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Huguan Siou an important institution
Published on: Saturday, March 02, 2013

There are quite a number of books written about the Kadazandusun community. To mention a few that I have read, are the following: Appell,G.N "Studies in Borneo SocietiesÉ, Black, Ian, " Gambling style of government", Gimfil, James " the Kadazan at the crossroads", two I.H.N Evans books - and the more recent (1923) was "The religion of the Tampasuk Dusun; Singh, Ranjit "The native chief's advisory council and more recently, "The making of Sabah" and Topin, Ben, "Some aspects of Kadazan Dusun culture".

I mentioned these books, especially the "Making of Sabah" by Prof Dr Ranjit Singh because there are references as to how Kadazandusun villages were governed or ran in the old days - some two hundred years ago, to be exact. This was before the coming of White Rule in Sabah. And during the reign of the two Sultanates of Brunei and Sulu, there existed then these four institutions, namely: (1) the Orang Tua institution, (2) the Village elders institution, (3) the Religious group (bobohizan) institution and a fourth added especially during the sultanate era and that was the Huguan Siou institution.

The reason for these institutions found in nearly all major villages of the Kadazandusun was the need to respect Adat, the overall rules, customs and mores of the KD and Murut communites in those days, and still is today.

Adat was a way of life of the community and formed an important part of their culture.

The four institutions then were the "protectors", the "guardians" of Adat.

The Orang Tua was not elected but was chosen from amongst the men.

He was chosen not only for his prowess in the defense of the village(s) but more particularly for his deep knowledge of Adat. And when an Adat was breached by any one in the community, he was the judge, the prosecutor and the jury all rolled into one. It was important therefore that he must be impartial in his judgment of the issues before him and that he knew all about Adat.

In difficult Adat cases, such as in the case of incest (sumbang) of the first degree, he normally called on the second institution to help him. And that is the Village Elders. These were the aged men and women (but mostly men) who were selected some time on an ad hoc basis for their deep knowledge of Adat. They could, as a team, sit together to advise the Orang Tua as to the penalty or penalties or the "sogit" for the breach.

And when it is felt that the spirit world had been offended by the breach ( as in "sumbang" cases,) the third institution, the Bobohizan, was called to assist. The bobohizan were called to initiate rites to appease the offended spirits who could harm the harvest or the general environment in the villages.

The fourth institution, the Huguan Siou was not usually involved in the deliberation on Adat breaches as this was more the work of the Orang Tua, but there were occasions when he was called to give advice or opinion on the matter. His main function was to protect the villages and villagers and in the days when the various tribes were fighting with each other, the Huguan Siou was there to lead the fight. He was the acknowledged Huguan Siou because he possessed "koboh" or charm and was almost invincible in battle. The Tangah of Penampang for instance used to have regular fights with the Liwan of Tambunan.

The Huguan Siou became prominent in the Penampang district when Brunei overlords ruled the people of Penampang. The Putatan-Moyog river was the inheritance (tanah pusaka) of one of the relations of the Sultan. The last to hold the title of the Putatan-Moyog river was a Pengiran Abu Bakar. He signed a lease in perpetuity to the North Borneo Chartered Company government (Company government) when North Borneo itself was "ceded" to Baron Overbect an Austrian envoy in Hong Kong who in turn sold the same to the North Borneo Chartered Company. But before the Putatan-Moyog river was sold to the Company government, the owner of the river, Pengian

Abu Bakar collected "buis" or taxes from the people who lived along the river and the valleys of Penampang. The "buis" collected was in the form of paddi or rice, chickens etc. And collection was once a year.

However, when the collection became too often and the people found it burdensome to pay the "buis", they became angry and wanted to rebel.

The Brunei overlords also started to call them "dusun" in a derogatory manner-meaning uncouth and dirty. This term was not acceptable to them and they became more rebellious. There was a big "battle" known as the "battle at Kulintangan", involving a few Kadazan fighters led by the then Huguan Siou who was also known as Bouvang. The Kadazan fighters won and according to the legend, they cut off the heads of the enemies and put them on spikes along the road "all the way to Kg Gunsing."

But the wise Sultan in Brunei did not retaliate. Instead he sent an emissary to Penampang and the Orang tuas of some villages were selected and made Datuks. The latter then became officers of the Sultans.

This story by NC Tan Ping Hing appeared in one of the editions of the "Sabah Society Journal".

That "Kulintangan incident" happened some two hundred years ago, long before the coming of White Rule in Sabah. And when the Company govern ment ruled Sabah, the four institutions mentioned above were abolished except the Orang Tua. The position of the Village Elders were taken over by the creation of Native Chiefs and also the Native court where breaches of Adat was heard.

The Huguan Siou as an institution was long dormant. And it was not until 1959 when at the monthly meeting of the Society of Kadazans,Penampang, Tun Stephens who took over the presidency of the Society in 1958 (from Lee Kim Cheong) announced the long awaited news that the Colonial government had agreed to recognise the Kadazan Harvest Festival as an annual holiday. This was greeted with a thunderous applause.

Aki Michael Milip,one of the Society's committee members as well as its elders, stood and said that it was time to revive the Huguan Siou institution.

He proposed that Stephens should be given that honour as he deserved it.

It was agreed with another thunderous applause. I happened to be at this meeting. Later, when the United National Kadazan Organisation (UNKO) was formed, his position as the successor of the long dormant institution was confirmed and again in April 1964 when UNKO and Pasok Momogun ( of Datuk Sundang) were merged to form the United PasokMomogun Kadazan Organisation (UPKO) his position as the successor to the long dormant institution was reconfirmed.

The present Huguan Siou, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan was offered the position and he did not accept it at first, for rightly, he thought it was a heavy responsibility but he was won over by many Kadazandusun elders and leaders.

The position of Huguan Siou is indeed a Kadazansun institution; it is part of their heritage and culture and the position can only be bestowed to persons who belong to the community.

The term "Huguan Siou" means the "brave leader", but when a person is bestowed the title, it means much more than just " the brave leader"; it is an institution for the Kadazandusun community only..

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