Amis Aborigines in Taitung County yesterday erected a stele by a rock on a beach in memory of a tribal legend about the rock, despite opposition from the neighboring Puyuma Aborigines.
To preserve a story that has long been told among Amis in Taitung about the “kite rock” — a large rock lying on Shanyuan Beach (杉原) with a horizontal vestige around it that looks as if someone had tied a rope around it — the tribesmen put up a stele by it in front of several Amis leaders yesterday.
Once upon a time, the tale goes, a man was caught stealing sugarcane from a neighboring tribe’s field of sugarcane.
To save him, the man’s elder brother made a huge kite, put some knives on it and flew it above his brother. The younger brother then grabbed the kite, took off with it and dropped the knives to kill the people trying to catch him.
“The story about the two Amis brothers being caught by Puyumas when stealing sugarcane is well known among Amis in Taitung.
In fact, kite flying is also a long tradition in the Amis culture, our tribal elders tell us,” said Chang Chien-san (張健三), an Amis from Taitung and chairman of the Taiwan Association for Aboriginal Religious and Cultural Studies.
“We also believe that the kite rock is the rock that the elder brother [in the story] used to save his younger brother,” Chang said. “So we wanted to erect a stele there to remember the story.”
While the neighboring Puyumas agree with the Amis on the story of the two brothers and the kite rock, they argued that the two brothers were Puyumas who stole sugarcane from the Amis and expressed their opposition to the Amis’ version of the story.
“As Puyumas and Amis have long lived side by side, it’s no surprise that the same story is told within both tribes. However, it’s not sufficient to claim the story to be of Amis origin simply based on oral tradition,” a joint statement released by the Nanwang Puyuma Community (南王部落) and several other Puyuma organizations said.
According to the Puyuma version, the mother of the two brothers was the daughter of a Nanwang chieftain.
“Books written by an anthropologist specializing in Puyuma history and culture] Sung Lung-sheng (宋龍生) clearly list the lineage of the two brothers, which is proof that the two brothers were Puyumas,” the statement said.
The Puyumas also called on the Amis not to “unilaterally claim cultural heritage” by erecting the stele and expressed concern that such a move may put the Puyumas at a disadvantage in passing on its own culture.
Dismissing the objection, Chang said that everyone is free to choose to believe in what he or she wants to.