Aborigines condemn CIP’s Pingpu snub

NOT ABORIGINAL? : The Council of Indigenous Peoples said in a statement that the Pingpu had chosen assimilation with Han culture and never stood with their brothers

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sat, Jun 27, 2009 - Page 4

More than 50 Aboriginal organizations representing both Pingpu Aborigines and recognized Aboriginal tribes issued a joint statement yesterday to condemn the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) for its “homeless beggar” remark about Pingpu people.

In a press release in response to a demonstration by Pingpu activists demanding recognition for all Pingpu Aborigines, the CIP told the Pingpu not to act like “the homeless beggar who kicked the clergy out of the temple” — a commonly used analogy to describe anyone who tries to get rid of a person who helped them in order to take his or her place.

The CIP said in a press release that the Pingpu chose assimilation into Han culture and society, that they never stood with other Aborigines, but that now they want to gain access to resources. It said that the Pingpu have disrespected other Aborigines by claiming themselves to be Aborigines without first asking the permission of other tribes.

The Aboriginal organizations and individuals who signed the joint statement yesterday criticized the CIP’s remarks, accusing it of trying to drive a wedge between Aborigines, and called on CIP Minister Chang Jen-hsiang (章仁香) to apologize.

The Pingpu are Aboriginal tribes that lived on the plains and who lost their culture to differing degrees because of interaction and intermarriage with Han immigrants from China. Most of the tribes also lost official Aboriginal recognition after World War II because they did not register their Aboriginal status with the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government.

“I would say that it’s the CIP that does not respect all 490,000 [officially recognized] Aborigines — because we never authorized the council to speak on our behalf,” Omi Wilang, an Atayal pastor from Fusing Township (復興), Taoyuan County, told a news conference yesterday at the release of the joint statement.

“I’ve always lived and worked among Aborigines, and I’ve never heard anyone voicing opposition to restoring Aboriginal status to the Pingpu,” Omi said. “I think it’s the CIP officials and some Aboriginal politicians who are worried that Pingpu may harm their political interests.”

Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), dean of the College of Indigenous Studies at National Dong Hwa University, said the Pingpu did not choose to become assimilated into Han culture, but were forced to do so.

He said the Pingpu, who lived mostly on the western plains, were the first Aborigines to be affected by the arrival of European and Chinese settlers 400 years ago.

“If the Europeans and Chinese had landed on the east coast, it would be CIP officials from the Amis tribe, such as Chang, [CIP Deputy Minister] Mayaw Dongi, and [specialist] Sra Kacaw who would have to take to the streets to gain Aboriginal status today,” Shih said. “I would actually like to ask these officials if any of them have ‘stood with Aborigines’ or took part in the Aboriginal rights movement in the 1980s and 1990s?”

The activists called on Chang to apologize to the Pingpus, “otherwise we will take stronger action,” said Pan Chao-cheng (潘朝成), chairman of the Kavalan Development Association.

Although the CIP declined to comment, a secretary at the minister’s office surnamed Chung (鍾) said she didn’t understand what all +the controversy was about.

“The Pingpus are just not Aborigines,” she said.