Mon, Mar 21, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Aboriginal rights advocates blast cultural tourism

SHALLOW IMAGE At a forum Aboriginal activists said too much emphasis is placed on song, dance and handicrafts, leading to a superficial portrayal

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The promotion of Aboriginal culture and development of the tribal tourist business have gotten people to pay more attention to Aboriginal communities. However, showcasing Aboriginal culture has a negative impact on the development of Aboriginal education, aboriginal rights advocates said at a forum yesterday.

"The so-called Aboriginal culture industry is manipulated by the government. Even worse, Aboriginal intellectuals fail to interpret the cultural or historical background hidden in government-held activities or festivals," said Council of Indigenous Peoples Vice Chairman Pasuya Poitsonu (浦忠成).

"What the media reports and what the public receives is a superficial showcase of our culture," Pasuya said.

The 2004 Aboriginal issues forum, held by the Millet Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting Aboriginal rights, drew Aboriginal experts to discuss issues which concern the community.

Tibusungu (浦忠勇), president of Da Bang Elementary School in Chiayi County, said that the display of Aboriginal culture has hurt Aboriginal education in many ways.

"Many Aboriginal schools put more effort into teaching Aboriginal dance, music or handicrafts classes now to promote Aboriginal culture," Tibusungu said. "However, students suffer."

According to Tibusungu, holding Aboriginal ceremonies or cultural-related activities seem to have taken priority at many Aboriginal schools over providing better education.

"The unbalanced distribution of financial and teaching resources has been one of the obstacles of Aboriginal education, even with the passage of the Aboriginal Education Act (原住民族教育法) in 1998. But we are too busy promoting Aboriginal culture to examine the issues," he said.

Tibusungu said that the Aborigines have been too passive in exercising their right to receive better education.

"Aboriginal language courses, for example, make up only about 3 percent of the total classes per semester. A poor curriculum and a lack of qualified teachers also hold back the development of Aboriginal language education," Tibusungu said.

Since the beginning of the Nine-Year Educational Program launched in 2001, the Ministry of Education has added Aboriginal languages classes as required classes in elementary schools. According to the program, all the cities and counties with Aboriginal students need to prepare Aboriginal language classes.

Voyu (楊智偉), director of the Association of Taiwan Indigenous Peoples' Policy, agreed that the priority of Aboriginal education should be to improve the competitiveness of Aboriginal students and raise the socio-economic status of the next generation through better education.

Abuwu, a member of the Kaohsiung Aboriginal Woman Sustainable Development Association, said that the government's efforts to promote Aboriginal culture stay on a superficial level and do not really help the public better understand the group.

"Every tribal festival represents a piece of the tribe's history," Abuwu said. "But often what the public remembers through tribal festivals or Aboriginal cultural events is the food or the dance, instead of learning about the background of those ceremonies."

Pasuya urged the Aboriginal community to play a more active role and exercise its right to decide on its own matters.

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