Curriculum Vitae
  Biographical Statement
  Patron's Medal
  Pictures of Fieldwork
Current Projects

Property Systems


Sabah Oral Literature Project

  Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research
  Fund for Urgent Anthropological Research
  Borneo Research Council
Selected Articles
  The Dusun Languages of Northern Borneo

The Health Consequences of Development

  Iban Studies
  Teaching Anthropological Ethics
  Complete Bibliography
  Theoretical Issues in the Study of Cognatic Societies
  Emergent Structuralism and Agency
  The Rungus Momogun of Northern Borneo
  The Bulusu' of East Kalimantan
Research of Family Members
  Laura W. R. Appell
  Laura P. Appell Warren, M.Ed.
  Amity A. Doolittle, M.E.S., Ph.D.
  Charity Appell McNabb


Current Projects

Property Sytstems

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See an outline of this work in progress.


Sabah Oral Literature Project


Indigenous peoples without a system of writing maintain an archive of their traditions in the memory of their elders. These traditions are then expressed in the oral literature of the society that the elders perform before various audiences. This literature includes historical narratives, folktales, myths, and religious chants, hymns, and songs, detailing the work of the gods. And through this oral literature the aesthetic impulse of a society finds expression so that this literature is frequently of great beauty and value.

Unfortunately, with the advent of schooling and mass media such as television and radio, this volatile memory of a society’s oral literature is quickly erased as the younger generation no longer finds interest in it, as the local religion is discarded for Christianity or Islam, and as the older generation dies off. Yet this oral literature is of great interest and value not only to the world of scholars but also to the new developing countries. As these countries try to find and establish a true cultural identity from their roots, this oral tradition and literature can serve as a fundamental resource. But frequently realization of the value of its beauty and use comes too late, after most of it has been forgotten.

Nowhere is the problem more salient than in Borneo where there exists oral literatures of such beauty and aesthetic importance that they rank with the great oral literatures of the world that have already been written down, such as the Norse Sagas, the Mahabharata, etc. But it is rapidly being lost and will be completely lost within the next ten to fifteen years.

Dr. G. N. Appell and his wife, Laura W. R. Appell have established the Sabah Oral Literature Project to collect the oral literature of the various Dusunic speaking peoples of Sabah as well as a “Cultural Dictionary of Rungus Momogun.”

Read more information on the Sabah Oral Literature Project.


Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research

Rungus woman weaving on a backstrap loom. On the right a toothless grandmother prepares betel to chew.

G. N. Appell as president of the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research on February 7, 2001 obtained for its archives the collections of Dr. Peter Goethals who did research in Sumbawa in the 1950s and then in Malaysia in the 1960s. This collection includes Goethals's field notebooks, photographs, unpublished manuscripts, field tapes of oral literature of Professor Peter R. Goethals.

The Foundation, on April 12, 2001, purchased the field logs of Owen Rutter, who was an early District Officer in the North Borneo Charter Company service in 1913-14 and who wrote two critically important books on the peoples of North Borneo.

The Foundation is currently archiving the field notes, tape recordings, photographs, linguistic data, and collection of material culture made by George and Laura Appell among the Dogrib Indians of the Northwest Territories of Canada, the Rungus of Sabah, Malaysia, and the Bulusu and Tinggalan of Kalimantan, Timor, Indonesia.


Fund for Urgent Anthropological Research

Rungus longhouse with swidden rice fieldsd on hillside.


The Anthropologists: Fund for Urgent Anthropological Research, of which G. N. Appell is the Founding Sponsor, was launched in late 1993 to support basic ethnographic research on threatened or disappearing cultures and languages of indigenous peoples and is entirely supported by individual contributions. It is expected that the research funded will make a fundamental contribution to anthropological knowledge and will also serve, where appropriate, as an aid to indigenous peoples in their struggle to control their own destinies.

Go to the website for the Fund for Urgent Anthropological Research.


Borneo Research Council

G. N. Appell, President and General Editor of the Borneo Research Council’s publications. In 1968, he was one of the founders of the BRC to help forward knowledge in the social, biological, and medical sciences in Borneo. The Council is composed of an international group of scholars engaged in research in Borneo. The Council's goals are to:

  • Promote scientific research in the social, biological, and medical sciences in Borneo;
  • Permit the research community, interested Borneo government departments, and others to keep abreast of ongoing research and its results;
  • Serve as a vehicle for drawing attention to urgent research and its results;
    Coordinate the flow of information on Borneo research arising from many diverse sources;
  • Disseminate rapidly the initial results of research activity;
    Inform the interested public on research in Borneo.

Other functions include providing counsel and assistance to research endeavors, conservation activities, and the practical application of research results.

Go to the website for the Borneo Research Council.