Battling extinction: Preserve Sekapan tribe, found only in two Sarawak villages with fewer than 1,000 people

Liwan in traditional attire participating in the 'Get to Know Sekapan Culture' programme at Atau Lasan Peng Sirek Gun (Anak Murai) hall in Rumah Sekapan Piit, Belaga on May 22, 2024. Photo credit: Ukas

By DayakDaily Team

BELAGA, May 23: The Sekapan tribe, a unique indigenous community found only in Sarawak, inhabits just two villages and has a population of fewer than 1,000 people, according to the latest Department of Statistics data.

With such a small population, Deputy Minister of Creative Industry and Performing Arts Datuk Snowdan Lawan emphasised the urgent need to intensify efforts to preserve the Sekapan’s ethnic cultural heritage, fearing that they may become extinct in the face of modernisation.

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“The Sekapan people are one of the unique ethnic minorities in Sarawak, rich in cultural heritage, arts and an impressive way of life.

“However, many people, including Sarawakians, are unaware of their existence,” he said in a news report by Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas).

He highlighted this when speaking at the opening ceremony of the ‘Get to Know Sekapan Culture’ programme at Atau Lasan Peng Sirek Gun (Anak Murai) hall in Rumah Sekapan Piit here yesterday (May 22).

Snowdan (third right) and Liwan (second right) playing the sape during the ‘Get to Know Sekapan Culture’ programme at Rumah Sekapan Piit, Belaga on May 22, 2024. Photo credit: Ukas

Welcoming the programme, Snowdan recognised that events like this are crucial to showcase the Sekapan’s unique cultural heritage and demonstrate their existence through records, books and photo evidence.

According to him, in the early 1980s, the Sekapan tribe was categorised under the Kajang ethnic group and included in the provisions of the Federal Constitution Article 161A(6) alongside the Kejaman, Punan, Tanjong, and Kenawit ethnic groups.

Among the important features of Sekapan cultural heritage is Klirieng, or burial poles.

Deputy Minister of Telecommunication Datuk Liwan Lagang congratulated the Belaga Sekapan Ethnic Association (PBSB), the Ministry of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts (MTCP), and the Belaga District Office for organising the programme, noting its importance in ensuring that Sekapan children do not forget their culture and origins.

Snowdan (seated, fourth left) flanked by Liwan on his left in a photo with attendees at the ‘Get to Know Sekapan Culture’ programme at Rumah Sekapan Piit, Belaga on May 22, 2024.

Snowdan also announced grants amounting to RM15,000 to Rh Sekapan Piit Women Bureau, and RM10,000 for its Youth Bureau, while Liwan contributed RM15,000 to the Kajang Association and RM15,000 to the PBSB.

Additionally, Senator Michael Mujah Lihan presented grants of RM5,000 each to PBSB and Rh Sekapan Piit Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK).

Meanwhile, the two-day programme featured various activities, including exhibitions and demonstrations of Sekapan cultural heritage. — DayakDaily

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