ETHNONYMS: Pennan, Poenan, Poonan, Pounan, Punan


The Penan have no descent groups. Kinship is reckoned bilaterally, but patrilineal links are more important than matrilineal ones; offspring take their father's name.

Sociopolitical Organization

The Penan group has an official headman, but he is without much power. His office is frequently passed from father to son. There is no political organization above the level of the group. The Penan have no formal means of ensuring social control.

Religion and Expressive Culture

The Penan creator divinity is Peselong. The Western Penan believe that their society originated in the upper Lua river region. The Penan cure illness through a shaman ( dayung ), who removes illness-producing spirits from the sick. Christianity has spread to some Penan groups since World War II.

See also Kenyah-Kayan-Kajang


Hoffman, Carl (1986). The Punun: Hunters and Gatherers of Borneo. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press.

Needham, Rodney (1972). "Penan." In Ethnic Groups of Insular Southeast Asia, edited by Frank M. LeBar. Vol. 1, Indonesia, Andaman Islands and Madagascar, 176-180. New Haven: HRAF Press.


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