The Praak Sangkiil: Spotted Doves at War
State University of New York at Buffalo
Senoi Semai of Malaysia have a reputation as one of the most peaceable peoples in the
world. But their nonviolence seems not to stem from “cultural tradition” but from a realistic
accommodation to a violent political ecology. Epic accounts of the Praak Sangkiil
(“non-religious war”) like the two texts presented here illuminate the people’s violent
past. Although able to resist organized mass invasion, the people remained subject to
sporadic vicious raiding by bands of slavers and child-stealers. Eventually, armed resistance
gave way to “passive” resistance by flight into the rainforest. This article is a scholarly
version of the first chapter of a proposed book that will explore how violence and
nonviolence interlace in Semai life and history. An appendix addresses the question of
why events like those described find no place in Malaysian history books.
Keywords: Senoi Semai—slaving—violence—Orang Asli—Peninsular Malaysia

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