Kadazan people

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Regions with significant populations
(Sabah, Labuan)
Kadazan, Sabah Malay, English
Christianity (majority), Islam, Animism
Related ethnic groups
Kadazan-Dusun, Dusun, Austronesian peoples

The Kadazans are an ethnic group indigenous to the state of Sabah in Malaysia. They are found mainly in Penampang on the west coast of Sabah, the surrounding locales, and various locations in the interior.

Due to sharing of culture and language with the Dusun people, as well as for political initiatives, the new term "Kadazan-Dusun" was created to combine them. Together, they are the largest ethnic group in Sabah.

Origins of the term 'Kadazan'[edit]

While it is widely believed that the term itself was a political derivative that came into existence in the late 1950s to early 1960s, no proper historical record exists pertaining to the origins of the term or its originator. However, an article by Richard Tunggolou[1] may shed some light. According to Tunggolou, most of the explanations of the meanings and origins of the word ‘Kadazan’ assumed that the word was of recent origin, specifically in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Tunggolou further claimed that some people have theorised that the term originates from the word ‘kakadazan’ (towns) or ‘kedai’ (shops), and from the claim that Kadazan politicians such as the late Datuk Peter J. Mojuntin coined the term.

However, there is evidence to suggest that the term has been used long before the 1950s. Owen Rutter, in his book, The Pagans Of North Borneo, published in 1929, wrote: “The Dusun usually describes himself generically as a tulun tindal (landsman) or, on the West Coast, particularly at Papar, as a Kadazan.” (page 31). Rutter worked in Sabah for five years as District Officer in all five residencies and left Sabah with the onset of the First World War. This meant that he started working in Sabah (then North Borneo) in 1910 and left in 1915. We can therefore safely say that the word ‘Kadazan’ was already in existence before any towns or shops were built in the Penampang district and that Kadazan politicians did not invent the word in the late fifties and early sixties. The Bobolians or the Bobohizans of Borneo were interviewed to seek better picture of the true meaning of the term 'Kadazan. According to a Lotud Bobolian, Bobolian Odun Badin, the term 'Kadazan' means 'the people of the land'. A Bobohizan from Penampang, Gundohing Dousia Moujing, gave a similar meaning of Kadazan and reiterated that the term has always been used to describe the real people of the Land.

Thus, it is now believed that the word 'Kadazan' was arguably not derived from the word 'kedai' (shop), or 'kadai' as pronounced by locals. Over a hundred years, the Kadazans were ruled by the Brunei Sultanate; the Kadazan or Kadayan (in Lotud, Kimaragang, Liwan etc.) were referred to officially by the Sultanate as the 'Orang Dusun' which literally means 'people of the orchard' in the Malays language. Administratively, the Kadazans were called 'Orang Dusun' by the Sultanate (or more specifically the tax-collector) but in reality the 'Orang Dusun' were Kadazans. An account of this fact was written by the first census made by the North Borneo Company in Sabah, 1881. Administratively, all Kadazans were categorized as Dusuns. Only through the establishment of the KCA (Kadazan Cultural Association) in 1960 was this terminology corrected and replaced by 'Kadazan'. When Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya formed the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, administratively all Dusuns born since were referred to as Kadazans.

Initially, there were no conflicts with regard to 'Kadazan' as the identity of the 'Orang Dusun' between 1963 and 1984. In 1985, through the KDCA (formally called KCA) the term Dusun was reintroduced after much pressure from various parties desiring a division between the Kadazan and the 'Orang Dusun' once again. This was largely successful and a precursor to the fall of the ruling political state party Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS). PBS, through the KCA, then coined the new term 'Kadazandusun' to represent both the 'Orang Dusun' and 'Kadazan'. Today, both Singapore and Malaysia acknowledge the ethnic group as Kadazandusun.


A group of people visiting "The House of Skulls" at Monsopiad Cultural Village in Penampang (near Kota Kinabalu), Sabah, Malaysia.

Kadazan culture is heavily influenced by the farming of rice, culminating in various delicacies and alcoholic drinks prepared through differing home-brewed fermentation processes. To'omis and linutau are the main rice wine variants served and consumed in Kadazan populated areas, and are a staple of Kadazan social gatherings and ceremonies.

The most important festival of the Kadazans is the Kaamatan or harvest festival, where the spirit of the paddy is honoured after a year's harvest. This takes place in May, and the two last days of the month are public holidays throughout Sabah. During the celebration, the most celebrated event is the crowning of the Unduk Ngadau, the harvest festival beauty queen. Young women of Kadazan, Dusun, Murut or Rungus descent from certain districts compete for this title. The beauty pageant is held to commemorate the spirit of Huminodun, a mythological character of unparalleled beauty said to have given her life in exchange for a bountiful harvest for her community.

In marriages, dowries are paid to the bride's family and an elaborate negotiation is arranged between the groom and bride's families. As a traditional gesture of politeness and civility, the dowry is metaphorically laid out with match sticks on a flat surface, and representatives from each side push and pull the sticks across a boundary to denote the bargaining of the dowry. Dowries traditionally consisted of water buffaloes, pigs, sacks of rice and even urns of tapai. Modern dowry negotiations also include cash and land ownership deeds.The dowry includes the costs of the wedding with any additional costs above the price of the dowry to be paid for by the brides family. Kadazan women from the Penampang and Dusun women from the Keningau, Ranau and Tuaran districts are widely regarded to have the most expensive dowries.

