A Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun – An ethnographic historical narrative of Laipunuk (內本鹿), southern mountain range

A Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun – An ethnographic historical narrative of Laipunuk (內本鹿), southern mountain range

Asst Professor Dr Steven A Martin

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies in Sociology and Anthropology


Faculty of International Studies | University News


This paper offers an ethnographic life history account of a Bunun hunter, Tama Biung Istanda, from Laipunuk, Taiwan, based on academic research and fieldwork. Audio-visual tapes recorded by the author in Taitung County, Taiwan, were reviewed and translated alongside extant Chinese, Japanese and English sources. The study constructs a remembered life into readable coherent sequences on behalf of an indigenous peoples, many of whom now seek international recognition as part of their struggle for essential entitlements such as land rights, access to traditional hunting grounds, and other natural, legal, and cultural resources. The testimony of Tama Biung Istanda, translated into English and summarised here for future generations, provides a compelling new source of data on the Bunun heritage that can help to assist knowledge for the local and scholarly community and cultural resource management practices.

Keywords: Bunun, ethnohistory, hunting, Japanese Colony of Taiwan, Laipunuk or Neibenlu (內本鹿), Taiwanese (Formosan) indigenous peoples

Figures 1-7

Click on images to enlarge.

Figure 1: Bunun at the Asahi Police Station, Laipunuk 1933

Figure 2: Map of southern Taiwan featuring the Laipunuk watershed

Figure 3: Map of Laipunuk villages, the Japanese cordon trail and police stations, and the 2006 Bunun root-searching expedition across the Central Range

Figure 4: Remains of the Japanese police station cordon trail above the Lu Ye River, Laipunuk

Figure 5: Interview setup with Nabu Istanda (left), Langus Istanda (informant’s sister, centre); and Biung Istanda (right).

Figure 6: Ethnohistorical Narrative Research Flow Chart

Figure 7: Tama Biung Istanda (1917-2007) Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun | Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu

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I would like to thank David Blundell, Elizabeth Zeitoun, and the two anonymous reviewers for helping me further my argument. Special thanks to Nabu Istanda and Tommie Williamson (1955-2017) for the years we shared during this project.

2005 Field Research

Nabu Istanda teaching an Amis student at Mamahav village in Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu | 2005

Steven Martin and Dahu Istanda below Mamahav village in Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu | 2005