April 1, 2010

The Dusun(Sabah,Malaysia) and Bunun(Taiwan) connection?

Years ago, I heard talks about how KadazanDusun’s culture and rituals are quite similar to that of a tribe in Taiwan. It suggested a possible common ancestry. I thought nothing more of it but today, perhaps I got too much free time on hand, I revisited that theory. Surfed the net, read articles, read forums.

From herein, I will refer KadazanDusun as Dusun because the former is long and I’m too lazy to type long names. In anycase, KadazanDusun is a recent coinage, a marriage of the tribe name of Kadazan and Dusun by our leaders for unification purposes. I’m not here to discuss kadazanDusun, if you want to know more about the background of the name, I suggest you visit Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association’s website.

The following is an excerpt from http://en.allexperts.com/e/k/ka/kadazan.htm
The Kadazan language is an amalgation of various influences, mainly coming from other indigenous tribes in North Borneo and the adoption of various Malay words. According to legend, the Kadazan language has its roots in the migration of a band of seafaring Chinese from Southern China. Anecdotes describe a provincial Chinese tribe whose language differs greatly with the common Chinese dialects but bears striking similarities to the Kadazan language; a tribe whom purportedly bear a physical resemblance to Kadazans as well. However, no research or concrete evidence has risen to support these claims although it is supported by authoritative figures in the Kadazan community.

I do not know where the author got his legend from, personally having blood line to the Dusun Tatana of Kuala Penyu, I certainly haven’t heard of this legend. However, it is noteworthy to know that within the Dusun tribe itself, there are many more sub-divisions(if that is the correct term to use) of Dusuns. We have Dusun Papar, Dusun Tambunan etc. The local legends may vary albeit not significant. The author could have gotten his source from these other Dusun clans. Or perhaps, the Dusun Tatana has forgotten about this legend. Our history and legends are passed down orally. So this one could have slipped down the cracks of time. Or perhaps, I need to mix with more old folks, cast my net wider. 

In any case, what the author wrote which I have conveniently highlighted in red for you, certainly perpetuated the myth about the connection between Dusun and that particular tribe in Taiwan which from what I have gathered, seems to point to the Bunun tribe in Taiwan.

I don’t see any concrete evidence to support that the Dusun has any link to the Bunun.

Nonetheless, for amusement, I shall highlight little similarities:

1 ) Nunuk Ragang, is a Dusun word for Bayan Tree. Ragang comes from the word Aragang which means red. Dusun legend has it that they came from a place called Nunuk Ragang. If you want to know more about the Nunuk Ragang, just googled it. But why I bring this up?

The Dusun lived on this giant tree and this tree nourishes them. It was believed that the roots of the Nunuk tree produce red latex that gave the pool not only reddish coloration but also its medicinal value. Thus the name Nunuk Ragang. Nunuk latex is still used to treat rashes and other minor skin diseases.
Now, the Bunun were referred to as the “Red Head Tribe” by the Qing Dynasty. Notice the affinity to the colour red? Hehehe..

2 ) The name “Bulun” means “people”. Early Dusuns before they started calling themselves Dusuns, simply referred to themselves as “Tulun” which means “people”.

3) In 1979, S.G Tan of the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science and Environmental Studies of University Pertanian Malaysia published his findings titled Genetic Relationship between Kadazans and Fifteen other Southeast Asian Races. Summary of his findings is as follow:
Genetic distance analysis based on five polymorphic biochemical genetic markers was done to determine
the genetic distance between Kadazans and fifteen other races living in Southeast Asia. Kadazans were found
to he closer to Iban, Paiwan, Visayan, Ifugao, Atyal, Aboriginal Malays, Land Dayak, Tagalog and Southern
than they are to Bataks, Senoi, Bunun,Malays, Aetas and Southern Indians. Gene frequency comparisons
for several new biochemical genetic markers such as soluble glutamate pyruvate transaminase, glyoxalase
I and esterase D were made between Kadazans and those few Southeast Asian races which had been analysed
for these new markers. In case of those markers in which no data is available for other Southeast Asian races,
the Kadazan gene frequencies were compared to those of races found elsewhere in the world,
Take note of the 2 races that I have highlighted in yellow. I assume Atyal here is the Atayal tribe of Taiwan. They are sometimes referred to as Atyal. Unfortunately, S.G Tan did not include Bunun tribe as test subject. Hence, cursing us to forever guessing our links,unless someone starts researching on this subject again :).

