Taiwan Aboriginal Peoples - Eastern Lowland Groups

Ami. The 90,000 (in 1975) Ami were indigenous to the east coast between Hualien and Taitung. They have been growing rapidly in number (their 1939 population was 52,000). The influences of the Japanese after 1900 and the local Han peasantry have led to a great deal of acculturation, although the Ami are one of the few aboriginal peoples on Taiwan who still speak their own language.

The Ami were originally swidden agriculturalists who adopted wet-rice agriculture and the water buffalo (used for plowing) from the Han in approximately 1900. They raised dogs for hunting and pigs and chickens for ritual sacrifice. They made their clothing from bark cloth. Prior to Japanese occupation, the members of villages owned land corporately; it was parceled into units worked by younger men's age-grade groups. Since then, private ownership has become common. Hunting and fishing territories are administered by age-grade groups.

The Ami are matrilineal (with 50 clans) and generally matrilocal. The ambl-anak form of marriage, however, allowed those without daughters to pay a bride-price to gain patrilocal residence for the couple. Owing to Chinese influence, at least in part, this pattern is being used more and more by those with daughters.

Political structure is dualistic. Secular authority resides in the men's age-grade groups. Ritual authority is provided by the matrilineal kakitaan, or hereditary priestly families, though it is the men and not the women of these families who function as priests.

Social control of murder depended less on law than on blood vengeance by the deceased's kindred. Warfare against the Atayal, Bunun, and Puyuma peoples involved headhunting; pacification circa 1930 ended this. Traditionally the taking of heads was integral to the irisin renewal and fertility ceremony, celebrated following the millet harvest. Ami villages were once protected against their enemies by sharp bamboo stakes and trenches.

Puyuma. The approximately 6,000 (in 1975) Puyuma are now essentially assimilated among Han peasants. Traditionally they were agriculturalists who also hunted and fished. Land was owned by heads of aristocratic families, who rented it to commoners for part of the agricultural and faunal goods they produced.

The Puyuma lived in permanent villages of approximately 600 people. Each village was politically independent and almost entirely endogamous. Leadership was inherited among chiefly families. The Puyuma are matrilineal and matrilocal.

Of special importance was the moiety and age-grade system. The age-grade groups functioned as military training schools, among other things, and the moieties would practice attacking each other. From the ages of 18 to 22, a young man lived segregated from females in a men's house and learned to fight. At 22 he was allowed to marry, and he left the men's house to live with his wife's family.

The Puyuma believe that each person has three souls, one of which resides in the head, and one of which resides on each shoulder. Illness is caused by the departure of a shoulder soul, and death by that of the head soul. Female shamans treat illness by returning a shoulder soul.

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