The Orang Sungai, literally ‘River People’, is one of Sabah’s officially recognized 32 ethnic groups. They reside mainly in the rural areas along the Kinabatangan River, Paitan, Labuk and Kudat.
The majority of the Orang Sungai community embraces Islam as their religion, being one of the few ethnic groups in Sabah to have inherited Islam from their ancestors. However, there are a minor some who embrace Christianity too.
Although most of the Orang Sungai youths have migrated to the city and work in the corporate world, old generation Orang Sungai people subsist on agrarian lifestyle, focusing on a range of traditional occupations from farming to fishing.
Like other major ethnic groups in Sabah, such as the Kadazandusun and Murut communities, the Orang Sungai community celebrates the end of harvest. Usually, the thanksgiving celebration incorporates a week-long gong-beating ceremony as a sign of bountiful harvest. Other than that, the big celebration includes singing and the performing of their traditional ethnic dance called Titikas.
This end-of-harvest celebration will normally be held at the Village Head’s residence. During the celebration, a variety of Orang Sungai traditional delicacies will be served to the guests.
The Orang Sungai community also observes a unique wedding custom. According to ancient belief, the bride and groom are prohibited from meeting each other on the day of the wedding until it is time for the wedding ceremony to be held. They believe that meeting before the wedding ceremony will bring bad luck. During the wedding ceremony, the bride’s family members will be singing songs in order to chase away bad luck and evil spirits.