Ethnic & Beliefs


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Ethnics and Beliefs in Keningau

Dusun - Keningau

Traditionally, the majority of the Dusun - Keningau people were involved in agricultural activities and engaged in planting paddy, vegetables, fruits, poultry, and pigs. Some even conduct slash-and-burn agriculture.

Dusun - Keningau Beliefs

The Dusun - Keningau were traditionally animists but have been influenced by both Christianity and Islam. Those holding to traditional religion today believe in a spirit world that is especially important in the cycle of rice cultivation as well as major events in the cycle of life. Although believing in a supreme being who created everything, they also attribute spirits to many things in nature such as birds, animals, and plants.

The “rice spirit” in particular figures prominently in their beliefs and practices. Some of the Dusun - Keningau people groups are noted for their use of bobohizan (priestesses) for controlling the spirits. In line with that, the Dusun - Keningau people celebrities Pesta Kaamatan (Kaamatan Festival) every May, a celebration to honour the rice spirit and express gratitude for the bounties of the year. Kaamatan Festival will see a number of rituals and costumes conducted by bobohizan, who are considered to be high priests or priestesses of the community.


Murut is an indigenous group in Sabah with about 29 sub-ethnic groups. Murut literally translates to "people of the hills." Murut people, like the Ibans, were once well-known headhunters, but have since abandoned their old ways in favour of farming and hunting. Murut people typically live with their large family in a traditional longhouse near the river. This is due to the fact that they use the river as a highway. They have now left their way of life in favour of private family homes.

They also make a living by farming rice, tapioca, fishing, and blowpipe hunting. Hill rice cultivation is now their primary source of revenue. The Murut people are also said to have thorough knowledge of botanical healing practises, with each group having its own healers who can treat illnesses like diarrhoea, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The Murut people celebrate the Kalimaran Festival, an annual festival that honours the Murut culture's richness and uniqueness by concentrating on their handicraft activities.

Murut Beliefs

The majority of Murut's population has converted to Christianity, with only a few Muslims left. They did, however, preserve their culture. Funerals within the Murut culture will last many days. A death case must be treated in a proper and orderly manner by adhering to such customs. This is to stop any misfortune or catastrophe. Spirits are contained in barrels, and larger jars were once used as coffins.


The Chinese are the largest non-indigenous group. Many of them arrived before the British arrived in Northern Borneo, as shown by documents from both Brunei and the Sulu Sultanate. The Chinese are still very significant to the state economy because of their participation in business-related activities. Hakka, Cantonese, and Hokkien people are the three major ethnic groups in Sabah.