4 ) Dusun and Bunun are both listed in the family of Austronesian language family.

5) Dusun and Bunun both have history of a period they practice Head Hunting.

Guess who’s who?

545111006_d76d827049A Taiwan_bunun_dancer B p148569-Taipei-Bunun_Boys_Singing_Tradtional_Songs C kadazan_wedding Dtaiwan_Colorfully dressed aboriginal women from the Bunun tribe of Nantou in central Taiwan pose in their festival finery.E
A & D – Dusun
B,C & E - Bunun

Anyhow, I do not think our similarities are a big deal. After all, it is plausible. Throughout the millennium, our ancestors could have migrated to Borneo from Taiwan vice versa. Or Bulun and Dusun could just be descendants of a tribe that migrated from the Philippines to Borneo and Taiwan. Who knows?! Someone should really do a research on this.


Anonymous said...

The origin of the term Kadazan (z-dialect) or kadayan (y-dialect e.g. Lotud):

Many foreigners, especially those whose purpose and interest, politically and economically, is to see the Kadazans divided and weak to rule their own God given land, had gone to such length to inject and propogate lies and deception and, by awarding "PHD or Tunship" recruit 'intellectuals' from within the very communities they are bend to destroy to achieve their evil plots of "divide and rule, terrorize or destroy!"

The genesis story of the Kadazan people speaks of man (tuhun) having three attributes - i.e. Spirit(Kadazan), Soul (Koduduvo) and Kimaragang(Body/tinan)and a Creator God (Kinoingan Minamangun) who sacrificed His only offspring (Huminundun/Huminodun) to provide for salvation for His dying children (Kadazan - spiritual being that originate from Him).

The following is a short quote from the 'rinait' of the bobohizan touching on the origin of the word Kadazan:
"Tott oi Boisan, Bahazi,
Ada oku intukao,
Nobobou oku pom sandak,
Noguom oku pom dazang;
Ada oku ih intukao,
Iiih nobobou oku ih,
Noguom oku ih kio.

Logon: " Tott oi Boisan, Bahazi,
Koiho kodo monondikot.
Aanom ko monanhaboi,
tondu Tanga'a ko toi,
Tu kisinakai do baahon,
Kinudan do tuvakon,
Kisinakai do hinava,
Kinudan do dadai? "

Gina gina naku,
Om kisinakai do baahon,
Tuvakon, hinava, dadai,
Tondu Kadazan zou ih,
Kimokudian kio:"

I hope this will throw a bit of light as you continue your journey of self-discovery: Lastly, I would like to end by quoting a verse in the Book of Proverbs: "for as he thinks in his heart, so is he;(Pro 23:7a) My point is, "if you want to see yourself and your children and their children and grandchildren to become as God wanted them, then stop calling, and consigning them to a non-human (exactly what the Koran says about non-muslim)(a Dusun - Orchard) and rise up and take the mantle to be the "People of God" -

G8 Harvest said...

Thank you very much Joelkadazan . I haven't heard of this quote before. The answer has always been right under our nose? So why is KDCA still struggling to find the answer LOL.

Agree with you that we have been misled, divide and conquer.

Anonymous said...

The indigenous peoples of Borneo...they are the lost tribes of Israel.



....and Sabah/Sarawak...is the Promised Land!

TataJane said...

hi Justin,
That's really interesting blog post you have here!

i quickly google about Bunun here :

and...could be...hmmm

yep, interesting..interesting :)

Justin said...

