On December 3rd, the Dusun communities from Bundu Tuhan and Kiau (Sabah, Malaysia) will make the pilgrimage to the sacred resting place of their ancestors for the first time in nearly 50 years. Gayo Ngaran (commonly known as Mount Kinabalu) is the highest mountain in southeast Asia and a prime tourist destination. When it was gazetted as a national park in 1964, community members were no longer allowed to enter the area they had traditionally used for subsistence for centuries. Community members indicate their sense of pride that Gayo Ngaran is a natural treasure for the world to see (including as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but they have been working to regain access in the face of the expensive and privatized tourist industry that now has control over the mountain. At a March, 2010, meeting between community leaders and Dr. Jamili Nais, Deputy Director of Sabah Parks, they asked for just one day to return to the mountain. Much to the surprise of the leaders and supporters in attendance (including the Global Diversity Foundation and Natural Justice), Dr. Nais agreed. Local teams have been busy organizing the pilgrimage, which will take place on December 3rd, and related activities on ICCAs, ethnobotany, and participatory video and photography from December 2-3.
Natural Justice congratulates the community members and community researchers of Bundu Tuhan and Kiau and the hard-working staff of the Global Diversity Foundation and Sabah Parks for making this dream a reality. It serves as a landmark event in the ongoing story of Indigenous communities in Sabah and around the world to re-establish and support the complex connections between customary ways of life, biodiversity, and sacred sites. For more on the story, see an article (originally posted in the New Sabah Times) here. Help the communities return to the mountain by making donations through this page. Learn more about sacred natural sites and the cultural and spiritual values of protected areas here.