Deep in Indonesian Borneo, near the Malaysian border, in a village called Setulang, about 800 people of the Kenyah Dayak tribe live in on the edge of the pristine forest.
The Dayaks call the forest ‘Tala Olen’ meaning ‘Forbidden forest’. They have strict cultural rules about cutting down the trees in the forest or damaging it in any way. The Dayaks are spiritually connected to the forest, the rivers and the land.
The Dayaks moved to their current village from deep inside the forest in 1969. The elders we met in Setulang 18 months go have a deep longing to return to their original village at a place called Long Saan, five days by canoe up the river. But they can’t afford the cost of the journey.
We hope that by fundraising to bring the elders back to their ancestral village and making a multimedia documentary about the journey, we can raise awareness of the threats to their unique way of life.
"I left our original homelands when I was a small boy but I remember with much joy my time growing up in the forests and playing in the rivers. It was a very happy time for me and I have always dreamed of returning."
He left Long Sa'an at the age of fifteen and this expedition is to reunite him with these lands and his mother whose soul rests in this place. Philius is very passionate about his culture and is seen as a leader in the village. He plays the Sape ( Dayak guitar) and is a very talented musician and dancer.
When he is not expressing his culture and dance he works very hard gathering fruits and Vegetables from the Jungle aroung Setulang Village.
Philius loves to connect with the forests and is very much at home among the rivers and hillsides of Kalimantan.
Master hunter Kenyah Dayak Remond provided our entire group with fresh game the entirety of our trip. Whether it be a late night trip into the jungle or a quick hand in the river Remond always produces the goods. Remon is like a cat in the jungle and seems to glide through the difficult trails and slippery vegetation. He is a talented football player and one of the most trustworthy people you will ever meet.
The Kenyah Dayak On The Journey Back
This man is very quiet but a real hard worker and skillied in bushcraft and hunting.In fact there is nothing he cannot do in the Jungle and is a master boatsman navigating the trecherous and dangerous currents of the rivers in North Kalimantan.
This proud Dayak is a powerful advocate for the preservation of the forests and Dayak culture. Ramses has worked for various Ngo's in the past and has tremendous knowledge of Dayak tribes from the Kayan and Bahou area. A critical member of the expedition and a great networker who was able to unite all the Dayaks in the area to support our journey to Long Saan.
Has done extensive research on the history of Long Saan and the Dayak Kenyah people. A strong believer in recording the history and legends of Setulang and Long Saan, Bisin is a wealth of knowledge and a talented dancer. He told me he sometimes dreams of Long Saan and was very excited to return home.
Having spent three years in Brazil Benyamin has seen the impacts of deforestation in other parts of the world. Far more comfortable in the forests than the towns Benyamin loves to hunt and fish in the forests near his village. He was very young when his parents moved from Long Saan but still has fond memories of life in the forest.