Sun, Aug 10, 2003 - Page 17 News List

Returning to the land of the ancestors

High in the mountains Of Hsinchu County, the Atayal Aborigine village of Smangus is cautiously opening its doors to the outside world

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

According to Masay, no one was required to invest any money when they first returned. The only stipulation was that returnees be directly related to the tribe through a first relative. On that basis alone, people could be part of the commune. But those who invested more have received more in return.

"There aren't huge profits in what they're doing. Their objective instead is to establish a stable and dignified lifestyle that the next generation will be proud to adopt rather than simply flee to live in the cities," said Lee Yu-pei (李玉亭) the village's first and only Chinese resident, who helps the tribe navigate the government's Chinese-language bureaucracy and coordinate development plans.

Maybe the best indicators of the success of the tribe's development model are the presence in the village of all the generations of each family and the predominant usage of the Atayal language, even among the village's teenagers and young people whose schooling is almost entirely in Mandarin.

The village isn't in a rush to become a tourist haven, though. First it needs to overcome some basic hurdles, such as finally getting the road to the village paved and getting a terrestrial telephone line to hook up a fax machine. Until then, it will retain its well-deserved moniker as the most isolated spot in the country.

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