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  Traditional Medicine Among the Ngaju Dayak of Central Kalimantan: The 1935 Writings of a Former Ngaju Dayak Priest  

A.H. Klokke, Editor


Price $25.00

ISBN 0-9629568-7-2



Salilah, the author of this text on Ngaju medical practices, was a Ngaju Dayak priest and one of Dr. Schärer’s informants.  In the 1930s he began training as a medical assistant at the missionary hospital founded by the Basler Mission.  Here in 1935, Ruth Spiller, a Swiss nurse, persuaded Salilah to write about traditional medicine in order to assist the staff, and it is due to her that we now have this important text.

In the text is a list of diseases and their treatments.  There is a chapter on various types of magic spells (panyangka), including those to counteract attempts at poisoning.  There is a list of diseases for which smoke produced by burning plant materials is used as a treatment.  Taboos surrounding pregnancy and childbirth are fully listed.  And procedures involved in the worship of Jata, the goddess of the Underworld are described.

Finally, Salilah gives an account of the procedures carried out by the priest in treating a patient, including the ceremonies used, the various types of spirits and their effects on people, and the calling up of spirit helpers to aid in the treatment.




Dr. Arnoud H. Klokke, the translator, after studying medicine at Leiden University, was appointed District Medical Officer in 1949 for the Kapuas region, Central Kalimantan, a district the size of the Netherlands.  Of necessity, he learned the Ngaju Dayak language and observed their various customs.

Later Klokke carried out the national anti-yaws campaign in his district, which involved traveling for months to remote parts of the district.  In 1952, Klokke was adopted by two Ngaju Dayak families.  In 1954, Klokke was seconded to the National Headquaters of the Anti-yaws compaign at Jogyakarta and took his doctoral degree at the Gajah Mada University on an epidemiological and serological study of yaws.  In 1955, he returned to Kalimantan.

His work in Indonesia came to an end in 1959 due to the confrontation between his country and Indonesia.  He then became Professor of Dermatology, University of Groningen, and is now Professor Emeritus.

More than half of his career in Indonesia was shared by his wife, the physician Ada Coster.  Her mother, an orientalist, had unintentionally prepared her daughter for life in Kalimantan, by providing her with pictures from Nieuwenuis’s book (907) Quer durch Borneo, at times when she was suffering from childhood disease.

Klokke’s unique background has enabled him to provide a definitive translation with annotations of this important text, the first by an indigenous religious practitioner in Kalimantan.


Preface - Anne L. Schiller

Dr. Arnold H. Klokke: A Biographical Sketch of the Indonesian Part of his Career - Arnoud H. Klokke


1. Peres Tuntang Ampin Tatambae Hong Utus Ngaju DayakBDiseases and Their Medication Among the Ngaju Dayak People

2. PanyangkaBMagic Spells

3. MarabonBSmoking Out

4. Hadat Agama Oloh Helo Amon Batihi ManakB Religious Traditions of Our Incestors About Pregnancy and Childhood

5. MalambongBOffering a Sacrificial Boat

6. Amon Oloh Haban Inguan Mahapan Oloh Tukang BadewaBWhen a Patient is Cared For By People Who Use a Healer (tabit) Who Calls Up Dewa Spirits

Appendix: Vernacular Names of Plants and Trees



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