North-South-East-West at Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Culture Park, Ping Dong 2005.
The Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan
The indigenous peoples in Taiwan refer to the inhabitants who had been living on the islands before major Han Chinese immigration began in the 17th century. Culturally and linguistically, they belong to the Austronesian group. The Austronesian peoples, covering the most inclusive peoples in the world with the majority in Southeast Asia, originates from Taiwan in the north, extends to Easter Islands in South America in the east, and reaches Madagascar in the eastern coast of Africa in the west. The common characteristics to the Austronesian peoples are building houses on stilts to protect against damp, insects, and snakes; adopting slash-and-burn farming style; keen on chewing betel nuts, good at bamboo and rattan weaving; relying on hunting and fishing; and among others.
Taiwan is located in the very north point of the distribution of the Austronesian people and has been maintaining close contacts with the Austronesian peoples in the nearby South Pacific Islands for the last hundred thousand years. The various archaeological evidences suggest that Taiwan should be the origin of the distribution of the Austronesian peoples thousands years ago and should have played a critical geographical location as the origin of Ancient Austronesian peoples and in the process of migration to the South Pacific Islands.
The Origins of the Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan
It is currently said that there are two approaches to explain the origin of the Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan. One advocates that the origin of the indigenous peoples is located outside of Taiwan; the other one discerns that Taiwan is the ancient origin of the Austronesian peoples. The former theory is commonly popular and scholars testify in terms of languages, archaeology, literature review, folklore legends to conclude that the origin of the indigenous peoples should be the southeast coast of China. Scholars even predict the plausible era when the indigenous peoples migrated to Taiwan. For example, Saisiyat and Atayal must have immigrated to Taiwan around 3000 B.C. during the Paleolithic Age. Paiwan and Puyuma must have immigrated to Taiwan during the prime time of Southeast Asia Rock Age. The latter approach indicating that Taiwan is the origin of Austronesian peoples is a newer theory, a research result of many linguists.