In 1886, D. D. Daly, the Assistant Resident of Dent Province in British North Borneo administered an oath of allegiance to various groups of Murut and Peluan headhunters.
This is how the oath went (the † symbol is apparently meant to indicate where the person taking the oath would repeat what the person giving the oath had just said):
“I follow the authority of the Government of the British North Borneo Company. † The Murut and Peluan † people are now of one mind. † If I kill a Murut (if a Peluan is swearing) man † when I go to the water may I not be able to drink, † when I go to the jungle may I not be able to eat † may my father die †, may my mother die, † may my wife die, † may my children die, † may my house be burned down, † may the paddy not grow in my fields, † may I not catch a fish when I go fishing, † may my life be ended, † I cut this stick, † as if I am cutting my own neck, † the Great Spirit is my witness, † may this stick grow into life again, † if I ever kill or take heads any more, † and I follow the customs and orders of the British North Borneo Company, † and I take this oath with a sincere mind, † and I shall pay the poll-tax of the Company. †”
When Daly administered these oaths, sometimes Murut and Peluan chiefs would both be present. At one such occasion, when a Murut chief by the name of Panglima Prang came to the part where he had to say “may my wife die” (if I ever take a Peluan head), he stopped and said with a grim smile, “I have no wife, you Peluans took her head long ago.”
Apparently after he said this, everyone there was “convulsed with laughter,” including Panglima Prang.
Daly concluded from this that “This would denote that the retaliation in taking heads does not proceed from a spirit of affection for the departed relatives, but rather from a sense of revenge or vengeance that shame should have been cast upon them by losing one of their family at the hands of an enemy.”
That may be true, but it’s still amazing that they could all have a good laugh about this.