Kadazan Modern History

Cobbold Commision (google image)

It would appear that Kadazan modern history commenced with events when they refused to recognise the rule of the Brunei overlords (pangirans). They were forced to pay tax to the Bruneis in the form of rice grains.(1)

This attitude towards the Bruneis led to incidences such as the 'Tabai Moguak' (2) and alleged skirmishes between the Kadazans and Brunei soldiers.

Many river valleys on the west coast of North Borneo were ruled by pengirans ("Pongian" in Kadazan) who were effectively the representatives of the Sultan of Brunei. The British Chartered Company had purchased almost all of these areas.

Stories handed down orally from generation to generation tell of the many skirmishes between the forebears of the Kadazans and these pangirans and their men. Among these were the fight at Donggongon hill and the Meruntum event. It was said that the Kadazans won during both fights.

The Coming of the British
Americans came to this land before the British arrived. But they did not stay long enough to influence the lives of the Kadazans in one way or another. Thus, it had very little effect on Kadazan modern history.

The British Chartered Company came in the early 1880s. They found that the non-Muslim native peoples were animists and were the most numerous among the many races living in North Borneo. These they grouped under "Dusun" the name they conveniently took from the Bruneis. The British listed the Muruts under a different category.

The British did not realize that these people did not call themselves "Dusun." This word means an orchard. Thus, some Kadazans argue that the name "Dusun" does not refer to a particular race but to a specific place, namely, agricultural lands.

Other races they found living in this place included the Chinese and Bajaus (or Samá according to the Kadazans).

Commencement of Education
The British, through the North Borneo Chartered Company, made arrangement for the education of the young people of North Borneo. They had some success with primary school education. They seemed to have preferential treatment for the children of village headmen many of whom were Muslims.

However, they did not make much headway in secondary school education. It was because of this that much of secondary school education was left to the Christian missions, particularly the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church.

Most of the young Kadazan boys (and girls, much later) who went to school were educated at mission schools. Four of such schools were La Salle Secondary School and St. Francis Convent School at Jesselton, St. Michael's Secondary School, Penampang, and St. Mary's Secondary School, Sandakan.

In the beginning, there were not many students. Parents, especially among natives, were not yet aware of the importance of education.

Mission schools are still playing their role as important educational institutions to this day. These will continue to help shape Kadazan modern history.

No Qualified Kadazans at the Onset of Independence
There was practically no native who was qualified to take up any of the senior administrator positions when British officers handed over power to the newly-formed Sabah government administration soon after independence.

North Borneo gained independence when it became one of the four founding members of the Federation of Malaysia on 16th September 1963. The other three were Malaya, Singapore and Sarawak. Singapore is now an independent nation.

Important Milestones
The following events are some of the important milestones in Kadazan modern history.

  • The rise of Kadazan nationalism in the 1950s which saw the formation of the Kadazan Cultural Association (KCA) and Koisaan Komuhakan Kadazan Sabah (KKKS) or Sabah Kadazan Youth Association.
  • The formation of United National Kadazan Organization (UNKO) which later merged with Pasok Momogun to form United Pasok-Momogun Kadazan Organization (UPKO) to represent the Kadazan people in politics.
  • Donald Stephens (Later, Tun Fuad Stephens) became the first Kadazan "Huguan Siou" and the first Chief Minister of Sabah.
  • The tragic death of three prominent Kadazan leaders who were at the helm of a new political party, Berjaya which toppled the United Sabah National Organization (USNO.)
  • Second "Huguan Siou" and Chief Minister of Sabah.
  • Kadazans splintering into several political groupings.

The facts revealed by a government public inquiry (RCI, 2013), much of which are not favourable to the Kadazan people pose risks to their future. Any concerned Kadazan must not ignore the negative implications.

North Borneo gained independence as a founding member of the Federation of Malaysia, 1963 (google image)

Re-write Kadazan Modern History For A Better Future

In what direction will Kadazan modern history take in the near future? The answers are open to speculations.

This much is very clear. Kadazan modern history alternates between amazing achievements and heart-breaking events that sometimes pit Kadazan leaders against each other.

What is of foremost importance now is that the Kadazan people are fully aware of the immediate needs of their people and that they are willing to do something about it. But how many are willing to make sacrifices?

The more capable Kadazans may well have to re-write Kadazan modern history by helping their people overcome the obstacles and challenges along the way of progress and development.

If the Kadazans want to have a place in the annals of the modern history of their country Malaysia, and possibly in the history of the world, they need to believe in their ability to change their destiny as a people.

As a person with Kadazan blood flowing in your veins, ask yourself what one thing you can do to help move the Kadazan people to unite and progress as a people. Ask, "What role can I play, what contribution can I make, in making the Kadazans a united and progressive people?"

You may already know this! As long as there is one more Kadazan fully dedicated to making a reality of the Kadazan dreams, the Kadazan people will ultimately succeed in the end. They have one more true leader in that someone - you - championing their cause in this land given to their ancestors as an inheritance.

And remember this, too. There is nothing wrong with telling the whole world of your aspirations as members of the Kadazan race. Kadazans are seeking to become more and more as one people, proud of being Kadazans with hopes of a brighter future in the Federation of Malaysia.

The time is ripe! Contribute to the rewriting of Kadazan modern history.

Start NOW!


1. The tax was measured in "gantang" reputedly a measure then used by the Bruneis.

2. This refers to the fight between Brunei soldiers and the people of Penampang at Kulintangan Hills, Donggongon.

Kadazan History Timeline
An article o Kadazans in the Kadazan Language

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