Thanks TataJane. It was for my amusement but I'm glad you find it interesting :D

Fantastic Ajane said...

nice one...

Elena Delgado said...

Hello! I'm glad I came upon your blog. i was researching on Tagalog/Filipino similarities with other Austronesian languages when I came upon a forum discussing the similarities of Tagalog (the language where Filipino is based, we have 170 languages in the Philippines) with Indonesian. Anyway, we found out that Tagalog was actually closer to Javanese & Dusun. There was a Dusun poster who put up a lot of similar words, particularly the numbers. Anyway, I found it interesting as a genetic Stanford study conducted with a few samples showed that the aboriginal Amis from Taiwan were the closest genetic relatives of Filipinos (at least from Luzon. It would be interesting if more of this was explored, also of Dusun or perhaps those from Borneo. It is believed that the people from Luzon lowlands are closest to the aboriginal Taiwanese & those from Borneo. Perhaps this is something you would be interested to look into? Also, another Taiwanese aboriginal tribe called the Tao (tao means 'person' & in ancient times, the Tagalogs only used the word 'tao' to refer to people from their clan, a very interesting feature) as the language by the Tao is categorized under the Ivatan tribe of the Philippines. Also, there was a continuous back & forth interaction between the Taiwan aborigines from the lowlands, near the seashore like the Amis, Tao, etc until the 1800s. It only stopped when the Dutch forbade it. Headhunting was also a feature of tribes in Luzon, particularly those from the mountains. 2 Taiwanese tribes: the Altayal & Seediq were known for tattooing their bodies, another feature seen in Luzon & Visayan tribes.

I had read from another forum (Chinese) from a Taiwanese mixed aboriginal that there is a Bunun myth about the flood.

"the Bunun tribe had a legend that says their ancestor had a brother called Maya (yeah, aka the Mayans), and they were seperated by the great flood. But their ancestrial spirits told them that the two decendents of the family would meet again."

The story tells of 2 brothers separated, so perhaps the other brother 'Maya' could be the Dusun?

I find it interesting that Tagalog has closer similarities with Javanese & Dusun than Malay/Indonesian, & that we have a close relationship with Taiwanese aboriginals as well. So perhaps we have those from Borneo like the Dusun, also have a closer relationship with certain Taiwanese tribes?

It's said that out of all the languages of Taiwan, the Malay-Polynesian branched only from 1-2 tribes? Though I have also read that both polynesians & micronesians based on genetic studies hailed directly from Taiwan & mixed a little bit with the darker inhabitants of their area (melanesians known for having blond hair). So, IDK if the pacific island languages came from the same tribe as the malay languages. Japan also has a noticeable austronesian component, for all we know it's from another Taiwanese tribe. This would be a very interesting & exciting path to venture in don't you agree?

Elena Delgado said...

I always have a problem writing in notepad format, with many typos, lol! I meant that there was continuous interaction between the Taiwanese aboriginals & the Philippines until the Dutch put a stop to it in the 1800s.

Also, I can't help but notice certain things like a Taiwanese ethnic group called 'kategalan'. In Filipino, the area that the Tagalogs reside in is called 'katagaluga' in reference or meaning 'area of the tagalogs.' Another odd thing I found was that the Samoans from the Pacific (who are Austronesians coming from Taiwan & mixed with the Melanesians) called their god 'Tagaloa', it's very weird because it soulds like 'tagalog.' When Captain Cook 1st came to Polynesia, he had a native guide he encountered there that accompanied him. The guide said that they traveled back & forth, to & from Asia, & that they did so based on the currents. & the currents in fact would change when they could go west, & when it reversed, they could go back home to the east. Tagalog could have 2 meanings: 1. taga-ilog (from the river/people from the river) as tagalogs preferred to dwell by the river area 2. tagal-og (ancient). So I don't know if they deified an ancient ancestor or people they came from or I'm just reaching.

