Sun, Dec 05, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Looking after the little people

Amin is a Saisiyat tribe member who lives near caves said to have been inhabited for millennia by a race of black pygmies

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Currently, there are fewer than 5,000 Saisiyat among a population of under 400,000 Indigenous or Aboriginal people in Taiwan. Many Saisiyat marry into other tribes or Han families, so numbers are decreasing. Amin's mother is Saisiyat but his father is Atayal. The tribe is usually but not necessarily patri-lineal. Amin described himself as part of the Lin (林) family or clan that is part of the Saisiyat tribe.

As for the caves below, where the black pygmies were said to live, we were asked to stay away. Amin said the cliffs to get there were too steep. He said those who had photographed the place had their film cleared. There were even curses of the Short Black People that involved memory loss and confusion for those foolhardy enough not to heed the warnings. As it happened, some photos I had taken the previous night had mysteriously disappeared and the car wouldn't start, so the trip was a non-starter.

Amin and the Saisiyat guard the caves, hold the rituals and tell the stories that keep alive the legacy of Taiwan's original settlers, now that they are gone.

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