While it is traditionally customary for Kadazans to marry within a village or a neighbouring village, a downshift of xenophobia over the past few decades has eased the difficulty once associated with interracial marriage. The Kadazans have a particularly good affinity with the local Chinese, resulting in the coinage of the term Sino-Kadazan, meaning half-Kadazan and half-Chinese offspring of these unions. Due to the overwhelming Christian influence and some marriages to Muslim spouses, resulting in a mandatory conversion to Islam, still induces outrage and rejection and is known to divide fiercely traditional Kadazans. Islam has lately been embraced by a growing minority as a means to political ends considering the fact that the local Malay minority has gained political ascendance in recent years. Ruling Malay political parties have also openly been giving political and economical privileges to Kadazans who agree to convert to Islam as well as to other non-Christian Kadazans. Conversion to Islam, in a Malaysian context, also results in an automatic conversion by law of ethnicity to Malay. The resultant demographic shift has in recent years further compounded the dwindling numbers of the Kadazan-Dusun community and consequently making it more challenging in its efforts to preserve the heritage.


A swordfish hinava served with sandwich bread. Hinava are part of Kadazan-Dusun cuisine.

Traditional Kadazan cuisine involves mostly boiling or grilling which employs little use of oil, and with locally unique modifications and nuances as well as particular usage of locally available ingredients, particularly bamboo shoots, sago and fresh water fish. From simple appetizers of unripe mango dressed with soy sauce and chili flakes to a variety of pickled foods collectively known as noonsom, tangy and pungent flavours from souring agents or fermentation techniques is a key characteristic of traditional Kadazan cooking. One of the most well known Kadazan dishes is hinava, which is similar in concept to the South American ceviche. It is a salad made with pieces of raw fish marinated in citrus juice, ginger, onion and other ingredients like bitter gourd and grated dried bambangan seed which is similar in texture to desiccated coconut strands. This dish is sometimes served in certain Sabahan restaurants which do not otherwise have a traditional Kadazan menu. Another popular dish is pinasakan, which consists of sea or freshwater fish (usually smaller species) cooked with bambangan (a variety of mango found in Borneo) or takob-akob (a very tart dried fruit). The bambangan fruit is also eaten with meals as an appetiser. It is often pickled as noonsom and garnished with grated bambangan seed. Tuhau is a fragrant local root that is often made into a salad or is preserved with vinegar as noonsom. Wild boar or bakas, whether char grilled, stewed or even made into noonsom is very popular with the Kadazandusun community, often an essential item at weddings and major gatherings. Sweets include hinompuka, a type of gooey rice cake steamed in banana leaves and flavoured with dark palm sugar. The Kadazan people are also renowned for lihing, a sweet-tasting wine brewed from glutinous rice and natural yeast.

Contemporary Kadazan food is influenced by Chinese and Malay food as well as international trends, and often sees the use of traditional ingredients interpreted in new and novel ways. For example, bambangan is available as an ice cream flavour and chicken lihing soup or sup manuk nansak miampai lihing is popular with both Chinese and Kadazan communities alike. Lihing is also used in marinades, local variants of sambal relishes and even as a flavouring for stir-fried noodles.

Music and Dance[edit]

The Kadazans have also developed their own unique dance and music. Sumazau is the name of the dance between a male and female, performed by couples as well as groups of couples, which is usually accompanied by a symphony of handcrafted bronze gongs that are individually called tagung. The sompoton is another musical instrument. A ceremonial ring of cloth sash is worn by both male and female. The Sumazau and gong accompaniment is typically performed during joyous ceremonies and occasions, the most common of which being wedding feasts.

Malaysian dancers teaching Sailors assigned to the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) on how to perform the traditional Malaysian Kadazan dance upon the arrival in Sepangar, Malaysia, 2010.

The Kadazan have a musical heritage consisting of various types of tagung ensembles - ensembles composed of large hanging, suspended or held, bossed/knobbed gongs which act as drone without any accompanying melodic instrument. They also use kulintangan ensembles - ensembles with an horizontal-type melodic instrument.[2][3]

The late Chief Priestess Bobohizan, Bianti Moujing of Kandazon and the High Priestess Bobohizan, Binjulin Sigayun of Hungab were consulted during their heydays on the evolution of tagung or gongs and the beats rhythm. Recently, O.K.K. Datuk Jintol Mogunting, the former District Native Chief of Penampang, who is an authority on the traditional culture and customs was also consulted and he gave similar narration of the legend that was used for centuries of generations.

It was said that after the resurrection of Huminodun, from the original Bambaazon, the lifestyle of the Nunuk Ragang community as they were then known, began to improve as there was abundant supply of food. The legend goes on to narrate that the spirit of Huminodun founded the Bobohizans as they were taught the art of rites, ritual practices and ceremonies, taboos, traditional cultures including the art of gong beating and the Sumazau dance. It was also said that during the era of Nunuk Ragang, the Bobohizans taught the people to fashion bamboos into various lengths, shapes and sizes and arranged them into an ensemble of seven musical instruments, the seventh item being the drum (gandang), which we know today as tongkungon, tongunggu and tongunggak. The Bobohizans then taught the people the beat rhythm of tagung, known today as magagung, botibas and dunsai. Another musical instrument, the Kulintangan; akin to the xylophone, would be played as an accompaniment to the magagung.

