Nunuk Ragang
The Mystical Origin of the Kadazandusun People

This is another legend of the mystical origin of the Kadazandusun People in Sabah;
refer also to our features Pesta Ka'amatan and Huminodun

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 skin diseases.

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 settlers.

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 headhunting stopped.

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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