The Dohoi of Indonesia
Four major sub-groups of the Ot Danum can be found living on the island of Borneo, located in the Indian Ocean just southwest of the Philippines. They occupy a 180 mile long belt that stretches from the upper Melawi River to the upper Barito River.
The legend of their origin says that there were two brothers and two sisters who descended from the skies on a golden palangka, or altar. The brothers made their way down the Kahayan River, and the sisters journeyed down the Barito River. While hunting, the brothers saw human tracks, which they traced to the two women. There they married. One of the couples went back to the Kahayan, and their descendants eventually became known as the Ot Danum.
What are their lives like?
Dogs, pigs, and chickens are kept as domestic animals, and cows are kept to eat at major festivals. Water buffaloes are herded, but only at a distance because they easily turn wild and can be dangerous to villagers.
The Ot Danum are known throughout the central region for their plaited hats, baskets, and mats. Farming and hunting tools are also made locally.
Villages range in size from 100 to 400 people. Their homes are rectangular in shape, and stand 6 to 15 feet above the ground on wooden posts. The land surrounding each village (for about a two mile radius) is considered to be village property. Each villager has the right to sell his land if he chooses, but only to a fellow villager. Land that remains fallow for more than 5 years may be claimed by anyone in the village.
Cross-cousin marriages are preferred among the Ot Danum. When an agreement has been reached by a couple's parents, the groom's family gives a symbolic gift to the family of the bride. A second gift is given when the engagement is announced. After the marriage has taken place, a bride price is paid.
The tropical conditions of Indonesia demand that light, loose clothing be worn. Loin cloths are often worn for informal events, while wrap-around skirts are worn on formal occasions.
Neighbor relationships vary from group to group. However, those speaking the same dialect seem to maintain the most peaceful relations.
What are their beliefs?
Religious rituals can range from simple events to lengthy feasts. The people look to shamans (witchdoctors) for treatment of their illnesses. Shamans may be either male or female, and are often possessed by evil spirits.
What are their needs?
Even though there are four missions agencies now targeting the Ot Danum, there are only a few hundred believers. The Bible has not yet been translated into their native language, Dohoi. Very few Christian resources are available to them. Sadly, missionaries have not succeeded in raising up a strong group of local Christians who can effectively evangelize their own people.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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