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台灣原住民數位博物館標誌(回首頁)

 
 
 

 

Sakizaya


Introduction to the Ethnic Group

The Sakizaya tribe is called “Sakizaya” by the Amis tribe and “Sukizaya” by the Kavalan tribe. Within the Sakizaya tribe, the Cipawkan clan calls itself “Sakizaya,” and the Takoboan clan calls itself “Sakidaya.” Such a difference exists because the “z” sound in the Cipawkan clan is replaced by the “d” sound in the Takoboan clan. Originally, the Sakizaya resided at Chilai Plain (Hualien Plain), which is Hualien City today. Hualien used to be called Chilai, which originated from the “kiray” sound in “Sakizaya” used by the Amis tribe. Many people believe that the meaning of Sakizaya is “the authentic people,” which refers to a specific group of people whose language is also called Sakizaya. The Sakizaya language is so different from the languages of other Amis villages (such as Natawran, Pokpok, Lidaw, Cikasuan) that they cannot understand one other.

 

Geographical Distribution

One of the many sceneries of Shuei Lian Community

The Sakizaya mainly resided in the eastern part of Taiwan, roughly within today’s Haulien County. Until the mid-19th Century, they stayed within Hualien Plain. However, after the Sakizaya were defeated in the Karewan Incident, a great number of Han Chinese entered Hualien Plain. In addition, during the period of Japanese rule, in an attempt to escape from forced labor and floods, the Sakizaya migrated on a smaller scale within the plain and on a large scale outside of the plain. Currently, the villages which are mainly composed of Sakizaya or established by them include Hupo', Pazik, Sakor, Cupo', Kasyusyuan, 'Apalu, Cirakayan, Ciwidian, Karuruan and Maibor. The rest of the Sakizaya live in other Amis villages. Due to industrial development in recent years, some Sakizaya have moved to the metropolitan areas in northern Taiwan. A census on the Sakizaya people is in progress, and it is estimated that the total number of the Sakizaya people is roughly 5,000.

 

Social Structure and Social Organizations

Early servant women dressed in black

Sakizaya society is matrilineal, with uxorilocal marriage, and a newly-wed man moves into his wife’s household. Most of them live on Chilai Plain in Hualien. Therefore, economic activities include both fishing and hunting. The Sakizaya had contact with the Kavalan a long time ago and learned rice farming, so they have a long history of rice farming.
The Sakizaya had an age-set system (sral) that was similar to that of the Amis tribe. According to Japanese scholars’ field data on the Sakor tribe, during Japanese rule, a person moved up one age-set in the hierarchy every five years. A male was in the wana age-set from birth to the age of 15. From 15 to 23, a male was in the preparation age-set called Masatrot, getting ready to become a Kapah (a young adult) in the Kapah age-set. Masatrots had to first join the underage group, which was the precursor stage to Kapah. Members of this group had to live in a Youth Men’s House, Taloan, follow orders from people who were higher in the hierarchy and receive training.

 

Production Method and Food Culture

In earlier days, the Sakizaya grew dry rice and millet. Their red glutinous rice is a well-known delicacy. The Sakizaya did not care for their crops very intensively; they only weeded periodically. Apart from farming, the Sakizaya also made traps to catch small animals, such as birds and rats, and they cooked them together. The Sakizaya ate a lot of wild herbs, and they believed that other tribes learned how to eat wild herbs from them. However, they did not eat those plants that were only consumed by cows. During the harvest season, before they reaped the crops, the Sakizaya used balidas leaves (Arenga engleri) to braid strings, which they used to tie together the spikes of rice. At this time of the year, all the family members gathered together, drinking and eating glutinous rice outdoors. They also cut down balidas to prepare for the harvest celebration. After the celebration, every household put three pieces of glutinous rice at the door to greet the arrival of the Mapalaway (the priest). Wine and betel nuts were also put at the door to be enjoyed by the Mapalaway.

 

Ritual and Religion

The ceremonial director of the Fire God festival

Sacrifices for Fire God festival

The Holy fire, sacrifices, flower casket
and chief in the Fire God festival

the cleansing ritual during the Fire God festival

The Sakizaya call the spirit of god Dito, which is equivalent to Kawas for the Amis. They believe all creatures have a spirit and that supernatural power is present everywhere. Dito also includes the spirits of the ancestors, but they cannot be located. Only a Mapalaway (priest) can communicate with the spirits of ancestors. Regular people cannot know where the spirits of ancestors are. Human birth and death are also influenced by the spirits of god. Birth occurs because the spirits of god reside in the human body, and women become pregnant because of the presence of the spirits of god. The spirit resides in the human body until a person passes away. In addition to the spirits of god mentioned earlier, the Sakizaya believe in other gods. Malataw Otoki is the spirit of the ancestor that lives in the human world. Olipong is the god that expels diseases. Talaman and Takonawan are the gods of poverty.


