Facts about the unique Kadazan-Dusun people of Borneo

Kadazan Dusun Sumandak

Borneo is the third-largest island on Earth (after Greenland and New Guinea). In its 130-million-year-old rainforests, over 15,000 species of plants can be found. In the dense jungles, hundreds of mammals, including orangutans and proboscis monkeys, thrive. There are also dozens of tropical islands, thousands of miles of beaches, and the tallest mountain in Malaysia. Wow!

When describing Malaysia and Malaysians, the phrase multicultural is an understatement. The nation has a blend of ethnicities and cultures, ranging from ethnic Malays, Chinese, and Indians to the indigenous tribes of Sabah and Sarawak. Ever heard of headhunters? Yes, they once roamed this land. What’s more, the Kadazan-Dusun people have been a major part of the rich history of Borneo for a long time. You might have heard that the people of Borneo have their own ideas about beauty and the faces of people here may have given some outsiders the perception that they practice some of the best naturally clean skincare techniques in Borneo too. Here are some other interesting facts that you might not have known about them.

They are the largest indigenous group in Sabah

Among the main indigenous communities in Borneo are the native Kadazan people. They are primarily from Sabah’s West Coast and are concentrated in the communities of Penampang, Kota Kinabalu, Papar, Tuaran, as well as Ranau.
The Kadazan-Dusun are just some of many ethnic groups and subgroups throughout East Malaysia and constitute the largest indigenous community in Sabah (accounting for roughly 28 percent of the population). British missionaries attracted many to Christianity throughout the 20th century.

Rice harvests play a big role in their culture

With paddies rising along coastal Sabah and along mountain as well as hillside terraces, rice cultivation plays an important role in local culture and society. A particular ritual to appease spirits was once associated with each phase of planting and harvesting. Today, at the yearly Harvest Festival, or Kaamatan, held on May 30 and 31, this significant relationship to rice and traditions can be found.

Mount Kinabalu was sacred to them

More than the challenging climb or spectacular views, Mount Kinabalu offers a deep meaning to this intriguing people.

The native groups of Sabah have profound cultural links to this mountain. The societies of Kadazan-Dusun once claimed that their ancestors rested on Kinabalu after death.

Their roots and sub-groups are complex

Although the Kadazandusun is counted as a single group of individuals by the census, there are currently more than twenty ethnolinguistic groups within it. Central Dusun, Kadazan Coastal, Labuk-Kinabatangan Kadazan, Bundu Dusun, Rungus Dusun, Tambunan Dusun, Kimaragang as well as Tempasuk Dusun are the largest of these. Although these different groups of individuals in the western, northern, and central portions are spread across more than half of the state, many of them live in the interior, generally along one of several rivers rather than in coastal areas.

They initially had no writing system

There was no writing system for the initial languages of the population of Kadazan and Dusun. In the early 1880s, the Catholic Mill Hill Missionaries of England, who taught in the local dialect until eventually moving to an English medium, introduced rural communities to literacy. St. Michael’s School, founded in 1888 from bamboo and rumbia palms by the Mill Hill Fathers, was one of the earliest schools in Sabah — today, it is known as SM St. Michael, Penampang.

Baby names are based on common ancestry

A leaf known as wongkong is promptly tied over the door when a child is born. The newborn baby’s name is picked by the grandparents. The names selected are derived from ancestors and, like the names of trees, plants, and so on, are based on the environment around them.

They were unique agriculturalists

The Kadazan people, formerly headhunters from Borneo, were the first people from Borneo to use the plow for rice farming and it became their primary source of income. Before that, they were known as farmers, where they cultivated almost all of the rice grown in Sabah Borneo. As a result, via home-brewed fermentation, they can turn the rice into different delicacies or alcoholic drinks. An example of Kadazan alcoholic beverages that are made from rice are Tapai and Lihing. Therefore, during any festive season (Kaamatan or Harvest festival), social events, and wedding ceremonies, these alcoholic beverages are usually served.

Their religious beliefs are diverse

The Kadazandusun were historically animists, but both Islam and Christianity have affected them. Many of those considered Christian by the government come from a tradition in which every child born into a family that considers itself Christian is considered Christian. Today, those who follow the traditional religion believe in a divine being that is particularly important in the rice cultivation cycle as well as significant events in the life cycle. They also relate spirits to many things in nature, such as birds, animals, and plants, thus believing in a supreme being who created all.

In their values and actions, the “rice spirit,” in particular, is featured very prominently. Some of the Kadazandusun people groups are noted for their use of priestesses (‘bobohizan’) to control the spirits.

The Kadazan Dusun language was preserved through the 50s

In the 1950s, the Kadazan / Dusun mother-tongue saw vigorous development. Father A. Antonissen, who, with the aid of the local Kadazan population, secretly assembled the very first manuscript for the Kadazan Dictionary and Grammar while interned during the Second World War by the Japanese, and these initial efforts to preserve the language were a key part of the preservation. With the assistance of the Australian Government Printer, the manuscript was published in 1953-the same year Tun Fuad Stephens featured a ‘Kadazan corner’ in the Sabah Times.

Olumis pronounced oh-lu-miss means beautiful in Kadazan Dusun language. Olumes / olundus / oligang / olidang also means beautiful in their language and used towards describing females, while Awantang means handsome and used to describe a male. Ogingo / awanus are used for things.

OLUMES is a clean beauty brand harnessing the wisdom of the rich heritage of Kadazan-Dusun culture that practices an age-old beauty secret using Borneo’s rich botanical treasure.