In the late 18th century, the Bruneian traders introduced brass gong canons and brasswares in North Borneo. The Kadazans were fascinated with these new brass items as they perceived the brasswares elegant and gong sound melodious. Then, they began to acquire collections of these brass times as family heirlooms and the gongs were arranged into the typical ensemble of seven instruments, to replace the bamboo gongs. Since then, the gong beats and rhythm were improved for a variety usage. The gong beats are to accompany any ritual ceremonies are usually monotonous.

As for weddings, festive occasions and welcoming receptions for dignitaries, the rhythm of the gong beat is exhilarating, melodious, lively and smooth. Sometimes the botibas gong beat is performed as variation. During funerals, the dunsai gong beat is very solemn and fearsome as mark of respect for the dead. The single beat of a solitary gong at short intervals was used to be signal for emergencies such as house on fire and missing people who were lost in the jungle or drowning. However, there are only a few of Kadazan people that know the skills of beating the tagungs. It would require one long practice to gain experience.

It has been an issue that the present-day Kadazan youths are not inclined to gain skills in playing the traditional music instruments. Thus, magagung competitions and Sumazau competitions are organised at the village level not only to mark the Kaamatan celebrations but rather to preserve and promote the culture of Kadazan music and dance. Eventually, the competitions are held at district level where the Sumazau competitions were judged according to its choreography and the magagung according to the gong beats, rhythm and tempo.

In the early 1900s, these brass items were valuable items and became a symbol of family wealth. Once, they were highly in demand as dowries for marriage. Families that did not have them face difficulty meeting dowry requirement and would be compelled to search for these items elsewhere before the wedding. This custom still prevails in certain districts. Notably, many districts have most of the dowry converted into cash. As for the badil or canons, brassware and especially the gongs, they have become priceless and rare commodities. An ordinary set of gongs would cost about RM10,000 and the best set with high quality sound would cost around RM15,000. The original gongs, though popularly known as brass, are not entirely brass. They are actually made of composites of iron, brass and copper, to produce a smooth, reverberating and xylophonic tone. Gongs made entirely of brass are not popular because the sound produced has a flatsonic resonance.

Kulintangan or miniature gongs consist of nine ensemble and according to preference, it may be performed simultaneously with the gong to enhance the gong music.The latest type of gongs are made entirely of flat iron sheets, that were produced in Kudat. These are usually available at the weekend market or Tamu in Donggongon, Penampang in which each set would cost between RM700 to RM1,500. The sound quality of these gongs are more like cymbals clashing and shrills. People who are interested to know the best-quality melody gongs, you may drop by to any magagung and Sumazau competitions during Ka'amatan Harvest Festival from 30th to 31st May annually at Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) in Penampang.


The majority of the Kadazans are Christians, mainly Roman Catholics[4] and some Protestants.[5] Islam is also practised by a growing minority.[6][7][8]


Kadazan priestess, 1921.

Animism was the predominant religion prior to the arrival of Roman Catholic missionaries during British North Borneo administration in 1880s. The Protestant influence is due to later British influence during the 20th century. There was no word for "religion" among the ancient Kadazan-Dusuns and to them, it was just a sort of relationship between the seen and the unseen.

The Kadazan belief system centres around a single omnipotent deity called Kinoingan. Rice cultivation is the center of Kadazan life and as such, various rites and festivals are celebrated and revolve around paddy cultivation. Kaamatan is the most recognizable festival attributed to the Kadazan-Dusun. This annual festival is essentially a thanks-giving ceremony and in the olden days also serve to appease the rice spirit, the Bambaazon. Special rituals are performed before and after each harvest by a tribal priestess or a spirit medium known as a Bobohizan.

The Kadazans and Dusuns believe that spirits of the dead will be 'resting' at Mount Kinabalu before going to the afterworld or Heaven (Hibabou). The Bobohizan does a ritual or sogit every year to appease the guiding spirit on the mount. It is advisible that before climbing Mount Kinabalu, it is vital to ask for permission due to the fact that the mount is a 'sacred place' of spirits.

The Kadazan community as a ritual isolate is in constant interaction with the spirit world. This involves a number of sacrificial ceremonies to create a balanced ritual state between the Kadazans and the spirit world. The Kadazans believe in four principal spirits; the Almighty Creator (Minamangun), a living person's spirit (koduduvo), the ghostly spirit of the dead (tombivo) and the evil spirit (ogon).

The significance of Bobohizan[edit]

When asking for help from a Bobohizan to cure someone's prolonged or severe illness, the priestess is usually called upon. The Bobohizan would be informed with the latest information that will give her a good background in locating to the cause of sickness.

