National Geographic : 1945 Jan
I Lived on Formosa This claim of cousinship has not kept the Japs from encroaching on the domain of the aborigines. Japs purposely crowd in on them, to bring them under control and make them help in the economic exploitation of the island. But to hold the tribesmen on their reserva tion, the Japanese have built a guard line by cutting a wide path along the mountain ridges on which the aborigines make their homes. Guardhouses stand at strategic points; the jungle path has been cleared to a width as great as one hundred yards to prevent surprise attacks; and in some districts wire fences and entanglements, charged with electricity, have been set up. Nimble and jungle-wise, the tribesmen still take heavy toll of Japanese seeking to invade their territory. They are consistently cheated by the Japanese at the trading posts, where the produce and handiwork of the natives tobacco, textile fibers, herbs, and hand-woven cloth-are bartered for metalware, trinkets, and other cheap Jap goods on an exchange basis very unfair to the tribesmen. Forced labor is often exacted of the head hunters, but they are poor workers. Never theless, in this war, the Japanese have used numbers of them as scouts and front-line bearers in their overseas jungle campaigns. Languages of these tribes belong to the Malayo-Polynesian group of tongues, whose range extends from Hawaii in the east to Madagascar in the west. The tribes are of Indonesian stock and some of them bear re markable racial, cultural, and linguistic re semblances to the mountain tribes of northern Luzon. Bicycling Among the Head-hunters They live in rude wooden or stone huts grouped in villages under a chief. There are seven main groups of tribes, each with dis tinct language, dress, and customs. They live by hunting, fishing, and a primitive agricul ture-growing rice, corn, millet, and sweet potatoes. Their livestock consists of water buffaloes, cattle, dogs (used for food as well as hunting), and chickens. The men of some of the tribes are enthusiastic head-hunters, for much the same reasons, besides purposes of revenge and of ritual, that our young men prize athletic trophies. Our tour of the settlement was interrupted by darkness and the call to supper, which con sisted of rice, canned Japanese vegetables, and a special treat in the form of wild-boar meat, which had been brought in by a tribesman. After supper we were so cold and tired we went to bed early. Next morning one of the tribesmen wanted to trade clothes with me; but I managed to persuade him, through the interpreter, that my suit was not well adapted to stalking game in thick jungles. My next encounter with aborigines came months later when, on a trip to the southern part of the island, I stopped off for a side trip to Lake Candidius. The Japs call this lake Jitsugetsutan, or Sun and Moon Lake; it lies at an altitude of about 2,500 feet. From the nearest rail point I traveled this time by bicycle and without police escort. At the lake I found a small colony of aborig ines who had adopted a Chinese form of life. These civilized aborigines are called by the Japanese jukuban, or "ripe savages," and those in a wild state seiban, "raw savages." Out on the lake I saw a group of these peo ple fishing from long dugout canoes. Their large nets, hung from poles, they dip into the water and then raise. After visiting the lake, my curiosity over what lay on the other side of the ridge led me on. As I began the ascent, the path got so steep I had to walk. A turn near the top brought me suddenly face to face with five aborigines, resting by the wayside. They were armed with bows and knives and looked as if they could run fast enough to catch me. There was nothing to do but face them. When I came up I greeted them, set my bicycle down, and filled my pipe. Then I passed the tobacco pouch and let them fill their long-stemmed pipes. I fingered their ornaments admiringly and they showed interest in my clothing and in the bicycle. Their wild, excited chatter was Greek to me, but I certainly wished I could understand. In my uneasiness, I imagined they were argu ing about who should have my pipe, or my clothes, or the mysterious wagon I rode on. I might even have fancied they argued about who should have my skull, and that perhaps the most evil-looking man among them was saying he wanted it-that it would look fine hanging in his hut, beside that of a Jap with two gold teeth! To stay too long I knew would be even more dangerous. So all at once I simply waved good-bye, jumped on my bike, and pedaled off. Few Europeans Ever Lived Long on Formosa I'd lost all interest, too, in further explora tion of the Sun and Moon Lake. All I wanted then was to get back down that moun tain, find an inn, and get some Dutch courage from a drink of beer. I did, finally, and never knew how good and stimulating even very warm beer could be!