Mount Kinabalu is sacred to the Dusun communities. Gayoh Ngaran or Big Name, as the mountain is known to the Dusun, is our final resting place.
In the old days, the Dusun could hunt on the mountain and take rattan and other forest produce from the foothills. Then the white men came. They wanted to protect the mountain they said. Because everybody recognized that the mountain was sacred to the Dusun, the British officers came, along with the local authorities, and talked with the Dusun Elders from the villages on the foothills of the mountain.
The Dusun agreed to ‘give up’ the mountain as part of the park. They wanted very little in return. Only three things: they’d be allowed to continue to collect rattan; to collect forest produce; and to hunt on their ancestral ground. The authorities agreed to the requests. But in 1964 the mountain was gazetted as Kinabalu National Park. A strict ban was imposed and the villagers found that their requests had been ‘withdrawn’. The Dusun people lost their ancestral access to the mountain. There was to be no more collecting of rattan, or jungle produce. No more hunting.
Kinabalu was declared a World Heritage site a decade ago. Lured by its beauty and biodiversity, the number of visitors has continued to increase. In 2009, a quarter million people, from all over the world, visited the park and of these 27,000 were willing to part with a hefty sum to experience the climb. The mountain has become a must-visit destination for paying tourists.
To the Dusun villagers it looked as though only their souls would ever reach the peak. The climbing fees are way beyond their means. Only the Dusun guides and porters have the opportunity to go up the mountain for free.
Perhaps the Dusun Elders didn’t know what they were giving up when the authorities came to talk? Perhaps nobody told them to read the fine prints? Or maybe the fine prints were added later, much later.
For the last 50 years the Dusun Elders could only lament about how things used to be. They could only feel regret and sorrow that their own communities have no opportunity to visit the mountain.
In March 2010, the Dusun Elders from the foothills of this majestic mountain spoke to park authorities about their great sadness and said:
"... we do not want the mountain back. It is a heritage for the world, and for that, we are proud and happy to share this mountain with everyone."
"There is only one thing that we want."
"We would like to have one day to return to the mountain."
"Every year, each year, we want to have one day just for our communities to make a pilgrimage to the mountain. A day when no one else will be allowed to climb the mountain. A day just for our people."
The Sabah Parks Deputy Director was there and he agreed to their request.
The Return to the Mountain took place on December 3rd, 2010. On this day, 125 community members from the villages of Kiau and Bundu Tuhan conducted a pilgrimage to Mount Kinabalu. The monolob ritual was performed early in the morning. A traditional priest slaughtered seven white chickens as an offering and to seek permission from the spirits to climb the mountain. Then community members began their journey - a return to their mountain.
That day was a history as ‘the day the Dusun people returned to the mountain’ or Kakakapan id Gayo Ngaran.
Source: Daily Express
Dusun porters in the 1900s, Oscar Cook.
Cleopatra Sandud (Top 11 Borneo Hornbill Festival 2012 and winner of two subsidiary titles, Borneo Hornbill Festival 2013) in her original Dusun Tindal traditional attire. Background - Girls of Dusun Liwan ethnic, Ranau.
Notes: Different years, similar attire, right?