Bobohizans can also do preliminary consultations with the susukuon or the good spirit consultants. Before the Bobohizan goes to the house of the sick person the next day, she firstly would have to consult her susukuon the night before as to find the best way possible, determining the right offerings she could approach in the healing ceremony. She will then know whether a chicken, a pig or even a buffalo would be needed as a sacrifice. At some time, it may only take a simple inait or prayer to heal the sick. There are a number of inait or prayers that a Bobohizan has to choose depending on the cause of the sickness. The basic is the popo'intong or sumuku to get in touch with the good spirit consultants for further guidance.

The Bobohizan may proceed to any of the following or other form of prayers which are; searching for strayed spirit of the sick person and preparing for its homecoming (modsouhut do sunduvan), appeasing the evil spirits that cause the person's sickness with the offerings (modsuung), reaching the stage of Rundukon[9] or being in the trance of possible dialogue with the evil spirit, in which the priestess becomes the oracle for communicating in attempt to know the evil spirit's intentions (magambavon). It is the longest performance of the Bobohizan that could last for almost 24 hours. Besides, she could also read the prayers to 'cleanse the debris' that has been induced into the person's body by evil spirit (mongidu' do timpohon/mongkigit), cure a person from the effects of black magic (mongidu' do tumpadan) and she could also liberate a sick person from the grip or a disturbance of the dead (momupu' do namatai).

After being treated by Bobohizan for a day, sometimes for three days, one is not allowed to go out from the house.

The honouring of Bambaazon[edit]

In preparation for the ceremony, the village priestess carefully select stalks of paddy and ties them together just before the harvesting period starts. These stalks are left in the field and not to be cut or tampered with until the harvesting is completed. The selected stalks of paddy symbolise the spirit of paddy, which is Bambaazon. As soon as the harvest is over, these stalks are cut by the priestess and taken into the house of the owner of the field. The spirit would be in the house. Magavau will then take place when the padi is winnowed and stored away into the barns.

The ceremony of Magavau[edit]

The ceremony of Magavau begins just after sunset. The priestess and her attendants sit on the floor in the living room and start chanting ancient prayers (inaait) to Bambaazon. This continues further into the night. Thereafter, the priestess and attendants stand up and circle slowly around the living room, while chanting. After a while, they start to sing songs of praise to Bambaazon. At this stage, the men join in the circle, singing together with the priestess and attendants. As they sing, they stamp their feet on the floor in rhythmic timing and at regular intervals uttering the awe-in-sparing "pangkis" which is the triumphant cry of the Kadazans. This ceremony will go on until the break of dawn when preparations are made to feed Bambaazon with the fermented rice (habot), with ingredients similar to tapai, prepared especially for the Bambaazon in the previous evening and tapai. The ceremony ends with merry making as a mark of thanksgiving. Bambaazon stays in the house, guarding the paddy in the barn until the next planting season when another ceremony known as monogit is performed to take 'her' to the paddy field.

Here is an instance of the prayers or incantations,

Odoi kada' kati gangang arai
kotunguan ko do pa'is 
otimbaar ko do sadap
odoi kososodop zou do mogiginipi
kosou ku do nokotimung kito 
do pamakanan do karamaian diti
Nga ino noh maan zou 
do mamagavau do paai diti
do ounsikou nodi kaka do Bambaazon
do kosuni vagu do to'un tiso 
do ka'anu no vagu kotimung kito
om ogumu' nodi do pamakanan tokou mantad do paai

Historical beliefs[edit]

According to P.S. Shim's book "Inland People of Sabah: Before, During and After Nunuk Ragang" published in 2007, states that the ancestors of the Kadazan-Dusuns came from Baram in Sarawak starting from the year 1200 A.D.

Prehistoric Kadazan can be traced back to the time in which the Nunuk Ragang tree had existed. It is roughly located to-date at Tampias, where two rivers (Liwagu and Gelibang) meet to the east of Ranau and Tambunan. Nunuk is a Dusun word for banyan tree. Ragang as well comes from the Dusun word "aragang", which means "red". Nunuk looks like a giant mangrove tree with highly developed buttress stems with deep indentions that provide good natural shelters. The Nunuk Ragang or 'the red banyan tree' as told by the old folks, Widu Tambunan, measured of six out-stretched arms in circumference. The top of its canopy was estimated to be able to shelter under its seven joined Kadazan-Dusun huts, in which a hut measures 12 by 20 feet.[10]Its numerous branches and giant thick foliage provided for ideal shelter and habitat of wild life, birds, insects and even spirits according to local beliefs. It was believed that the roots of the giant tree produced red latex that had a great medicinal value. In fact, the Nunuk's latex is still used to treat rashes and other minor skin diseases in modern days.

Evacuation of the Nunuk Ragang area due to the Minorit Push of Nunuk Ragang, was decided through a meeting between the Bobohizans and the people. The leaders had made an agreement that the Tagahas (literally means "strong one") people were given a role to be the rear guard while others were immediately leaving Nunuk Ragang. River tributaries became their principal guidance to the direction of migrating. Each group's direction of migration is guided by the flow of Liwagu River. A Bobohizan said that, had the Kadazan-Dusuns not moved out of Nunuk Ragang, they would have not existed today.

