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Dusun is the collective name of a tribe or ethnic and linguistic group in the Malaysian state of Sabah of North Borneo. Due to similarities in culture and language with the Kadazan ethnic group, a new unified term called "Kadazan-Dusun" was created. Collectively, they form the largest ethnic group in Sabah. A small minority of Dusuns can also be found in Brunei where they are defined by the constitution to be one of the seven Bumiputera groups.
It is also suggested that the word Dusun was a "name calling" given by the Sultan of Brunei. Since most parts of the west coast of Sabah were ruled by the Sultan of Brunei, The Sultan of Brunei collects taxes from the "Orang Dusun" called "Duis" which was also referred to as the "River Tax". However the "orang Dusun" that was purposely and perhaps administratively used to represent all the various ethnic groups in Sabah were simply calling themselves as being the "Kadazan (Tangaa/Papar/Rungus and ect) or Kadayan (Lotud/Liwan/Tagahas and etc Language)" because the "Kadazan or Kadayan (dialect) means "The People of the Land". Thus therefore these earlier ethnic group were called according to their ethnic groups: i.e.: Kadazan Rungus/ Kadazan Tangaa/ Kadayan Lotud/ Kadayan Maragang/ Kadazan Tatana...etc.. Thus this suggests that the term Dusun was created by the Sultan of Brunei to name the Kadazan/Kadayan only for the purpose of administration and registration. Since in 1881 upon the introduction of the Chartered North Borneo Company, an entity that was introduced by the British Government and made their first settlement in Kudat, the northern town of the North Borneo, the Kadazan people were registered as the "Orang Dusun" following the Sultan of Brunei administration records. Throughout 1950s the leaders of the Kadazan realizing the significant distortion of facts and the actual naming of the kadazan or Kadayan race in Sabah by the Sultan's administration. Thus in the late 1950s, the Kadazan Cultural Association (KCA) were introduced and provide pressure to the British govern to officially adopt the name "Kadazan" which means the "People of the Land" (Terms adopted from: the Council of Bobolians/Bobohizans/KDCA) as the official race in Sabah and to represent all the 32 ethnic groups of then called the "Orang Dusun". The term Kadazan was successful in uniting the Kadazans throughout Sabah. In 1963, when Sabah, formed Malaysia together with Sarawak, Singapore and the Peninsular Malaya, the term Kadazan was then officially been acknowledged by the Federation of Malaysia as one of most dominant races in Sabah, together with the Bajaus, Chinese and others. The term "orang Dusun" was officially terminated administratively. The KCA continues to unite the Kadazans through the celebration of the "Tadau Kaamatan". The Kadazans were united and intermarriages were so rampant as the result of infrastructure development and isolated Kadazans were becoming educated and vocals. It was in 1984 the ideology of Dusun was brought in again and had been heavily promoted by a political party in Sabah called AKAR (Proof?). As the Kadazans were becoming more confused as the result of the historical facts about the Origin of Dusun and why Kadazans - the History of Sabah had been diluted, where the Federation of Malaysia were promoting "Satu Bangsa, Satu Negara" (One Race, One Nation) and the Historical facts learned from Schools in Sabah were diverted exclusively to the History of Malaya's Independence (31 August 1957) and Malaya Sultanate History, while little emphasis was given to the "Formation of Malaysia" the actual the 16th September 1963)and the History of Sabah, the Kadazans were basically confused politically and disunity started to crop in. Almost at the same year Kadazandusun was created to pacify the Kadazans unity, and later as more and more divisions occur amongst the Kadazans, now they are also called the KDM, (in reference to Kadazan Dusun Murut); the Kadazans are also term as the "Kadus" People.... and new terms are coming in as the disunity and the confusion continues amongst the Kadazans. Kadayan Tobilung is yet to be acknowledge as being a Tobilung, same goes to the Rungus, the Lotud, the Tatana and etc.The word "Kadazan" actually not derived from the word "kedai" (meaning "shops" in Malay) but what is meant is actually the "people who live in a more modern area and not in remote places like the Dusuns". The Dusun people who live in Penampang and Papar areas were called "Dusun Tangara" while the Dusuns who live in Districts like Tambunan, Ranau and Keningau were called "Dusun Liwan". The Dusuns in Penampang and papar did not like the name Dusun because they didn't like to be called "backwards" as in the olden days Dusuns were considered backwards who live in remote areas.
