Course:FRST370/Projects/Community Natural Resource Management by the Smangus Indigenous People of Hsinchu, Taiwan

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Smangus, the most well-known and successful example of the community forest in Taiwan. Before 1990, Smangus was still a little and isolated community. But after 1990, the development of the road to Smangus and the rise of tourism caused a lot of people came into Smangus. Because the breath-taking view and the special culture of the Atayal, etc, have very great potential of the economy. A lot of conflicts came up. In order to solve these problems, there is some change in the utilization of the natural resources in the Smangus. In this paper, we are going to look into the rough frame of the development of the Smangus after 1990. Then look deeper into how did the government law and the Smangus community habit combine together to face this change. And talk about why Smangus can be the most successful example of the community forest in Taiwan.


The mode of the operation of the joint management of the Smangus with the organization, execution, and supervision to form a system to balance each other.

Background of Smangus community:

The indigenous Smangus community, the place where the Atayal aborigines -- one of the aboriginal people in Taiwan -- live, is located in Hsin-Chu County, Taiwan.[1] With the altitude ranging from 1500-2000 meters and surrounded by mountains, it is not easy to reach. They are the indigenous tribe who live in the deepest mountain. Before 1990, because of the inconvenient traffic and the lack of the electricity supply for a long time, we called Smangus as “Dark Tribe”(hēi àn bù luò). After 1990, due to the find of the sacred trees, the transportation to the Smangus community had started to improve and thus boosting the number of tourists soared.[2]

The management of Smangus community:

The community is known for sacred trees and have been one of the main reasons of attracting tourists. The development of Smangus community can be roughly divide by a time chart below[3][4][5]:

Period Time Note
budding period 1991~ ◎discover of the sacred trees
1992 ◎the propaganda of the Smangus sacred trees

◎journalist came here for interviewing

◎development planning group started working

1993~1994 ◎all of the resident here made the sacred trees trail together

◎the maintenance of the sacred trees’ ecological view

increasing period 1995 ◎the road was finished

◎Smangus tribe development committee was set

1996 ◎sacred tress trail was serviced
mature period 1999 ◎Nov.: the first of the ecology and culture trip in Smangus
2000 ◎Dec.: the second of the ecology and culture trip in Smangus
Common management period 2001 ◎May: “common management” reached a consensus

◎July: the third of the ecology and culture trip in Smangus

2002 ◎the office of the Smangus tribe development committee was built
2004 ◎the set of the “Tnunan-Smangus” organization

Tenure arrangements

Before 1992:

According to the Geng Sheng indigenous people helping group plan (Geng Sin Ching Nián Shan Dì Fú Wù Tuán Dì Èr Shíh Lioù Jièh Gong Zuò Jì Huà Shu), ‘There are only nine families inside the Smangus. The population is approximately 60, among the mature people whose age is higher than 18 years old have approximately 29’.[6] We can see that Smangus don’t have enough younger people inside the community. And also, the main income of the community is “Mushroom”. But at that time, the price of the mushroom was continuously decreasing. According to the Geng Sheng indigenous people helping group plan(Geng Sin Ching Nián Shan Dì Fú Wù Tuán Dì Èr Shíh Lioù Jièh Gong Zuò Jì Huà Shu), ‘In the recent years, the price of mushrooms has been low. The price was between one hundred to four hundred and fifty per pound which according to the quality of the mushroom. Even the price of the best mushroom, Lentinula edodes, decreased from 1600 to 700 per pound.'[6] So the economic situation was worse inside the Smangus community. Therefore, there were some people started to plant temperate fruits such as peaches, hoping to replace the already fallen mushrooms.[7][3]

1992~ 1999:

Before 1999, Smangus hadn’t developed ecology and culture trip. Which mean that the income of the Smangus community was coming from the agricultural products. Also, the population of the community kept migrating to another city so that the economy of the community definitely was at a high risk.

In 1996, because of the find of the population of the sacred tree inside the community, the Geng Sing group, one of the group which main goals is helping the aboriginal people, started helping Smangus launch a plan which called “peach directly selling plan”.[6] This group helped them to launch this plan not just because they wanted to rerise the economy here, but also taught them some selling strategy. They hoped all of the things like selling, the ability of sociality with the people out of the tribe, etc. could be done by the Smangus resident in the future.

The helping people in “Peach directly selling plan” not just the resident in the community, but also the member of the Geng Sing group. All of these members will help them promote peaches, such as asking their relatives and friends to buy or even directly carry it down to the city for selling.