The Kadazan and Rungus people lived in a peripheral village which was located between two creeks that flow to the Liwagu River. The Kadazans lived in an area, said to have an abundant growth of "tangar-tangar" (Ceriops tagal) (Hence, explains the reason Penampang Kadazans are referred to as Tangara or Tangaa') while the Rungus lived in an area which had the presence of white sand, referred to as pirungusan (Rungus comes from the Bajau and Suluk word "ungus" which means "sand"). This explains the reason behind the similarity between the Kadazan and Rungus (Rungus Gonsomon) language, though these two ethnics live far apart from each other today. As the evacuation happened, they left Nunuk Ragang and went all the way to Labuk River, Sandakan. Then, they decided to migrate northwards. After they arrived in Tempasuk, Kota Belud through the Marak-Parak valley, they made a decision to split, in which the Rungus would be heading northwards to Matunggong, Kudat and the Kadazans would be heading southwards to the West Coast, particularly Penampang.[11][better source needed]As they spread southwards, the Kadazans met the Bruneians and other settlers of the West Coast. Barter trade occurred in which the Kadazans had their gongs, copper and silver wares, necklaces and bangles from the Bruneians.

It is argued that some of the Kadazan tribe settled the plains of Kimanis, Papar during the migration period around 1220 A.D., from Baram, Sarawak. Another group which later became the Tatana tribe, settled in Bundu, Kuala Penyu. Meanwhile, the rest of Kadazans settled at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu alongside the Dusun and Rungus people. Additionally, it is believed that a large group of Kadazans from Papar migrated northwards to Putatan-Penampang in the 1800s. When they had already settled there, a war had occurred involving the Kadazans themselves near Tombovo, Putatan.[12]This forced some of the Kadazans to move out and consequently made a settlement in an area known today as Minintod, Inanam. These people were referred to as the Bangkaakon.[13]

The Sultans of Brunei and Sulu exercised a nominal control over North Borneo, especially the coasts, while headhunters roamed the forests and pirates infested the seas. When the dispute over territorial matters occurred, it often ended into inter-communal warfare with the use of gayang (long head-hunting knives) and blowpipes with poisoned darts. Head-hunting worsened when groups joined together to form larger groups to attack one another. It was only during the advent of the British that head-hunting activities were forbidden by law, due to concerns on the people's well-being and for peace. The head-hunters comprised of Kadazan-Dusuns as well as Murut tribesmen, and among the two, the Kadazan-Dusuns were first to give up head-hunting.[14]

Kadazan in Rungus folk tale[edit]

According to the legends that are told from generation to generation, the so-called Momogun Rungus (during Nunuk Ragang civilization) was founded by a man who was persecuted by his brothers because he had various skills. He was good at making animal traps and making weapons which were capable of protecting his community then. It was because of his skills, he was persecuted. This caused him to be punished with his faithful wife and people by banishing them into the ocean.

The ships that they had boarded, were stranded on the island of Borneo, so they headed to Pampang Nabalu for religious purposes. He called himself an 'Usan-Usan', who had no family as he was being persecuted by his own siblings.

While they were there, they were resurrected with religious spirits, following their worship of Lumaag Nabalu. Religious ceremonies continued to evolve as they were increasingly crowded. A religious figure proficient in law who inherited the customs of Usan-Usan was Aki Bobolizan Gomburon. As the crowd grew more, they felt that it was necessary for the laws of the society to be gazetted according to the rules of Usan-Usan.

Aki Bobolizan Gomburon enforced the most stringent Law of Gomburon that if someone committed adultery, they would be drowned into water by inserting them into a trap or 'diaper' alongside a large stone. The stone must be chosen by the offender. If anyone intentionally murdered (someone or something), then the person would be punished as well.

These rules continued until Aki Bobolizan Guraumanuk received a revelation from Lumaag Nabalu to abolish the Law of Gomburon. According to the revelation, any sin may be replaced or paid by a slaughter of redemption which was referred to as "mangaraha" (pork slaughter). All sins that could be paid with slaughter of lives, could be redeemed through the sacrifice of one's livestock. This task was done by a "Bobolizan", which means "payer of sin and middle person in begging for forgiveness to Kinoringan". That is the meaning of "Bobolizan", derived from the Rungus word "bwolzi" which means "to buy". Pigs that were used to get a blessing or ask forgiveness from Kinoringan cannot be called "a pig" ("vogok" or "wogok") but it should be called "bwolzi". "Bwolzi" refers to the role of the animal in sacrifice as a redeemer in attempt for an offender to get a new spirit for sin redemption.

Then, the Momogun population grew more and more during the era of Aki Nunuk Ragang. Aki Nunuk Ragang was the most well-known Bobolizan in developing the teachings of Labus religion (animism). Before Aki Nunuk Ragang passed away, Aki Bobolizan Guraumanuk received a message from Lumaag Nabalu. This message was regarding a new rule in which the three sons of Aki Nunuk Ragang must migrate to anywhere else because Lumaag Nabalu told that all the rivers flowing from Mount Kinabalu to the sea, belonged to Momogun. Therefore, the Momogun grandchildren or descendants should choose a high place, a hill or the highest mountain in any area they would settle at. All the rivers that flowed to the sea from the highest hills were the places guarded by the spirit of Lumaag Nabalu by inviting it through a ceremony called Momurinaait (mentioning seven names of the main spirits that guarded the Momogun).

