ZHUOXI, Taiwan — The smell of damp earth filled the air on a recent moonless evening as the hunter wove through the dense mountain thicket, clutching a homemade rifle and with only the narrow white beam of a headlamp to illuminate his prey.
But the hunter, Vilian Istasipal, was confident. He knew this terrain well.
A member of the Bunun, one of 16 officially recognized Indigenous groups in Taiwan, Mr. Vilian, 70, has been hunting on this land for more than 60 years.
Some of his earliest memories growing up in Zhuoxi, a town of around 6,000 people in eastern Taiwan, involved going on dayslong hunts with his father deep into the mountains where he learned skills considered essential to being a Bunun man, like how to lay a trap, shoot a flying squirrel and skin a boar.
“We kill them, but we also pay respect to their lives,” Mr. Vilian said in the courtyard of his home in Zhuoxi, also known as Takkei in the Bunun language.
formally apologized to the island’s Indigenous people for centuries of “pain and mistreatment,” the first leader to do so.
Awi Mona, a professor and expert on Indigenous law at National Dong Hwa University in the eastern city of Hualien. “What we are actually discussing is the Indigenous right to self-government on natural resources.”
Hunting has always been a central part of Taiwan’s Indigenous culture. In Taiwan’s verdant East Rift Valley, the Bunun people maintained the practice even after they were forced out of their traditional mountain homes in the 1930s by the colonial Japanese government.