The Kavalan (formerly Kebalan) people call themselves “kavalan”, meaning mankind living in the plain area, and identify themselves differently from the Atayal people living in the forest. It is said that the earliest Kavalan people came from islands in the South, passed by a place called Sanasai before migrating to Taiwan and settling in the Lanyang Plain. In the early 19th century, they began to migrate to the Hualian and Taitung coastal areas. When the Kavalan people first settled in the Lanyang Plain, there were over 30 communities. In the late 18th century, the Han people began to move to the Lanyang Plain. In the 19th century, the Qing government established an administrative district there called “Kavalan (Kebalan) Prefecture” and implemented the “indigenous land preservation” policy. However, due to socioecological changes, many Kavalan people sailed to the Hualien Plain in the south, forming six communities of different sizes led by Jialiwan (Kaleon) group. By implementing the “mountain cultivation and indigenous amnesty” policy, the Qing government expanded its power to the Hualien Plain, disturbing the life of the Kavalan people.
In 1878, the Kavalan people and Sakizaya people launched a resistance against the Qing government. After the “Jialiwan Incident (known as the Lanas na Kabalaen to Kavalan people or the Takubuwa a kawaw to Sakizaya people)”, the power of both ethnic groups reduced significantly, some Kavalan people escaped to the eastern coast or hid themselves with the Amis people. Currently, the Kavalan people are mainly distributed in Qiliban (Kilipan) and Maoliwuhan (Varivuhan) villages of Zhuangwei Township and Jialiyuan (Kaleon), Liuliu (Laulau), and Lizejian (Hedekanan) villages of Wujie Township in Yilan County; Jialiwan (Kaleon) in Jiali (Kaliyawan) Village of Xincheng (Alang paru) Township, and Xinshe (PateRungan) in Xinshe Village, and Lide (Kudis) in Fengbin Village of Fengbin (Bakung) Township in Hualien County; and Sanjiancuo (Sadipongan) in Sanjian Village, Zhangyuan (Kladut) Village, and Dafengfeng (Polo’t, also called Dajianshi) of Changbin (Kakacawan) Township in Taitung County. Since the 1980s, the Kavalan people began to urge the government to face the subjectivity of their existence. In 2002, the government thus announced the Kavalan people as one of the Taiwan indigenous peoples.