Bobolizan Guraumanuk's teachings were developed by Aki Nunuk Ragang. All of Aki Bobolizan Guraumanuk's will was proclaimed by Aki Nunuk Ragang. Three sons of Aki Nunuk Ragang were Aki Rungsud (ancestor of the Rungus), Aki Longuvai (ancestor of the Penampang Kadazan) and Aki Turumpok (ancestor of all Dusun tribes).

Aki Nunuk Ragang sent his sons Aki Rungsud (the eldest son) and Aki Longuvai (second son) to the coast by conquering Pompod Tana (Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas) so as not to be disturbed by Mizonvaig's invasions. According to the message they received through the Rundukon (approached by Lumaag that spoke in a language that was incomprehensible), told that the meeting area rahat kotonobwon (sea to the west) and rahat kosilzahon (sea to the east) began to be invaded by outsiders (pirates). So, Aki Nunuk Ragang decided to take control of the entire coastal area to keep the people safe. Therefore, the men responsible for the security of the coast were Aki Rungsud and Aki Longuvai.

Aki Turumpok as the youngest son was regarded as Tandon Tongkob (inheriting father's house) in which Aki Turumpok inherited his father's home. Tandon Tongkob still exists in the custom of the Rungus people today. "Tandon tongkob" means "the content or occupant that remains in the room". So, Aki Turumpok was the heir of Kg. Nunuk Ragang and became a leader there.

Soon, Aki Nunuk Ragang died and was buried near a deep lake. The lake is located in the present place called Kampung Tampias in the area of Lubuk Sugut, Sandakan. According to the legend, after 40 days Aki Nunuk Ragang was buried, on the day of the ceremony "Mongupus", grew a fig tree at the middle of Aki Nunuk Ragang's grave. The fig tree was quite different because it was red and if the leaves were scratched, the tree would release human blood. Then, the people of Aki Nunuk Ragang worshipped the tree and named it Nunuk Ragang because they believed the tree was the incarnation of Aki Nunuk Ragang.

Meanwhile, Aki Rungsud managed to conquer Pompod Tana and their descendants were referred to as Momogun Rungus. Meanwhile, Aki Longuvai, when they were attempting to get out of Nunuk Ragang, his wife was heavily pregnant and they would follow Aki Rungsud later. Aki Rungsud's journey would be marked with kukurungan (chicken cages) as indications. It was because every hilltop which would have had been passed by Aki Rungsud, would need a chicken to be sacrificed in order to call upon the guarding spirit of Borneo, Lumaag, and as the declaration of power over the territory they had passed through.

When Aki Longuvai was trying to follow his brother's journey, he had mistaken of the direction. This was all due to one route, in which there were two pathways that were going towards opposite directions. Kukurungan marked by Aki Rungsud throughout the pathway of the journey unfortunately had been moved by a person with a bad intention or "busuk hati" (Malay idiom), to the false position. As a result, Aki Longuvai was lost in the journey of tracking Aki Rungsud's path until they reached Pinampang (Penampang) area ("Pinampang" comes from the Kadazan and Rungus word "pampang" which means "large rocks". The word "pampang" is a cognate because in Tagalog, it translates to a different meaning which is "riverbank"). They lacked the supply of food then they decided to make a hillyard there.

After a long time, they did not come to Pompod Tana. Aki Rungsud eventually found out through Lumaag that Aki Longuvai got lost. Aki Rungsud instructed his men to find Aki Longuvai and luckily they found Aki Longuvai in Pinampang (Penampang). The servants of Aki Rungsud invited Aki Longuvai to join a mission in Pompod Tana but Aki Longuvai declined the invitation. This was because Aki Longuvai was not willing to live in war and to be in the state of emergency there. To fulfill their father's request, Aki Nunuk Ragang kodori (the late), Aki Longuvai promised to send his eldest son, Aki Bulun who was born after they came out of Nunuk Ragang. Aki Bulun, without anyone, came to Pompod Tana when he turned seventeen years old. Aki Bulun however was accompanied by seven extraordinary or highly immune dogs that were said able to beat a tiger.

In the session of dividing Pompod Tana into certain areas, Aki Bulun and Aki Rungsud made divisions of the area by marking the boundaries through a method that was by how far the sound of Aki Rungsud's gong could be heard. Thus, the attentive observers were camping at every hilltop in the entire Pompod Tana area at that time to hear the gong sounds. If the sound of the gong could not be heard anymore, then a spear would be pierced into the ground, called Binorudan. Binorudan was a spear used by coastal warriors which was as large as a yacht paddle, moderate in size.

Today, Aki Bulun's descendants are known as Rungus Gonsomon who once dominated the east coast of Kudat. If further detailed, the language of Rungus Gonsomon is almost the same as the Penampang Kadazan language. Due to the large number of dialects in Kadazan-Dusun ethnicity, it is believed that the original language used before the separation of Aki Rungsud and Aki Longuvai was Momogun Rungus. As the colonialists initially colonized the Penampang area, it had an early development with the establishment of shops for the colonial business's interests at that time. According to the ancestors, the people of Aki Longuvai who settled in the area of "kedai-kedai" or "shops", were originally known as Kadazan people. In Rungus, kakadazan refers to "shops" or basically a town. When the Aki Rungsud people refer to the Aki Longuvai people, they would call them tulun antad sid kakadazan which means "people from the shop areas (or more advanced place)".

