1. Clans and Family Names
The Saisiyat (Say-Siyat) society is a patrilineal society. A clan is the basic societal unit and is formed by families having the same patrilineal ancestor. Then, they form political, military, and religious support groups, such as the defense alliance and ritual groups. For example, they form labor groups for building, cultivation, hunting, and ancestral rituals by clan. Due to mutual support, clans become more intimate and form the phratry led by a more powerful clan. In addition, they follow the taboo of banning marriage within the phratry. The Saisiyat ethnic group is composed of 18 clans; each has its own name that is named after plants, natural phenomena, or physical conditions. In the Qing dynasty, Saisiyat people combined the clan system with the family name in Han culture and translated their clan names into Chinese characters either phonologically or semantically. These Saisiyat surnames include: Tou or Zhao from tawtaw-azay, Zhu from titiyon, Feng from ba:-ba:i’, Gao from kaybaybaw, Pan and Qian from sa:wan, Gen from kaS-a:mes, Chang from min-rakeS, Sha from hayawan, Xie (crab) from kar-karang, Ri from tanohila:, Shi from tataysi’, Qiong from Say-na-‘ase:, Hu (fox) from bot-botol, Chan from kam-lala:i’, Shi, Xie from katiramo, and Mo (fascia) from tabtabilas. Later, they changed the characters for Xie from “crab” to the fief name in ancient China, for Hu from “fox” to the common Han surname, for Chan from cicada to Jian (a different character for the same Romanization in the Wade-Giles system). Shi, Xie, and Mo are almost extinct.
2. Marriage and Family
The Saisiyat people are patrilineal and live in big families; male seniors are well regarded and respected. Although monogamy is practiced, marriage by exchange was common before Japanese colonization; the two families exchange daughters through marriage. Saisiyat people value clan culture and relationships, and marriage within the same clan or phratry is prohibited.
3. Tribal Organization
A Saisiyat village is formed by nearby communities. Competence, communication skills, impartiality, and enthusiasm are the basic requirements of the chief. Community public affairs are discussed and decided by the elders and implemented by the chief.