BTW, this is the site I came across the Dusun poster: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=949246&page=15

It's a very interesting thread. I also read that Japanese find Hawaiian languages very easy to learn & pronounce since it's similar to Japanese pronounciation.
one - iso - isa - tasa'
two - duo - dalawa - rusya
three - tolu - tatlo - tao
four - apat - apat - pat
five - limo - lima - hima
six - onom - anim - noum
seven - turu - pito - pitu
eight - walu - walo - vao
nine - siam - siyam - siva
ten - hopod - sampu - massan

I notice that with other Austronesian languages, Filipino often differs in the nos. of 1, 2, 9 & 10. Yet we seem to have similarities in these numbers despite the bigger gap by our neighbors.

Elena Delgado said...

Here's the numbers for other Taiwanese aboriginals: (1-10)


Squliq: qutux, rusa', ciugal, paiat, imagal, teyu, pitu', spat, qeru', mappo

Ci'uli: 'utuh, sa'ing, tugal, pazat, ramaɣal, ma'tu', mapitu', maspat, ma'iru', malapzo'

Seediq: kial, daha, teru, spat, lima, mataru, pitu, maspat, mengari', nahal

Bunun: tasa', rusya, tao, pat, hima, noum, pitu, vao, siva, massan

Amis: cecaj, tusa, tulu, sepat, lima, qenem, pitu, falu, siwa, polo

Kavalan: issa, rusa’, tulu’, spat, lima’, unum, pitu, varu’, siwa’, tahai

Basai: tsa, lusa, tsu, sepat, tsjima, anem, pitu, wasu, siwa, labatan

Siraya: sat, duha, turu, hpat, turima/rima, tunum, pipito, kougipat/pipa, mattouda, keteng

Pazeh: ida’, dusa, turu, supat, xaseb, xaseb-uza, xaseb-i-dusa, xaseb-i-turu, xaseb-i-supat, issit

Saisiat: ’aha’, rosa’, to’o, sepat, ‘aseb, bosi’, yo’aha’, maykaspat, ’a’ha’, langpez

Paiwan: ita, dusa, tjelu, sepatj, rima, unum, pitu, aru, siva, puruq

Puyuma: sha, rua, tilu, pat, lima, unum, pitu, waru, iwa, puluq

Rukai: e’a’, nousa, turu, patu, lima, neum, pitu, varo, bangat, porok

Tsou: cini, euso, tueu, sʉptʉ, rimo, nomu, pitu, woru, sio, massok,

Kanakanabu: cani, cusa, toro, sopata, lima, nem, pitu, aru, siya, mane

Saaroa: cani, sua, toro, upate, rima, neum, kupito, kulao, kusia, kumalhe

Favorlang: natta, roa, torro, naspaat, achab, napaat, ito, maaspat, tannacho, zchiett

Hoanya: mital/metara, mesa, miru/turu, supat, lima/hasip, mira, pitto, talo, tali, triba

Papora: tat, mia, turu, pat, dima, lum, pitu, halu, mesiya, tsi

Taokas: taanu, roa, tulu, lupat, kassap, takkap, guito, makaipat, tanaso, taisi

Babuza: natta, narroa, natoola, nasupa, nachup, natapalat, natu, naspat, nataxaxoan, tsixit

Thao: tata, tusha, turu, pat, rima, katuru, pitu, kaspat, tanathu, maqthin

Tao/Yami: asa, adoa, atlo, apat, lima, anem, x, x, x, pu’u

Elena Delgado said...

CORRECTION: It's katagalugaN, not katagaluga - another typo.

Also, I can't help but notice certain things like a Taiwanese ethnic group called 'kategalan'. In Filipino, the area that the Tagalogs reside in is called 'katagaluga' in reference or meaning 'area of the tagalogs.'

Elena Delgado said...

LOL! I keep coming back, I just keep remembering things!

I guess I'm drawn here because I'm curious to our relationship with the indigenous Taiwanese & I see that you are too!

Anyway, I have a question do Dusuns or other Indonesians & Malay have a name for 4 seasons? I find it odd that we have a name for 4 seasons in Tagalog when we only have 2 seasons here in the Philippines: Tag-init (summer) & Tag-ulan (rainy season).

