The Hiatuii People, Chin State, Myanmar

The Hiatuii are a small group within the greater Chin Nation. Their numbers are not exact, but village heads say there are only 10 villages containing a total of approximately 2000 of Hiatuii people. They are all dotted between the larger groups of Ng’hang and Vet along the Laymro and Tin rivers in Chin State, Myanmar. As far as the village elders know, there are only 5 living ladies with the Hiatuii facial tattoo.

One thing that makes the Hiatuii unique among the many tattoo-faced Chin peoples is that they tattooed their girls very young. All recall being between 5 and 10 years old when their tattoo was made. Everyone also recalls the tattooist being a man rather than a woman. In the majority of tribes, a woman would tattoo the girls, but not so for the Hiatuii. For the last generation of ladies, the tool used was shaped much like a chisel and had several steel needles attached. This, along with the small faces of young girls, allowed up to 5 or 6 girls to get their tattoo every day by one tattooist.

There is also a memory amongst the elders of two spirits known as Mati and Matu, but no clear stories of them remain. Some say they were forest bugs. Some say they were the first humans to tattoo a face. This is a subject for much more research. One part of the local belief that ties them to the Chin peoples living higher in the mountains is the gate-keeper of the afterlife. The Hiatuii believe that a small tattoo on your hand or arm is required during life and is given as payment to the gatekeeper for admission to the afterlife.

With their small numbers the Hiatuii are having difficulty registering their language as an official language of Myanmar, but have created some educational resources to make sure it can be passed on to the younger generation.

Hiatuii, Chin State, Myanmar

Hiatuii, Chin State, Myanmar

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