Pahewan, Tajahan, and Kaleka:
The Local Wisdom of the Ngaju Dayak in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
By : Marko Mahin
The Ngaju Dayak are indigenous people of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. They live along the Barito, Kapuas, Kahayan, Katingan and Mentaya rivers and their tributaries, and use the dialect or language commonly called basa Ngaju, one branch of a language known as "Barito family", and who does not claim to be members of the surrounding tribes, for example Ma’anyan or Ot Danum. The word Ngaju means ‘upper-river’, so oloh Ngaju is thus people from upriver. The Ngaju Dayak prefers to call themselves after the river on which they live, such as oloh Kahayan (people of the Kahayan River) or oloh Kapuas (people of Kapuas River).
In the past, they were horticulturalists who supplemented their food by fishing and hunting and lived in villages along the major rivers in Central Kalimantan, but now they are spread all over Kalimantan island and Indonesia. In the big cities, such as Jakarta, Bandung, Jogyakarta, Banjarmasin or Surabaya, they organize themselves in a network called Kapakat Dayak Ngaju (the Ngaju Dayak Union). Many groups of the Ngaju Dayak have converted to Christianity and a small percentage to Islam, but the majority of those in the interior still follow the traditional belief, which more recently has acquired the official title of Hindu Kaharingan. Local estimates place the number of Ngaju-speakers at between 500,000 and 700,000 in a province with a total population of 1,980,206 (http: kalteng.bps.go.id).
As reported by many researchers (e.g. Joshi et al., 2004, Schiller, 1997) the Ngaju Dayak are an indigenous rainforest people. They can be described as rainforest dwellers who live on shifting cultivation and show discretion in managing nature (see Tsing, 1993). As forest dwelling people, the environment has thus shaped their culture and way of life. The Ngaju Dayak are interwoven with their surroundings and have developed a complex system of cultural aspects in relation to the forest that they depend on for survival. The environment has influenced their cultures and beliefs, and vice versa, their culture and beliefs also influenced by their environment. Their customary laws shape the landscape and regulate the extraction of forest resources from community owned and individual property to ensure that those activities would not compromise the conservation and sustainability. Moreover, the Ngaju Dayak people have a rich understanding about the value and knowledge of biodiversity which can be a source of learning for all parties, including the church institutions.
A. The Forest and Local Wisdom
Generally, the Ngaju Dayak people call the forest Parak Kayu and they categorize the forest into two main parts: Himba and Bahu. Himba is primary forest and consists of big trees which have never been cultivated by people. Bahu is secondary forest which has been cultivated for growing rice and intentionally allowed to regrow into forest again in order to restore the soil fertility.
Himba for Dayak Ngaju people is not only an area that consists of big trees but also a spiritual area that is considered a sacred sites and traditionally protected. Himba is a place for spirits who can help people. They are namely Sangiang, who are called if there is a ritual healing (basangiang), and are believed to live in certain parts of the forest (pukung Pahewan). Bambulung or the place where the long big trees grow are believed to be “temporary shelter” for Sangiangs.
Spirit Protectors which are known as Antang-Patahu, especially antang, are also believed to live in the forest areas outside of the village. Antang is a supernatural spirit which accompanies and protects Dayak Ngaju people in crisis situations. It is believed to live in Tajahan which are generally found in the forest. A long time ago when the practice of raung bagantung (hanging coffin) took place, the forest was also the family cementary the place to hang the coffin.
The sacred sites which are found in the Himba are: Pahewan, Tajahan, and Kaleka.
1. Pahewan : The Sacred Forest
Pahewan is also called Pukung Pahewan. Pukung is Sangiang language or ritual language used by the Kaharingan priests means “island”, or “a group of ”, it has sinonim with word “tukung” in Ngaju language for daily communication which means “stack”. In this context, pukung pahewan means an island of a group of trees which is located in certain area separated from area of human being. It is used for special activity (refers to Hardeland, 1859, Bingan & Brahim, 1996). Usually, when cutting the trees in the forest for opening the farming fields, Dayak people do not cut trees in the middle of the forest or in the edge of the land. A set of trees are left, they are called as "Pukung”, the function of the trees are avoiding from hard wind and controlling temperature around the farming land.
