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The humanity of Indigenous peoples

The mountains with wild lilies and 100-pacer snakes

Now, there are 8 indigenous townships in Pingtung County. From North to south, they are Sandimen Township, Wutai Township (mainly inhabited by Rukai tribe), Majia Township, Taiwu Township, Laiyi Township, Chunrih Township, Shizi Township, and Mudan Township. Most of the indigenous peoples have lived around Dawu Mountains for generations, with the population of about 60 thousand (Note 1). Strictly speaking, the origin of Paiwan tribe is north Dawu Mountain. Due to the natural mobilization of the tribe, they generally regard Dawu Mountain as their Holy Mountain. At the same time, Rukai tribe regards Dawu Mountain as their Holy Mountain too.

In Pingtung County, most of the indigenous people are Paiwan and Rukai tribes, which occupy about 10% of the indigenous peoples in the border. Meanwhile, the rest of them are mainly Paiwan.

During the Dutch occupation and Koxinga era, there was no substantial indigenous people policy in eastern Taiwan. Due to the lack of historical documents, it was not until late 17th century, during Emperor Kangxi's Regime in Qing Dynasty, that there were scanty records on the governing of eastern Taiwan. Moreover, there was no ethnological investigation and categorization of the indigenous peoples living in eastern Taiwan before the governing of the Qing Dynasty. They mainly referred them as "non-civilized barbarians" and "civilized barbarians."

In Kanori Ino's Notes on Taiwan Barbarians (1899), the records of the Paiwan tribe first appeared in written documents. It was not until 1935 did Rukai tribe was separated from Paiwan tribe for the first time in The Formosan Native Tribes a Genealogical and Classificatory Study written by Utsurikawa Nenozo and more (Note 2).

The indigenous peoples living in the eastern side and western side of Dawu Mountain in southern Taiwan have migrated continuously via the Beinan Old Trail. They have conducted business transactions and intermarriage among tribes on both sides of the mountain between Pingtung and Taitung. Likewise at the southern tip of Dawu Mountain in Pingtung County, there are the traces of small Amis and Bunun settlements from eastern Taiwan. However, they blended into Paiwan settlements in the course of time. Now, there is no simple Amis tribe or Bunun tribe anymore.

The Rukai tribe mainly has lived in Wutai Township for generations (Note 3). As to the other 7 indigenous townships, they are mainly inhabited by Paiwan people. Due to the differences in their origins and habitats, there are northern Paiwan tribe, central Paiwan tribe, and southern Paiwan tribe, which differ slightly in their ethnic costumes, rites, and festivals.

Nowadays, Paiwan tribe retains a strict class system, being the second largest indigenous tribe in population in Taiwan. At the top of the class, it is the chief's family. In the middle, there are wizards, aristocrats, and warriors, which play their roles loyally. At the bottom, there are common people. Although they are strictly stratified, intermarriage between classes is not forbidden. If a warrior married a princess—a chief's daughter, then his social class would be promoted into the aristocrat.

As to the totems of Paiwan, there is a strict rule that people from different class should use the totems belong to their classes. For example, only a chief can wear an eagle's feather; aristocrats wear a 100-pacer snake. Regarding the lilies representing aristocrats, they can be embroidered on the princesses' clothes or head ornaments.

The major ritual for Paiwan tribe is their 5-year Rite, held every 5 years. Paiwan people mainly worship their ancestral spirits and ask them to bless their tribe in having good harvest and peaceful life. Originally, it was called the rite of ancestral spirits. Later, they began to refer it as 5-year rite. For the Rukai tribe, they do not share any traditional rite or ritual among different clans.

In recent years, the government has been sponsoring different activities in different indigenous villages. Many new cultural festivals and rites have emerged. Some of these festivals may not be the traditional tribal activities. For example, there are Djulis Season in Majia Township, Peony Season in Mudan Township, and more. Generally speaking, these festivals are held with the seasonal plants as the major appeals.

Tjilun (pottery pot), dakilj (bronze knife), and ata (glass beads) are generally regarded as the 3 treasures of Paiwan. For Rukai tribe, they also regard pottery pot as the symbol of nobility in their society. In Rukai tribe, due to their strict class system, only the aristocrats are allowed to carve 100-pacer snakes on their pottery pots. For ordinary people, they are not allowed to do so.

In Paiwan tribe, glass beads craft is regarded as their tribal handicraft. They have been developing it as a handicraft industry in recent years. With the endeavor of the artisans, such as Shih Siou-jyu, Umass, Sakuliu, and more they are successful in integrating traditional motifs with modern techniques to develop unique Paiwan handicraft culture. In addition, Peng Chun-lin of Rukai tribe is famous for his hand-woven and embroidery crafts. Being the first male weaver in Rukai tribe, he is becoming famous among the indigenous artisans in Taiwan.

With fine skills and artisanship, these tribal artists display incredible creativity in their works, which are always the gifts presented by the county government to international guests. In addition, they are also presented to the international guests by the President's Office as the symbol of indigenous crafts in Taiwan. Therefore, more and more young people choose to return to their tribes blessed by their ancestral spirits to engage in traditional handicraft.

Indigenous people are also famous for their singing. In the tribes, there are the fads of singing ancient indigenous tunes. For example, Taiwu Elementary School Old Ballad Choir and Mudan Elementary School Folk Song Team are famous for their interpretations of their folk tunes. In addition, some indigenous people have become TV celebrities, such as Power Station, a rock band formed by two Paiwan singers.

Auvini-Kadresengan, aka Chiu Chin-shih in Chinese, is an important Rukai writer and Sasala Taiban is a young ethnologist.
 

Note1: According to the survey of Pingtung County Government in 2014, the population of indigenous peoples in Pingtung was 58177, with 47290 of Paiwan people, occupying the highest number in population; Rukai, 5825. Then, there came the Amis tribe, Bunun tribe, and Atayal tribe.

Note 2: Rukai are separated into east Rukai clan living in Taitung, west Rukai clan living in Pingtung, and Sanshe clan living in Maolin, Kaohsiung. Please consult Pingtung Annals 2014.

Note 3: Haocha, Ali, Shenshan clans are the more famous ones in Rukai trib. Cingye Village, Sandimen Township is one of the place where Rukai people lived, other than Wutai Township. Peng Chun-lin lived in Cingye Village.