This page is about the genealogical traditions of the iban people from their mythical past ancestors to this modern day Ibans. Originally the tusut was told from one generation to the next by oral tradition and mentioned in various songs, prayers, praise performed at various rituals of the Iban people. My hope is to keep alive the memory of my ancestors journey and sacrifice through time …………….the blood, sweat and tears they shed to carve the way for the survival of their descendant. Let their hope and prayer for us will not be in vain.
From the time when God created Dayang Laing from a golden rock (tengkulas batu mas) , through the time Bejie climbed the stairway to heaven to seek answers from God, the arrival of Sengalang Burong and the people of Tansang Kenyalang, the arrival of the Panggau Libau and Gellong people, the arrival of Pateh Ambau (a nobleman from Minangkabau), to their present day descendent, the journey has been very eventful (at times brutal) and has been transcribed in various pages of this website. The main aim of this publication is to share with readers and the future generations the study of our Iban family tree as they spread their wings out across the land of hornbill.
Gregory Nyanggau Mawar
Uchu Sengalang Burong
Benedict Sandin & Professor Clifford Sather wrote:
ABOUT THE TUSUT GENEALOGIES
The genealogies presented in the following appendix represent an important source of supplemental documentation. They derive, as explained in the Introduction, from the tusut, i.e., memorized, orally transmitted lines of descent preserved in memory by recognized genealogists and those whose pedigrees they trace. In addition to oral tusut, since the turn of the century a number of these lines have been recorded in writing (in Romanized Iban) and today there exists in the main Saribas, Layar, Paku, and Rimbas rivers, a considerable body of written genealogical traditions. These have also been drawn on by the author.
Like the original tusut from which they derive, each genealogy that appears in the following appendix consists of a single-line pedigree. Each begins with a named founder (pun) and is traced through a single descendant in each generation. The descendant through whom the genealogy is traced may be either a man or a woman. It is in this form, as a single-line, bilateral pedigree, that individual tusut are typically memorized and recited by the Iban, and it was in this form that the author originally recorded them in written transcription.
It is important to stress that while each tusut represents a single-line genealogy, the tusut as a collective body of oral genealogical traditions are extremely branching. Through their interconnection they provide individual with a number of alternative ways of tracing ancestry, or of establishing his or her kinship with other persons. Thus the genealogies presented here can only hint at the complexity of the tusut genealogies as an active, living, continually changing body of oral tradition.
The method the author has used to present these genealogies requires a brief explanation (see also Sandin 1967: 94-95). Essentially, the materials are presented in three columns. The first column begins with the name of the pedigree founder. It lists by generation each successive descendant through whom the line is traced. The “X” that appears between the names listed in the first and second columns indicates marriage. The names in column 2 are therefore the names of the husbands or wives (if known) of the main-line descendants whose names appear preceding the “X” in column 1. As already noted, Iban kinship is bilateral and the tusut, as I mentioned in the Introduction, are traced through women as well as men. Unless the sex of an individual is clear from the context, women are indicated in the genealogies by a (f).
The names that appear in column 3 are those of the offspring of the married couples whose names are paired in columns 1 and 2. Since each genealogy is a single-line pedigree, the name of only one of these offspring reappears in column 1 at the start of the next generation below. This, of course, is the main-line descendant through whom the pedigree is traced.
Here it should be noted that the names of additional offspring may be, and, indeed, in the case of recent generations, frequently are remembered, and may be given when a tusut is recited. This feature of the tusut can be seen from the genealogies recorded here. The recall of additional offspring, beside the main-line descendant, is one of the factors that accounts for the ramifying nature of the tusut. Another even more important factor is the pairing of husbands and wives, both of whose names, except in the earliest generations of very long tusut, are listed when the tusut is recited. This is illustrated by the examples I discussed in the Introduction. Potentially, and very often in fact, each child is the point of departure for an additional tusut. Which offspring is used in following out a line of descent will depend upon the purpose an individual has in mind in reciting a tusut, and often, in tracing ancestry back in time, points of collateral connection are established between persons as a result of their ability to recall the names of additional brothers or sisters, beside the main-line descendants through whom connecting lines are being traced. Not surprisingly the names of additional offspring, up to seven or eight, are more commonly recalled for the most recent generations in any particular tusut. Again, this can be seen from the genealogies that follow. On the other hand, the earliest generations in the case of particularly long genealogies rarely include the names of more than one offspring. In some cases even the names of husbands and wives are absent (see, for example, Genealogy I, generations 1-6; or Genealogy II, generations 1-10). Additional names begin to occur frequently some ten generations before the present, and in the Saribas are regularly remembered, and tend to be quite complete, for the most recent four or five generations.
An additional factor that adds further flexibility to the tusut is that pedigrees may be traced through either adoptive or natural parents. As adoption is frequent, this allows most individuals, as noted in the Introduction, further lines of ascent in tracing their ancestry.
In the genealogies that follow the author gives examples that suggest something of the highly branching nature of the tusut. Following a complete single-line pedigree (batang tusut), he has, in some cases, recorded a number of partial branching lines (pechah tusut), each diverging through a brother or sister of one of its main-line descendants. The point of divergence is indicated by the numbering of generations. This follows from the main-line pedigree. Thus, for example, Genealogy la branches from Genealogy I at generation 26. The main-line genealogy is traced through Cheraring (f), while Genealogy la is traced from her brother Jantan (see Genealogy 1 and la, gen. 26). Both are children of Sawai and Kaya, as shown from the main-line pedigree.
