Mon, Nov 19, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Sediq seek to be officially recognized as one of Taiwan's Aboriginal tribes

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Sediq people -- considered Atayals by the government -- vowed to continue their prolonged struggle to become the nation's 14th legally recognized tribe.

Sediqs from Nantou and Hualien counties reaffirmed their determination to restore the tribe's name during a two-day conference held in Nantou County over the weekend.

"Japanese scholars considered us Atayals [during the Japanese colonial period] because we have similar cultures," Yayuc Panay, a Sediq tribe name restoration activist said to the Taipei Times during a telephone interview, explaining why Sediqs are considered as Atayals by the government.

"Sediqs and Atayals came from the same origin, however, the two tribes have been separated for a long time, and we regard each other as independent tribes," Yayuc said.

But despite some cognates, he said, the two tribes' languages are mutually unintelligible.

For many Sediqs, to be recognized as Sediqs is a basic right.

"We don't like to be called Atayals, and we don't like to be given a name -- we want the right to name ourselves," said Watan Diro, a spokesman for the Sediq Tribe Name Restoration Association.

"The naming right is one of the basic rights outlined in UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Aboriginal Basic Law [原住民族基本法]," Watan said.

Besides guarding the basic right of naming, Watan also regarded legal recognition as a way to unify all Sediq people.

Watan explained that Sediqs can be divided into three sub-tribes: Toda, Tgtaya and Truku.

In the past, colonial rulers had manipulated the three sub-tribes to engage in conflicts between each other, "the Wushe Incident [霧社事件] was a good example," he said.

The Wushe Incident refers to an armed uprising against the Japanese during the Japanese colonial period. In addition to military oppression, the Japanese also sought to put down the uprising by manipulating conflicts between sub-tribes.

"Being recognized as a united Sediq tribe is a way to awaken collective identity of the three sub-tribes," Watan said.

However, the government has not been responsive to the Sediqs' request.

"We submitted a petition to the Council of Indigenous Peoples [CIP] last year. They said they'd ask the National Chengchi University to conduct research," Watan said. "Though the results were scheduled to be released last January, we've yet to hear anything from them."

Watan said that representatives from all three sub-tribes will visit the CIP on Nov. 28 and submit another letter to request recognition.

"We will ask the council to reply within two weeks after receiving the letter. If we don't hear anything by Dec. 15, we'll have to take further measures," Watan said, but refused to say what he meant by "further measures."

CIP spokesman Sawaya Teasan said that the application from the Sediq people has been well received and reviewed.

"But some [Sediq] tribal elders held different opinions when we conducted research," he said, but declined to specify what the differences were.

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