2. Passing the Baton: A Long Overdue Homecoming in Mountains
  3. Being an Indigenous Person is Tough!

Written by Chiu Mu-Jung; Photo credit: Huang Jiang-Bing



Thoughts on excavating the Paiwan family house?

I was very scared because there are actual ancestors buried beneath the Paiwan family house. A-Hui whispered to me, “although I’ve lived here for a long time, I’m still afraid that we’ll accidentally unearth their remains”. But I’m very impressed by her – she always knows what and where we have excavated. To me, those are just piles of rubble. I did gradually figure out the structure and layout of the family house, for example, if we dig up a series of large stone slabs, it means we are close to the walls, and gravel was used to fill in the gaps between slabs. But I still don’t know how to tell the depth of the walls and how far down should we dig.

When we were digging, I kept thinking “how long would it take to rebuild the family house?” I need goals in my life and I complete tasks according to the goals I’ve set. So for projects that have no exact schedule, like rebuilding the family house, I’d have no idea what to do next.


You were exposed to lots of indigenous cultures related to gender/social class, what are your thoughts on that?

Physical differences do affect what you can or cannot do and these were the ways of our ancestors; however, this kind of labor division can be easily overgeneralized or given labels. Besides, in an indigenous society, there are not only different divisions of labor for different genders but also restrictions for different social classes. If they did not tell me about these customs today, I wouldn’t even know that they exist. Take the issue of indigenous students getting extra examination points for example, in the past, I wouldn’t be able to think about this issue from an indigenous perspective. But now, after spending two days here, I feel like I can relate to their situation a bit more.


Why did you especially interested in today’s weaving?

For me, weaving is not exactly a fun task. However, when I finish a piece, I feel a sense of achievement and want to start another one. I like the state of concentration I get into when I weave. I concentrate so hard I can’t think of anything else. When you are totally focused on one thing, you forget about your problems. Yet I worry that after I become very experienced in weaving, I’ll lose that concentration.

Like when I realized I messed up the pattern halfway through today, my whole brain just went blank. How do weavers do this? And when I think about the traditional costumes, you have to weave a cloth that is so, so long. The Paiwan women are amazing.


If you could choose, would you like to be a Paiwan male or female?

I don’t want to be an indigenous person, it’s too hard. There are so many things to do and so many rules to follow. But if we leave out the issue of which people I’d like to be, I would like to be a woman. But then again, being a man is quite convenient, for example, Paiwan men don’t have to worry about the “jingling”.

*The sounds made by metal ornaments on the costumes of Paiwan women.


Do you like qavai and cinavu, the traditional Paiwan foods?

My digestive system is not very strong so I usually avoid sticky rice. I think the outer skin of qavai is too thick and there is not enough meat inside. It’s similar to the savory tangyuan (rice ball) that I don’t really like. But I like cinavu. The taro powder has an unexpected mouthfeel. The taste today is quite light, I would like a little more flavor next time because I like strong flavors. Also, they use sword grass to wrap the cinavu, doesn’t that hurt the hands easily? Can’t we replace it with other leaves?


How did the night chats with the mentors go?

Mani said that some of their team members are not originally from the old Paiwan community, yet they are willing to work together and help the community. Why? And Pacak mentioned that it is difficult to find a group of people who get along well and can work smoothly as a team. I can relate to those comments. As an independent musician, I also need to spend time knowing other people and figuring out if we can work together or not. I really feel that it’s difficult to find good partners with whom you share the same rhythm and can collaborate for a long time. 

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