These are the Semang or Pangan, the Sakai or Jakun, and the Malays.
The mistake of speaking of the Sakai tribes as practically identical with the Semang or Pangan has very frequently been made, but as a matter of fact the two races are absolutely distinct from one another.
It has also been customary to include the Sakai in the category of Malayan races, but this too is undoubtedly incorrect.
The Sakai still inhabit in greatest numbers the country which forms the interior of Pahang, the Plus and Kinta districts of Perak, and the valley of Nenggiri in Kelantan.
The pure Sakai in the interior have a good knowledge of planting rice, tapioca, &c., fashion pretty vessels from bamboos, which they decorate with patterns traced by the aid of fire, make loin-cloths (their only garment) from the bark of the trap and ipoh trees; are very musical, using a rude lute of bamboo, and a noseflute of a very sweet tone, and singing in chorus very melodiously; and altogether have attained in their primitive state to a higher degree of civilization than have the Semang.
An examination of their language seems to indicate that, it belongs to the Mon-Khmer group of languages, and the anthropological information forthcoming concerning the Sakai points to the conclusion that they show a greater affinity to the people of the Mon-Khmer races than to the Malayan stock.
On account of this, it has been suggested that in a forgotten past the Sakai were themselves the fashioners of the stone implements, and certain it is that all tools which have no representatives among the stone kelts are known to the Sakai by obvious corruptions of their Malayan names.
The presence of the Sakai, a people of the Mon-Khmer stock, in the interior of the peninsula has also been considered as one of many proofs that the Malays intruded from the south and approached the 004° D peninsula by means of a sea-route, since had they swept down from the north, being driven thence by the people of a stronger breed, it might be expected that the fringe of country dividing the two contending races would be inhabited by men of the more feeble stock.
Instead, we find the Sakai occupying this position, thus indicating that they have been driven northward by the Malays, and that the latter people has not been expelled by the Mon-Khmer races from the countries now represented by Burma, Siam and French Indo-China.
The Sakai population is dying out, and must eventually disappear.
Broadly speaking, all the brown races which inhabit the portion of Asia south of Siam and Indo-China, and the islands from the Philippines to Java, and from Sumatra to Timor, may be described as belonging to the Malayan family, if the aboriginal tribes, such as the Sakai and Semang in the Malay Peninsula, the Bataks in Sumatra, and the Muruts in Borneo, be excepted.
For any aboriginal race inhabiting these countries, such important articles of diet as the duri-an, &c., could not fail to be among the first natural objects to receive a name, and thus we find primary terms in use among the Sakai and Semang, the aborigines of the Peninsula, to describe these fruits.
The fact that the semi-wild tribes, which are ethnologically Malayan and distinct from the aboriginal Semang and Sakai, are met with almost invariably in the neighbourhood of the coast would seem to indicate that they reached the peninsula by a sea, not by a land route, a supposition which is strengthened by their almost amphibious habits.
As a matter of fact the Sakai of the interior of the peninsula belong to the latter race.
All this, however, must necessarily be of the nature of the purest speculation, and the only facts which we are able to deduce in the present state of our knowledge of the subject may be summed up as follows: (a) That the Malays ethnologically belong to a race which is allied to the Polynesians; (b) that the theory formerly current to the effect that the Sakai and other similar races of the peninsula and archipelago belonged to the Malayan stock cannot be maintained, since recent investigations tend to identify them with the Mon-Annam or Mon-Khmer family of races; (c) that the Malays are, comparatively speaking, newcomers in the lands which they now inhabit; (d) that it is almost certain that their emigration took place from the south; (e) and that, at some remote period of their history, they came into close contact with the Polynesian race, probably before its dispersion over the extensive area which it now occupies.
About one sixth of the native population of the interior, and a smaller proportion of those living on the coast, suffer from a kind of ringworm called kurap, which also prevails almost universally among the Sakai and Semang, the aboriginal hill tribes of the Malayan Peninsula.
Used more accurately, it denotes the tribe which invaded India 130-140 B.C. They are the Sacae and Sakai of classical authors and the Se of the Chinese, which may represent an original Sek or Siik.
Sakai (Main Island) 58