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The Murut are an indigenous ethnic group, comprising 29 sub-ethnic groups inhabiting northern inland regions of Borneo.

Demographics

A large percentage of the Murut communities are in the southwest interior of Sabah, East Malaysia, specifically the districts of Keningau, Tenom, Nabawan and Beaufort along the Sapulut and Padas rivers. They can also be found inhabiting the border areas of Sarawak, (especially around the Lawas and Limbang areas, where they are also referred to as Tagal people), North Kalimantan (traditionally concentrated in Malinau and Nunukan) and Brunei.

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. They are defined as one of the seven indigenous groups that are considered to be Bumiputera in Brunei.

The Murut are 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.

 

Customs and Religion

The Murut were the last of Sabah’s ethnic groups to renounce headhunting. As with the Iban of Sarawak, collecting heads of enemies traditional served a very important role in Murut spiritual beliefs. For example, a man could only get married after he presented at least one head to the family of the desired girl.

The Murut were shifting cultivators of hill padi and tapioca, supplementing their diet with blowpipe hunting and with some fishing. They live in communal longhouses, usually near rivers, using the rivers as their highways. Most have now converted to Christianity, with about a fifth of the population being Muslims. However they still maintain their culture.

Traditional dress for men was a jacket made of tree bark (Artocarpus tamaran), a red loincloth, and a headdress decorated with Argus pheasant feathers. Women wore a black sleeveless blouse and sarong, which fell just below the knees. Like most of the other indigenous groups in Sabah, the Murut decorated their clothing with distinctive beadwork and also made belts out of old silver coins. Another belt made of reddish-brown glass beads plus yellow and blue beads was hung loosely around the waist.

Murut wedding or funeral feasts can last several days. Ancient Chinese jars hold a prominent status in Murut customs. Jars are also a place of spirits, and larger jars were formerly used as coffins.

TENOM (the place)

Tenom (Malay: Pekan Tenom) is the capital of the Tenom District in the Interior Division of Sabah, Malaysia. Its population was estimated to be around 5,148 in 2010. It is located about 176 kilometres south of Kota Kinabalu and 128 kilometres north of Long Pasia, which is the one of the famous attraction in Sabah. In the early days of British colonial rule in Malaysia, the town was called Fort Birch. The town is considered the unofficial capital of the Murut community, whose most important festival, the annual Pesta Kalimaran (Kalimaran Festival), is held in the town. It is also the main gateway to other areas within the Murut heartland and the minority of Lundayeh.

 

Agriculture

The fertile land in Tenom and its surrounding area has made it primarily an agricultural area. The main agriculture sources in the area are rubber while soy beans, maize, vegetables, cocoa and coffee became the second contributor to the Tenom economy.

 

Tourism

Among the primary tourist attractions in the district are the Sabah Agricultural Park (Lagud Seberang Agriculture Research Station), the Tenom Orchid Centre and the Murut Cultural Centre. The town is also known in the tourism industry for whitewater rafting on the Padas River and the coffee factory. Tenom railway station is the final stop of the Sabah State Railway, which originates from Tanjung Aru.

 

 

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