Standing amid a thunderstorm, dozens of Pingpu Aborigines yesterday gathered on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples to protest against the government’s denial of their Aboriginal status.
“We are now standing on the land that was once the traditional domain of the Ketagalan — one of the Pingpu Aboriginal tribes,” Siraya Cultural Association spokeswoman Uma Talavan said. “The Republic of China (ROC) occupies our land, the Presidential Office stands on traditional Ketagalan land, but refuses to recognize us as Aborigines.”
“The government is pushing us into annihilation,” she added.
Talavan said in the past decade, the government has always said it would “look into the issue,” but thus far, no conclusion has been reached. Pingpu Aborigines comprise several Aboriginal tribes that once lived in the country’s flat areas.
While most of the Pingpu Aborigines have lost their cultures and languages, and adopted those of Han Chinese, some are intent on keeping their identity and are campaigning for the government to officially recognize them as Aborigines.
However, despite more than 20 years of efforts, they still have not been granted official status.
“A regime that does not respect the first inhabitants of the island is an illegitimate regime,” Presbyterian Church of Taiwan pastor Lee Hsiao-chung (李孝忠) said.
“Let’s take out our red cards, and show them to the ROC government, it’s time for us to tell it to get out of Taiwan,” he said, referring to the penalty given in soccer to kick a player out of the game.
Jason Pan (潘紀揚), a representative of the Pazeh Pingpu Aboriginal tribe, said that without Pingpu Aborigines, Taiwanese culture and history would be incomplete.
“We cannot allow the Pingpus to vanish. We are here because we want to tell the ROC government and the world that the Pingpu Aborigines are still here, alive and well,” Pan said.
Representatives of the demonstrators were received by a Presidential Office public relations officer, who listened to their petitions.
“We met with a new public relations officer surnamed Lee (李) and we think she’s better than the one we met before,” Talavan said after the meeting. “She listened more attentively, showed more interest and I felt she was more sincere.”
Talavan said Lee had said there was a discrepancy between the information provided by Pingpu groups and the Council of Indigenous Peoples and said she would research the issue herself.