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.


Jason Pan said...

Thanks, Caroline, for this news reporting.

You have clearly outlined the dire situation the Ping Pu lowland indigenous peoples of Taiwan are facing, the problems encountered against Taiwan government, and the on-going struggle for official recognition.

Great pictures also !

Note: The person in the 2nd photo is Mr. Lin Tze-yang, from the Ketagalan community in Taipei County's Gong-liao Township around the Northeast Coast area, and he is the chairman of the Taipei County Ketagalan Culture Association.

Thanks again,
Jason Pan

Tek-Khiam said...

Hello Caro, what a wonderful news coverage. It's clear and concise. By the way, I'm the guy who translated the Ketagalan song to English for you that day. In fact, the plight of the Ping Pu peoples is also a threat to humanity and the world's cultural diversity. Accordingly, we will struggle to conserve the Ping Pu culture.
Thank you,