Etymologically, Pahewan in the Ngaju Dayak language means “sacred forest” which is the home of various supernatural beings such as Dewa, Nyaring, Pampahilep or Kambe” (Hardeland, 1859: 396, Bingan & Brahim, 1996: 220). The forest is considered sacred because it is occupied by spirits which are called taloh parak kayu, which means forest watchman or forest occupants. Because of that, in the middle of the forest, there is usually a mini stage house that was built during a special ritual. This mini stage house is for the forest watchman or forest occupants of Pahewan, and the Ngaju Dayak people call them kramat or karamat. The kramat, besides being a place to put offerings in, is also easy to identify because of the yellow flags, which are attached to it. So, territorially, the Pahewan is the area of the rainforest that is owned by the spirits, and humans are not allowed to disturb it (cf. Schärer, 1963:62-63). Because of that, humans are not allowed to open or clear the land, cut the trees or do any other activites in that area.
It cannot be emphasized enough that the Pahewan is a sacred area which is protected both spiritually and culturally. Furthermore, according to the traditional daily customs of the Ngaju Dayak people, which is known as adat, whoever damages the Pahewan by slashing, cutting, making a farming field, or in any other way, has violated the law. He is considered guilty towards the owner or the forest occupants of the Pahewan. And he will be punished with singer (fines for customary law violations), which requires him to replace the damage by giving animal offerings, conducting a ritual ceremony, and establishing a new karamat (Baier, 1977: 155, Salilah, 1977: 38).
One of the Pahewan which is still preserved is Pahewan Kalawa. It is located in Kalawa village, Kabupaten Pulang Pisau, Central Kalimantan province. The community of this village believe from generation to generation that the forest area which is not far from their village is a sacred forest. It is taboo to cultivate it in anyway for monetary use. This customary law and belief is ecologically safe. The animals and plants are relatively secure. The Pahewan kalawa was even safe from forest fires during the droughts in 1997 and 2001. The environmental activists view Pahewan as a natural conservation model based on local Dayak wisdom. (Kompas, 13/03/2006).
2. Tajahan : The Sacred Place
Briefly, Tajahan is described as a home for the protector spirits. These spirits can transform into the form of an eagle (elang). Etimologically, Tajahan means ”a place for someone who is called.” Physically, a Tajahan is a sacred place in the form of a keramat, or small hut, but it is located close to the village. In the hut, there is a plate and a bowl to put offerings on. Small statue, which are made of ironwood, are located to the right and left side of the hut. The Antang, which are called upon during the ritual called Manajah Antang, live in the Tajahan. The Ngaju Dayak people view Tajahan as a holy place, which is not allowed to be disturbed or destroyed by human beings. Tajahan is a place of worship and asking for help from the ancestors. Therefore, those who destroy the Tajahan will be fined. Then, there will be a ceremony to ask for forgiveness from the occupants of the Tajahan (Baier, 1977: 155-157, Salilah, 1977: 48-50).
A long time ago, Tajahan was usually made by someone who dreamt there was a supernatural spirit who appeared to him and told him his secret name. The spirit could be called using the secret name when help was needed. Tajahan can be named according to the people who built it. For example, in Tampang (Kuala Kurun) there is Tajahan Ohong, this belongs to someone named Ohong. This Tajahan is a place for Antang Pating Tumbang Tarusan. If the offspring of Ohong are in difficult situation in their life, they can call the spiritual friend of their ancestors in that Tajahan.
Tajahan can also be called by the name of the Antang which lives in it. For example, Tajahan Antang Panting Tumbang Tarusan is called that because that Tajahan is the place where Antang Panting Tumbang Tarusan lives. But only certain people can know the name, because the Antang’s name is confidential. For common people, Tajahan is given its name based on its location. For example, Tajahan Tumbang Tarusan was named that because it was built in the upriver of the Tarusan
The location of Tajahan is usually in the area where forest is dense and scary. It is prohibited to do human activities such as cutting the trees, hunting, etc. in that area. The concept of Tajahan is relevant to the activity of conservation in which protection and preservation of biodiversity is important. Because of that, Tajahan is a source of food for the animals as well as a shelter from hunters.
In the forest, former village or settlements can be found. They are in the form of house poles, and big, tall trees because of their old age. There are durian trees, different types of mango trees, ketapi, langsat, coconut, bettle nut fruit trees. The Ngaju Dayak people call such place Kaleka. According to Tjilik Riwut (1958: 227) it is because a long time ago, the Dayak people who wanted to establish villages, did not depend on roads or paths. Rather, they chose places with fertile soil and a large amount of forest products nearby. If the soil was no longer fertile, the village would be abandoned. Even though it is not inhabited, the Kaleka is protected and maintained by families for generations as a heritage for the families to be used and utilized (e.g taking the fruits) for common property. In addition, in many Kaleka there are tombs of the ancestors of Dayak community.
