Modang - History and Cultural Relations

Oral history and genealogies point to the upper Kayan area, the Apo Kayan Plateau, as the last major settlement area of the Modang before they migrated to the lowlands of Kutai and Doberai or Bulungan in the late eighteenth century. It is known as Kejin/Kejien, according to the various isolects. If one goes further back in time, the Bahau-Punjungan region was occupied by Modang, Kayan, and Bahau subgroups before the Kenyah migrations from Sarawak started in the seventeenth century. During the early nineteenth century (1810-1840), the Modang, as the major Dayak entity in Kutai and Doberai, were challenging the Malay sultanate's power. They were then practicing ritual headhunting on a larger scale than any other Dayak group in eastern Borneo. The Modang show close cultural similarities to the Bahau, the Busang, and Kayan. They are part of a central-northeast Borneo culture area. Social structure, religious beliefs, custom ( adat ), and technology constitute variations on a common background. Within the Kayan-Kenyah-Bahau cultural complex, however, the Modang exhibit a particular differentiation. They distinguish themselves by their village organization: the existence of a men's house ( ewéang in Wehèa, petoèh in Long Way, etc.), and the institution of the chief's "great house" ( msow pwun in Wehèa). Generally they appear more conservative than the other populations of the region. They have retained cultural elements discarded by others, for instance the great number of taboos ( pli' ) observed during the rice cycle. The description given here applies mainly to the Modang Wehèa.

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