a Slow Triumph in the Face of Adversity
ANTH 201-1005: People and Cultures of the World
Truckee Meadows Community College
April 17, 2014
The Bunun people live in the central mountainous area in Taiwan, a subtropical, marine climate with the rainy season between June and August (World Factbook, 2014). They refer to each other as “Bunun” and this means “person” in their language, which is also called Bunun (Huang, 1996, pg 55). They were once known as headhunters, following this ritual to ensure a plentiful harvest (Yang, 2011, 317). In 1978 the Bunun made up 0.3% of the total population in Taiwan, or 32,000 Bunun peoples. They are the third largest Taiwanese indigenous groups and occupy the second largest area in Taiwan (Huang, 1996, pg 56). Some sources say, the current population of Taiwan is 98% Han Chinese and 2% aboriginal inhabitants, about 510,000 people.
The Bunun peoples have been assimilated by the Japanese and further shaped by local government, Christianity, the Catholic church, and the Han-Chinese. They have long struggled to keep up their many rituals and beliefs and cultural identity. The Bunun continue to reshape their traditions in the face of cultural oppression. The contemporary Bunun have faced many oppressors and have long struggled to retain their many rituals, beliefs, and cultural identity, which have been rendered increasingly weak, bastardized versions of their rich ancestral past.
Origin stories of the land describe a flood caused by large snake laying across a river, forcing their ancestors to move to higher ground to hunt. They were saved by an enormous crab rivaling the size of the snake, who used its pincers to cut the snake in half, draining the flooded land. Many people perished, but the flood finally subsided. When the Bunun ancestors returned to their land they found only one stalk of millet standing. The people subsided off of the produce generated from the single stalk. The previously flat land had newly formed valleys and mountains from the great flood (Frazer, 1919,pg 232, 233).
The origin and importance of Millet, rice, layan beans, sweet potato is shared in many other origin stories. According to Mabuchi (1964), there are several stories of Bunun men stealing grain from the underworld. Various stories tell of a man hiding millet, rice and layan beans in the foreskin of his penis, navel, ear and under his fingernail to smuggle them out of the underworld. Several stories also account for women smuggling grains out of the underworld by use of their vaginas. Most stories are followed by the woman falling to her death of causing a landslide which effectively kills her. The result is the reasoning behind why the Bunun do not have certain grains (Mabuchi, 1964, pg 21-35).
The Bunun people survived off of their “traditional” diet of maize, sweet potato and millet, until the end of WWII. Subsistence practices include shifting cultivation for agriculture, and...