The ethnic group, makes up, at one time, 30% of Sabah population and are broken down into more than 30 sub-ethnic, or dialectical groups, or tribes each speaking a slightly different dialect of the Dusunic family language. They are mostly mutually understandable. The name 'Dusun' was popularized by the British colonial masters who borrowed the term from the Brunei Malays. Most Dusuns have converted to mainstream religions such as Christian (majority are Roman Catholics) and Islam although animism is still being practiced by a small group of Dusun.
The Dusun of old traded with the coastal people by bringing their agricultural and forest produce (such as rice and amber 'damar') to exchange for salt, salted fish, and other products. The Dusun have a special term to describe this type of trading activities i.e. 'mongimbadi.' This was before the development of the railroad and road network connecting the interior with the coastal regions of Sabah. The present Tambunan-Penampang road was largely constructed based on the trading route used by the Bundu-Liwan Dusun to cross the Crocker Range on their 'mongimbadi'.
The vast majority of Dusuns live in the hills and upland valleys and have a reputation for peacefulness, hospitality, hard work, frugality, drinking, and are averse to violence. Now they have very much been modernised and absorbed into the larger framework of the Malaysian society, taking up various occupations as government servants, and employees in the private sector, as well as becoming business owners. Many have achieved tertiary education both locally and overseas (in America, England, Australia and New Zealand).
In their old traditional setting they use various methods of fishing, including using the juice called "tuba" derived from the roots of the "surinit" plant to momentarily stun fish in rivers.
Dusuns are known as the Latin artists of the East, being famous in the state for love and passion for music. Their traditional dances appear attractive and gentle full of passion for life, making the Dusun culture a popular and beautiful one, and much sought by tourists to Sabah.
 The Marudu Dusuns
Even though Dusuns are known for their peaceful nature, they are also well known for their bravery and defiant nature towards oppression and foreign rule. Warriors in the Marudu district led by a warrior called Kulindod fought off attacks of enemies.
 The Tuaran Dusuns
In Tuaran as in Marudu the enemies of te Dusuns were the seafaring Irranuns and Bruneians.
 The Tambunan Dusuns
The Dusuns of Tambunan were not always as politically united as they are today. Legend has it that the Dusuns of Tambunan comprise of two rival groups who settled into the valley at varying period in the past. One group were led by a person named Gambunan and the other by Tamadon. Peaceful settlement/compromise of disputes over land division resulted in the valley being named "Tambunan" after the two leaders.
Inter-tribal conflicts emerge however when the settlers began to coalesce into new groups such as the Tagahas and the Liwans. The Tagahas grouped Dusuns from the villages of kituntul, Toboh, Minodung, piasau, Tibabar, lumondou, Tinompok, Kapayan, and Kapagalan sawa. Members of the Liwans were the Dusuns of Sunsuron, Timbou, Karanaan, Mogong, Papar, Lintuhun, Pomotodon, Nambayan, Tobilung, Tontolob, Patau and all of Kirokot. The formation of this groupings were not based on locations of the villages or of linguistic dialects. The grouping arose out of a need to uphold certain natural social principles during the British pre-colonial era when the absence of the Law, led to the adoption of the principle of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" as the tool for exacting compliance to certain standards of behaviour.
The narrative about a Dusun warrior named Bungkar, whose existence can be historically dated, will illustrate this. The tale of Bungkar also explain the origin of headhunting among the Dusuns of Tambunan, and the beginning of civil government in the Tambunan valley.
Bungkar's original home was in the hills of Pahu, an area close to Ranau. Upon attaining the age of a teenager, he undertook a long journey to a place called Sayap overlooking the Kota belud district and stayed there for three years. The purpose of his stay was to learn the art of sword fighting and other related pre-Christian skills such as "pinjodop", "pilumou" and "pilubok". Among the learners who came from various districts were the "Tagahas". Bungkar was not a Tagahas. He was a mix of Bundu-Liwan. The Bundu-liwans were a dusunic tribal geoup whose original homeland were the foothills of an area called Libodon in the district of Tuaran.
