Thu, Sep 23, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Plains aborigines propose Cabinet-level recognition

PETITION Members of the 10 `pingpu' tribes yesterday called for formation of a committee under the Cabinet to help preserve their heritage

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The 10 pingpu (平埔) Aboriginal tribes yesterday launched a signature drive to petition for the establishment of a pingpu Aboriginal tribe committee under the Executive Yuan to preserve their languages and heritage.

"Our ancestors came to this island about 4,000 years ago, about 3,600 to 3,800 years earlier than the Han and Hakka people," said Stephen Pan (潘哲雄) of the Babuza tribe from Miaoli County. "Although we're a minority group, it's unfair that the government totally ignores our existence."


Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said he supported the tribes' cause and would help push for the passage of the law to establish the committee in the legislature.

"While the Executive Yuan is trying to streamline itself from the current 36 entities down to 22, I thought it'd be a better idea to establish the committee under the proposed culture and sports ministry instead of as a new commission," he told the Taipei Times.

Chanting "pingpu people are the mother of Taiwanese people" and "we want to live here forever," about 20 pingpu Aborigines gathered in downtown Taipei yesterday afternoon to call on the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan to support their cause.

The Chinese immigrants used the terms pingpu fan (平埔番), or "savages on the plain," to describe the lowland Aborigines and kaoshan fan (高山族) to describe the indigenous people living in mountain areas.

Unlike the kaoshan Aborigines, whose livelihood depended on hunting, the pingpu Aborigines are described in historical documents as fishermen, with few agricultural skills.

Over the centuries, the pingpu interbred with Han Chinese and most of their language and customs have been lost.

Like the kaoshan Aborigines' 10 sub-tribes -- all of which have already been recognized as official tribes -- the pingpu people also consist of 10 sub-tribes.

The 10 recognized kaoshan Aboriginal tribes are the Atayal, Saisiyat, Bunun, Tsou, Paiwan, Rukai, Puyuma, Amis, Tao and Thao. The 10 pingpu tribes are the Kavalan, Siraya, Makatao, Hoanya, Babuza, Kakabu, Pazeh, Papora, Ketagalan and Taokas.


In 2001, the DPP-led government recognized the Thao () of Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County as the nation's 10th official tribe, and in 2002 it recognized the Kavalan (噶瑪蘭), an assimilated plains tribe, as the 11th.

The Truku (太魯閣) people of Hualien County were recognized as the nation's 12th indigenous tribe in January this year following a controversial, decade-long effort by activist Pan Wen-kuei (潘文貴) of the Makatao tribe from Pingtung County. Pan said that if the DPP government really means what it says about "localization," it should make efforts to establish the pingpu Aboriginal tribe committee.

"The government should face the issue fair and square," he said. "I'm afraid if we don't do it now, it'll be too late."

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