August 13-19, 2012
Pingpu groups demand recognition on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
Reported by Chiou Kuo-rong
Written by Lydia Ma
Representatives of Pingpu tribes in Taiwan gathered in front of various government offices in Taipei on August 9, 2012 to protest and demand recognition. That day coincided with the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and leaders from various Pingpu tribes (“Pingpu” literally means plains indigenous peoples in Chinese) wanted to remind the government that it had yet to grant recognition to various indigenous groups, especially those who used to live in flat coastal areas. Their protest route included stops at various government offices, such as the Council on Indigenous Peoples, the Ministry of Education, the Presidential Palace, etc.
Standing before a homemade bamboo cross, Tainan Pingpu Siraya Cultural Association Chairman and elder of Kopei Presbyterian Church, Uma Talavan, criticized that, in contrast to Tainan City Government, which has already recognized the Siraya tribe as an official indigenous group, the Council on Indigenous Peoples’ promise to look into and rectify this matter has long since been mere empty talk. He added that the “R.O.C. government’s longstanding refusal to recognize plains indigenous groups is contrary to human rights and a subtle measure aimed at driving these groups into extinction.”
Pingpu representatives present at that day’s protest included leaders from Siraya, Basay, Kaxabu, and Ketagalan tribes. They went to the Presidential Palace to deliver a petition to President Ma Ying jeou, asking him to issue an executive order to restore the status of Pingpu indigenous tribes as officially recognized indigenous tribes. Uma Talavan cautioned President Ma against revising and distorting history and robbing so many indigenous peoples of their identity and human rights.
There are currently 14 recognized indigenous tribes in Taiwan and 11 unrecognized tribes. The unrecognized tribes are mainly indigenous tribes from flat, coastal regions, and they are also known as “plains aboriginals”. They have faced much cultural and linguistic assimilation over the years through contact with colonizers and intermarriage.
In related news, the design of booklet prepared for a nationwide educators’ conference hosted by the Tainan government which shows a Siraya indigenous hunter with a bow in hand has been criticized by Ministry of Education officials as “violent”. In response to this claim, Uma Talavan said that such a comment was offensive to Siraya people and disrespectful of their culture.
Uma Talavan demanded that the Ministry of Education (MOE) apologize right away and added that such a comment is a reflection of how little Taiwanese know about the country’s history and land because of longstanding policies aimed at suppressing Taiwanese identity. He underscored that it was inexcusable that the highest authority on education in Taiwan should utter such nonsense.
According to reports, MOE deputy director Cheng Lai-chang told protesters that the news report was inaccurate because no denigrating comments were made during meeting discussions on the cover design of the booklet. For this reason, Cheng said that the MOE need not apologize.
Photo by Chiou Kuo-rong