Published: June 29, 2023

As part of a Tang-funded global seminar this summer, a group of 14 undergraduate students from CU embarked on a three-week program immersing themselves in Taiwanese life, culture, politics, and history. We'll be showcasing a series of blog posts from these students to share what the experience has been like in their words.

Jenna Reeves Taiwan Blog #6: A Look into Taiwanese Indigenous Groups - The Tayal People

traditional weaving

On May 28th our class was led on an excursion to Wulai where a group of four of us taught the rest of the class about Indigenous Taiwanese groups, more specifically about the Tayal people. They led us to a Meilu Workshop to practice the traditional weaving of the Tayal people. We were told of the importance behind their signature facial tattoos that signify their identity along their path to the ancestors on a rainbow bridge as well as the gender roles of the women being master weavers whereas the men's roles of being master head hunters. Before we sat down to begin our journey of 'masterful weaving’ we were each given a string of yarn with different colors and paper that were specialized to each officially recognized indigenous group. I was given the Bunun tribe who I was told were great singers and hunters. As we worked we were given some tea and at the end, we each got some black peppercorn ice cream that left us all craving more.

group photo

After weaving, a couple of us asked for a handmade necklace that the owner could create within less than an hour with only a glance at the design (insane skill and experience). We packed our goodies and eventually, it was time to say goodbye, but before then the owner poured us some celebratory drinks and we cheered our shared experiences and elation with a final “ganbei”! We had only been together for a couple hours but it became a memory shared for a lifetime. I may not be wifey material when it comes to weaving, but I am one step closer to Tayal tradition and living than I was before, and that will change the way I think about indigeneity for life.

Atayal member with unique traditional face tattoos

On our journey back home to the bustling streets of Taipei we ran into a shortage of Ubers. We started to walk towards the bus station when a man called out to us, he was an Uber driver, and to our marvel was also an Atayal member with unique traditional face tattoos. We took his offer for a ride to the MRT and conversed about his life story in broken Mandarin. He had a multitude of boar heads alongside his dash and plenty of personal souvenirs. Between his military life, head-hunting, and telling us to join the military to bulk up, he made the car ride one to remember. At the end of the day, his unique perspective on life gave us one more peek into the private life of the Atayal Taiwanese Indigenous group and some great stories to tell back home.