After completing his training, Bungkar paid his trainer the customary "canang Kimanis", a traditional gong handcrafted in Brunei. In return he received a "gayang" or sword. Thereafter he returned to Pahu and persuaded the extended family to move to Tambunan. At that time Tambunan was spasely populated by the descendants of Gambunan and Tamadon and land was aplenty. In Tambunan, at a place called Borotutuon, in the padi fields of Dambatu, he built a fort-like residence, surrounding it with sharpened wooden stakes.
Meanwhile the Tagahas were also moving into the fertile Tambunan valley. The word Tagahas means "the strong". The Tagahas originated from the upper rivers of Penampang District. The were strong Dusunic tribes whose name were given to them by the Dusun Tangaah of Penampang. Their strength were manifested in their being popularly employed by Chinese traders to carry trade goods over the mountains of Crocker Range.
Not too long after that, the Tagahas from Kituntul raided Bungkar's home, taking away several buffaloes. Buffaloes were considered important properties then. No blood was shed however during this raid, as Bungkar and all the males in the family were knocked down asleep by "pinjodop" a kind of pagan prayer that induces sleep. The women were also made "compliant" by the pagan charm known as "pilubok" which made one psychologically willing sacrifice and hand over "everything" to the charmer including prized properties such as buffaloes and other livestock. Still other males who were not initially present at the village or knocked down earlier by the pinjodop were later affected by the charm "pilumou" which evoke a sense of great pity in one affected thus evading any violence. Moderns would probably call this hypnotism. Thus it was that the raid was in the beginning non-violent.
After recovering their senses, Bungkar gathered together his people and a decision was arrived at. It was decided that Bungkar being a trained warrior would lead a small group to gave chase. Yumpiau, an untrained brother volunteered to join as one who would lead home any recovered livestock. Two brothers, Kondoud and Kindipan also volunteered. A brave young boy named Bolinti also volunteered but Bungkar refused to take him in as he was too young and untrained. This Bolinti would later appear in the list of names of those who joined the early British Chartered Company Police Force.
After making inquiries, Bungkar received a message from a cousin named Rumantai reporting that the Tagahas raiders had gone into hiding with their loot near his farm in the general area towards the south of Tambunan valley. Rumantai was a kososoluon or neutral residing among the Tagahas. The Tagahas were waiting for nightfall to move the stolen livestock by moonlight. They were travelling to the area named as Kapagalan Sawa.
After having spied the Tagahas Bungkar uttered the triple charm of "ponginjodop", "pilumou" and "pilubok". Having recovered the livestock without a fight, Bungkar directed his companions to travel on ahead, while he covered them from the rear. Rumantai, although a neutral, promised to assist his cousins if the Tagahas ever retaliated with swords. The Tagahas did retaliated with violence but they were no match for Bungkar's sword fighting skill and Rumantai's assistance. On that day five Tagahas died at a place called Tumoh Modulis. Thus ended the unwritten rule of fighting with charms and began a long period of headhunting in lawless Tambunan.
The following events could be more accurately dated as it was tied into another event that happened in Krakatoa, Indonesia, thousands of kilometers away.
As the tribal war continued, the "kososoluon," a neutral group, whose members were peace loving, physically weak but politically aware began to play a more prominent role in the social upheaval. Dusuns from Noudu, Pantai and Botung belong to the Kososoluon. The kososoluons attempted to broker peace between the warring Dusuns. They introduced the unwritten rule that no children and women were to be harmed in anyway. It was also agreed upon that all kososoluon, all women and children of Tagahas or Bundu-liwan were to carry a green branch wherever they go as a sign of neutrality.
The Tagahas however broke this rule. At a place called "Penanambangan",or "Deer's lair" a footpath connecting the village of Tontolob and Sunsuron, a group of Tagahas warriors led by one Sambatang set up an ambush. The word penanambangan means "deer ambush". Late in the afternoon, Sambatang saw a group of young Bundu-Liwan girls walking home towards Tontolob ans Sunsuron, carrying green branches. The Tagahas attacked and Soria, Bungkar's sister was beheaded personally by Sambatang. Five days later Sambatang was also beheaded personally by Bungkar who led an attacked on his home at Minodung. Pressured by the womenfolks, and not satisfied by merely killing Sambatang, Bungkar later set up an ambush along the footpath at Tibabar and managed to behead a Tagahas virgin, whose name was strangely enough, Toria.
