From the Forest We Get Our Life

"I was just starting to learn to hunt from my father when he died. So my father had no opportunity to teach me. So I learned from my uncle, using a blowpipe made of bamboo. I started with bats. But I used darts without poison. The reason why they don't give you many poisoned darts is safety. Even if one just pricks your skin, you will die. Even if it does not break off, you'll still die.

An enlargement of 8-year old Ibau Jiki hunting birds. (58 K, JPEG)

"In the beginning they did not give me many poisoned darts, but as I took more and more pu'an, mega, telé, [three distinct squirrels] they gave me more darts, and they were more potent. So then I worked up to koyat and nyakit [monkeys] and hunted them successfully. And all the animals that are higher in the trees. Then I went hunting and saw this barking deer. Of course, when you are young, you are not strong enough to blow the darts hard, so after my first shot, the deer ran away, and then it stopped, and so I went in closer, and I blew again. And then it moved just a short distance, and it died. I wasn't big at all. I couldn't even carry the deer. After that, they gave me larger darts. I still did not know how to make the poison.

"Only later did I encounter a wild pig. The first babui was a really big one. The tusks were big like this. The dart entered the pig, and the pig ran only as far as a place nearby where it had been sleeping, and then it died. I only carried back the internal organs, because it was not possible for me to carry the whole animal. So the adults felt really happy that I was able to kill the pig, because they had just thought of me as a young inexperienced child. And so they gave me a quiver, and keleput mu'un, keleput kebit, a real blowpipe, a long blowpipe. The blowpipe that I had used to kill the babui was just this long."

Asik Nyelit, headman, Ubong River, February 1993

""Here, even if a little child goes hunting, he'll come back with meat; even if a little child goes to find sago, he'll come back with sago. This makes us feel happy. We have never had a bad life here, we have never wanted for food here, there has always been food in abundance. The forest is like a shop, because there's always food for us in the forest. At the longhouse they have to plant food before they can eat; here, we don't have to plant, it's much easier, there's always food for us in abundance. The food that they plant at the longhouses often runs out; but here, our food can never run out. And we are always happy, for there is clear water, and the forest is always a delight to us. And here, even when it rains, and it is cold, we are still happy. And thus our life has been since our origins."

Lejeng Kusin, Ubong River, May 1993

A larger picture of fire being carried through a nomadic encampment. (55K, JPEG)

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