Iban - Orientation

Identification. The name "Iban" is of uncertain origin. Early scholars regarded it as originally a Kayan term, hivan, meaning "wanderer." The use of the name by those Iban in closer association with Kayan gives support to this possibility. Other Iban, of Sarawak's First and Second Divisions, used the name "Dayak," and even today consider "Iban" a borrowed term. The participation of a few Iban in alliances with Malays for coastal piracy in the nineteenth century led to their being called "Sea Dayaks."

Location. Iban are to be encountered in all of the political divisions of the island of Borneo, but in the largest numbers in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, on the northwest coast. They have lived predominantly in the middle-level hills of the island, and during the last 150 years, fully half have moved onto the delta plains. Within the past 25 years, 20 percent of Sarawak's Iban have moved into the state's urban centers.

Demography. There were approximately 400,000 Iban in the state of Sarawak in 1989 (368,208 in 1980). Reliable figures for Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island, are unavailable.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Iban language is distinct from other Bornean languages, and though it shares a limited number of words with Malay it is not a Malay dialect.

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