Based on Dohong’s (http://aluedohong.blogspot.com) conservation perspective of ecology, Kaleka can be viewed as warehouse of plasma nuftah (genetic pool). In terms of custom, Kaleka is protected because there is also sandung (where to put the bones of ancestors), pantar (wooden pole which is established in the funeral Tiwah ceremony) or cemetary. Whoever destroy the Kaleka will be fined (Baier, 1977: 172, Salilah, 1977: 110).
Recently research (Rahu et.al. 2013, 2014) show that Kaleka is one of the agroforestry systems which is practiced and preserved over generations in Central Kalimantan. Kaleka is a farm management system done by the Ngaju Dayak. Many Kaleka are centuries old and have a diverse collection of plants that set up upper storey, middle storey, and lower storey layers. Many of the species in Kaleka are local and endemic species of Borneo Island. The old and undisturbed Kaleka is habitat for numerous giant and tall tree species. Some tall trees are home to numerous liana and epiphytes. Kaleka is able to conserve many endemic and native plant trees species. The diversity and complexity gives positive contribution to the conservation of biodiversity. Kaleka have a diversity of plants and ecosystems that benefit the daily life of the local community. The benefits from Kaleka causes people to preserve Kaleka passionately based on local community participation. This research concluded that Kaleka is a native agroforestry system which is considered by conservationist to provide benefits to enhance biodiversity conservation. Therefore, Kaleka has potential to be developed as natural sanctuary.
Beside those sacred sites, in the Himba is also found traditonal areas which are intentionally protected; those are: Sepan, Payan, and Tanggiran
- Sepan is the source of salt water becomes a place for animals to drink. This area is not allowed to be destroyed by activities such as cutting trees, because it makes animals not want to come to the place again, which makes it difficult for the hunters to get animals.
- Payan is a place for Haruei (peacock) during their mating season. According to the hunters, this place is in the middle of the forest and very far from human existence. It is an open ground area about 10 x 10 meters. It has no grass or leaves from the trees. The trees surrounding the area are not allowed to be disturbed by human beings, because it can make the peacocks manyalu (cranky) and so they leave (Mahin 2010).
- Tanggiran is the tall trees in this area are for bee hives. Many trees grow in this area, where the bees make their honey from the tree flowers. Cutting trees and burning are prohibited in the Tanggiran are so that the bees do not leave.
B. Malan System
In Himba, the Ngaju Dayak people do many activities which are called satiar, hunting and gathering for livelihood. They collect non-timber forest product such as damar, gemur, jelutung, kalanis, rattan, pantung, etc., they will sell for cash. Forest is the pharmacy where they get the medicines. In the forest, people can get saluang belum plant for male virility drug, kalakai vegetables to add breast milk, Sepang plant as diabetic drug, kamunah wood for contraceptive drug, kalopahit or sambung maut plant for malaria. The most important thing about the forest is that its also the place to get food. In the forest they can get source of protein from animals and fish, and vitamin comes from vegetables and fruits. The forest also provides materials for building houses as well as materials to make transportation such as boats.
The Ngaju Dayak people manage and utilize the land using the Malan system or swidden cultivitation system. The Ngaju Dayak people use a 6 M methods for farming: Mandirik (slashing), Maneweng (cutting), Manusul (burning), Manugal (sowing), Mambawau (clearing the area from the grass) and Manggetem (harvesting). Kalimantan is different from Java which has fertile soil from volcanic ash. Kalimantan consists of natural tropical forests with low soil fertility, therefore it needs a farming system not a farming paddy’s system as in Java or Bali.
Beside hunting and gathering in the forest, catching fish in the rivers and swamps, Malan is the source of income or the way of production for Dayak Ngaju people. The tool of production is the ground. These two points are important when we want to talk about land teology for Dayak Ngaju people. Beside the economic aspect, Malan includes a religious aspect in which there are ritual, taboo laws, and customs. Other than the economic aspect, there is also social aspect where social cohesion and resource exchange through handep system or working together. There is also culture in the form of art, and there are many traditional dances and songs created within the practice of Malan.
