What do you remember most about the Bunun family house? How is it different from the Truku family house?
I had no idea that the Bunun family house was disposable! It is very hard for us accustomed to modern life to imagine that you may have to abandon your house due to the changes in the living environment, farmland, hunting ground, or taboo. After all, it is not easy to own a house nowadays. Also, when I saw the newly built stone slab house amidst the modern buildings on flat land, visually, it was very impactful.
I don’t know all that much about the Truku family house, but the materials used were mostly bamboo, wood, and sogon grass. The Bunun community is based on the clan with friends and relatives living nearby, but the Truku is based on our own family, which is what I understood from my grandmother when she described the place her father used to live in.
What have you learned from the past three days?
From oral knowledge to physical practice, the actual experience has become part of my life and I got to know the Bunun so much better. I sensed how changes in the environment encouraged the fluidity of culture. In the language of shapes, the culture was possibly a circle in the past but a triangle in the present, but potentially a square in the next generation, but the core value stays consistent. The experience of getting up close and personal to nature is very valuable, and I encourage my friends and future generations to be more engaged with nature. Just like Katu said, we are an island country, but we are afraid of the ocean and forests, which is not normal. Now we have the opportunity to reestablish the connection, and that is very valuable.
For people who want to learn about indigenous cultures, where can they begin?
I started from the school club, getting to know different people in the urban environment that we are familiar with, and through them was my opportunity to start engaging with the indigenous communities. Slowly you will find your way. It could begin with general activities, indigenous community tourism, or sports; even taking part in an archery event is nice.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone could lead to pressure, and that is completely normal. You may feel like you’re not ready, but just take that first step and you’ll find yourself ready. Just like when I was producing my music album, I also felt that my Truku language was nowhere near fluent. But just like min Bunun, it’s all part of the process. You are better today than you were yesterday, and that is enough. Just taking that step is one step further than the previous second.
Watching the scenery along the way, changing from buildings and roads to deep forests and gravel paths difficult to drive on, it’s like going into a time tunnel, a journey traveling from the modern age to prehistoric culture unraveling. The ritual to announce our entry to the mountain means leaving everything that makes you and entering Laipunuk humbly. Being told that the base is just 200 meters up was a big relief to me since I had originally anticipated a climb of 2 to 3 hours all geared up. On our way up, we saw the remains of stone slab family houses everywhere, all relatively well-preserved, and that was a very good start for me for I am keenly attracted to historic relics. We stopped every now and then to hear the culture and stories of this forest. One time, we stopped in front of a red fence, which was the result of the struggle and conflict between the Bunun and the Forestry Bureau, and I think this is just one story among the many in Taiwan. From conservation areas being demarcated in the past to co-management with indigenous communities nowadays, I am optimistic that the people on this island will understand each other even better in the future.
On the first day, we spent about two hours listening to the migration history of the Bunun, and the various events serious and minor prior to and post the set up of the security path. While the stories were told, we sat on the ground under the shades of the large trees, with the cicada calling, the birds chirping, and the river flowing all mixed together, accompanied by loud insect flying sounds every now and then, it was a remarkable “classroom of nature”. As the stories went on, the scenery along the way began to take on different colors and different shades of history, the lands we stood on also had more significance. The hike along the security path in the afternoon was rather tough, many rocks were loosening. I couldn’t help but imagine how difficult it was to fight in the mountains, and no wonder the Japanese army had to mobilize 10 times more forces and required pre-investigation and construction works to achieve their purpose. “To understand the process of modernization in Taiwan, you need to come to Laipunuk; to understand Laipunuk, you need to start from the mamahav learning base.” I thought back to what was being said at the beginning of this journey, and could relate even better.
Every night we would start a fire, and I would catch a glimpse of the Bunun philosophy of life from the fire starters they used. The word “sang” in the Bunun language for “fire starter” is the root of many words. Resin is produced from the wound of the plant as it was inflicted, and harm is caused during the process But as time goes by, it could become a critical symbol. The changing process is different for everyone and everything, and while there may be harm and pain, it is precisely what makes all of us different. Tahu doesn’t point this out directly but tells of such metaphors through objects in life, and this philosophy of life is very attractive.
I remember reading the itinerary before setting out, and thinking that it was going to be an easy journey. But each course turned out to be robust and substantial, and I believe that it was because I experienced everything for myself. Especially the Formosan Palm broom, I didn’t understand in the beginning why we had to make a broom, but from collecting to processing the raw materials to making the broom, it took us an entire day (the drying process required 3 days so we skipped that part), and now I am deeply connected to the broom because it involved so much of my sweat, my energy, and my time spent. The primitive way of living may not be as convenient, but you will establish a connection with the land, and you will learn to cherish and be grateful for it.
The significance of land comes from the history that goes into it, the reserved Bunun lifestyle means that life is filled with philosophy.