, Volume 77, Issue 6, pp 733–740 | Cite as

Knowledge, power, and tribal mapping: a critical analysis of the “return of the Truku people”



Over the past decade, Indigenous peoples in Taiwan have shown a strong desire for the “return of the Native”; this includes the Truku people in eastern Taiwan. Seizing a favorable climate of political opportunity structure in 2004, the Truku people first succeeded in obtaining the Taiwanese government’s recognition as an independent Indigenous nation—formerly considered a subgroup of the Atayal Nation. Then, riding on accumulated political resources, a few Truku elites started to engage in a government-initiated tribal mapping project. However, while tribal mapping originated in some North American Indigenous communities with a bottom-up process and spirit, the Taiwanese government sent both money (through the municipal government) and an academic expert team into the community to initiate and to assist (the elite group) with the tribal mapping project. These top-down government initiatives resulted in at least two major ill effects. First of all, two other subgroups of the Atayal Nation living in the same region were systematically excluded from the tribal mapping project, to the extent that their own traditional territories became part of the traditional territory of the newly formed Truku Nation. Secondly, possibly expecting a high political payoff on the part of elites, elite competition arose during the process of tribal mapping, with the interests of other community members largely ignored. As such, instead of establishing a decolonizing force, the “return of the Truku” appears to have achieved “colonialism from within.” This paper analyzes this process and considers ways to develop a more democratic strategy for the “return of the Truku.”


Tribal mapping Indigenous nation building Political elite Identity Territorial claims 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Institute of Ethnic Relations and CultureNational Dong-Hwa UniversityShoufengTaiwan

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