The practice of Malan is first done by opening the area of primary forest (mahimba). The purpose is to make a place for cultivating paddy and vegetables. After the land is open cleared for cultivation, it will be left for 1-2 years, it is not considered forest anymore but the former forest or (Bahu). So, the people will open another new area of forest (mabimba) to cultivate paddy and vegetables. If the soil fertility decreases, the land will be rested and not be cultivated. While waiting for the restoration of soil fertility, the farmers will move to another land. They will come back to the first land, after it has rested long enough to restore fertility so it can be replanted. The rotation time, back to the first land varies from 5-10 years, it depends on the width of the area and the numbers of local people. Next, after the first land is fertile, the community will be back to continue farming activities on the land. By doing that, the traditional farmers of Dayak only cultivate the secondary forest than primary forest. The primary forest is place for preserving foods and heritage for the next generation in the future. As a result, the soil ferlility is maintained and the primary forest is preserved.
It should be noted that Bahu is former farming land which is intentionally reforested in order to restore the soil fertility. Bahu is not “idle land” or “wasted land” without an owner. It takes local wisdom to manage the limitation of soil fertility. After five or six years, the owner will be back to cultivate the land.
It is important to note that some Bahu is not allowed to be cultivated because of religious reasons, it is left for the use of souls of family members who have died. The Bahu is let to grow wildly as secondary forest until the family members who are still alive be able to conduct funeral ceremony called Tiwah. It called as Petak Rutas is a forest area which has been agreed to be as an area to respect late and venerable local leaders by family and others. Therefore, this area is not allowed to be cultivated. Petak Rutas will be cleared of cultivation if a Tiwah ceremony for the deceased has been performed. It is believed that there will be an abundance of crops from this Tanah Rutas because paddy from its land is fertile as the blessings from people who have been sacralised through Tiwah rituals. Tiwah is a Kaharingan religion ceremony performed by moving bones of the deceased from their graves to Sandung (place to keep the bones) to deliver their souls by a ritual ceremony led by Basir Balian/Hanteran to Lewu Tatau (heaven). Petak Rutas, Taboo land or Forbidden land is fertile land that is not allowed to be used before Tiwah ceremony is planned. The planning of a Tiwah ceremony must begin from a year before, because the harvest from the “NELAK RUTAS” is for Tiwah needs. That is the purpose of Hadat Marutas (Ilon, Y. Nathan. 1990: 37)
According to Michael Dove (1994:xxxi) the Dayak culture is the best example to describe a mutual preserving relationship between nature and human beings. The system of swidden cultivitation makes it is possible for the land to become fertile again and the people have a sustainable food supply. While according to Geertz (1983) shifting cultivation is a way for human beings to change the flow of natural energy or natural resources in the nature, and adapt them for human consumption. This is done by imitating the nature.
In my opinion, the Ngaju Dayak people treat the land as a mother or a woman, because in the beginning of the process of opening the forest (mahimba), there is a term known as mamanggul petak (melamar tanah) which means proposing to the land. Mamanggul is the local term for marking the time to start opening the fields in the forest. The sign is by plugging bamboo around the area to be turned into the field; the bamboo has been cut approximately 1 meter. Mamanggul procedure is first cleaning the area to be turned into the field and then the bamboo is plugged in the area (salugi).
The Ngaju Dayak people get their power dan energy to live from the land, like breastfeeding from a mother. – through the process of Malan, But, they cannot suck their mother continually until the milk is dried. The mother must be given time to rest so she can breasfeed again to give life to her children. Only disobedient children want to attach to the mother as a parasite continually. So, it will kill the mother who gives the life.
The idea of the earth as a mother or woman is closely related to spirituality of Ngaju Dayak who believe that when opening the cultivated lands, then they are dealing with the prophet of the earth (nabi petak) , or the earth goddess named Kaloä or Kloweh. She is the sister of Ranying Mahatala sky, as reported by Zimmerman (1919):
Mahatara has a sister: Kaloä. She lives in this world lying beneath the world of humans (Lewun Kalunen). She will help everybody who offers sacrifices, but anyone who forgot her will experience her resentment. Kaloä is ganan petak: the spirit of the earth who brings fertility. She is the terra mater of the Dayak. Kaloä has only one breast in the middle of her chest. Every time the Ngaju Dayak open a new rice-field, they must bring sacrifices for Kaloä namely cold boiled rice which is served in a piece of coconut shell and water which served in a bamboo tube. These modest sacrifices are put into a hole in the ground while saying: “Wake up, wake up, wake up!” While digging the ground three times a little prayer must be said: “O..Kaloä, wake up, please help me who plants the seeds of rice here, let them sprout through your blessing.”
