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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’

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 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. It is assumable that ‘Kadazan’ precisely means ‘people that live on flat 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


PAPAR (the place)

Papar (Malay: Pekan Papar) is the capital of the Papar District in the West Coast Division of Sabah, Malaysia. Its population was estimated to be around 5,984 in 2010, which divided between Bruneian Malay[2] (particularly in the villages of Benoni, Buang Sayang, Bongawan, Kampung Laut, Kelanahan, Kimanis and Kinarut), Kadazan-Dusun[2] (concentrated in the villages of Rampazan, Limbahau, Kinarut, Kopimpinan, Lakut, Mondolipau, Kinuta, Bungug, Padawan, Koiduan, Ulu Kimanis, Sumbiling and Limputung), and Bajau (mostly in the villages of Pengalat Besar, Pengalat Kecil, Kawang and Beringgis). There is also a sizeable Chinese minority (including those of mixed-race or “Sino-Native” origin), predominantly of the Hakka subgroup, as well as smaller numbers of other races. The town is located 38 kilometres south of the state capital of Kota Kinabalu, with the Papar railway station in the town become one of the main stops of the Sabah State Railway.

The Papar area is characterised by low-lying coastal areas which extend inland towards the Crocker Range. Such land was traditionally used for growing rice, and the flat paddy fields once common in the district may have given it its name. Despite the rapid expansion of Kota Kinabalu, the district is still dominated by paddy fields, which are largely worked by natives, and fruit orchards, most of which belong to the ethnic Chinese minority. The town itself occupies the southern banks of the Papar River not far from the sea. There are also areas of tidal wetland that are home to mangrove trees and saltwater palm or nipah. Both banks are connected by two steel-concrete bridges, one (with a railway bridge) connecting directly into the town itself, and another much farther upriver (on the old Kota Kinabalu-Papar road) leading into the paddy plantation hamlets. The town has seen considerable growth in recent years but still preserves some of its older buildings and features. Important architectural features which can be seen in the Papar town includes the District Office, Papar Public Library, Papar Public Park, New Papar Market, OKK Mahali Park (which constitutes a large part of the new town), Salleh Sulong Hall and a new bigger Papar Community Hall which also hosts a weekly wet market on its compounds, a sports complex with a field, a stand and a gymnasium, and the new train station, which doubles as a bus and mini-van station which serves the Kota Kinabalu-Papar-Beaufort route.

The well-known Shaw Brothers film company once operated Papar’s sole cinema, called New Gaiety. It closed in the 1990s; however, a nearby street is still named Jalan Cinema (“Cinema Road”) after the now-defunct theatre. Despite repair and refurbishment over the years, the Papar railway bridge looks much as it did in the Second World War. It featured in Allied plans to retake North Borneo from the Japanese Army. References to it and the Papar River can be found in reports on the Agas and Semut covert intelligence operations, and later in the Stallion and Oboe 6 attack plans.

Papar is a major hub for the proselytisation of Islam on the west coast of Sabah, owing to its large Muslim community. The district’s first mosque was built near the Kampung Laut area around 1890. It is now known as the Masjid Daerah Papar (Papar District Mosque).[6] Other mosques in the district include the Masjid Pekan Bongawan (Bongawan Town Mosque) and Masjid Haji Mohammad Yaakob (Haji Mohammad Yaakob Mosque), located in Bongawan and Beringgis respectively. Beside the majority population of Muslim, Christian population have grown over the years which has been estimated to grows about half of the total population by 2016. There is a total of three Catholic church in the town centre such as St. Joseph which located in Papar town, St. Mary in Limbahau, and St. Patrick Kinuta together with other Christian domain such as Basel, Anglican, Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) and Borneo Evangelical Church (Sidang Injil Borneo – SIB). A number of Chinese temple also located around the district and town centre with the presence of many Chinese population there.



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