A group of Aborigines yesterday protested in front of the Ministry of Education (MOE) building in Taipei, calling for an end to what the protesters called colonial assimilation education and deploring the China-centered and Han-centered history perspective instilled by the Republic of China (ROC) government since its arrival in Taiwan in 1949.
The ministry’s recent announcement of adjustments to be made to the high-school history curriculum, and the way they were decided upon, have set off a furor among the political opposition parties and in education and culture circles.
More than a dozen Aboriginal awareness groups joined the protest yesterday, criticizing repression by “alien regimes, of which the ROC is the ongoing one,” and the continuing deprivation of Aboriginal people’s rights to their languages and lands.
“We spoke Japanese, but we were not imperial subjects; we speak Mandarin, but we are not yan huang zisun (炎黃子孫, descendants of emperors Yan and Huang),” Taiwan Aboriginal Society chairman Tibusungu Vayayana (汪明輝) said.
Yan huang zisun is a phrase used by the Chinese government and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to refer to a common ancestry among people of Chinese ethnicity.
“The 14 official Aboriginal tribes and those that have not been adequately recognized in Taiwan are not ‘the 56th ethnic minority group of China,’” he said, responding to a claim made by a member of the pro-China Anti-Independence-Oriented-History Front last week.
“We belong to the world’s indigenous community,” he said. “Studies have suggested that Taiwan was the place of origin of all Austronesian-speaking people.”
Tibusungu called for an autonomous education system for the Aboriginal people to “return the children back to their home in their native land,” citing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ROC Constitution and the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法), which affirm or vow to protect cultural plurality and indigenous people’s autonomy.
Pangcah/Amis Guarding Union representative Daong said the “Han-centered textbooks” oversimplify and largely ignore the history of the nation’s Aborigines.
“The history textbook, for example, talks about Qing official Shen Bao-zhen’s (沈葆楨) policy of ‘Opening up the Mountains and Pacifying the Aborigines’ (開山撫番), but fails to mention the Kaliawan Incident in 1877” that resulted in the near extinction of the Kebalan and Sakizaya tribes, he said.
He brought up a list of rebellions and battles involving Aborigines fighting against invasive regimes that are “unfamiliar even to the ears of children of the tribes involved.”
Huang Chih-huei (黃智慧), chairwoman of the Millet Foundation, which aims to promote and preserve Aboriginal cultures, criticized the ministry’s claim that the curriculum has to abide by the Constitution.
“The government touted the ROC’s 103th birthday this year. How transient that is compared with the whole history of Taiwan. Not to mention that the history of the ROC Constitution, promulgated in 1946, is even shorter,” she said. “The Constitution is a product of history, not the other way around. It is just preposterous to say that history-writing has to follow the Constitution.”
Atayal priest Omi Wilang said they were told when they were young to be “proud Chinese” and tribes were forced to take up Chinese last names.