Kadazan

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The Kadazans are the indigenous ethnic group of Sabah. Together with the Dusuns who are culturally very similar, they form the largest ethnic group in the state.
Young Kadazan girls

The Kadazans are an ethnic group, indigenous to Sabah. They live mainly in and around Penampang on the west coast, and in various locations in the interior. Because of political initiatives, a new unified term called "Kadazan-Dusun" was created in 1989, based on their cultural and linguistic similarities. Collectively, they form the largest ethnic group in Sabah.


2.  Etymology: No proper historical record pertaining to the origins of the term or its originator exists. However, there is evidence that the term has been used long before the 1950s. Owen Rutter, in his 1929 book, The Pagans Of North Borneo, wrote: "The Dusun usually describes himself generically as a tulun tindal (landsman) or, on the West Coast, particularly at Papar, as a Kadazan".[1] "Kadazan" means "the people of the land". For over a hundred years, the Kadazans were ruled by the Brunei Sultanate. For tax collection purposes, the Sultanate classified them as "Orang Dusun", meaning "the People of the Orchard". An account of this fact was written by the first census made by the North Borneo Company in Sabah in 1881. Only through the establishment of the Kadazan Cultural Association (KCA) in 1960 was the term "Dusun" corrected and replaced by "Kadazan". When Sabah joined the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, all "Orang Dusun" that were born after the formation of Malaysia were called "Kadazan".


3.  The Nunuk Ragang legend: It was said that the Kadazan/Dusun people originated from a place called "Nunuk Ragang" which is located somewhere around Tampias to the east of Ranau and Tambunan where 3 rivers — Liwagu, Takashaw, and Gelibang — meet. "Nunuk" is a Dusun word for "Bayan Tree", while "Ragang" comes from the word "Aragang", meaning "red". "Nunuk" look likes a giant that provides good natural shelters. Its tree-top was estimated to be able to shelter 7 Kadazan/Dusun huts (a hut measures 12 feet by 20 feet).[2]


4.  Culture: Kadazan culture is heavily influenced by rice-farming, culminating in various delicacies and alcoholic drinks prepared through differing home-brewed fermentation processes. Toomis 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 honored 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' or harvest queen, where native Kadazandusuns girls throughout the state compete for the coveted crown. The beauty pageant is held to commemorate the spirit of 'Huminodon', 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 bride and bridgegroom's families. As a traditional gesture of politeness and civility, the dowry is metaphorically laid out with matchsticks on a flat surface, with a representative from each side pushing and pulling 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. Kadazan women from the Penampang and Dusun women from Keningau Ranau and Tuaran areas are widely regarded to have the most expensive dowries.

While it is customary for Kadazans to marry within a village or a neighbouring village, a change of xenophobic attitudes over the past few decades has eased the difficulty once associated with inter-racial marriage. The Kadazans have a particularly good affinity with the local Chinese and this has resulted in the coinage of the term Sino-Kadazan, a phrase used to describe the half Kadazan, half Chinese offspring of such unions.

Due to the overwhelming Christian influence, marriage to Muslim spouses, resulting in a mandatory conversion to Islam, still induces outrage and rejection, and is known to divide fiercely traditional Kadazans. Of late, Islam has been embraced by a growing minority for political reasons, considering the fact that the local Malay minority has gained political ascendance in recent years. The ruling Malay political parties have also been giving political and economical privileges openly to Kadazans who agree to convert to Islam.