Kanowit in Malaysia

Photo Source:  Anonymous 
People Name: Kanowit
Country: Malaysia
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 600
World Population: 600
Primary Language: Melanau, Kanowit-Tanjong
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 2.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Translation Needed
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Borneo-Kalimantan
Affinity Bloc: Malay Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Kanowit people are a small tribe who live in Sarawak, the island portion of Borneo in the nation of Malaysia. The Kanowit people live is a village called Kampung Bedil. Kanowit is a town and the capital of a district of the same name. The town takes its name from the Kanowit, a Melanau ethnic group.

The Kanowit language is still spoken, and there still are some Kanowit people living in the Kanowit area. However, the language may be doomed to extinction as only about 500 people presently speak the language. Many young Kanowit people prefer to speak Malaysian and are moving out of the Kanowrit homeland to live in the cities. Only Audio Recordings are available in the Kanowit language.

What Are Their Lives Like?

It is a short trip by boat up the Rajang River from Kanowit town. There have been talks of relocating the village to another site as severe erosion of the banks of the Rajang River will soon wash away the remaining houses there. Travel by boat is the primary means of transportation. Dense rain forest occupies the land on both sides of the Rajang River.

The Kanowit people make their living by agriculture and fishing. Some men also work in the logging industry. The Kanowit grow rice, fruit, vegetables, and coconuts on their land near the Rajang River. The Kanowit sell their surplus fish and farm products to buy things they cannot make for themselves.

Village elders make judicial decisions and deal with outsiders. Marriage to one spouse is the norm among the Kanowit. Due to lack of access to modern medicine life expectancy is low and child mortality is high. Children especially girls quit school after a few years to help their families make a living. Since the number of Kanowit people is very small, young people often marry outside of their people. Girls frequently move away and adopt the language and culture of their husbands.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The main religion of the Kanowit is folk religion and animism. They believe that spirits inhabit the objects of nature such as trees, rivers, rocks, and animals. They live in fear of offending these spirits and the ghosts of their ancestors. The village shaman connects the Kanowit with the spirit world. He performs rituals to protect the people. He also gives out charms and amulets for the same purpose.

The Malaysian government is making the effort of trying to convert tribal peoples like the Kanowit to Islam, the dominant religion of Malaysia.

What Are Their Needs?

The Kanowit are a tiny tribe and are losing their language and culture. Christian resources in Kanowit can help the language survive. Teams of believers can bring the Kanowit the benefits of modern medicine.

Prayer Points

Pray for divinely appointed encounters between the Kanowit and believers who will recognize the opportunity to share the gospel with them.

Pray this tribe will be able to provide stable housing to replace housing in danger of being washed away by the Rajang River.

Ask the Lord to send workers to the Kanowit.

Pray the Lord establishes a growing church among this tiny group of Malaysian people.

Text Source:   Joshua Project