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The Selako Dayak of Indonesia

[IMAGE] The peoples of southern Borneo can be grouped into four main categories: Malay, Migrant, Dayak, and Ot. The Selako Dayak are part of the Dayak group of people who live in Sarawak, Malaysia, and Kalimantan, Indonesia.

The name "Dayak" is a collective term used to describe a number of primarily non-Muslim ethnic and linguistic groups. Those who convert to Islam usually retain their Dayak tongue for a while, but they prefer to be called Orang Melayu, rather than Dayak. Living along the banks of the large river systems, the Dayak grow rice using the "slash and burn" technique. They also collect forest products such as rattan, ironwood, rubber, resin, and animal skins.

The Dayaks can be further identified as either Land Dayak or Sea Dayak (primarily a European designation to separate the various groups). The majority of Land Dayak in Indonesia, including the Selako, live along tributary streams behind the city of Pontianak.

What are their lives like?
The Selako Dayak live in an area characterized by rolling hills averaging a few hundred feet above sea level. The land is largely covered with secondary growth and occasionally interrupted by forested limestone peaks. Rainfall averages 150 inches a year, with a monsoon season from October to March. Temperatures range from a maximum of 85 F. during the day to 75 F. at night.

The Selako Dayak make a living mainly by growing rice, but they also engage in fishing and some hunting. In difficult years, wild sago (a kind of palm) is used to supplement their diets. Many households also grow rubber and coffee as cash crops. Because of their need for salt, the Dayak maintain contact with the coastal peoples.

Selako Dayak villages are large, relatively permanent, and mostly located near streams. Often, several communities join together to form village clusters. Usually there is more than one long-house in each village, and these may be interconnected by raised walkways.

A common feature of the villages is the so-called "headhouse." This house might be better described as a combination men's house, community council house, and ceremonial center. It consists of a large circular room or hall with a high cone-shaped roof. Usually raised on stilts up to 30 feet tall, the headhouse is entered through a trap door in the floor.

The household forms the basic unit of Selako Dayak society. Its members live near one another and observe the same taboos and superstitions. Descent within the family plays a role in determining land use.

In marriage, a bride-price is rarely paid. Instead, the prospective groom's father presents betel nut (seed of the betel palm) and lime to the girl's father. (This mixture is chewed as a mild stimulant.) After the acceptance of the gift, there is a wedding ceremony attended by close relatives of the couple.

What are their beliefs?
The great majority of the Selako Dayak are ethnic religionists, following their ancient traditions and religions. It is reported that they have knowledge of a supreme being, but this is overshadowed by their other beliefs. They worship ancestral spirits, make offerings to stones that are thought to have magical powers and other objects, and pay homage to a war god.

The protection of ancestral spirits is sought through village ceremonies that combine festivities with religious rituals. Specific foods and activity taboos observed among some of the villages and families are usually inherited from the female line.

What are their needs?
In past times, the Land Dayak were abused by bordering Malaysian rulers. They also lost much of their land as a result of headhunting raids of the Sea Dayak.. Today, some of the Selako Dayak still have a "slave complex" as a result of this long history of exploitation. Intercession must be made for the Selako Dayak so that they might find true freedom and identity in Jesus.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers who will minister the love of Jesus to the Selako Dayak.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agency that is targeting the Selako Dayak.
  • Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Selako Dayak.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up linguists to translate the Bible into Selako.
  • Pray that God will give the Selako Dayak believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Selako Dayak bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Selako Dayak church for the glory of His name!

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Selako Dayak
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Selako
  • Population: (1990) 118,700
    (1995) 128,300
    (2000) 138,100
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionist 98%
  • Christians: 2%
  • Church members: 2,565
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 1
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 28,200 (22%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 10,300 (8%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 17,900 (14%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 100,100 (78%)
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Population: (1990) 182,811,600
    (1995) 197,587,700
    (2000) 212,730,600
  • Major peoples in size order: Javanese 26.2%
    Javanese Indonesian 10.7%
    Sudanese 10.6%
    Madurese 10.7%
    Sudanese Indonesian 3.1%
    Han Chinese 2.6%
  • Major religions: Muslims 43.7%
    New-Religionists 35%
    Christians 13%
    Ethnic religionists 2.6%
    Hindus 1.9%
    Nonreligious 1.9%
    Buddists 1.0%
  • Number of denominations: 113

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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