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About Seediq Group from Taiwan

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hansioux View Drop Down

Joined: 16-Aug-2004
Location: Taiwan
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Posts: 537
  Quote hansioux Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: About Seediq Group from Taiwan
    Posted: 27-Oct-2004 at 19:27

Just felt like this perhaps belongs in the anthropology forum:

Background on Seediq:

During the Japanese colonial times, the Japanese anthropologists classified Seediq into the Altayal Group.  However, the Japanese were wrong.  In fact, though these two Groups lived right next to each other, with similar language customs and ceremonies.  Seediq only shares 47% of common words with the Altayal.  For example the word for people in Seediq isK hmm Seediq.  On the other hand the word for people in Atayal isK wowK Altayal.

Seediq, like most Austronesian groups, was a small scale farming and hunter gatherer society up until the WuShia rebellion.  The male hunts and plants highland rice while female weave and plants yams.  They practice slash and burn farming technique on farming.  Unlike some Taiwanese aboriginals, Seediq is a matriarchal male society.  A Seediq tribe has a male meeting hut where all the war decisions are made.  The male tribal leader probably was created after the Han Chinese's immigration in Qing dynasty, due to Qing's request of dealing with one leader who can make all decisions.  In general, Seediq features very typical Austronesian traits.

Seediq worships the Utux, which means spirits of ancestors.  Seediq believes that the rainbow, hakaw utux, is the bridge that leads to where the spirits of their ancestors are.  After death if they earned the passage, they will get to reunite with their ancestors on the other side.  Like most Austronesian tribes they fallow a set of taboos called gaya.  It is the rules passed down by the ancestors.  And following the gaya means everything to the Seediq.  The gaya instructs from rules of social conduct, agriculture, hunting season to war behavior and ceremonies. 

The creation legend of the Seediq is very interesting.  Seediq lives on mountains over 2500 meters above sea level.  They believe the people were born out of a strange tower shaped white rock, Rmdax tasing.  This white stone is visible from all around their area, and it guides them in the deep vegetation on hunting trips.  It was said that a tree grew on this giant white rock, and one day lightening struck the tree and rock.  An older sister and a younger brother were born out of the tree and white rock.  They were the first people.  After they grew up, the sister was worried that there no other people to populate.  So she suggested marrying her brother.  The younger brother rejected because brother and sisters shouldn't marry.  Finally the sister told the brother the she has found a girl for him.  The girl would be waiting under the tree tomorrow.  Then she tattooed her face and waited under the tree.  The brother was unable to recognize his sister and they got married and became the ancestor of the Seediq.

Seediq and the Altayal are the only two aboriginal groups in Taiwan that tattoos their face.  The tattoo has to be earned.  It is both a spiritual and social practice.  A male can only earn his tattoo after he cuts off his first head of the enemy.  A woman can only earn her tattoo after she gained the skill of weaving.  Man and woman can not get married unless they are tattooed.  For that reason, this practice is very social.  Getting tattooed is the single most important event in a Seediq's lifetime.  Also, people without tattoos can not cross the rainbow bridge after death which made the tattoo a spiritual matter.  This traditional practice was forbidden during the Japanese colonization, which became a serious issue which also tied to another practice mentioned below.  Without the tattoo, marrying would be against the gaya.  Gaya is like bibble to the Seediq back in those times.

All the aboriginals in Taiwan have the practice of cutting the enemy's head off.  Sometimes this is done during war.  But most of the time, this is done for the man to gain respect or wash away shame that has happened to his family.  For example if some Seediq's sister is abandoned by her husband, then this Seediq would have to go out and cut someone's head off to redeem his family.  When this is successful, the head would be brought back to the village and a ceremony of offering the head to the Ancestral Spirits would be held.  Without this important ceremony, the ancestral spirit would not communicate with the living and that would bring disasters.  This practice for obvious reasons was forbidden by the Japanese as well.  However this practice is what the Seediq male must accomplish to earn his tattoo and get married.  You see the dilemma.

WuShia is by no means the only, the first, or the last armed conflict between the Seediq people and the Japanese.  Japnese rule was very cruel and most part plain disrespectful of Seediq's culture.  They employed such tricks as bribing the aboriginals to fight each other, and the price is they get to hold a Head Ceremony with the heads from the battle.  If anyone's interested I'll find time to write about the WuShia incident.

Since the Chinese nationalist colonized Taiwan at the end of WW2, they weren't at all interested in studying the aboriginal culture and languages like the Japanese.  And the aboriginal studies paused for a long time.  The nationalists were much too busy assimilating them into the bottom of the society or resettling troops into the traditional tribal lands, even traditional holy lands.  Most of the aboriginals that hadn't yet been assimilated had little chance of receiving well education and ended up working dangerous manual labor and the women often end up fairing even worse.  During those times, they couldn't even use their given names, since the Nationalist forced everyone to have a Chinese name. 

Due to the lack of knowledge or they just don't give a rats ass, during the 50 years of Nationalist rule, Taiwanese, Han or otherwise used the Japanese studies to understand Taiwanese aboriginals.  Hence, people continued to misidentify the Seediq as a part of Altayal.  Until the peaceful transfer of power in Taiwan, more and more scholars are again interested in the Aborignal studies.  The Seediq people also demanded that they be recognized and a different tribe.  The government has already separated another group, the Taroko, out of the Altayal and is in the process of recognizing the Seediq as a separate group.

mhuway namu (thanks)

Toda (peace)

leader of the WuShia rebellion and the Mahobo tribe Mona Ludo, (center).

Leader of the Mushia rebellion and the Mahobo tribe, Mona Ludo (center).

A tatooed Seediq Woman from "Seediq Bale"

This is a Tattooed Altayal woman.  The Tatoo for Altayal woman is more V shape, and for the Seediq is more U shape.

Begging plea of the weak can only receive disrespect, violence and oppression as bestowments. Blood and sweat of the weak can only receive insult, blame and abuse as rewards.

Lai Ho, Formosan Poet
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