National Geographic : 1977 Jan
AILING in the wake of their past, Yami fishermen of Lan Yii-Orchid Island put out to sea in an elaborate ceremonial canoe (above) hewn from trees of their densely forested homeland in the western Pacific, off Taiwan. One hundred years of alternating and casual rule by Chinese and Japanese have done little to pry these people from the ways of their Southeast Asian an cestors, who, according to one ancient legend, emerged from the sea. Strangers to any formal authority, they have neither chief nor priest, but practice in stead a primitive kind of democracy, settling their disputes by argument and sharing in the wealth of the sea that surrounds their orchid strewn little island. At the close of the day these men may haggle over who was to blame for poor fishing, but will nonetheless end by scrupulously dividing their catch into even shares. During flying-fish season, which lasts from February to June, the Yamis are able to net their most abundant seafood delicacy in mid air. But the rest of the year is not so bountiful, and the men must supplement their often meager catches by diving along the coral reefs with crude spear guns (left).