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About the Dusun

Dusun is the collective name of a tribe or ethnic and linguistic group in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Due to similarities in culture and language with the Kadazan ethnic group, and also because of other political initiatives, a new unified term called "Kadazan-Dusun" was created. Collectively, they form largest ethnic group Sabah. A small minority of Dusuns can also be found in Brunei where they are defined by the constitution to be one of the seven Bumiputera groups. The ethnic group, makes up, at one time, 30% of Sabah population and are broken down into more than 30 sub-ethnic, or dialectical groups, or tribes each speaking a slightly different dialect of the Dusunic family language. Nevertheless, they are mostly mutually understandable.

The word Dusun means means "orchard" in Malay. It is derived from "Orang Dusun" or "men of the orchards", as their houses are surrounded with fruit trees. A popular misconception is that the Dusun people named themselves (or were named) according to the Malay definition of the word Dusun. In actuality, even before the Malay language or British colonists had arrived in Sabah, the Dusun had long since called themselves by the name 'Dusun'. Therefore, it is very likely that the Malay word "dusun" came from the name of the Dusun people, and not the other way around.

The Dusun traded with the coastal people by bringing their agricultural produce to exchange for salt, salted fish, and other products. The name 'Dusun' was popularized by the British colonial masters who borrowed the term from the Brunei Malays.


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