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  • Writer's picturePhillip Radcliffe

URESPA Club Visits Indigenous Taiwanese

(Japanese translation below)

Most people are familiar with Native American Indians, the Maori of New Zealand, the Aborigines of Australia and Ainu of Japan. But did you know that there are also indigenous people in the small island country of Taiwan? In fact, there are twenty-seven distinctly different aboriginal tribes in Taiwan.

From February 26 to March 3 of this year the SU URESPA Club visited Taiwan to learn about the native peoples of Taiwan and what kind of policy the Taiwanese government has in dealing with them. Thirteen students and four teachers took the trip.

Even though there are twenty-seven distinctly different aboriginal tribes, the Taiwanese government only recognizes 16 of them officially. Some of the tribes were assimilated in the 17th and 18th centuries when people from the Chinese mainland Han culture started living in Taiwan.

Our first day was flying from Shin-Chitose airport to Haneda airport, then on to Taipei airport and finally arriving at Taitou airport. From Taitou airport we went to a Bunun village where Bunun aboriginal people live and own a tourist facility. We arrived at night and we ate original Bunun food and slept. The next morning we watched a traditional Bunun dance. After that we went to the National Taiwan History Museum.

We learned about the history of the 16 officially recognized indigenous tribes. In one corner of the museum there were 16 tablets that teach you the 16 different tribal languages. It was very interesting and educational. After the museum, we went back to the village and had a tour around the village and learned how they made the tourist facility. That night we performed some of our traditional dances for each other.

On the morning of the third day, we participated a Bunun worship ceremony, and then we went to the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Culture Park. The park was so big that we had to ride a bus that take us around the park. We saw many different traditional dances and traditional houses.

That night we stayed in a Rinari village. We each stayed at different houses like a homestay. It was very hard to communicate because no one spoke Japanese or English, so we had to use jesters.

On the fourth day, we went to Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village where we watched a show and visited a museum. The museum had many valuable historical items. We also talked to many elderly Indigenous people. It was very moving to hear their living history.

On the 5th day, we went to the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ TV Station. It’s a TV station for indigenous people and people who want to learn about their culture. The TV shows use indigenous languages. Eighty percent of Taiwanese who are not indigenous say they like this channel because it is the only channel where they can learn about indigenous people.

Next we went to the Public Power Vision. At this station there were news experts from each tribe. Also, there are about 780 indigenous people living in the village and they have coverage for each tribe.

After that, we went to the Council of Indigenous Peoples. We went there to learn what kind of policy the government has toward indigenous people and what other things they are doing for them.

On the last day, we went to a Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. The Presbyterian Church has been helping the indigenous people for many years. They do things like make books for them to learn their own language and culture and help them to recover their rights. There are 514 churches for indigenous people. Almost all of them are Christian.

In the afternoon, we went to Shih Hsin University to meet with the indigenous students enrolled there. We had a discussion about the rights of indigenous people and about how to recover culture, as well as many other topics.

On this Journey to Taiwan we learned many things. One surprising thing was how the policy for indigenous people in Taiwan is more forwarded-looking than in Japan. One reason it is more forwarded-looking is because the people there have demanded it. We learned that we shouldn’t always depend on the government. If you want something to be done, you have to start a movement on your own.


米澤 諒










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