C. The Sources of the Local Wisdom
From the above explanation, it shows that the Ngaju Dayak people have a clear concept about their forest area. Tajahan, Pahewan and Kaleka are considered “sacred’ and ”holy because in the forest the people must keep their words and behaviours, they are not allowed to do something recklessly. They has “separated”, or “specialized” areas of the forest as a place for protector spirits, or helper spirits who can be called on or asked for help. The separation means that those area of the forests are not allowed to be disturbed, moreover to be destroyed. Therefore, it creates “traditional zones” which manage human activity and determined whether it is allowed or not allowed to cultivate the land in the area.
The concept, behaviour, and point of view as mentioned before are positive towards the environment as follows:
- The area which is specialized is considered a supportive area. It has a high conservation value because of its protected water area, protected land, and as a protected place for animals from threatened species, birds and many other forest animals.
- Because the conservation idea comes from the community the area is protected by the community. The conservation reasons that are proposed to them will be in line with their view of life.
In my observation (Mahin 2009, 2010) the local wisdom practiced by the Ngaju Dayak community in managing the forest follows the following patterns:
- Establishing zones, places or certain areas which are allowed or not allowed for hunting, gathering, and opening the land. By doing that, they have their own “spatial systems” which is managed for their needs and existence.
- Establishing the taboo law (pali-pali) so there are no law violations towards the “zonees” or “spatial systems” which have been established.
- Establishing fines for those whom break the taboo laws (pali-pali)
- Providing people in the community to oversee and enforce the “laws” which have been established.
Regarding to the practice of the local wisdom of the Ngaju Dayak which have mentioned above, it arises the question: "Where does the Ngaju Dayak ecological wisdom come from?"
To answer that question I would like to quote the thesis of Hans Schärer, a German missionary from the Zending Basel who have been lived in the midst of the Ngaju Dayak. Scharer’s central thesis is that the Ngaju Dayak people cannot be understood apart from understanding their concept of God, which he sees as central to their whole culture and worldview. He begins by explaining that, ‘The Dayak culture is a unity, that is, in the sense that life and thought coincide and are defined by a common focal point through which they must be interpreted and to which they constantly refer’ (Scharer 1963: 3). He than asked the following question: “Where now lies the center by which the whole of Dayak culture and religion is determined, by which their entire life and thought must be interpreted, and to which everything must be referred?" He answered that rhetorical question he replied as follows: "We answer; in the conception of God." On the basis of this statement he built the thesis of his work, which is: "... the idea of God runs through the whole culture and religion like a scarlet thread, and that it is the focus of life and thought (1963: 6). This idea of God or the sacred running like a thread throughout life means that life is indeed a unity, that there is no compartmentalisation into the sacred and the secular.
According to Schärer the Ngaju Dayak conception of God is based on a dualistic principle; distinguishing two supreme deities, which appear separately or as a unitary personality and who have existed from the beginning (1963: 12). These two supreme deities have separate dwelling places. The deity of the Upper World, Mahatala, lives on the primeval mountain in the Upper World, which is raised above the world inhabited by humankind. The deity of the Underworld, Jata lives in her village that lies on the river of the Under World which is located beneath the world of men (1963: 16-17).
Besides the two Supreme Beings, there are also a number of good and evil spirits, acknowledging their own lords (19-20). Five of them are:
- Raja Pali: The King of Taboo
- Raja Untung: The King of Fortune
- Raja Sial: The King of Misfortune
- Raja Hantue: The King of Witches
- Raja Puru or Raja Peres: The King of Smallpox or The King of Diseases.
Borrowing Scharer opinion, it is understandable why the Ngaju Dayak take care of Pahewan, Tajahan, and Kaleka. They maintain and take care of these places because they are places for supernatural, sacred and holy spirits to live. These spirits can help humans, but they can also punish humans who do wrong. These spirits are not God or The Supreme Being, who is known as Ranying Mahatala Langit, they are simply his representatives. In those places, people do not worship nature, they do not worship wood or trees, and they are worship God through His representatives.
The representatives of God Almighty are very important to the Ngaju Dayak people because they are not allowed to have direct relation to Ranying Mahatalla Langit, as has been stated by Zimmerman 1919:
Mahatara or Hatalla was worshiped by the Ngaju Dayak as a Creator and a Providence of universe. He was imagined in human form (anthropomorphous) but more splendid and magnificent. However, no statues of Him exist. Mahatara will never change, but He is not the omnipresent. The Ngaju Dayak are very afraid of coming face to face with Mahatara. If Mahatara reveals Himself in a dream, thee person will become ill. The whole body will turn yellow. This is panyakit Hatalla (the Hatalla’s sickness or jaundice). The victim must sacrifice a water buffalo to recover from this kind of disease. Interestingly, the Ngaju Dayak are not permitted to have a direct relation with Mahatara. Any contact should be through the mediators, the pantheon of the lesser gods who are close to Him.
