~Sabah's ETHNIC~


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A Land Full Of Mystery

In this land, we can only find a few of very different ethnic groups. The most common culture found in Sabah are Sea Nomads, Keepers Of Skulls, People Who Celebrate By Jumping On Trampolines and others. There are 32 different ethnic groups can be found here. We Call them -The village people.

Human Skulls

The Human Skulls were hang from a house on the outer areas of Kota Kinabalu during the 17th century. This was taken by a famous headhunter , Monsopiad. They are considered as powerful spiritual talismans and the villages in Monsopiad's Village still treating them with great respect.

The indigenous ethnic groups exist in Sabah can be divided into 4 major families : Paitanic & Bajau , Kadazandusun , & Chinese. Immigration has added to this already complex cultural mix, woth people from Philipines , Indonesia & China over the last 2 centuries.


The Kadazans and Dusuns are an ethnic group indigenous the state of Sabah in Malaysia. They are found mainly on the west coast of Sabah, the surrounding locales, and various locations in the interior. Due to similarities in culture and language with the Dusun ethnic group, and also because of other political initiatives, a new unified term called "Kadazan-dusun" was created. The Kadazandusun is considered as the largest indigenous group found in Sabah. They live mostly in the interior & the west coast. Their ritual celebration revolved around the rice cycle. The Kadazandusun celebrates the Harvest Festival or Pesta Ka'amatan to appreciate to god for giving them resources. This Celebration mostly celebrated at 30th May till 1st of June.

The largest indigenous group, the Kadazandusun live primarily on the west coast and in the interior region. Traditionally cultivators of rice, their ritual celebrations revolved around the rice cycle. These rituals, including the most important event of the year, the Harvest Festival or Pesta Ka'amatan, are presided over by priestesses, generally known as bobohizan. These women conduct complex rituals complete with lengthy chants in an archaic language, passed down by word of mouth over generations. Today, many Kadazandusun (like Sabahˇ¦s other ethnic groups), can be found in all walks of life as teachers, business people, doctors or office workers.  

Others still follow their traditional lifestyle, but the only Kadazandusun tribe which continues to live in communal dwellings or longhouses is the Rungus, whose home is the northwest of Sabah. Most indigenous groups are renowned for their skill in weaving baskets; the Rungus not only make some of the finest baskery in the state but also weave fabrics, do intricate beadwork and fashion metal gongs used in ceremonies. It is possible for visitors to taste the traditional longhouse life in Bavanggazo, a small settlement south of Kudat.

Another Dusunic group, the Muslim Bisaya, live on the Klias Peninsula south of Kota Kinabalu, and along the lower reaches of the Padas and Klias Rivers. The Bisaya are best known for harvesting the sago palms which grow in swampy ground; they fell the palms, rasp the pith of the trunk and extract the starch which was once eaten as a staple.

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. However, this Malay word is not the origin of the Dusun name.



The Murut are an indigenous ethnic group of about 12 different sub-groups inhabiting northern inland regions of Borneo. A large percentage of the Murut communities are in the southwest interior of Sabah, east Malaysia, specifically the districts of Keningau, Tenom and Nabawan Pensiangan, along the Sapulut and Padas Rivers. The literal translation of murut is "hill people".The are renowned as hunters and even today, it is rare to see a Murut on foot without several hunting dogs in tow.Once longhouse dwellers, most Murut have adopted modern housing, but they still retain one important element of the longhouse in the village Balai Raya ( community hall): the lansaran, an ingenious wooden trampoline that adds a very special touch to Murut celebrations.

The Murut population in Brunei is mainly found in the sparsely populated Temburong district. They once supplied military might to the Sultans of Brunei. Their population has dwindled in recent years[1]. They are defined as one of the seven indigenious groups that are considered to be Bumiputera in Brunei.

The group is divided between lowland (Timugon) and highland (Tagol) subgroups. They speak the Murutic languages, a branch of the Austronesian family. The Tagol Murut language serves as their lingua franca.



The Orang Sungai (Malay for River People) are a group of indigenous people native to the state of Sabah, Malaysia. Groups of communities live along the rivers of Kinabatangan, Paitan, Labuk and also Kudat.Live mainly along rivers and call themselves Orang Sungei (literally ˇ§people of the riverˇ¨). Another group belonging to the same family is the Idaˇ¦an, who live along the east coast and converted to Islam as far back as the 15th century. In the past, both the Orang Sungei and the Idaˇ¦an practiced cave burials, and it is still possible to see the remains of wooden coffins and burial urns in some of the caves and rocky overhangs along Sabah's east coast, including in the Danum Valley region.


The Bajau, are an indigenous ethnic group the Philippines and in parts of Sabah, Brunei and Sarawak. Although the majority of the Bajau live in the Philippines, due to unrest in their native Sulu Archipelago, in the southern part of the country, many Bajau had migrated to neighbouring Malaysia over the course of 40 years, where currently they are the second largest ethnic group in the state of Sabah, making up 13.2% of the total population. They were sometimes referred to as the Sea Gypsies, although the term has been used to encompass a number of non-related ethnic groups with similar traditional lifestyles, such as the Samadilaut and Jama Mapun peoples of the Southern Philippines. The Bajau of Indonesia live primarily on the islands and in the coastal districts of Sulawesi. The modern outward spread of the Bajau from older inhabited areas seems to have been associated with the development of sea trade in trepang.

The Bajau sailed across the Sulu Sea to settle along the coasts of Sabah. On the west, the Bajau of Kota Belud are famous for their colourful costumes, and their skills as horsemen. One can meet up with the Bajau on the weekly market, or Tamu at Kota Belud, where they trade water buffaloes (essential for work in the irrigated paddy fields), cattle and horses. The Bajau's skill as riders has led to their nickname, Cowboys of the East. Another group of Bajau, who speak a different dialect, settled on Sabahˇ¦s east coast, especially around Semporna. These Bajau Laut or Sea Gypsies were persuaded to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle only recently. Traditionally, they live on the lipa-lipa boats and only come to the shore for water, fire wood and to bury their dead.



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