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Get to know the Uud Danum Dayak Tribe, Guardians of Nature in the Great Foothills

Via Air, Land and Water to Kaki Bukit Raya

If you like climbing, you must already know that Bukit Raya in Kalimantan is one of a series of 7 highest peaks in Indonesia (7 Summits of Indonesia). Its height reaches 2,278 meters above sea level. Of the 6 other peaks, Bukit Raya is the one that is rarely climbed because the journey that must be taken to get to the starting point of the climb is very long and requires a large amount of money. It is at the foot of Bukit Raya in West Kalimantan that the Dayak Uud Danum tribe who migrated from Central Kalimantan live in the villages of Nanga Jelundung and Rantau Malam who live side by side at the head of the Serawai river.

In August this year, we went on a long journey to meet and learn about the lives of the Dayak Uud Danum people at the foot of Bukit Raya, West Kalimantan. We use all modes of transportation to get there: air, land and water. From Sukadana, the location of the ASRI office, we traveled overland to Ketapang airport. From there, we took a flight to Supadio airport, Pontianak. After that, we had to change to an ATR-72 propeller plane to fly to the small Tebelian airport, Sintang. Oh yes, this propeller plane only flies three times a week. So if we fly on the wrong day, our trip could be delayed several days. Eits, don't think the journey ends there. Next, we had to travel overland from the airport to Nanga Pinoh, Melawi district. From here the water journey begins!


We took a speedboat up the Melawi River to the Serawai River. If you are not used to it, anyone can suffer from being drunk for around 4 hours. After arriving in Serawai, we moved using a roofless klotok boat. We have to be prepared to tan if the weather is hot, or be ready to protect ourselves from the rain if the weather is bad. The trip from Serawai to Rantau Malam using klotok really depends on the river water flow. If it's dry, the klotok will often get stuck because the water is low, so passengers have to get out and push it along. If it's normal, the journey to Rantau Malam can take 4 to 5 hours. We finally arrived at Nanga Jelundung & Rantau Malam Village, the upper reaches of the Serawai River after two days of travel.


Dayak Uud Danum Tribe, Guardians of Nature in the Great Foothills

The Uud Danum/Ot Danum Dayak tribe who live in the upper reaches of the Serawai River at the foot of Bukit Raya are descendants of the Dayak tribe who originate from the upper reaches of the Kapuas River, Central Kalimantan. Uud/Ot means "people" or "upstream", while Danum means "water". Uud Danum means "water people" or "people who live upstream of the river". At the foot of Bukit Raya, the Uud Danum Dayak tribe inhabits two villages on the upper reaches of the Serawai river: Nanga Jelundung and Rantau Malam. Most of them are engaged in cultivating rice and vegetables. in gardens and fields to meet daily consumption needs. Apart from that, there are also residents who open stall businesses, rent out accommodation & porter services to climbers, make rattan crafts, and raise kelulut honey bees.

Most of the activities they do are still very close to nature. The river is the center of activity in both villages and is never quiet. In the morning, from children to parents start activities on the river. They shower, wash, or prepare the boat for travel. During the day, children spend time swimming and learning to row a boat. Meanwhile, in the evening, they set nets and spear fish to take home and cook at home. They also use the clear water of the Serawai River for drinking and cooking. The Serawai River is like the lifeblood of the Dayak Uud Danum tribe in both villages.

Apart from spending a lot of time in the river, they also spend a lot of time in the forest. The rice fields and vegetable fields they cultivate are located in the forest around the village. They also go into the forest to hunt animals, look for wood, hunt for rattan for home furnishings, and plants that can be consumed or used as medicine. For them, the forest is like a home where they do many activities. It is not uncommon for them to stay overnight to hunt or look for certain plants.

“There is no longer any fear in the forest. It's a place to look for side dishes, a place to sleep. "Sometimes I just worry about fallen trees," said Mr. Jakat while stirring the fish he caught in the river. He usually dives and spears fish in the river whenever he is a porter accompanying climbers on Bukit Raya and cooks them directly in the forest.

Pak Jakat and other Dayak Uud Danum communities at the foot of Bukit Raya still hold tightly to and practice traditional teachings and ancestral traditions. These teachings are still taught orally in the family circle. Traditional management organizations also still enforce customary laws that regulate their way of life, including how to treat nature. They have a prohibition on cutting down trees in certain zones and a prohibition on polluting rivers which are the lifeblood of their lives. There will be customary penalties and sanctions imposed if they violate it.


"The forest is breath for us from the Dayak Uud Danum tribe," emphasized Yustina, a community leader in Nanga Jelundung Village. He emphasized the importance of enforcing customary law to preserve the forests and rivers at the foot of Bukit Raya.


ASRI's Thank You Form for Guardians of Nature

 In July 2023, ASRI will be present in the villages of Rantau Malam and Nanga Jelundung together with its main partners, the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park Office and the local Health Service. During these two months, we have gotten to know the Uud Danum Dayak Tribe who inhabit the two villages at the foot of Bukit Raya and would like to thank them for protecting nature through their local wisdom all this time.

"If the world community wants to thank you because you protect forests, what form of thanks do you need?"

Starting from that question, we partnered with the two villages to carry out activities that help them stay healthy & prosperous so they can continue to preserve nature where they live. Activities and assistance are provided according to the needs and desires they convey. To date, our doctors, nurses and medical teams have provided health services several times and helped them save time and costs for treatment. We have also distributed drinking water filters, and carried out environmental education activities in schools.


Not only did we carry out activities as a form of gratitude, we also learned a lot about how nature works from the Dayak Uud Danum tribe, its guardians. The ASRI research team together with the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park Center (BTNBBBR) invited the National Innovation Research Agency (BRIN) to get to know the Dayak Uud Danum tribe and learn how they carry out treatment using plants they find in nature.

Want to thank the Uud Danum Dayak Tribe, the forest saviors at the foot of Bukit Raya? Continue to support ASRI's programs to create a healthy and prosperous Dayak Uud Danum community in Nanga Jelundung & Rantau Malam Village so that they can continue to protect nature in Kaki Bukit Raya. Look forward to the next stories!