This dissertation examines how the Ibans in Sungai Utik are using their self-perceived cultural distinctiveness and forest resources to protect their customary land, and develop their community in the absence of formalized land ownership. The Ibans, a rice-cultivating, longhouse-residing group in the interior of Indonesian Borneo, have been subject to massive transformations in the landscape due to exploitive activities, largely caused by logging and palm oil plantations. The Indonesian state has also been instrumental in changing Iban life in terms of socio-politics, religion and agro-forestry. In order to understand Iban resilience, their success in expressing autonomy and how they have managed to stand up against external hegemonic powers, it is crucial to grasp what the forest means for the Ibans. The forest is linked to a wide range of aspects in the Iban society, such as sociality and values, economy, cosmology and religious practice. On the other hand, their awareness for the forest is also an expression of pragmatism. Instead of selling away land to companies, as many other forest-dwelling communities have done, the Ibans in Sungai Utik consider their forest to be more valuable as a future resource. As part of this pragmatic attitude, villagers in Sungai Utik have allied themselves with a wide range of NGOs up through the years. However, actors, ideas, projects and beliefs must resonate with local customs and perceptions to be considered as legitimate by the villagers.