The 4 seasons are: tag-init (summer), tag-lagas (fall), tag-lamig (winter), & tag-sibol (spring).

I wonder where we acquired these names for the seasons that we no longer use since the Philippines is a very tropical environment. I wonder if other Austronesians have the similar names for their 4 seasons? Could this be a remnant of our Taiwanese origin?

Here's the tao of Taiwan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-pqN0Pv4TM

Justin said...

Wow Elena, thanks for taking the time to write! I'm assuming that you are a Filipina? Have you heard about the Ten Datus legend? Ten Datus from Borneo fled their homeland because a Raja Makatunaw was oppressing them. They fled to the Philippines. I'm sure you are in better authority in this than I am.

Elena Delgado said...

No problem Justin! I was happy to come upon your blog! Yep, I did hear about that! It really supports our connection, our language supports the legend. I also wonder if we are genetically more related as well. If Filipinos are genetically closer to the Amis, I would imagine it's the same with you guys.

Upon further reading, I found out that the Dusun language as well as certain languages from Sabah, Madagascar & Borneo are all subgrouped with Philippine languages. They share not only similarity in words but also in grammar. They in turn have a closer similarity with the languages of the Taiwan aborigines. Have you heard of the Austronesian alignment? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austronesian_alignment

Apparently Austronesian scholars are debating whether we shoud be grouped with the Taiwanese aborigines or not. It's also very interesting that the Chamorros or Guam & the Austronesians of Madagascar has retained many of the grammar rules that others in SE Asia don't have.

BTW, if you want to know more about the 10 Bornean Datus, check this: http://writingthirty.blogspot.com/2005/05/inquirer-and-those-bornean-datus.html

PS. Otley Beyer was a famous Philippine historian that has been largely discredited while William Scott is a very respected Anthropologist, he probably knows more about Prehispanic Philippines than most Filipinos.

But I'd like to say that I have always believed that legends or myths & even folktales come from a source that may have truth in it. Many scholars & intellectuals discredited THE FLOOD in the Noah's arc but now, based on world mythology, as well as archaeology, it is now accepted to have been true & had occurred as a worldwide phenomenon. I feel that there is extremism on both sides, either 1 group wants to brand without proof that a legend is in fact true, while the other group will easily dismiss it as mere nonsense. I feel this undermines the integrity of oral history, much of Austronesian history relies on this format & to easily dismiss it is unfair. I hope legends & folktales are collected meticulously, maybe someday, we can find out the truth about them.

& though archaeology, linguiscally, historical documents, & a limited genetic study has supported that Filipinos came directly from Taiwan. I still see a strong possibility that there may have been a back migration after the settling of Borneo back into the Philippines. It just seems like the close linguistic ties of Borneans & Luzon languages like Tagalog supports this legend too. Who knows really?

PS. I found a site based on Blust's Austronesian theories: http://www.trussel2.com/ACD/acd-g_c.htm

There are categories or links above that you can check as well as a dictionary of english-austronesian, as well as austronesian-subgroup & english you can browse through.

Elena Delgado said...

"Upon further reading, I found out that the Dusun language as well as certain languages from Sabah, Madagascar & Borneo are all subgrouped with Philippine languages."

^^^I meant 'Guam, Madagascar & Borneo.' Another typo, sorry!

Also, another Tagalog term for winter is Amihan (It also means 'north wind'). & using that link I posted here (Blust's theories), & it's found in many Taiwanese aborigenes. What's 'winter' in Dusun? I imagine it sounds similar?


PAN: Formosan Taiwanese Aborigines
(*qamiS-an) north; winter

Atayal: (qmisan)winter
Seediq: (mis-an)winter
Kanakanabu: (ʔamís-anə)winter
Saaroa: (ʔamis-an-a)winter
Pazeh: (ʔamisan)north; winter
Bunun: (hamis-an)year

"Chamorros or Guam"

^^^I meant the Chamorros OF Guam. Another typo!