The highest divine representatives live in the Pahewan, Tajahan and Kaleka, because of that it must be respected, appreciated dan taken care of as a holy, sacred, place of worship. That place is where they meet and establish a relationship with the supreme deity. By respecting these holy places, they are able to live together in harmony with God, nature and all of the other rainforest creatures. The effects of these religious traditions is clearest in their outcomes: they have fostered human societies that live in a largely ecologically sustainable relationship with the forests, rivers, and animals around them.
D. Discussion: The Modern Narrative
A long time ago, almost every villages had a Pahewan, Tajahan and Kaleka. In other words, all villages had sacred forests which were protected. Thus, unintentionally, almost all villages had a traditional area of conservation. But, nowadays since new religions have come, the Ngaju Dayak people have slowly begin to leave their primal theology, and they believe a new theology which views the existence of Pahewan, Tajahan and Kaleka as places for evil spirits which destroy humans faith. As a result, the existence of Pahewan, Tajahan and Kaleka are slowly decreasing and coming into extinction. Forests, land, rivers, swamps and lakes are considered physical things only, without spiritual value. Humans do not treat nature with respect, and nature is also not friendly to humans anymore. The loss of these local wisdom values have led to the ecological crisis which creates an imbalance situation in the ecosystem. As a result, almost every year there are forest fires which produce smoke which disturb human respiratory organs, which disturb humans activity.
Nowadays, there are big changes in the lives of the Ngaju Dayak. Only a small number of them are living as farmers, hunters, and gatherers who depend on land and forest resources. Because of the penetration of big investors in the form of Forest Use Rights or Hak Penguasaan Hutan (HPH), mining activities, and palm oil plantations or Perkebunan Besar Sawit (PBS), the land and livelihood of the Ngaju Dayak people is decreasing and becoming limited. Ultimately, their traditional economy is collapsing. The existence of companies makes them not free as before. There is no land for farming anymore, but is has been taken over by big companies with the full support of the government. Their living space is getting smaller, narrower, decreasing, and full.
Now, they experience “proletarianization”: a change in livelihood from having economic autonomy to becoming poorly paid laborers in business’ sectors which are controlled by other parties. They also experienced ‘depeasantsation’. They have lost their independent farming activities to become the poorly paid workers of enterprising capitalists.
What about church? The church has still not been able to encourage people to move consciously or unconsiously toward independent, autonomous forest conservation as before. This is indicated by the fact that there are no reports of church congregations who have established holy or sacred forests, of even one hectare in size, which are protected based on Christian faith. There are only national park, sanctuary and protected forest those are initiated by goverment or international NGO, which by the environmental activists was seen as grabing green (Cf. Fairhead et. Al., 2012, Corson and MacDonal 2012).
I am well aware, it is too simplistic to blame Christianity or Islam for the current environmental crisis and point to native religion as solutions. I agree with Gottlieb (1996: 9) which states that: “religions have been neither simple agents of environment domination nor unmixed repositories of ecological wisdom. In complex and variable ways, they have been both.”
In order to keep us from getting stuck in a romantic or essensialis view that tends to see all non-Western societies as repository of ecological wisdom, it is interesting to read Tim Flannery (1994 which reported that indigenous people are not always wise, they “might be” a source of ecological crisis. Tim Flannery, in his most controversial hypothesis regards early Australian Aboriginal history, argue that based on new sediment core studies, the continent up until 100,000 years ago had much greater expanses of rainforest than after Aboriginal arrival. He poses the "possibility" did Aborigines through firestick farming alter the ecology of Australian flora and fauna. In other side, it is important to recall what was said by Lynn White in 1967 that: "More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present Ecologic crisis until we find a new religion, or rethink your old one . "(1967: 1204).
Based on this paper, it can be concluded that since a long time ago, the Ngaju Dayak people have been running indigenous conservations, namely Pahewan (untouched forest protected by intangible spirits), Tahajan (forest for religious ritual; praying to God), Kaleka (ex. settlement which cannot be used; for honoring ancestors) and Petak Rutas (the land cannot be used before Tiwah conducted).
They do these things based on their theology and divine concepts which they believe, that is that the Supreme Being has representatives on this earth who are stayed at Pahewan, Tajahan and Kaleka. They respect these representatives. As a result of that respect, forest and land, rivers, swamps and lakes which existing around that area sustainably preserved.