Amis people call themselves “Pangcah”, which means “people” and “kinsmen”. Most Amis people in Taitung settled north of the Puyuma who called these Pangcah “Amis”, meaning “northerners” or “people in the north”. After the adoption and dissemination of the academic circle, “Amis” has replaced the term “Pangcah” for this ethnic group. The origin of Amis (Pangcah) includes two mythological systems: the “myth of origin” and the “legend of distribution”. According to northern Amis, the Pangcah came from the descendants of deities; while southern Amis believe that their ancestor was born from stone.
The Amis is the largest indigenous ethnic group in Taiwan mainly distributed in the east of the Central Mountain Range and the plains area south of the Liwu River, covering two eastern Taiwan counties: Hualien and Taitung, and the Hengchun Peninsula in Pingtung County. With a widespread distribution, Amis mainly fall into three main blocks by region and by custom: northern Amis (also called Nanshi Amis (Ámisay a Pangcah)), central Amis (including Amis settling in the Xiuguluan River basin (Siwkolan Ámis) and in the coastal area (Pasawalian Pangcah)), and southern Amis (including Amis settling in Taitung: Farangaw Amis and on the Hengchun Peninsula (Palidaw Ámis)). The earliest record regarding Amis contact with outsiders can be traced back to some four hundred years ago with a Dutch gold mine exploration team. However, the proactive and close outsider contact of the Amis did not come until the last 20 years of the Qing dynasty.
The Japanese Punitive Expedition to Taiwan (Mudan Incident) in 1874: To prevent foreign powers from intervening with the indigenous regions, the Qing government implemented the “mountain cultivation and indigenous appeasement” policy. Apart from building roads linking eastern Taiwan to northern, central, and southern Taiwan, the Qing government encouraged Han people to cultivate eastern Taiwan. To build these roads, the Qing government over-recruited indigenous people, giving rise to conflicts due to poor communication. In 1877, the Cepo’ Incident (Karawrawan a demak no Ca’wi) broke out between Amis settling in Ca’wi and Cepo’ and the Qing troops. Due to the immigration of Han people in the late Qing dynasty, Amis people acquired rice growing from the Han people and learned about their culture and customs after frequent contact with the Han people.
During Japanese colonization at the turn to the 20th century, the colonial government set barrier defense lines at the foot of the mountain to resist the Truku and Bunun peoples and requested assistance from the Amis living in the neighborhood. As the colonial government was aggressive, the Amis began to resist. For the mass development of eastern Taiwan, in 1908 the colonial government staged a genocide of Amis settling in Cikasuan claiming that there were deserters and had derelicted their duty. This is called the “Cikasuan Incident” in Taiwan’s history. In 1911, Madawdaw and Turik tribes on the eastern coast started a resistance event due to the colonial government’s long-time unfair treatment and slavery. Historically, it is called the “Madawdaw Incident”. After clashes and adaptations, the tribal community of the Amis began to maintain a balance with foreign powers. As job opportunities increased in the cities in the 1960s, many Amis migrated to the cities to form urban Amis communities in Taipei City, New Taipei City, Taichung City, Kaohsiung City, Hualien City, and so on, making the urban Amis a new branch of the ethnic group.