Taiwan aborigines (原住民) refer to the indigenous peoples who have inhabited the island for many centuries. Although there are many tribes, there are nine major aboriginal groups that exist in Taiwan-Puyuma, Saisia, Atayal, Paiwan, Tsu, Rukai, Bunun, Yami and Amis. There are a number of other recognized and unrecognized groups that also exist throughout the island of Taiwan and altogether account for approximately 2% of Taiwan’s population.
Last year, I had the most amazing opportunity of volunteering with the Bunun tribe in Nantou, Taiwan. I mentioned in an earlier Taiwan post that I lost my camera so I have very few pictures of my time spent there (most are pictures that my friends took). Nonetheless, those memories are captured in my heart, so it’s not too big of a loss. I say that as a coping mechanism to get over my immense guilt and sorrow that washes over me every time I think of that camera I lost. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic, but it still sucks to think about it. Anyways, back to the story. Most aborigines live in the mountains and more remote areas of Taiwan, so you really get to see a whole different part of Taiwan that you don’t really get to see when you’re in places like Taipei or those major cities. Last year in Nantou, I really got to see another part of Taiwan that I have never really been exposed to since most of my relatives live in major cities and we never really venture too far from our local surroundings.
Being able to live with the aboriginese in the Bunun village was such an incredible experience because I like to think of it as a part of who I am as a Taiwanese person-it’s a part of my history. Our team got to experience so much while we were there-teaching the children English inside their chapel, waking up early to help the farmers pick grapes, spending time with the elderly people-exercising, singing, and dancing with them, attending their houses for dinners and little church meetings, delivering care packages to the needy within their village, spending time with the children in their play area, talking to them about life in Taiwan, helping them sweep their streets…I will always remember it all. Sometimes you don’t need a camera to remember experiences like that. I guess the experience has just really had a profound impact on my perspective, personality, and appreciation for the culture of Taiwan.
This year, I didn’t have the chance to go back and volunteer again with the organization I worked with last year, but my uncle did take our family up to Sandi Village in Pingtung County, home to the Paiwan tribe.
Beautiful white orchids growing from a tree.
This is absolutely one of my most favorite things about the views in Taiwan. Sometimes you’re so high up that you almost feel like you can reach out and touch the clouds.
It’s different for every tribe, but this is male clothing that you might see on someone from the Paiwan group.
The two-headed snake is an image that appears frequently on a lot of their handcrafted items as a symbol of their belief in gods and spirits and many Paiwan groups believe that this snake will protect them.
Hats that were handmade by the Paiwan tribe.
A real mountain boar that was hunted by one of the aboriginals.
A picture frame that depicts the nine major tribes of Taiwan, as I mentioned above.
A headpiece that a male would wear, indicated by the sharp tusks and teeth of a mountain boar.
Floral headpieces made for the female.
The more I see of Taiwan, the more I can only appreciate how fascinating this little place, my second home, is.
“There are things you can’t reach. But you can reach out to them, and all day long. The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god. And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier. I look; morning to night I am never done with looking. Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around as though with your arms open.” ~Mary Oliver
Have a lovely day ♥