As soon as news of Toria's beheading reached the women of Tontolob and Sunsuron, they gathered together in celebration. A long victory procession was formed with women carrying "nyiru" and fanning Bungkar as he carried the body and the head of Toria back to Sunsuron. A very young child of about 5 years old by the name of Oroyok, described how Toria's head was later boiled, the brain content removed and placed on the warrior's gayang. All brave males were then to consume a tiny portion so as to share in the "spirit of headhunting". The following verses in their chanting also proved somewhat that some form of cannibalistic ritual took place;
Rubat tinan Toria Pinororot do togis Pinosila luha Kinandayan do Tondangol Tinayaan do Tamadi Pinosuang do poriuk Pinorumpos do kuron Naakan no loh Tutok Nosiop no loh raha.
Words such as "pinosuang" and "pinorumpos" translates as "to pour or place into". "Kuron" and "poriuk" are large cooking pots. "Tutok" and "raha" translates as brain matter and blood. "Naakan" is to eat and "nosiop" to drink. Oroyok, the Dusun priestess who died in 1978 at the age of 114, remembered this verse as one of several she heard being chanted at the event of Toria's ritual "homecoming" to the Guritom house of skulls at Sunsuron. She also had to memorise it and disseminate it to pass it on by word of mouth to younger generations at a time when school was still unknown in North Borneo.
Several hours after the ritual celebration started the sun suddenly began to dim. In fact for several weeks later the Dusuns of Tambunan had to go about their daily works in semi darkness. Torches had to be used during mid day. To the superstitious pagan Dusuns this was a clear sign of the wrath of "Kinorohingan" or god's anger over their conduct. In fear they stopped the tribal warfare and headhunting and peace returned to the valley. Unknown to the Dusuns the darkness that descended upon th valley was not an isolated event but actually was the result of a huge volcanic explosion that took place thousands of kilometers away on the island of Krakatoa in Indonesia. The date was August 1883. The peace lasted only for about 15 years.
In 1898 the peace was once again shattered with the coming of Mat Salleh into the Tambunan valley. Mat Salleh came into the valley with three other leaders, namely Tunggal,a Dusun from Menggatal, Musa a Bajau from Menggatal and another Bajau leader from Kudat. Descendants of Tunggal included Majabin, the current village chief of Kampung Keliangau. Included in Mat Salleh's small native force were Dusun Lotud fighters from Tuaran. Later, after the civil war, these Dusun Lotud fighters from Tuaran hid among the Dusun Tagahas of Kituntul and their descendants became a part of the Dusuns of Tambunan.
Mat Salleh's entry, his rule and his violent end marked the beginning of the rise of the Kososoluons political influence and the British intervention to bring the Law among the Tambunan Dusuns. Mat Salleh was a thorn in the British Chartered Company's effort to Govern the coastal areas of North Borneo. As such the British conveniently "forced" him to the interior, knowing that Mat Salleh "discovery" of a new source of "taxes" to finance his anti-British activities would create a situation where the Dusuns of Tambunan would "search" for a superior power. The Dusuns of Tambunan could hardly have known or perhaps only vaguely known at this point that the Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu had signed away North Borneo.
Upon arrival in the peaceful Tambunan Valley, Mat Salleh began to project his image as a man of power. It was said that he began to brandish a piece of document issued by the British which purportedly gave him power over the valley, including the power to collect taxes. The illiterate Dusuns however wanted to have nothing to do with any piece of paper. Mat Salleh changed his strategy by bringing in one of the princess of Sulu. This strategy also failed to impress the Dusuns of Tambunan and they defiantly refused to pay "wang Kepala" to Mat Salleh. Wang kepala or "head money", was a kind of compulsory tax payable to the British colonialist, the amount of which was calculated based on the circumference of one's head at the eye level.
Upon discovering about the historical enmity between the Tagahas and the Bundu-Liwan during the Headhunting days, Mat Salleh began his campaign of "divide and rule" to sow the seeds of disunity. He succeeded in recruiting the Tagahas to his side. At the top of a hill called Kinabaan Mat Salleh and his Tagahas allies built a canon emplacement with the canons trained towards the Bundu-Liwan stronghold of Sunsuron and Tontolob.
