forced to leave the community or barred from participating in community activities.


In general, Dayak customary law is crucial for controlling behavior and promoting the wise use of natural resources. By upholding environmental laws and regulations, the community can ensure that the natural resources are productive and healthy for upcoming generations. In the Dayak tribe, the informal justice system used to uphold customary law is a crucial component of social order and community cohesion | Palemahan.

Image: Authentic Indonesia


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