For a long time, the Kanakanavu people, Hla’alua people, and Tsou people living in Alishan Township of Chiayi County and Jiumei Community in Xinyi Township of Nantou County were all grouped as the Tsou (Cou) people. Due to the large language differences, lack of communication among the three ethnic groups each with their respective languages, and individual historical imagination, legends of origination, rituals, and traditional social structure, after the Kanakanavu people and Hla’alua people applied for “name rectification”, the government officially announced on June 26, 2014, that these three are individual and independent ethnic groups. From then on, the Hla’alua and the Kanakanavu peoples have been listed respectively as the 15th and the 16th indigenous groups in Taiwan. Currently, the officially registered Kanakanavu population has 356 people (as of January 2020).
Agricultural rituals are important to the Hla’alua people, and the Miatungusu (Holy Shell Ritual) is a ritual worshipping the Shell God derived from agricultural rituals. The Shell God is also the major totem of the Hla’alua people. Currently, the Hla’alua population has about 413people (as of January 2020).
The Sediq people are distributed in the mountainous areas in central Taiwan. Characterized by their weaving culture and facial tattoos, Sediq people uphold Gaya (the ancestral rules) as their code of living; and they value the worshipping rituals of ancestral spirits. Currently, the Sediq population has about 10,452 people (as of January 2020).
The 1878 Takubuwa Incident (Jialiwan Incident) has significant influences in Sakizaya history and culture. Apart from mourning and remembering ancestors and this historical incident, the traditional clothes and fire god ritual of the Sakizaya people also agglomerate their community solidarity. Today, the Sakizaya population has about 985 people (as of January 2020).
The Truku (Taroko) people value their weaving and face tattooing culture, believe in ancestral spirits, and follow gaya, the ancestral rules. The ceremony of ancestral spirits is very important to them. Currently, the Truku people are mainly settled in Xiulin, Wanrong, and Zhuoxi townships in Hualien County, and in Qingfeng, Nanhua, and Fuxing villages in Jian Township. The present Truku population has about 32,333 people (as of January 2020). In 2004, it was officially recognized as one of the Taiwanese indigenous peoples called the Truku people.
The Kavalan (Kebalan) people settled in Yilan for generations, they lived freely over hundreds of years near the river and by the sea and they have sovereignty across the Lanyang Plain. Living along the coast, early Kavalan people lived in stilt houses with strong Southeast Asian characters. They engaged in bartering trade at sea. After the “Lanas na Kabalaen (Jialiwan Incident)” in the late 19th century, they hid among the Amis people for over a century. Currently, the Kavalan population has about 1,492 people (as of January 2020). In recent years, the Kavalan people began name rectification movement and were officially recognized as one of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples called the Kavalan people in 2002. In terms of crafts, the Kavalan people managed to maintain the unique banana fiber weaving techniques.
The Thao people mainly reside in Ita Thao (Barawbaw) Village, Yuchi (Qabizay) Township, Nantou County, and Dapinglin Settlement, Shuili Township, Nantou County. Currently, the Thao population is around 817 people (as of January 2020). The Thao people living in Ita Thao Village still preserve the traditional Thao belief of the ancestral spirit and worship the ulalaluan (ancestral spirit basket) in the house as a physical symbol of existence of the ancestral spirit. Major traditional Thao rituals and ceremonies include the Azazak Pulako (Sowing Ritual) in March, the Mulalu Matansun Pintuza (Hunting Ritual) in July, and the Lus’An (Ancestral Ritual) in August. Agricultural rituals and ceremonies reflect the correlations between seasonal changes and the lifestyle of Thao people. At the hunting ritual, Thao people make glutinous rice cakes in the form of an eel as an offering to show their respect for hunting and fishery in the culture. The Ancestral Ritual in August is the most important and solemn ceremony. In addition, Thao people adopt the lunar calendar.