Unbeknown to Mat Salleh he was actually playing right into the hands of the more politically superior British who were waiting patiently for an opportunity to exert their influence into the interior of North Borneo.The British had signed an agreement with th Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu in 1882, but apart from the coastal areas, it was unable to control any portion of the interior. The wang kepala taxes were actually a creation of the British.
The Bundu-Liwans were no match for Mat Salleh's Bajau and Tagahas fighters. At this time Bungkar was already an old man. Faced with defeat due to Lack of canons and 'ginsuk' or flint-lock guns, they called upon the kososoluon to be the intermediary in a negotiation for peace. Sampuun, a peace-loving and respected leader of the Kososluon managed to arrange a meeting between the Tagahas and the Bundu-Liwans. The meeting which took place at Karanaan ended violently without any agreement forged. Sodiok, a Bundu-Liwan leader, was slashed to death by One of Mat Salleh's Bajau followers when the Bundu-Liwans refused to acknowledge Mat Salleh as the collector of taxes on behalf of the British. The fighting continued.
The ensuing events, which saw Mat Salleh's political and military defeat at the combined hands of the Kososluon and the British Chartered Company forces resulted in the beginning of Law and Order among the Tambunan Dusuns. Christianity replaced paganism, Bundu-Liwans began to be recruited into the Police Force and the Dusuns began a political awakening which later culminated in one of their number becoming an important leader in the Government of Sabah/ formerly known as North Borneo.
Sampuun decided to seek the opinion of like-minded leaders from other regions of North Borneo. He gathered together several important kososoluon leaders and they set out on a journey to another valley, about 50 kilometers down river. It took them about a week to arrived at another interior valley known as Keningau. There Sampuun sought out a leader of the Dusun Kwijau known as Gunsanad. Gunsanad was also a peace loving leader of the Kwijau, whose dialect has a close affinity with the language of the Muruts, an ethnic group whose origin were said to be from Kalimantan. Gunsanad was also surprised about the change of overlordship from the Sultan of Brunei to a new entity called "orang putih" or white men. He was equally alarmed upon hearing about Mat Salleh's activities and worried that it might spill-over to his valley. After much discussion it was decided that both Sampuun and Gunsanad were to travel to Brunei to seek confirmation on this new development.
After obtaining the required confirmation and reporting on the civil war taking place in Tambunan Valley they returned home. This time they were accompanied by a fully equipped force of Iban warriors from Sarawak and Sikh policemen led by several British officers. The attacked on Mat Salleh's force was completely successful. It was also used as a show of force designed to impress upon the local Dusuns of Tambunan Valley, as well as the Dusuns of keningau Valley that white men's power. After the defeat of Mat Salleh, the British realised that the system of taxes called 'wang kepala' was not a viable option. It is a potential flash-point as it give rise to dissatisfaction. They began to study other options and began to adopt a system of registering land and collecting land rent as a way of controlling the influx of new settlement into the Tambunan Valley.
Nowadays Tambunan is one of the districts in Sabah where the Dusun people are overwhelmingly Christians.
 The Ranau Dusuns
The Ranau Dusuns can be considered as more closely representative of the original Dusun stock. This is because they are residing within an area generally considered as the place of origin of the Dusuns namely Nunuk Ragang.
 The Dusun Tatana
The Dusun Tatana are different from any other Dusun people, their culture are similar to those Chinese culture but it already mixed with some traditional customs. The Dusun Tatana are the only Dusun that celebrate Chinese New Year as their festival. Kaamatan is less celebrated by them.
 See also
 Further reading
- Evans, I. H. N. (1953) The Religion of the Tempasuk Dusuns of North Borneo Cambridge: University Press.
- Glyn-Jones, Monica (1953) The Dusun of the Penampang Plains, 2 vols. London.
- Gudgeon, L. W. W. (1913) British North Borneo, pp. 22 to 39. London: Adam and Charles Black.
- Hewett, Godfrey (1923) "The Dusuns of North Borneo" Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Containing Papers of a Biological Character Volume 95, Issue 666, pp. 157–163 Publication Date: 08/1923
- Williams, Thomas Rhys (1966) The Dusun: A North Borneo Society NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
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