When a person passes away, that person’s Dito belongs to the spirit of death. The spirit of the dead person goes through the valley of Milun Mountain (today’s Meilun Mountain), heading east toward the ocean. When the Sakizaya offer sacrifices to the ancestors, the spirits of the ancestors come back from the ocean through Milun Mountain. These spirits usually wear red clothes, but they are not seen by regular people. Only a Mapalaway can see them.


Currently, the most well-known sacrifice ceremony of the Sakizaya tribe is Palamal (a sacrifice to the god of fire). This is not a traditional ceremony of the Sakizaya. Rather, it originated from the traditional ancestor worship ceremony, and further expanded to commemorate national heroes, such as Komod Pazik and his wife, Icep’ Kanasaw, who gave their lives in the Karewan Incident, as well as other martyrs who defended the territory. This ceremony is held after sunset, and it includes the prelude, the welcome tune, the worship tune, the fire tune and the ending tune. At the beginning of the ceremony, the ceremony commander and the ceremony supervisor light up the fire in the middle of the meeting place. The ceremony commander first explains the procedures of the ceremony and then describes how the martyrs sacrificed themselves in the Karewan Incident to remind the tribe not to forget the past and encourage them to strengthen their self-confidence in order to restore the dignity of the Sakizaya.

 

Residential Situation

In earlier times, the houses in the Sakizaya tribe were highly concentrated. Dense bamboo forest was planted around the village to prevent enemy invasions. In addition, tall watchtowers were built to watch the enemy. In the past, because the people lived far away from one another, the Sakizaya used wooden drums and shouting from the watchtowers to gather the people. They preferred to use certain kinds of wood to make the wooden drums, such as camphor trees and autumn maple trees, because they were more durable. They hit the drum differently to give out different signals, depending on how urgent the situation was and why they needed to gather the people.
The main pillars of the Men’s House and of other houses were made of strong and durable wood, and the crossbeams were made of bamboo, covered with a thick layer of silver grass and tied with yellow rotang palm. According to some elders, the Sakizaya used to tie the ridge of the roof of some houses so it would curve upward like a bird’s tail.

 

Relations with the Government

Principal Diwayi‧Sarin introducing the tribal forms
and distributions of early Sakizaya

Pictures from Sakizaya Name rectification party

 

 

In 1878 (the fourth year in the GuangXu era of the Qing dynasty), in an attempt to protect their territory, the Sakizaya tribe and the Kavalan tribe entered into serious conflict with troops of the Qing government, known as the Karewan Incident in Han history. After the Karewan Incident, the territory of the Sakizaya was controlled and turned into state land by the Qing government, and the Sakizaya were not allowed to farm. The Sakizaya were once the most important group on Chilai Plain, but suddenly, they were downgraded to an insignificant role and were almost expelled from the area. Some Sakizaya people went back to their original living area, trying to re-build their villages, but they realized things had changed and the scale of the villages could not be restored. Almost all of the Sakizaya who were living with the Amis tribe did not go back to their original living area. Some of them married Amis, some lived in Amis villages and others found another place and built more Sakizaya villages. In order to avoid persecution, the Sakizaya lived in Amis villages and began hiding their identity. They would not take the initiative to declare their identity. They also started learning the Amis language and gave up their own traditional customs. In earlier times, the Sakizaya had a close relationship with the Amis villages on Hualien Plain. Therefore, the culture and everyday life of these two tribes were quite similar. After the Karewan Incident, in an attempt to avoid revenge from the Qing government, they purposely hid their identity so it was very difficult to tell the Sakizaya from the Amis. As a result, during Japanese rule, after a large scale survey was conducted, the Sakizaya were naturally identified as part of the Amis.
The Sakizaya ethnic group does exist. In order to awaken their ethnic identity, preserve their language and revive their culture, an application of ethnic name restoration was submitted on Oct 13th, 2005, requesting ethnic recognition. After studies were commissioned and meetings were held, the Premier announced that the Sakizaya tribe was the 13th aboriginal tribe in Taiwan.
 

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