SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.17 (2021)

The People Who Read the Moon:

Use of Nature by the Dusun People Who Live near the City of Sabah, Malaysia


Department of Regional Studies, School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

Borneo, Sabah, Dusun, moon, use of nature, acculturation

The main subject of this paper is the relationship between the moon and the indigenous people who live in Dusun near the urban area of Sabah State in Borneo. Through observation of their practices using nature, this paper aims to represent the outward appearance of activities that are still practiced in the increasingly urbanized Dusun society.

The people of Dusun have continued to live a self-sufficient lifestyle by hunting. gathering and fishing, making use of the tropical forests and rivers, using primarily the slash-and burn method and paddy cultivation. Their lifestyle of making use of nature is undergoing rapid changes because of changes in the environment of tropical rainforests; people’s livelihoods; and their religious beliefs as a result of the political and economic changes at the national level.

The KD village where the Dusun people live, which is the focus of this paper, is located at the foot of a river flowing from the Crocker Range. While the village has easy accessibility to an urban area—approximately 15 minutes by car to the city of Penampang—it is surrounded by a tropical forest and as a result, the environment of the village, their livelihood, and their religious beliefs have changed, but their activities that make use of nature are still actively practiced. A survey conducted in 2018 revealed that they use the waxing and waning of the moon as a guide for their activities in nature.

The relationship between the Dusun people and the moon was already reported by Evans, who investigated Dusun society in the Kota Belud region in the 1940s. Therefore, in this paper, an attempt is made to examine the changes in the relationship with nature in Dusun society by comparing the results of the author’s research with the reports of the Dusun and the moon by Evans.