Impressions of Saisiyat tribe’s Ritual of the Little Black People

Trista di Genova / The Wild East / Culture

Every two years the Saisiyat tribe in Hsinchu County, Taiwan, hold the Ritual of the Little Black People (矮靈祭, ǎi líng jì). This year, it took place Dec. 1-3, in a remote mountainous village in Wufeng Township. The following is my personal reaction to having the honor of dancing with Saisiyat people in this ceremony, considered “Taiwan’s most sacred” ritual.

They dance. They dance from sunset to sunrise, for 3 days, to say I’m sorry, we’re sorry for killing you, we love you, we miss you, we honor you. You taught us how to survive. You loved our women, perhaps too much for our comfort, but we loved you nevertheless, for you were our friends, our comrades.

So we don our robes every two years and we think of you and sing your praises and remember you, the short people.

We never dance in a circle, because the circle’s been broken.

We dance till we collapse, exhausted from singing your praises and asking for forgiveness for the harms we have done, the evils, the unspeakable crimes that are unforgiveable.

We deserve this curse of yours, we accept it, and we will never forget our duty to repair the damage we have done, the loss here on earth of half our tribe.

We dance for you, and to be with you.

We dance to say we are sorry, and to forever more beg your forgiveness.

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