Mon, Jan 29, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Strength in numbers

A Taiwanese organization aims to foster international communication between Aboriginal communities throughout the globe

By Caroline Hosey  /  Contributing reporter

Maori students from Aukland University of Technology in New Zealand in 2013 visited the Council of Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan.

Photo courtesy of Tony Coolidge

ATAYAL aims to launch a new online communication platform to increase dialogue and relations among Aboriginal communities across the globe through media projects, cultural exchanges and tourism, while creating sustainable economic opportunities.

The nonprofit will change their name later this year to “Indigenous Bridges” as a rebranding strategy to emphasize the creation of this digital networking platform, said Tony Coolidge, director of ATAYAL.

Coolidge, whose mother is of Atayal descent, is no stranger to building digital networking platforms. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina brought much devastation to the US gulf coast, he created the site, KatrinasAngels.org, a database of over 500,000 people that connected victims to volunteers offering housing and aid. A similar approach will be employed in ATAYAL’s online network.

“The creation of a system of information management and resource management is something I have been doing for years with other companies and projects. Applying it to indigenous cooperation and development, which is my mission in life, should have been done long ago,” Coolidge said.

SOLVING PROBLEMS

With better online communications and international cooperation among Aboriginal communities, it is possible to solve the problems they face, including discrimination, marginalization and extreme poverty. Aboriginal culture, languages, belief systems and ways of life are under threat, and in some cases have become extinct.

Even though each Aboriginal communities throughout the globe have their own unique concerns, they share similar historical experiences and contemporary issues of how to balance tradition and modernity, said Daya Dakasi, an Atayal and National Chengchi University associate professor of ethnology. He added that through cross-cultural collaboration, Aboriginal communities can share their experiences and learn from others to help them adopt new practices.

“Even if there are no successful cases, we can establish supporting systems for each other,” Daya said.

In order to alleviate these problems, ATAYAL’s database will feature a user-friendly interface where users can find each other and in turn, more projects can be achieved.

“There will also be regular online newsletters and online forums to encourage regular communication between the tribal representatives,” Coolidge said.

Members will be able to look for performers for cultural events, academics and specialists for conferences, tourism opportunities and Aboriginal representatives.

“Our hopes are that by tribes working together they can further their own personal relationships and their own culture,” said Gary Smoke, director of international relations at ATAYAL.

ATAYAL will also continue various side projects that focus on strengthening and establishing relationships with other Aboriginal communities. The organization’s side projects include an annual canoe journey with Native American tribes of the US Pacific Coast, collaboration with other organizations to increase tourism to local Aboriginal villages in New Taipei City’s Wulai District (烏來) and Chiayi County’s Alishan Township (阿里山) and inviting delegations from other nations to visit and participate in cross-cultural exchange with Taiwanese Aboriginal communities.

In particular, the canoe journey has been beneficial to ATAYAL because it has strengthened relations between Taiwanese Aboriginal communities and Pacific tribes of the US, said Smoke. The Native Americans were willing to share their resources and knowledge to help Taiwanese Aborigines solve problems surrounding governmental support and environmental policies, he added.

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