The Yami (Tao) people settled on Lanyu (lit. Orchid Island) in Taitung County. This ethnic group has a range of legends and annual ceremonies and a significant maritime character. Currently, the Yami people have a population of 4,684 people (as of Januray 2020).
Saisiyat (Say-Siyat) society consists of village clans. The Saisiyat people adopted Chinese surnames during the Qing dynasty and followed the social and marriage norms. The ancestral spirits and little black spirits are the major religious beliefs in the Saisiyat people, and Pas-ta’ai (Ritual for the little black spirits) is particularly well known. Currently, the Saisiyat population has 6,730 people (as of January 2020).
The Rukai (Drekay) society is characterized by a social class system formed upon a well-defined division of labor and blended with marriage, politics, religion, worshipping, and art. With the lily as the “symbolizing flower” for purity, bravery, courage, and honor, the right to wear lily ornaments is a core value of the Rukai culture. Foxtail millet is its principal economic crop, leading to the irreplaceable millet harvest festival. Currently, the Rukai population is about 13,465 people (as January 2020).
The Tsou (Cou) people settled in elevated Alishan Mountain in central Taiwan. Important ceremonies include the Homeyaya (Millet Harvest Festival) to show appreciations to the Gods and the Mayasvi (Triumph Festival) to demonstrate war merits. Currently, the Tsou population is 6,702 people (as of January 2020).
Amis are a large community-based indigenous ethnic group with a large population. They have magnificent rituals, with the annual harvest being the most representative. Currently, the Amis population is about 213,514 people (as of January 2020).
Distributed on both sides of the Central Mountain Range at an elevation of 500-1,500m, Bunun people are the ethnic group living at the highest elevation among all Taiwan’s indigenous peoples. Forming a society with patriarchic families, the Bunun population has expanded gradually and distributed widely across Taiwan due to historical migration. Based on the spirit (hanitu) concept, they believe that personal ability, diseases, and mishaps are related to hanitu. The Ear Shooting Festival (malahodaigian) is the most representative ritual, and Prayer of Millet Harvest (pasibutbut) is internationally renowned. Currently, the Bunun population is about 59,536 people (by Januray 2020), mainly distributed in Ren’ai and Xinyi townships of Nantou County; Zhuoxi and Wanrong townships of Hualien Country; Yanping and Haiduan townships in Taitung County; and Taoyuan and Namaxia districts in Kaohsiung City. Urban migration has also been popular in recent years.
Weaving and face tattoos are distinctive to the Atayal who follow the ancestral preaching (gaga) and consider the ancestral spirit ceremony the most important ritual. With the rise of indigenous awareness and indigenous culture revitalization in recent years, the Truku and Sediq ethnic group branches of the Atayal declared independence from the Atayal in 2004 and 2008 respectively. Currently, the Atayal population is about 92,084 people (as of Januray 2020).
The Paiwan (Payuan) link politics, marriage, religion, and art with the family names, clans and a rigid social hierarchy. After the millet harvest, they hold the “Millet Harvest Thanksgiving Ritual”. The Vuculj subgroup holds the Maleveq Ritual every five years to welcome the ancestral spirits to visit their descendants. It is also called the “Human-Deity Alliance Ritual”. Today, the Paiwan has a population of around 102,730 people (as of January 2020).
Although the Pinuyumayan people settled in the plains area with various ethnic communities and began contacts with outsider from a long time ago, they have maintained their traditions, culture, and lifestyle. They have a rigid age stratification organization and assembly hall system. Pinuyumayan witches are famous among ethnic groups for their powerful magic. Existing Pinuyumayan Rituals include the “Mugamut (Female Mowing Completion Ritual)”, “Masarut (Millet Harvest Ritual, Sea Ritual)”, “Vasivas (Monkey Hunting Ritual)”, and “Mangayau (Grand Hunting Ritual)”, where the “Mangayau (Annual Ritual)” is the largest ritual. Currently, the Pinuyumayan population is about 14,517 (as of January 2020).