The Kadazans are an ethnic group indigenous to the state of Sabah in Malaysia. They are found mainly in Penampang on the west coast of Sabah, the surrounding locales, and various locations in the interior. "Kadazan" is a term referring to the Dusun Tangara most of whom lived in towns.
While it is widely believed that the term itself was a political derivative that came into existence in the late 1950s to early 1960s, no proper historical record exists pertaining to the origins of the term or its originator. However, an article by Richard Tunggolou may shed some light. According to Tunggolou, most of the explanations of the meanings and origins of the word ‘Kadazan’ assumed that the word was of recent origin, specifically in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Kadazan culture is heavily influenced by the farming of rice, culminating in various delicacies and alcoholic drinks prepared through differing home-brewed fermentation processes. Toomis and linutau are the main rice wine variants served and consumed in Kadazan populated areas, and are a staple of Kadazan social gatherings and ceremonies.
The most important festival of the Kadazans is the Kaamatan or harvest festival, where the spirit of the paddy is honoured after a year's harvest. This takes place in May, and the two last days of the month are public holidays throughout Sabah. During the celebration, the most celebrated event is the crowning of the 'Unduk Ngadau', meaning harvest queen in Kadazan. Young women of Kadazan or Dusun descent from each district compete for this title. The beauty pageant is held to commemorate the spirit of 'Huminodun', a mythological character of unparalleled beauty said to have given her life in exchange for a bountiful harvest for her community.
In marriages, dowries are paid to the bride's family and an elaborate negotiation is arranged between the groom and bride's families. As a traditional gesture of politeness and civility, the dowry is metaphorically laid out with match sticks on a flat surface, and representatives from each side push and pull the sticks across a boundary to denote the bargaining of the dowry. Dowries traditionally consisted of water buffaloes, pigs, sacks of rice and even urns of tapai. Modern dowry negotiations also include cash and land ownership deeds. Kadazan women from the Penampang and Dusun women from the Keningau, Ranau and Tuaran areas are widely regarded to have the most expensive dowries.
While it is traditionally customary for Kadazans to marry within a village or a neighbouring village, a downshift of xenophobia over the past few decades has eased the difficulty once associated with interracial marriage. The Kadazans have a particularly good affinity with the local Chinese, resulting in the coinage of the term Sino-Kadazan, meaning half-Kadazan and half-Chinese offspring of these unions. Due to the overwhelming Christian influence and some marriages to Muslim spouses, resulting in a mandatory conversion to Islam, still induces outrage and rejection and is known to divide fiercely traditional Kadazans. Islam has lately been embraced by a growing minority as a means to political ends considering the fact that the local Malay minority has gained political ascendance in recent years. Ruling Malay political parties have also openly been giving political and economical privileges to Kadazans who agree to convert to Islam as well as to other non-Christian Kadazans. Conspiracy has said that the Kadazan Christian trying to establish Christian government in Sabah.