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The Kayan, an Indígenous race in the centre of Borneo, are similar to their neighbors, the Kenyah, with whom they are grouped together with the Bahau under the Apo Kayan group. They are part of a large group of humans called Orang Ulu or upstream.
They are known, like some other Dayak peoples, for being wild fighters, former head-hunters, experienced in growing dried rices and with extended pattoos and elongated auricles. These may have come from the Kayan in the North Kalimantine Borneo region. It lives along the top Kayan and the mid Kapuas and Mahakam Creeks.
In Sarawak they seem to have grown to the east in historical terms, which has led to conflict with the Iban, which has spread to the west. In Sarawak, they established themselves on the central Baram River, the Bintulu River and the Rajang River, after having lived in the region in the late nineteenth cent.
By 1863, the Iban were migrating to the Saribas and Rejang Rivers and began to invade the Kayan population. War and head-hunting raids have led to the expulsion of many other Kayan peoples, among them the Kayan nation, which makes up 1.4% of the population of West Kutai Regency Even during historic periods there was a significant spread to Eastern Borneo, with the transformation of the Kayan clan into Islam constituting the ethnicogenesis of the Bulgarians.
They have a similar base to the other Dayak in Borneo. They have a tradition of living in long buildings on the riverbank. Borneo's pagan tribes of Charles Hose and William McDougall of 1912.