Sat, Mar 30, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Land loss root of Aborigines' problems

Independent Legislator May Chin, a descendant of the Atayal tribe on her mother's side, has been upbeat about promoting Aboriginal rights since winning a legislative seat last December. She sang an Aboriginal version of the national anthem at the New Year's Day flag-raising ceremony in front of the presidential Office and has also made a recording of the national anthem, part of the royalties from which will go toward helping Aboriginal children finish elementary school. Chin recently spoke with 'Taipei Times' staff reporter Sandy Huang, concerning the most important issue that are being confronted by the nation's Aborigines

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Taipei Times: Other than these issues, what other problems do Aborigines often face?

Chin: Back in the traditional tribal villages, health clinics often lack up-to-date advanced medical equipment and sufficient medical staff. Many tribal elders don't speak a word of Mandarin. When they are ill and go to these health clinics, there are no interpreters to assist them in describing their ailments to the doctors. They then just get sent home after some basic check-ups and with simple medication.

Transportation is another issue. Although the Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Lin-san (林陵三) spoke the truth that there are roads leading to these mountainous tribal villages, what about the condition of these roads? Most of them are not asphalt roads but rock and gravel that are rough and uneven. When I see the Taipei City Government spending money on planting roadside flowers, I think to myself: Wouldn't it be great if that money were used to build asphalt roads in the mountainous areas?

Taipei Times: What kind of solutions are possible for issues such as these?

Chin: Solutions to these issues will easily come as long as the core of the whole issue, our preliminary concern, is being taking care of -- returning our lost land. When we have been given back what is ours and what used to be belonged to us has been restored, then we will regain our recognition and respect as Aborigines and solutions to all other Aboriginal issues will soon follow. Only by being regarded with respect can we Aborigines ensure fair treatment.

The government needs to redress and revitalize its Aboriginal policies and legislation. Aborigines in Taiwan have long been suffering from unequal treatment ranging from economic exploitation and social discrimination to political oppression and cultural negligence. I, among many other Aborigines, wish to rediscover and restore Taiwan's Aboriginal history and cultures by having a separate educational system for Aborigines. Aborigines' ethnic consciousness has long been neglected and suppressed as subordinate to mainstream Han history and culture. Aboriginal kids in schools need to learn and have the knowledge of their own culture and history in their schoolbooks and not just Han history and culture.

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