Active mountain belts in monsoonal climates are characterized by rapid denudation due to erosion and mass wasting processes. In such areas, unstable topography caused by local geological conditions combined with extreme rainfall or earthquakes impact on indigenous people, especially through involuntary settlement migration. Anthropological surveys in southern Taiwan show that the oral traditions of indigenous people preserve records of natural disasters that took place several hundred years ago. When combined with geological data, these stories allow us to assess the triggers and underlying causes that led to settlement migrations. These settlements are located in the Central Range of southern Taiwan, a high-relief terrain comprised of Miocene formations characterized by well-developed slaty cleavage (S1) that forms dip slopes that are prone to landslides. Here, we investigate how extreme events coupled with the geological setting caused two relocations of a settlement of the Paiwan group within approximately 350 years. We also draw attention to the point that the oral traditions of indigenous groups can provide important data sets for reconstructing landslides in the recent past (less than 500 years) which other, more traditional methods (e.g. digital data archives) do not record. We conclude that extreme weather provides the trigger, and local geological conditions the underlying factors, for natural disasters that have had a significant impact on the indigenous people in southern Taiwan.