The Nunuk Ragang area, after a while, became a place of chaos because Aki Turumpok did not know about the Labus religious laws (animism). Aki Turumpok was more likely to be in the competition of magical powers which resulted in the Nunuk Ragang area getting a kopizo (a bad sign). Whatever they do would result in contention and hostility to one another. This condition ended with the spreading of a disease because the mamasi ceremony was not performed.[15]


The Kadazan language has adopted several loanwords, particularly from other northern Borneo indigenous languages and also Malay. There are claims that Penampang people speak Kadazan Tangaa' dialect while the Papar people generally speak Kadazan.

The use of the language has been declining due to the use of Malay by the Malaysian federal government and by the use of English by missionaries, which was done through the method of language shift enforced by the work of both the colonial and federal governments. The state of Sabah has introduced policies to prevent this decline, which is also happening to other native Sabahan languages. This included the policy of using Kadazan and other indigenous languages in public schools. Efforts have also been done to allow the language to become official in the state.

In an earlier 2005 Unesco’s report, the Kadazan-Dusun language was classified as an endangered language, spoken by a mere 300,000 people. The language has apparently joined the 7,000+ other languages worldwide that face the threat of extinction.[16]On the bright side, Datuk Philip Lasimbang, Chair of Board of Directors Kadazandusun Language Foundation (KLF) had stated that the Kadazandusun language will never go extinct because it has entered our education system, is formalised and has been institutionalised.[17]

The similarities between the Kadazan and Dusun languages are sufficient for speakers of these two languages to understand each other easily. In a nutshell, the most salient distinction between these two languages are the differences in their phonemic charts.

Kadazan consists of fricatives /v/ and /z/ which are absent in Dusun. On the other hand, /w/, /y/ and /r/ are present in Dusun but not in Kadazan. Kadazan is one of the Austronesian languages which extensively employ the voiced alveolar sibilant fricative /z/ in their native lexicons. The other languages for instance, are some of Formosan languages belong to the Taiwanese aborigines.


Kadazan is written in the Latin alphabet.

  • A - a - /a/
  • B - ba - /b/
  • D - da - /d/
  • E - e - /e/
  • G - ga - /g/
  • H - ha - /h/
  • I - i - /i/
  • J - ja - /d͡ʒ/
  • K - ka - /k/
  • L - la - /l/
  • M - ma - /m/
  • N - na - /n/
  • Ng - nga - /ŋ/
  • O - o - /o/
  • P - pa - /p/
  • R - ra - /r/
  • S - sa - /s/
  • T - ta - /t/
  • U - u - /u/
  • V - va - /v/
  • W - wa - /w/
  • Y - ya - /j/
  • Z - za - /z/
  • ' - /ʔ/[18]


'Our Father'

Tama za doid surga, apantang daa o ngaan nu, koikot no daa kopomolinta'an nu, ka'andak nu, adadi doiti id tana' miaga doid Surga. Pataako dagai do tadau diti, oh takanon za do tikid tadau, om pohiongo zikoi do douso za, miaga dagai do popohiong di pinapakaus doid dagai. Kada zikoi pohogoso doid koimbazatan, katapi pahapaso zikoi mantad kala'atan. Amen.


Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

'Hail Mary'

Ave Maria, noponu' do graasia, miampai diau o Kinoingan, obitua ko do id saviavi tondu, om obitua o tuva' tinan nu Jesus. Sangti Maria, tina' do Kinoingan, pokiinsianai zikoi tu tuhun do momimidouso, baino om ontok jaam do kapatazon za. Amen.


Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Austronesian languages comparison table[edit]

Below is a table of Kadazan and other Austronesian languages comparing thirteen words.