PS. I forgot to answer, yes I'm a Filipina!

Elena Delgado said...

In my obsession in reading Austroneisan cultures, I came upon this article about the closest genetic relatives of Dusun & thought you'd be interested in it.


^^^According to this, among the Taiwanese aboriginal, Dusun is genetically closest to Nunun, Atayal & Paiwan. Also with Tagalogs, Visayans & Ifugaos of the Philippines, I'm Tagalog btw. :)

PS. You can download the pdf if you register. Anyway, happy new year!

Elena Delgado said...

CORRECTION: I meant BUNUN, not Nunun, typo, sorry.

Justin Sunam Wong said...

Thanks Elena. Are you in Facebook? I would love to have a discourse with you and find out more of what you know :D. I have friends which I think you will find interesting.

Elena Delgado said...

Hey Justin, I do have an FB account but I'm not much for FB. But we could give it a try. i don't know much tbh, I've just been scouring the net on Austronesian languages, especially the ones closest to my language & Taiwan too. & I just recently realised that Dusun is closer to my language than Malay/Indonesian/Javanese, so it stuck in my mind. Everytime I came by any article, I thought to share them with you. I would be very interested in talking with your friends & I hope to learn much from them. Look for Elena Delgado on facebook.

Justin Sunam Wong said...

Hi Elena,

Searched for you in Facebook but couldn't satisfactorily determine which one of the few Elena there is you :( . Perhaps you could email me your email address to me at wongkyjustin@live.com.

Unknown said...

Iso Duo Tolu Apat Limo Onom Turu Walu Siam Hopod

(DUSUN) Sabahan

karabo said...

http://studentsrepo.um.edu.my/4576/ - Assessment and Analysis of Genomic Diversity and Bio-markers in Sabahan Indigenous Populations by Dr. Kee Boon Pin, 2014.

Above paper should be helpful. Probably DNA identify one ancestry. According to this paper the Kadazan Dusun Rungus have different maternal ancestors. Top 8 are these:-

1. R9c1a - Probable origin - Mainland Southeast Asia
2. M7c3c - Probable origin - Mainland Southeast Asia
3. E1a1a - Probable origin - Island Southeast Asia/Borneo (Marker not found in China)
4. M7b1'2'4'5'6'7'.. - Probable origin - Mainland Southeast Asia
5. D5b1c1 - Probable origin - China
6. B4a1a - Probable origin - China
7. E1b+1621 - Probable origin - Island Southeast Asia/Borneo (Marker not found in China)
8. JT - Origin - Middle East, Mediterranean

Mohd shahril said...

A reasearch done by USM
Tracing the origin of malay ( Malaysian peninsular)
In this research all of the indigenous people in south east asia are from ETNIK DUSUN

Can anyone give their opinion on this :D

Thank you


Mohd shahril said...


mato for mata (eyes)
tolingo for telinga (ear
todung for hidung (nose)
dilah for lidah (tongue)
siku for siku (elbow)
longon for lengan (arm)
kulit for kulit (skin)
tonsi for isi (flesh)
raha for darah (blood)
tulang for tulang (bone)
wulu for bulu (fur,feather,coat,hair), pusod for pusat (belly button)
tuhat for urat (blood vessel)
wotis for betis (calf), etc.

Other words :
kayu for kayu (wood)
watang for batang (stick)
roun for daun (leaf)
bunga for bunga (flower)
tuah for buah (fruit)

others :
wulan for bulan (moon)
watu for batu (stone)
tana for tanah (soil)
sawat for sawat (as in pesawat) (above)
osin for masin (salty)
onsom for masam (sour)
po’it for pahit (biter)
omis for manis (sweet)
apui for api (fire)
matai for mati (dead)
pais for pisau (knife), etc.

Others :
iso for sa (1)
duo for dua (2)
apat for empat (4)
limo for lima (5)
onom for enam (6), etc.

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