It would be illegitimate to grant Aboriginal recognition to the nation’s Pingpu Aborigines, as they chose to be separated from other Aborigines throughout history, the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) said yesterday.
The council said in a statement released yesterday that the Pingpu do not meet the criteria to be officially recognized as Aborigines according to the Aboriginal Identity Act (原住民身分法), and that the Provincial Government of Taiwan did not make any mistakes in its call for Aborigines to register their identity in the 1950s and 1960s, “so, the Pingpu cannot legally be granted Aboriginal status.”
Article 2 of the act stipulates that only people who had household registration in Aboriginal regions before World War II, whose parents and grandparents were Aborigines or those who registered their Aboriginal identity in the 1950s and 1960s can be recognized as Aborigines.
However, many Pingpu argue that they never knew about the Aboriginal registration either because their families never received the notice, or because they didn’t consider themselves “mountain people” — the official term for “Aborigines” before 1994 — since they have always lived on flat land.
“In fact, throughout the course of history from the Qing Dynasty up until now, the Pingpu chose to live with the Han people, making them different from other Aborigines,” the council’s statement said. “If they want to become part of the family now, they should respect other Aborigines and not act like the ‘homeless beggar who kicked out the temple administrator.’”
The “homeless beggar” analogy is commonly used in Taiwanese to refer to a situation in which a person tries to get rid of and take the place of someone who once helped them.
“The Pingpu claim to be Aborigines, but they do not share the same historical legacy and lack interaction with Aborigines,” the statement said. “If the Pingpu are doing so in order to gain access to resources, we would like to ask a question: Did you, the Pingpu, stand with Aborigines when the Aborigines resisted Han domination?”
The statement said the CIP was created to serve all Aborigines, but not the Pingpu.
“We sympathize with the Pingpu for the loss of their languages and culture, and believe that the government should do something to make up for the injustice that they suffered — but it’s not the CIP’s responsibility,” the statement said.
The CIP released the statement in response to a demonstration outside the council headquarters in Taipei by around 100 activists seeking Pingpu Aboriginal status.
The Pingpu are made up of various Aboriginal tribes who used to inhabit flat regions across the country.
The Pingpu “disappeared” as they were culturally assimilated by intense interaction and intermarriage with Han migrants from China over the past 400 years.
In recent decades, Pingpu activists launched a campaign to restore their tribal identity and gain government recognition of their Aboriginal status.
Tuan Hung-kun (段洪坤), convener of the Tainan County Alliance of Siraya Communities, was upset by the council’s statement.
“I wonder how they would feel and what they would say if, 10 years from now, some of the Aboriginal tribes lost their culture because they had too much interaction with non-Aborigines,” Tuan said.
Taiwan Aboriginal Society chairman Wang Ming-hui (汪明輝) of the Tsou tribe said that a government agency should not make such statements.