The Mystical Origin of the
another legend of the mystical origin of the Kadazandusun People in
refer also to our features
Sources: Widu Tambunan
Nunuk Ragang to-day is
a small village and can roughly be located at Tampias, where the two
rivers Liwagu and Gelibang meet, to the East of Ranau and Tambunan.
"Nunuk" is a Kadazandusun word for the Banyan Tree. "Ragang"
derivates from "aragang” or “aagang," meaning red.
Nunuk trees are mystical and magical trees amongst many cultures.
Many species of the Nunuk are sprawling, seemingly ever growing and
never dying beings, with buttresses, deep indentions, and fine roots
dangling from branches hung with small leaves. In their shadow
animals and people alike find shelter, and they provide food for a
myriad of jungle inhabitants. And in the whisper of the leaves one
can hear the spirits of old.
Nunuk Ragang, the Red Banyan Tree as told by Widu Tambunan measured
six outstretched arms in circumference. The canopy was able to
shelter seven joined Kadazandusun houses of 12 by 20 feet. Its
numerous branches and giant thick foliage provided ideal shelter and
playgrounds for wildlife, birds, insects and even spirits. When the
morning sun rose, the Nunuk Ragang settlers would climb to the
branches of the Nunuk tree to bask in the sun and then enjoy
plunging into the great cool river pool below. The roots of Nunuk
Ragang produced red latex that gave the pool not only a reddish
coloration but also medicinal value. Until this day, the latex of
certain Nunuk trees is still used to treat rashes and other minor
The early Kadazandusuns at Nunuk Ragang lived a carefree life,
enjoying the abundant supply of food and other basic necessities
from the richness of nature that surrounded them. The legend tells
us that the first encounter the Kadazandusun had with outsiders was
with Chinese adventurers who had settled in the Kinabatangan and
Labuk areas. The first encounters were followed by the first
marriage of the daughter of a Kadazandusun chief to one of the
Chinese heroes, who was rich enough to afford the dowry of 7 huge
jars plus copper and silver wares.
It was not long, and the population increased. It became more
difficult to get food from nearby. Furthermore, the river had
considerably eroded its banks and Nunuk Ragang began to bend lower
and lower into the river pool. One day the Chief instructed his men
to go onto expeditions to look for a suitable new place to settle.
That is how the Kadazandusun started spreading. Firsts, they went
westwards to Ranau and Tambunan; later to the plains of Penampang,
and onwards to the east to Labuk and beyond to where the
Kadazandusuns are found top this day. Rivers and their tributaries
became the principal guides to the direction of travelling, and
wherever a suitable place was found a longhouse was built for unity
and strength against the wilderness and intrusions by other local
As they spread ever further west, the Kadazandusuns met the Bruneis
and other settlers of the West Coast. Through barter trade with the
Bruneis the Kadazandusun obtained gongs, copper and silver girdles,
necklaces and bangles. When disputes over territorial matters
occurred it often ended in tribal warfare, whereby the warriors used
"Gayangs" (long headhunting swords) and blowpipes with poisoned
darts. Headhunting worsened when groups joined together to form
larger groups to attack another.
The advent of the Bajau, referred to by the old folks as "Sama,"
under the infamous Colonial Rebel Mat Salleh further fanned
inter-communal headhunting activities. Mat Salleh's men recruited
and sided with some communal groups while plundering others. It was
only after the British had killed Mat Salleh at Tambunan that
According to the old folks stories the British also engaged Iban
warriors to help them fight Mat Salleh. After Mat Salleh was
vanquished some of the Ibans worked for timber companies here and
married with local people. Most of their descendants can nowadays be
found in the Labuk and Beluran areas.
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