Kayan, Mahakam in Indonesia

Kayan, Mahakam
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Map Source:  People Group location: IMB / SIL. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Kayan, Mahakam
Country: Indonesia
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 2,200
World Population: 2,200
Primary Language: Kayan Mahakam
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 5.00 %
Evangelicals: 2.00 %
Scripture: Translation Needed
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: No
People Cluster: Borneo-Kalimantan
Affinity Bloc: Malay Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Mahakam Kayan are a small group of indigenous people who live in the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo. The Mahakam were traditionally a nomadic hunter-gatherer people whose lives depending upon slash and burn method of agriculture, fishing and hunting. Towards the early part of the 20th century the Mahakam began to settle down and live in villages near navigable rivers. The Dutch colonial government encouraged this move to a more stationary life. For many years the Mahakam experienced precarious lives as they were at constant war with other tribes, especially the larger Iban. The Iban would raid Mahakam settlements killing and removing the heads of the Mendalam men and enslaving their women and children. In turn the Mahakam warriors would seek revenge and attack Iban villages. Fortunately, the Dutch were able to, for the most part, put an end to the cycle of violence and revenge warfare.

Christianity has reached many of the non-Muslim tribal peoples of Borneo. The Mahakam, however, still practice their traditional folk religion, shamanism and veneration of ancestors. No Christian resources currently exist in the Mendalam language.

Where Are they Located?

The Mahakam Kayan people live in the rain forest of the central part of Borneo Island. They live in the Indonesian side of Borneo in the Kalimantan Timur district.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The lives of the Mahakam are changing. Once a migratory people of hunters and forest gatherers, they have now living in villages near rivers where they can employ their dugout canoes. Some Mahakam have moved to cities and to the coast in search of a better life. The Mahakam used to live in long houses on the banks of rivers. These long houses would serve as shelter for up to 50 families. The chief's room was in the middle of the long house. Now most Mahakam live in single-family dwellings.

The Mahakam grow dry rice and corn as their main foods. Dry rice is rice that is planted in dry ground, not in rice paddies. The Mahakam also raise animals like chickens, pigs, ducks, and cattle. Hunting and fishing are still mainstays of the Mendalam economy. Mahakam men hunt animals with blowguns with darts tipped with poison.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The primary religion practiced by the Mahakam Kayan is ethnic religion. Ethnic religion is deeply rooted in a people's ethnic identity. Each village has a shaman who is reputed to have powers to connect with the spirit world and with the ancestors. The shaman also serves as physician and village priest. He casts magic spells and performs rituals to appease the evil natural spirits who inhabit the spirit world. The Mendalam people live in fear of evil spirits and of offending their dead ancestors.

What Are Their Needs?

The Mahakam have many needs. They need teachers and schools for their children. They need help in learning new job skills. They need the benefits of modern medicine. Most of all, they need to hear and understand the message of Christ who can free them from their fear of evil spirits and grant them forgiveness of their sins.

Prayer Points

Pray for the Lord to raise up a strong disciple making movement to saturate the hearts and minds of the Mahakam Kayan people of Indonesia.
Pray for God's blessing, strengthening and healing of Mahakam Kayan families and communities through the abundant life Jesus offers to all who call on His name.
Pray for God's blessing on the leaders of the Mahakam Kayan people, along with their families, and for their communities to welcome and enjoy God's blessing.
Pray for the Lord to multiply the reception and influence of His Word among the Mahakam Kayan people, leading them to love Him with their whole being.

Text Source:   Keith Carey