another Taiwan tribe, another language?

The Sakizaya people of Taiwan’s Hualian County want to be officially recognized as a tribe and registered their application with the government’s Council of Indigenous Peoples on Thursday, according to an article in the Taipei Times. Among their claims in support of their application is that they have a separate language from that of the Amis, a tribe they have lived among since the nineteenth century. A few examples of words are given in the final paragraph.

“According to how we handled this kind of application before, historians will analyze their [Sakizaya people] language, history and the locations where they are residing now, before we approve their application,” said Walis Pelin (瓦歷斯貝林), council chairman.

According to the council, Sakizaya tribe chief Hsu Cheng-wan (徐成丸) led a group of 100 Sakizaya people from Hualien county early yesterday morning and arrived at the council in the afternoon to deliver their application in person….

According to Hsu, currently, the “Sakizaya” people are classified as a part of the Amis tribe. But, the Sakizaya language and Amis language are two totally different languages, and both have individual historical backgrounds as well.

In 1878, when Taiwan was under the rule of the Qing Dynasty, Sakizaya people were slaughtered by Qing troops, so most Sakizaya people tried to escape from the Qing soldiers’ pursuit by changing their names and they have hidden themselves among the Amis tribe ever since. Up until today, most Sakizaya people can speak Amis language fluently, since the two tribes have been merged for more than a century.

I would hope that many people can still speak Amis fluently. But the sad fact is that many of the languages of Taiwan’s tribes are dying out.

After the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government recovered Taiwan from the Japanese in 1945, the Sakizaya have never been “independent,” and have always been regarded as a part of the Amis since there were more Amis people than Sakizaya people.

“But, we are still so different in many ways, in terms of language, culture, ways of living, etc.,” Hsu said. “Taiwan’s indigenous tribes are all unique minorities in this country, but we are all the original residents of the island. Every tribe is special and so are we.”

“For instance, we call clothes zigut but Amis people call them zui. We call a cow an but Amis people call it lalaba.”

source: Tribe wants official recognition, Taipei Times, Friday, October 14, 2005

2 thoughts on “another Taiwan tribe, another language?

  1. I wasn’t aware that the Amis language was dying out. I am a desendant of the Amis tribe. My mother Amei Stephens speaks…

  2. I note that although you say your mother speaks the language, you didn’t say that you yourself could. Although there are still lots of people in Taiwan who can still speak their tribe’s language, for the most part those languages aren’t being adopted by younger generations. Still, there’s hope yet — at least for the Amis language, because the Amis are Taiwan’s largest tribe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *