Ketagalan descendants’ rite honors ancestors

UNUSUAL LOCATION::The ritual was conducted in front of a tomb on Fanzai Hill, which is now part of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant compound in New Taipei City

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Apr 11, 2013 - Page 3

Descendants of the Ketagalan Aborigines performed a ritual paying homage to their ancestral spirits yesterday at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, asking the ancestral spirits for help in their struggle for official recognition and to drive away the devils — including the nuclear power plant.

The ceremony was conducted in front of a tomb believed to be the burial site of a Ketagalan tribal member that now lies within the plant compound in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市).

Covering the ground and a small stone table with large shell ginger leaves in front of a tomb on Fanzai Hill (番仔山, “Savages’ Hill”), some Ketagalan descendants quickly placed offerings on the leaves, while others helped to clear weeds and cut down small trees around the tomb.

Lin Sheng-yi (林勝義), director of the Center for Ketagalan Culture and History and a Gongliao native whose mother is a Ketagalan Aborigine and whose father is Han Chinese, began the ceremony by spreading rice wine with a branch around the tomb to cleanse the area, then blowing a conch horn to summon ancestral spirits.

Lin recited an oration for ancestral spirits and burned papers with the oration written on it afterwards. He ended the ritual by spreading sesame seeds around the tomb.

“Offerings include betel nuts, seashells and mountain olives,” Lin said.

“Seashells were used as a medium of exchange when ancient Ketagalans traded with other tribes, so they are offered to express our appreciation for our ancestors’ creation of our civilization, while mountain olives were an important food for us, and they are offered to thank our ancestors for bringing us food,” he said.

Lin said the Ketagalans believe that one sesame seed could turn into 3,000 warriors, so he spread sesame seeds in the hope that warriors would help to protect the tomb.

“In the oration, I expressed my gratitude for our ancestors, and asked for a hand from our ancestral spirits in our struggle for official recognition and to drive away all evil spirits that are in our territories,” Lin said after the ceremony. “Evil spirits refer to everything that would damage the ecosystem and culture within the Ketagalan territories.”

When asked if that includes the nuclear power plant, Lin nodded yes.

“The construction of the nuclear power plant has damaged many Ketagalan relics,” he said.

Pan Jee-yang (潘紀揚), chairman of the Taiwan Association for Rights Advancements for Pingpu Plains Aborigines, said that most of what is now Taipei and New Tapei City was the traditional territory of the Ketagalan tribe before the arrival of Han immigrants hundreds of years ago.

“The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant now stands on what used to be a Ketagalan village. That is why the hill got the name Fanzai Hill, since Han people used to call Aborigines ‘fan’ (番, savage),” he said. “It is very important to remember our history, especially at a time now when the government refuses to grant official recognition to Pingpu Aborigines.”