Thursday, August 9, 2007

looking for recognition

Representatives from one indigenous group in Taiwan held a small protest, near the Presidential Office in the capital, Taipei, calling on the government to grant them official recognition and status.

The event – held by members of the Pingpu lowland indigenous people’s – was held to coincide with the International Day of the World’s Indigenous people. The protestors handed in a petition with their calls to the Presidential office

The Pingpu people – numbering around 200,000 - live in Taiwan’s western lowland plains , unlike most aboriginal groups who come from the island’s mountainous areas and east coast. Their geographical location brought them into the closest contact with the first wave of ethnic Han Chinese settlers to Taiwan four hundred years ago, hastening their assimilation into the main population.

As a result, many of their customs and languages began to die out. Today, pingpu dialects are only spoken in three out of ten tribes – and mainly by the elderly. Activists say their traditional cultures and languages are in danger of dying out altogether – unless they get government help.

Over the years, the authorities in Taiwan have granted official recognition to 13 aboriginal tribes –who make up about 2 per cent of the population – which gives them access to greater government funding and support to promote their indigenous culture and languages.

The Pingpu, though, have not been successful in their efforts for recognition - having failed to meet certain thresholds on language useage, cultural observance or possession of territory. They argue the thresholds have been set too high. And they’ve levelled accusations of discrimination and exclusion.

Whether they’ll be able to succeed in future efforts to lobby for government support remains to be seen; but time is running out. And some scholars have warned that, without official help, the unique culture of the pingpu people could disappear altogether within the next decade.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


We've had terrible rains over the past few days thanks to a tropical storm. But today was quite lovely..breaking in was the sun ..and a rainbow.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Austronesian links

Taiwan, its 6 Pacific diplomatic allies, and the Philippines, announced they were establishing an Austronesian Forum - aimed at promoting closer ties between Austronesian members.

What's "Austronesian" ? you may ask. The Austronesian language is the world's biggest linguistic group, spoken by more than 200 million people.

Many scientists believe Taiwan was the birthplace of the Austronesian language family. Another, more controversial theory suggests that Taiwan could have been the original homeland of the Austronesian people, who then migrated to a wide area across the Pacific and beyond.
A beautiful traditional boat build by Orchid Islanders who rowed for the first time from their island to Taiwan.

The new Austronesian Forum aims to promote exchanges, academic, economic and cultural, between Austronesian communities. The body will be formally established next year. A draft charter pledges founder members to work to promote the goals of democracy, good governance, human rights and sustainable development .

This Hualien chieftan gave a traditional blessing at a ceremony to launch the first step in setting up the Austronesian Forum.

In recent years, the Taiwanese government has worked hard to promote its links with other Austronesian countries - seeing it as a way of trying to break out of its diplomatic isolation and stress its distinctiveness from China.

The island is recognised by just 24 governments around the world - six of them in the Pacific . Taiwan's own Austronesian people are members of the island's 13 officially recognized aboriginal groups who make up about 2% of the population.

President Chen Shui-Bian pointedly reminded his audience that Taiwan's indigenous peoples - like other Austronesian groups - had their own ancient cultures and languages which were totally different and unrelated to the culture of the Han Chinese - the main ethnic group in China and Taiwan.

But, like many aboriginals around the world, Taiwan's indigenous peoples have also been marginalized and faced discrimination. In recent years, though, they have gained more political power and recognition. Establishing closer links with other Austronesian countries could give Taiwan's own aboriginal communities a greater sense of pride and leadership - and wider respect .