The ancestors of Taiwan's indigenous peoples arrived at least 4,000 years ago, and lived on the western and eastern plains and in the mountains. Those living on the western plains have been mostly assimilated into mainstream society. However, tribes living in the mountains and along the eastern coast have been able to retain their languages and some of their cultures and traditions.
It is worthwhile to learn about these peoples as it is theorized that Taiwan is the starting point for the spread of the Austronesian peoples, the largest language family in the world in terms of distribution, which include the Maori of New Zealand and the Polynesians.
Taichung City itself does not have a very large indigenous population, but the mountainous areas of the surrounding Taichung, Nantou and Miaoli counties boast numerous indigenous villages.
For example, Nanjhuang in Miaoli features a mix of Saisiyat and Atayal tribes. This is where the Dwarf Spirit Ceremony takes place once every two years to appease the spirits of a pygmy people that legend says were killed off by the Saisiyat. In Nantou, Sinyi and Renai townships are home to the Bunun and Atayal tribes. The Bunun are well known for their tracking and hunting skills and in Sinyi’s Wangsiang Village, a traditional hunting trail has been transformed into a hiking path.
The women of the Atayal tribe are traditionally skilled weavers. Some of this tradition can be experienced in the many artist workshops of Renai Township, which churn out woven items such as clothing and handbags.
An indigenous experience is no more than a one or two-hour drive into the beautiful mountains that surround Taichung City, so take the time to explore the diversity and richness of Taiwan’s indigenous cultures.