Generations, in all cases, are consecutively numbered, beginning with the generation of the pedigree founder, represented here as generation 1. The same system was used by Benedict Sandin in his previous writings, including The Sea Dayaks. Numbering is thus in accordance with each genealogy itself. This system is, of course, arbitrary. It assumes that for each particular genealogy no more remote ancestor is known than the one whose name appears at the start of the first column as the tusut’s “source”. In actuality, it is always possible, of course, that other informants may exist who are able to extend this pedigree further back in time, beyond this particular ancestor to an even more remote “source”.
Counting both main-line and branching genealogies, the author has recorded 68 genealogies in the following appendix. These vary in the number of generations they contain from 4 to 32. The mean number is 18. All end with adults who were alive, most of them married and with children, between 1976 and 1981, when these genealogies were originally compiled.
The personal names that appear in the tusut introduce a possible element of confusion. Every Iban receives a personal name (nama) soon after birth and their use in the tusut represents one important context in which personal names are employed by the Iban. Possible confusion arises from the fact that such names are not necessarily retained, but may be changed and a new name taken at any time during an individual’s life, as a result, for example, of ill-health or persistent misfortune. As a consequence, it is not uncommon for the same person to be known by more than one name in the course of his or her lifetime. As a result, it occasionally happens that the same individual may appear in one tusut under one name and in another under a different name. In addition, the same name may be pronounced differently. This is most apparent when dealing with the names of remote ancestors whose descendants now live in widely separated areas. These differences may be marked enough to make it difficult to establish the identity of particular ancestors, or to correlate genealogies from different regions.
Another source of possible confusion derives from the practice of re-bestowing (ngangkat) the same personal name on a descendant of the original name-bearer in every fourth generation. In the Saribas, such re-bestowal of names is a very common practice. As a result, the same names tend to appear again and again within single family lines. An example of this practice can be seen in the case of “Blaki” in Genealogy I and of “Uyut” in Genealogy III. Names are never re-bestowed on nearer generations. This insures that the original name bearer is never alive at the same time as his or her namesake. The avoidance is also related to a prohibition (pemali) on the use of personal names between in-laws of the same and closely ascending and descending generations (see Sandin 1980a: 65 for a brief discussion of this prohibition). Such a prohibition would be difficult to observe if names were re-bestowed on nearer descendants. In order to avoid confusion between ancestors and descendants bearing the same name, the author has distinguished between them, whenever they occur in the same genealogy, by the use of Roman numerals, e.g., in Genealogy I, Blaki I, Blaki II, and so on. This convention is, of course, the author’s own and is unknown in the original tusut. Here, however, the terms tuai (elder) and biak (junior) are sometimes used, appended to names, to distinguish those of earlier and later generations.
Personal names are seldom used in conversation or direct address among those who are well-known to one another, including members of the same longhouse. Except for children, their use is generally regarded as impolite or disrespectful. Once a person is married and has a son or daughter, he or she is ordinarily addressed by a teknonym, that is to say, by the name of his or her child, as either “Mother of (indai)…” or “Father of (apai) So-and-So” (using the child’s personal name), for example, as Indai Mawat (“Mother of Mawat”) or Apai Lada (“Father of Lada)”. The child whose name is used is usually the first-born or first-born son. Later, a person may be known by the name of a grandchild, as “Grandmother of (ini’)…” or “Grandfather of (aki’) So-and-So”. Teknonyms rarely appear in the tusut although they are occasionally used in the historical narratives and sometimes appear in ritual invocations of ancestors.
In the past warriors who succeeded in taking the head (antu pala) of an enemy in war were entitled to bear a praise-name or ensumbar as a way of commemorating their prowess. In the genealogies that follow, as well as in the main text and notes, praise-names are enclosed in quotation marks. Examples, which are many, include “Bedilang Besi” (“Iron Hearth”), “Mali Lebu” (“Invincible”), “Rentap” (“Collapse”), “Bujang Berani” (“Brave Bachelor”), “Tarang” (“Brilliant”), and “Lang Ngindang” (“Soaring Hawk”). Ensumbar are commonly used in chants and oral narratives, but appear in the tusut, as a rule, only in combination with personal names. However, many Iban leaders of the past are remembered chiefly by their praise-name. For this reason, the author has recorded both praise-names and personal names when both have been preserved in the oral tradition. Again, the use of praise-names introduces a possible element of confusion. This is because the same ensumbar was sometimes taken in the past by more than one warrior. Examples from the present study include, for example, Jiram “Rentap” and Libau “Rentap“, Tur “Bayang” and Dana “Bayang“. Many others could be cited.
In The Sea Dayak of Borneo, Benedict Sandin (1967: 95-96) reminded his readers of the gaps and inconsistencies that exist in the tusut traditions. This reminder deserves repeating. The existence of significant discrepancies should hardly be surprising, given the fact that we are dealing here with verbally transmitted traditions which serve a variety of significant social functions and depend, very largely, on human memory for their preservation. Thus the tusut relate not merely to the past, but continue to play an active part in contemporary social relations as well. Among other things, they legitimize claims to historical leadership or to past emigrational priority; they help keep alive kinship ties; and secure land rights and community boundaries. What is surprising is that these traditions are as consistent and as rich in historical materials as we find them. Aside from annotation, no attempt has been made to rewrite the genealogies that follow, to make them more “logical” or historically coherent. Instead, the author has recorded them from the tusut exactly as the latter were entered into his field-notes, so that they might be read independently, over and against the mythic and historical narratives that form his principal historical sources.
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