English one two three four person house dog coconut day new we (inclusive) what fire
Kadazan iso duvo tohu apat tuhun hamin tasu piasau tadau vagu tokou onu tapui
Dusun iso duo tolu apat tulun walai tasu piasau tadau wagu tokou onu/nu tapui
Tagalog isa dalawa tatlo apat tao bahay aso niyog araw bago tayo ano apoy
Tombulu (Minahasa) esa zua (rua) telu epat tou walé asu po'po' endo weru kai, kita apa api
Central Bikol saro duwa tulo apat tawo harong ayam niyog aldaw ba-go kita ano kalayo
Rinconada Bikol əsad darwā tolō əpat tawō baləy ayam noyog aldəw bāgo kitā onō kalayō
Waray usa duha tulo upat tawo balay ayam/ido lubi adlaw bag-o kita anu kalayo
Cebuano usa/isa duha tulo upat tawo balay iro lubi adlaw bag-o kita unsa kalayo
Hiligaynon isa duha tatlo apat tawo balay ido lubi adlaw bag-o kita ano kalayo
Aklanon isaea, sambilog, uno daywa, dos tatlo, tres ap-at, kwatro tawo baeay ayam niyog adlaw bag-o kita ano kaeayo
Kinaray-a sara darwa tatlo apat tawo balay ayam niyog adlaw bag-o kita ano kalayo
Tausug hambuuk duwa tu upat tau bay iru' niyug adlaw ba-gu kitaniyu unu kayu
Maranao isa dowa t'lo phat taw walay aso neyog gawi'e bago tano tonaa apoy
Kapampangan metung adwa atlu apat tau bale asu ngungut aldo bayu ikatamu nanu api
Pangasinan sakey dua, duara talo, talora apat, apatira too abong aso niyog ageo balo sikatayo anto pool
Ilocano maysa dua tallo uppat tao balay aso niog aldaw baro datayo ania apoy
Ivatan asa dadowa tatdo apat tao vahay chito niyoy araw va-yo yaten ango apoy
Ibanag tadday dua tallu appa' tolay balay kitu niuk aggaw bagu sittam anni afi
Yogad tata addu tallu appat tolay binalay atu iyyog agaw bagu sikitam gani afuy
Gaddang antet addwa tallo appat tolay balay atu ayog aw bawu ikkanetam sanenay afuy
Tboli sotu lewu tlu fat tau gunu ohu lefo kdaw lomi tekuy tedu ofih
Malay satu dua tiga empat orang rumah anjing kelapa/ nyior hari baru/ baharu kita apa api
Indonesian satu dua tiga empat orang rumah/balai anjing kelapa/nyiur hari baru kita apa/anu api
Javanese siji loro telu papat uwong omah asu klapa/kambil hari anyar/enggal kita apa/anu geni
Acehnese sa duwa lhèë peuët ureuëng rumoh/balèë asèë u uroë barô (geu)tanyoë peuë apuy
Lampungese sai khua telu pak jelema lamban asu nyiwi khani baru kham api apui
Buginese sedi dua tellu eppa tau bola asu kaluku esso baru idi' aga api
Bataknese sada dua tolu opat halak jabu biang harambiri ari baru hita aha api
Tetum ida rua tolu haat ema uma asu nuu loron foun ita saida ahi
Maori tahi rua toru wha tangata whare kuri kokonati ra hou taua aha ahi
Tuvaluan tasi lua tolu toko fale kuri moku aso fou tāua ā afi
Hawaiian kahi lua kolu kanaka hale 'īlio niu ao hou kākou aha ahi
Banjarese asa duwa talu ampat urang rūmah hadupan kǎlapa hǎri hanyar kita apa api
Malagasy isa roa telo efatra olona trano alika voanio andro vaovao isika inona afo
Iban satu dua tiga empat orang rumah asu nyur ari baru kitai nama api
Melanau satu dua telou empat apah lebok asou nyior lau baew teleu nama apui


Presently, the Kadazans are associated together with another similar indigenous tribe, the Dusuns and various other indigenous peoples, under the blanket term Kadazan-Dusun. This is officially recognised as the result of political machinations, specifically a resolution of the supposedly non-political 5th KCA (Kadazan Cultural Association, which was then renamed to Kadazan-Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA)) Delegates Conference held between 4 and 5 November 1989. It was decided as the best alternative approach to resolve the "Kadazan" or "Dusun" identity crisis that had crippled and impeded the growth and development of the Kadazan-Dusun multi-ethnic community socio-culturally, economically and politically - ever since Kadazan versus Dusun sentiments were politicised in the early 1960s.

Kadazans and Dusuns share some similarity in language and culture albeit with differences in dialect. Many consider their traditional geographical influences as the major difference between the two ethnic groups. Kadazans are mainly inhabitants of the flat valley deltas, conducive to paddy field farming, while Dusuns are traditionally inhabitants of the hilly and mountainous regions common to the interior of Sabah.

Indigenous status[edit]

Being indigenous to Sabah and a part of Malaysia, Kadazans are conferred the same political, educational and economic rights as the predominant Malay population of Malaysia. The term ascribed to this is Bumiputra (from Sanskrit Bhumiputra), a Malay word, which is translated to 'Sons of the Land'.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tunggolou, Richard. The origins and meanings of the terms "Kadazan" and "Dusun". Archived 1 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine., KDCA Publications. 2 December 2004.
  2. ^ Mercurio, Philip Dominguez (2006). "Traditional Music of the Southern Philippines". PnoyAndTheCity: A center for Kulintang - A home for Pasikings. Retrieved 25 February 2006. 
  3. ^ Matusky, Patricia. "An Introduction to the Major Instruments and Forms of Traditional Malay Music." Asian Music Vol 16. No. 2. (Spring-Summer 1985), pp. 121–182.
  4. ^ Assessment for Kadazans in Malaysia Archived 22 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Dr Elizabeth Koepping, Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, Edinburgh Archived 21 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Voices of the Earth
  7. ^ More Foreigners In Brunei Embrace Islam Archived 10 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Malay ultras diluted Borneo autonomy
  9. ^ "Kadazan-Dusun genesis". 
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 February 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  11. ^ "Nunuk Ragang". 
  12. ^ "Inland People of Sabah: Before, During and After Nunuk Ragang by P.S. Shim (book). Published in 2007." 
  13. ^ "Kadazan History Timeline". 
  14. ^ "Historical overview of Sabah". 
  15. ^ "Sejarah Rungus". 
  16. ^ "The Kadazan-Dusun language dilemma (Daily Express). October 1, 2017". 
  17. ^ "Kadazan language won't go extinct: KLF (Daily Express). October 16, 2016". 
  18. ^ [1]