When the sacred trees group was discovered, the members of the Geng Sing group also assisted the tribe to be interviewed by the journalists in order to propagate their product and their tribe. According to the interview, we found that the indigenous people in Smangus know some knowledge of the tourism management because of the Geng Sing group. And also, some Smangus people went to another aboriginal tribe to know about how they organized the ecological and cultural trip, they found that most of the local aboriginal tribe’s reservative land fell into the hands of the outsiders, and a lot of aborigines who lost the right to use the land could only be employed by outsiders or sold their agricultural products in the places where weren’t conspicuous. All of these experiences have deeply stimulated the residents of the Smangus people and made them more determined to prevent the foreign consortium from invading their community. It is also one of the factors that indirectly contribute to the tribal common management.


Because of the church, Geng Sing group, Smangus community common management, Smangus started to develop the ecology trip here. In Smangus, they not only have a large population of the sacred trees but also has a lot of breathtaking views, like Koraw Natural Park, Si Lifu Waterfall, Mysterious Valley Waterfall. Si Lifu waterfall is located in the way of the sacred trees. There are a lot of abandoned millet terraces and discarded wood which had planted mushrooms before. All of these things can help the tourists know the lifestyle in the past of the Smangus community.[3][8]

Administrative arrangements

The relationship between Smangus and forestry bureau:

Recently, the main conflict between Forestry bureau and Smangus tribe is the main and secondary production in the forest.[5] According to the law, the tribe is not allowed to take the main and secondary production, even the drowning wood. But the tribe is depending on nature. Especially, after the law about aboriginal people basic right is passed, they can hunt the animal and collect the plant in the forest legally. Though this behavior only legal under the user about the traditional culture, pray, and individual. But the word “traditional culture”, “individual”, and so on are really hard to define and delimit. So it often causes the conflict between tribe and Forestry Bureau.

Affected Stakeholders

Government: The Smangus develop their trails of the ecology tourism in the lands which are State forestry, the forest which belongs to the government.

Smangus residents: They want to get the right of natural resources using and land using which they had in the past back.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Other residents in Taiwan: Most of the residents will hear the voice and some unfair things by the news. But because most of these things didn’t affect them too much, only some of the residents who care about the right of the indigenous people will try their best to help them.

Tour Operator: Smangus has a breathtaking view, aboriginal culture, and a large population of sacred trees, and etc. Which mean it has very good potential for tourism. So the tour operators are interested in it, but not necessary. Cause they can go to another place to develop tourism.


Natural resources management:

In order to manage effectively, they separate their common management group in 12 portfolios, like culture, agriculture, money management, and so on.

And they have a five-year project (2005~2010). [3]And divide into three steps to implement. The most important step is the first step. It costs three years, concluding set up the management method, rehabilitation project, and train the staff. The second step was planning to fix the ways wouldn’t enough in the first step and used literature to show it. The final step was showing the result of the ecological protection of the traditional field.

Tunann system:

In the past 10 years, Smangus has collaborated with the traditional concept of sharing and developing the local system – Tunnan. In this system, the land and the resources are shared.[8][6][9]

In recent years, along with the rise of conservationism and tourism activities, the forms of using and controlling the natural resources in the indigenous tribe in Taiwan have turned to tourism development.

The traditional knowledge in Smangus relies on the observation of the long-term nature of the environment and the word of mouth. In the past, Smangus people routinely went to observe the state of the environment, through the growth of plants, the footprint of animals to grasp the number of animals. The core protected areas of wild animal breeding places in the traditional field are standardized.[9] The Smangus people are not allowed to go hunting, even in general hunting grounds. Based on the observation of the number of animal populations and environmental changes, two years of non-hunting decisions are made for specific traditional areas. Therefore, the maintenance and continuation of traditional knowledge can be based on the preservation of animals.

Secondly, through the understanding of the application mechanism and form of Smangus traditional knowledge, these pieces of knowledge can effectively respond to the purpose of contemporary environmental resource conservation, including environmental resource survey, environmental resource conservation mechanism, environmental resource conservation workers and cultural resource regeneration in order to seek consensus under the interaction mechanism with government. The Simacus tribe received the national park subsidy to open the sacred tree trail, the eco-tourism commentator training, and accepted the subsidy of the Xueba National Park with the consent of the forestry bureau to open the KOWROW natural ecological park trail. After the typhoon, they tried to conduct further investigations into environmental resources in the traditional areas through the Labour Council's multi-employment program. Based on the pursuit of the people's vision of sustainable development in the local life, the indigenous people can cooperate with the national government and the conservation society and move toward a common dream.[9]

