1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sakai

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SAKAI, an aboriginal people of the Malay peninsula found chiefly in south Perak, Selangor and Pahang. Representatives are widely scattered among Malayan villages, but these are so crossed with the Malays as to be no longer typical. An attempt has been made to identify the Sakai with the Mon-Annam group of races, i.e. the tribes which till 600 years ago possessed what is now Siam, and some of whom still occupy Pegu and Cambodia. Professor Virchow suggested that the Sakai belong to what he calls the Dravido-Australian race. the chief representatives of which he finds in the Veddahs of Ceylon, the civilized Tamils of south India and the aborigines of Australia. In essential characteristics of hair and head there is a remarkable agreement. The difficulty in accepting the theory is in the colour of the skin, which among the Sakais is often a light shade of yellowish brown, whereas among Tamils black is the prevailing colour. Virchow meets this by pointing out that Sinhalese, though admittedly Aryans, are often so dark as to be practically black. The Sakais are, however, it is now generally held, kinsmen of their Negrito neighbours, the Semangs (q.v.), and are, like the latter, dwarfish, seldom exceeding 4 ft. 9 in. Their skins are usually a darkish brown, but showing a reddish tinge about the breast and extremities. The head is long, and the hair a black brown, rather wavy then woolly. The face inclines to be long, and would be hatchet-shaped but for the breadth of the cheek bones. The chin is long and pointed, the forehead high and flat, the brows often beetling. The nose is small, slightly tilted or rounded off at the tip, but broad and with deep-set nostrils. The beard is usually scanty. The arm-stretch is almost always greater than their height. Their food is varied; the wilder tribes living on jungle fruits and game they hunt with the blowpipe, while the more civilized grow yams, sweet potatoes, maize, sugar cane, rice and tapioca. The Sakai blow-pipe is a tube 6 to 8 ft. long formed of a single joint of a rare species of bamboo (Bambusa Wrayi). This tube is inserted into another for protection. The darts are made of line slivers from the mid-rib of the leaf of certain palms, and are about the size of a knitting needle. The point is usually coated with poison compounded from the sap of the Upas tree (Antiaris toxicaria) and of a species of strychnos. Each dart is carried in a separate reed, thirty to fifty of these latter being rolled up and carried in a bamboo quiver. The Sakais can kill at thirty paces with these blow-pipes. They are nomads, building mere leaf-shelters in or under the trees. Their dress is of bark-cloth and they scar their faces, as do the Semangs. They are skilful in mat-making and basketwork, but they have no kind of weaving or pottery. They are musical, using a rough lute of bamboo and a nose-flute, and they sing well in chorus. They have in common with the Semangs curious marriage ceremonies. The dead are slung from a pole and carried to a distant spot in the jungle. Here, wrapped in new bark-cloth, the body is buried in a shallow trench, the clothes worn by the deceased being burned in a fire lighted near the grave. When filled up, rice is sown on the grave and watered, and some herbs and bananas are planted round it for the soul to feed on. Afterwards a three-cornered hutch, not unlike a doll's-house but mounted on high piles, is built at the foot, in which the soul may live. This soul-house is about 1½ ft. high, is thatched with leaves and has a ladder by which the soul can climb in.