Regions with significant populations
Sabah Borneo: Sabah

Dusun, Malay, English


Christianity, Islam, Animism

Related ethnic groups

Kadazandusun, other Austronesian peoples

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.



For the majority of Dusuns, the word Dusun just means as it is i.e. Dusun people, without any references and implied meaning to any other words, be it from the Dusun language itself or any other languages. Coincidentally, Dusun is the Malay word that means "orchard" and is derived from "Orang Dusun" or "men of the orchards" as their houses are surrounded with fruit trees. A popular misconception is that the Dusun people named themselves (or were named) according to the Malay definition of the word Dusun. In actuality, even before the Malay language or British colonists had arrived in Sabah, the Dusun had long since called themselves by the name 'Dusun'.

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: ie: 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 (31st 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 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 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 poison 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.

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 (the most fearsome being Kulindod), and in Tuaran fought off attacks of enemies—Irranuns in Marudu, and Bruneians and Irranuns in Tuaran.

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.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dusun — Commerçants dusun (illustration d Allan Stewart in : British North Borneo, by L. W. W. Gudgeon, published by Adam and Charles Black, Londres, 1913.) Les Dusun forment l un des groupes ethniques du nord de l île de Bornéo en Malaisie et en… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • dusun — ˈdüsən noun (plural dusun or dusuns) Usage: usually capitalized Etymology: Malay (orang) dusun country people 1. : a Dayak people in British North Borneo 2. : a member …   Useful english dictionary

  • Dusun — noun a) A tribe or ethnic and linguistic group in Sabah, Malaysia, with some similarities to the Kadazan. b) A member of the Dusun …   Wiktionary

  • Dusun — Dụsun,   Kadazan, Stammesgruppe der Dayak im Bereich der Nordostspitze von Borneo, Sabah (Malaysia), etwa 150 000 Angehörige; Elemente einer Megalithkultur waren bis in jüngste Zeit lebendig …   Universal-Lexikon

  • düşün — is. Duyularla değil, zihinsel olarak tasarlanan, biçim verilen, canlandırılan nesne veya olay …   Çağatay Osmanlı Sözlük

  • dusun — du·sun …   English syllables

  • Dusun deyah — Parlée en  Indonesie !Indonésie Région Kalimantan Nombre de locuteurs 20 000 (en 1981) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dusun malang — Parlée en  Indonesie !Indonésie Région Kalimantan Nombre de locuteurs 4 500 (en 2003) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dusun witu — Parlée en  Indonesie !Indonésie Région Kalimantan Nombre de locuteurs 5 000 (en 2003) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dusun Jogja Village Inn Yogyakarta (Yogyakarta) — Dusun Jogja Village Inn Yogyakarta country: Indonesia, city: Yogyakarta (City) Dusun Jogja Village Inn Yogyakarta Dusun Jogja Village Inn is a boutique style hotel in Yogyakarta, Central Java. The hotel is located only 20 minutes drive from Adi… …   International hotels

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”