1. Industry and Food
The traditional industries of the Sakizaya people fall into three main types: agriculture, fishery, and hunting. Traditionally, millet is the most important crop. After acquiring the skill of rice farming from the Kavalan people in the 19th century, the Sakizaya people expanded the scale of rice farming. In fishery, the Sakizaya people mainly catch fish and shellfish along the coast and in the river. As migratory birds settle in the Hualien Plain at the end of the year, Sakizaya people also hunt birds. Grains are the staple food of the Sakizaya people, and collection of wild edible plants and hunting of animals are other food sources of the ethnic group. They build traditional family houses with bamboo, wood, and thatch.
The Sakizaya people usually grow betel trees or spiny bamboo (Bambusa blumeana) around the family house as a kind of enclosure. In front of the house, there is a terrace for drying rice and grains under the sun. The main house is the principal structure for daily life. A side house is built next to the main house for cooking and storage. An eave is built between the main and side houses. The main house as the living place has a thatch roof with a gable design to facilitate water drainage. The main house has three partitions with one entrance door. In the living room there is an altar for worshipping ancestral spirits with food and wine, and there are cups on top. There are bedrooms on both sides of the living room. In the bedrooms there are high beds matted with rattan, bamboo, or Pacific Island silver-grass (Miscanthus floridulus). Sakizaya men build family houses with bamboo, wood, and thatch. Before construction begins, mapalaway (the priest) who can communicate with deities will perform a blessing ceremony. Today, although more and more Sakizaya people build family houses with modern construction materials, the internal layout, i.e. the altar in the living room, remains unchanged, demonstrating a strong ethnic character.
3. Clothing After the cultural revitalization movement in 2007, the Sakizaya people have created and produced their own ethnic attire based on historical events and legends to distinguish themselves from the Amis people, making their attire more historically and culturally meaningful. In terms of form, Sakizaya clothes include headwear, upper garment, vest, leg covering, and betel nut bag. Men’s clothes by age class include the vest and leg covering. Crimson and dusty gold are background colors to symbolize different historical and cultural meanings.
● Dusty Gold: Represents a heart in earth, gold in earth, and return to the homeland
● Crimson: Represents the sacrifice of ancestors and dried blood, implying the remembrance of ancestors.
● Navy Blue: Represents friendliness with the Amis people over the last 100 years.
● Dark Slate Grey: The spiny bamboo enclosure for defending the village, representing the age class and ethnic spirit.
● Dull Black: Represents the village and ancestral spirits.
● Mountain Brown: Remembrance of the refugee spirits in historical events, encouraging people not to surrender to hardship.
● Pearl White: Represents tears, symbolizing the hidden pity of the ethnic group in the last 100 years.
Sakizaya women’s and men’s attire Each color of Sakizaya attire has its own implications.
4. Songs and Dances
Inseparable from the natural environment and daily life, Sakizaya music and dances are characterized by different types of songs and dance moves. When singing in a gathering, the elders will lead the singing, with young people following suit in a responsorial style with dances. This style of singing and dancing helps develop junior-senior social relation. Sakizaya songs are characterized by lots of padded syllables (interjecting). Padded syllables are meaningless sounds interjected between lyrics to facilitate the melodic run of a song. At specific occasions, padded syllables produce social meanings in group singing. Today, some Sakizaya songs and dances carry a Kavalan style, such as the “Fishing Song” and “Women’s Harvest Ritual Song”. Some Sakizaya songs were acquired from the Amis people, such as the “Mowing Song”, some are still Sakizaya, such as the “Naruwan Women’s Dancing Song” (also called “Naruwan Love Song”). It was popular for a while and has been transcribed into a pop song called “Taiwan’s Good”. Functionally, Sakizaya songs are divided into “ritual songs” for rituals and ceremonies; “labor and leisure songs” for entertainment, communication, and education; and “social songs” containing ethnic and epochal meanings.
◎ Ritual Song Singing and Dancing Performance at the Harvest Festival In rituals or ceremonies, the Sakizaya people often use responsorial singing with a polyphonic bass. Major ritual songs include the lalikit (Song of Harvest ) of the Sakul Community. Each part of this song has a corresponding dance, and performers change dance steps while singing. These dance steps are part of the ritual song used only in the Harvest Festival. Therefore, the Sakizaya people consider these dance steps ritual steps that are more solemn and serious than those for leisure and entertainment dances.
◎ Labor and Leisure Songs They include songs sung at work and in leisure, such as the “Fishing Song”, “Mowing Song”, “Naruwan Women’s Dancing Song”, “Folks Rest Song”, “Drinking Song”, “Kid Carrying Song”, and “Farmer’s Leisure Song”. Ballad songs include the “Backpack Song” and “Old Cowherd”, and the “Dancing Song” and “Welcome Song” sung by women at the Harvest Festival.
◎ Social Songs Characterized by strong social and epochal meanings, social songs are transcribed or composed to enhance ethnic identification in response to societal changes, such as Nay takoboan ko loma’a no ma ko or Oloma kita mamin (We Are Family), “Sakizaya a dadiw” (Sakizaya Life), and “Maylayan a sakizaya” (The Industrious Sakizaya).
The Sakizaya people migrated and were separated from each other after the Takubuwa Incident. As a result, the chance for using the Sakizaya language was largely reduced, and the language was eventually influenced by the Amis language, as witnessed by many Amis loanwords and transliterations. However, the uniqueness of the Sakizaya language is maintained.