A conference on Canada's Metis tribe opened in Hualien yesterday to promote exchanges and understanding of the two countries' indigenous cultures.
The conference, hosted by the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei, National Dong Hwa University and the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP), discussed cultural preservation and other issues involving the identity and the rights of the Metis, with the participation of two special guests from Canada — Clement Chartier, president of Canada's Metis National Council, and Frank Tough, a professor of Native Studies at the University of Alberta.
The Metis are descended from intermarriages between Cree, Ojibway, Algonquin, Saulteaux, Menominee, Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Europeans, mainly French. It is estimated that there are 350,000 to 400,000 Metis in Canada, comprising about 1 percent of its population.
“This conference will offer a new opportunity for academics and policymakers to explore Canada-Taiwan Aboriginal relations, as well as provide conference participants with a deeper understanding of one of Canada's three officially recognized Aboriginal peoples,” Canadian Trade Office Executive Director Scott Fraser said.
Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), dean of Dong Hwa University's College of Indigenous Studies, said Taiwan’s Pingpu — assimilated Aborigines living on Taiwan's plains — share similarities with the Metis and he expressed hope that the conference would open a new window of exchanges in Aboriginal studies between Taiwan and Canada.
Chartier and Tough were scheduled to visit Pingpu communities in Kaohsiung and Tainan counties to better understand the contemporary Pingpu experience as it relates to cultural preservation, the Canadian office said.
Taiwan has about 490,000 Aborigines, making up about 2 percent of the nation’s population, the CPI said. There are 14 officially recognized tribes — the Amis, Atayal, Paiwan, Bunun, Puyuma, Rukai, Tsou, Saisiat, Yami, Thao, Kavalan, Truku, Sakizaya and Sedeq, each with their own distinct language, culture, customs, traditions and social structures.
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