For generations the Penan have made a living and maintain a long-term relationship with the land and forest.
In their interactions with the surrounding area, the Penan have left their ‘footprints’ (uban) through a series of former campsites (la’a in Eastern Penan; laa’ lamin in Western Penan) over the landscape, as they moved from one resource-area to another within a specific river system or area.
As they harvest resources they establish ‘tenure’ (olong) over them to ensure systematic management.
The practice of leaving behind their ‘footprints’ and the idea of a resource tenure system are ways they establish long-term relationship with, and rights to the land and its resources.
The Penan have a word tawai that expresses in a particular way their sentiment to the landscape.
It binds the group and individuals to the landscape. Penan feeling for the landscape, expressed through tawai, is told and retold through tesok (oral narratives) to succeeding generations.
It is also expressed and passed down the generations through sinui (Western Penan) or jajan (Eastern Penan) sung for entertainment.
SPEAKER: Jayl Langub is a retired civil servant and currently an Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Borneo Studies, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak