Traditional Atayal families are built upon patrilineality, i.e. patrilocal residence and a patriarchic society. Monogamy is practiced for marriage, and males and females with lineal relations can marry one another only after five generations.
2. Tribe (galang/alang)
The tribe is the basic unit in an Atayal society. In the Atayal language, a tribe is referred to as a galang or alang. Traditional Atayal tribes lived in deep mountains before the 20th century. After Japanese colonization at the beginning of the 20th century, mountain tribes migrated to the shallow mountain areas to form a community-based village with separate tribes. Traditionally, a tribe is a group of people sharing the same blood relation and living in the same area, and with groups formed upon ritual, hunting, discipline sharing, and labor. A tribe has a chief, the council of elders, and land ownership. Internally, a tribe is obliged to protect the tribal members. Externally, the tribe maintains contact with other tribes of the same kin and form alliances to defend enemies. The tribal alliance within the territory is called the mulaxen galang. It is formed to resist external enemies.
Maraho means the chief in the Seqoleq language and posiyn or radan in the Tseole language. After having contact with the Qing dynasty, the Han term for chief has since been used by the Atayal. Internally, a chief administers the public affairs within the tribe. Externally, the chief represents the tribe to maintain communication with other tribes and communities. A chief can be succeeded or elected. In the former case, the first son or a son of the same family will succeed the chief status, including the father to the son or the big brother to the little brother. Succession is common in family-based tribes. An election will be held when the chief is killed in war or by disease or is too weak to carry out the chief’s duty, if is either decided by the original chief or through the council of elders.
4. Ritual Group (gutux gaga)
In the Seqoleq language, gutux gaga is the most important group in a ritual practicing the gaga. The gaga covers the regular sowing festival and harvest festival, and the irregular head-hunting ritual, sunshine ritual, and ancestral spirit ritual. The gutux gaga is held by the chief familiar with the calendar and ritual, known as maraho gaga in the Seqoleq language. If the tribal organization is the same as the gutux gaga, the tribal chief can take up this duty. If there are different gutux gaga in a tribe, the gaga leader (maraho gaga) of each kin will lead the gutux gaga of the own kin. Each member of the gutux gaga will practice the ritual according to the inherited procedures and follow all restrictions.
5. Hunting Group (inhoyan qutux linntan/inltan)
Inhoyan qutux linntan means the hunting group in the Seqoleq language and is inltan in the Tseole language. A hunting group is formed by the males of a tribe or gaga and will become a combat group in wartime. Hunting areas outside of the tribe hunting group’s range of activity cannot be trespassed upon by the group, as well as the hunting areas of other groups. A hunting event usually lasts for days. In terms of restrictions, if a hunting group checks on the animal traps near the tribe, it is considered a recreation activity and the gaga’s rules and restrictions will not apply. If it is a festival or a wedding within the same gaga or the hunting group of the whole tribe, related rules and restrictions must be observed. Although women are prohibited in the hunting group, they need to follow the related restrictions when the hunting group goes on a hunt. The hunting group began to decline during Japanese colonization in the 20th century, because there was too much labor work. In addition, hunting has declined since the rise of agricultural and economic activities.
6. Sharing (offerings/responsibility/meat) Group (qutux niqan)
According to literature, the food sharing group is called qutux niqan in the Seqoleq language. It means sharing food among people with blood relations, i.e. the meat sharing group. In terms of function and nature, there are two types of sharing groups: the discipline sharing group and the food sharing group. The discipline sharing group is related to religious rituals. If someone the same blood tribe commits theft or adultery as stated in the gaga they must stand out and confess, in order to not offend the spirits that will bring disasters. At the confession, the redemption ritual is practiced. The gaga offender and the people of the same blood relation will exchange a pig with pearl skirts and pearl clothes and sacrifice the pig to worship the spirits before sharing the pig. Today, the redemption is mostly practiced at the church or a resolution is made through political or legal settlements. The food sharing group is related to weddings and hunting. In food sharing at weddings, when the groom marries a bride, the groom will provide meat for the bride to share it. Today, food sharing is still practiced in daily life. In hunting, food sharing means to share the catch with all hunters participating in the hunt and then with relatives by consanguinity and by affinity who did not join the hunting.
7. Labor Group (gutux kenuexgan).
The labor group is called gutux kenuexgan in the Seqoleq language. It means exchanging service between individuals or groups, and service collaboration as well. The labor group is not a standing organization with regular members. It depends on the subject and quantity of service and the location of members. In general, a labor group is formed with relatives by consanguinity and by affinity. If the workload is heavy, a group may recruit members in the same gaga or relatives outside of the tribe. The labor support requires service exchange in terms of the subject of work or the days of work. Therefore, it is called obayox (workday exchange system) in the Seqoleq language. Before the service begins, parents will invite members from different households to exchange tools and prepare implements, materials, and food. During the service, parents will supply food and refreshments. After the service ends, parents will kill a pig or a lamb to treat the group members. If the service involves building a house or harvest, a ritual will be held before the service, and there are restrictions to follow during the service.