The Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) yesterday offered an apology to Pingpu Aborigines for calling them “homeless beggars” after a second protest by Pingpu activists, but the activists said the council missed the point and that they would not accept the apology because the CIP had not yet addressed the mentality behind the comment.
The CIP’s apology came after Pingpu activists protested twice against the language the CIP used last week to reject the Pingpu demand for official Aborigine status.
In last week’s statement, the CIP said that it was unlawful for the Pingpu to gain the official status, and that the Pingpu were like “the homeless beggar who kicked the clergy out of the temple” by claiming themselves to be Aborigines without first gaining agreement from the nation’s 490,000 officially recognized Aborigines.
The beggar analogy is commonly used in Taiwan to describe a situation in which an illegitimate person tries to get rid of and take the place of the legitimate owner of a place.
In yesterday’s apology, the CIP said: “The CIP only used the analogy to demonstrate that the Pingpu are showing no respect to Aborigines [by claiming themselves to be Aborigines without the consent of officially recognized Aborigines], and not to humiliate the Pingpu. If the use of the analogy has caused unpleasant feelings among Pingpu, we offer our apologies.”
Uma Talavan, chairwoman of the Siraya Culture Association and a leading Pingpu activist, said that the apology was unacceptable because “it’s not an apology at all” and did not address what made the Pingpu upset.
What upset the Pingpu was not the language, she said, but the thinking behind it. She said the CIP’s statement indicated that the council considers the Pingpu as distinct from Aborigines, when really the Pingpu are Aborigine. The Pingpu do not hold official Aborigine status because of an administrative error, not because they are not Aborigines, she said.
The Pingpu tribes lost their official Aboriginal status after they failed to register themselves as Aborigines with the government in the 1950s and 1960s, despite the fact the Pingpu held official Aboriginal status under the Japanese colonial government.
“I am an Aborigine because my father is an Aborigine and because my ancestors are Aborigines,” Talavan said. “This is an identity that I was born with and this Aborigine identity is a fact that’s been proven in historical documents and through academic research.”
In recent decades, Pingpu activists have launched a campaign to demand the government restore the status, but the CIP had been ambiguous in its responses to the Pingpu until last week.
The language used by the council last week not only upset the Pingpu — who demanded an apology from the council first at a news conference last week and then again at a demonstration outside the Executive Yuan yesterday — but also drew criticism from the Presidential Office and the Cabinet.
The CIP urged everyone not to take the analogy out of context, and continued to condemn the Pingpu for “unilaterally claiming themselves to be Aborigines.”
“If the Pingpu want to be part of the larger Aboriginal family, they should do so through peaceful, natural and respectful means, and not voice their demands by shooting fireworks [at the CIP], an unfriendly attitude [toward the CIP] and through illegal demonstrations,” the statement said.
To support its case, the CIP cited clauses in the Aboriginal Basic Act (原住民族基本法) related to development and construction projects within Aboriginal regions. It said such projects should get consent from local Aborigines in advance and “any individual or ethnic group should not unilaterally claim to be Aborigines without getting consent from all other Aborigines in advance.”
Talavan said: “I am a member of the Talavan family because I am born one — do I need to get consent from all members of the family before claiming myself to be one?”
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