Taiwan Aboriginal Peoples - Orientation

The indigenous people of the island of Taiwan (Formosa) are now only a small minority of the Taiwan population, which is mainly Han Chinese. Many of the aboriginal groups are now assimilated almost completely into the mainstream culture. Anthropologists conventionally have divided the seven major remaining groups into three categories based on location, as follows. (1) Eastern Lowland Groups: Ami (Amia, Moamiami, Mo-quami, Pangtash); Puyuma (Panapanayan, Pelam, Pilam, Piuma, Pyuma). (2) Western Lowland Group: Saisiat (Saiset, Saisirat, Saisiyat). (3) Central Mountain Groups: Atayal (Atazan, Etall, Taiyal, Tayal); Bunun (Bunum, Vonum, Vunun); Paiwan-Rukai (Tsarisen); Tsou (Alishan, Arisan, Northern Tsou, Tsu'u, Tsuou, Tzo).

The aboriginal peoples of Taiwan speak or used to speak Austronesian languages of two or possibly three branches: Atayalic (Atayal and Sedeq), Tsouic (Tsou, Kanakanabou, and Sa'aroa), and possibly Paiwanic (all others). The speakers of Atayalic and Tsouic languages inhabit or inhabited the central mountain area, whereas Paiwanic speakers inhabit primarily the coastal plains.

Although Chinese pirates had been settling Taiwan from the sixteenth century, it was not until the seventeenth century that Chinese began to have much of an impact on aboriginal societies and cultures. From that time on, however, the relationship between Han and non-Han peoples has been one of profound acculturation and assimilation for the latter. By the early nineteenth century, there were 2 million Han in Taiwan, and most of the aboriginal peoples living on the plains had been assimilated or driven into the mountains. By the mid-1960s, one-third of Taiwan's 13 million aboriginal people lived in large cities. Today many of the aboriginal people of Taiwan cannot be considered to exist as identifiable groups, and so they are not included in this article. The following are the groups that still exist.

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