Thirdly, the younger generation who grew up under this system will also be required to return their salary to the tribal fund if they leave the tribe to work. And their benefits will as same as the people in the tribe. According to one of the Smangus young people -- Lahuy Icyeh, Tnunan has a strict accounting system and even learns  to use the latest accounting computer software. He said “Every penny is clearly written down and will not cause disputes.[10]


The influence of the common management:

Because of the existing of the common management, it brings the tribe an economic source. Smangus tribe not only develops the tourism industry, but also protects the environment here, and set up the smoke-free community. And there is also different thinking about the common management of a different age.[11][5]

Problem inside Smangus[10]:

1.     Different thinking between difference age state.

Age Thinking
More than 50 years old Don’t have subjective thinking or idea. So most of the oldest people agree with the “common management”.
28~40 years old Have different thinking and hope. Often occur someone agrees with the common management and someone isn’t. Is the most important part of the people in this group.
Less than 25 years old In addition to don’t know the direction of the tribe’s future, even will confuse the situation of the life now. They often walk behind the elder, and their thinking was often bound.

2.    Smangus people still face some difficulties in protecting the traditional areas in which they live. The biggest difficulty is the hunting and harvesting of mountain forests by neighboring tribes and some ethnic groups.

3.    The sharing system of land still has some obstacles to the implement. Recently, according to the law, the government still don’t acknowledge Smangus is an autonomous entity.

Problem between Smangus and government:

1.     The government didn’t make a concession to the indigenous people. In Smangus, in order to develop an ecological and cultural trip inside the community, which provide a way for the tribe to balance traditional culture and livelihoods, they need to build some roads and trails. But some of this trails and roads go through the State forestry so that they still have some conflicts with the government.

2.     The indigenous people’s association has been working on traditional habits and modern laws for many years. According to professor Lu Daojie, “if traditional habitual personality is given, it may save a lot of administrative resources in the modern division of labor”. But the government is still not willing to make a concession of it.


country in the country in Taiwan

A possibility of the country in the country:

Because of the common management, comprehensive land sharing, and common industry, recently, it just likes a tribe government. And how to definite and distinguish our country’s government and tribe government. Here is a concept picture of the tribe government.

Though Smangus still has some conflict with the government, most of the problems are common in all of the tribe in Taiwan. Because the laws of the indigenous people right are not very complete now. But as the things I mentioned above, we can see that Smangus has developed a very great system to balance their right with the government and let the tourism combined very well with their culture and the traditional knowledge of the management of the natural resources.[3]


    1. CHENG-HAN YANG (2004). 以「社群組構理論」探討新竹縣新光(司馬庫斯)部落的社區總體營造歷程 34-35. Retrieved November 26, 2018
    2. 司馬庫斯 (n.d.) Retrieved November 26, 2018, from :
    3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 HSIU-CHU TSAI (2005). Research of the cooperative system of the village Smangus. Retrieved November 26, 2018
    4. SHU-CHI LAN (2004). 原住民部落生態旅遊遊客視覺與行為之研究—以新竹縣尖石鄉司馬庫斯為例. Retrieved November 26, 2018
    5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Yu-Chen Shih, Chang-Yi Chang & Bor-Wen Tsai (2006). The Examination of the Community Forestry Project for Community-based Natural Resource Management – A Case of the Indigenous Smangus Tribe. Retrieved November 26, 2018
    6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 耕莘青年山地學習團 (1992, Feb). 耕莘青年山地服務團第二十六屆工作計畫 書. Retrieved November 26, 2018
    7. Yi-Ting Yao (2007, Augest 20). 司馬庫斯共管制度下的資源保育與利. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from:
    8. 8.0 8.1 Pei-Jan Hsu (2009, September 14). 司馬庫斯勞動合作社,部落自治的具體實踐. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from:
    9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Cliao (2018, Novermber 2). 保護區/傳統領域如何共管? 原民:讓族人回鄉為前提. Retrieved November 26, 2017, from:
    10. 10.0 10.1 JIA-YU CHANG & I-CHIEH LIAO (2012). 探討新竹縣尖石鄉泰雅族司馬庫斯部落的「共同經營組織」之運作模. Retrieved November 26, 2018
    11. Chin-Cheng Ni (2008) Characteristic Analysis of Tourists at the Remote Indigenous Tribe of Smangus. 76-77. Retrieved November 26, 2018
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