Aborigines should recover their own perspectives of history as they reclaim their traditional names and cultures, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday, which was Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Tsai made the remarks at a forum in Taipei marking the 26th anniversary of a constitutional amendment acknowledging Aborigines, which was attended by government officials, Aboriginal rights advocates and foreign representatives.
An amendment to the Constitution in 1994 legally recognized Aborigines by dropping the term “mountain compatriots,” a result fought by rights advocates for more than a decade prior and approved by then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Tsai said.
Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times
As Aborigines have recovered their names, languages and cultures, it is also essential that they recover their own perspectives of history and that other ethnic groups learn to understand their viewpoints, she said.
Her administration has been promoting the ideal of “ethnic mainstreaming,” so every ethnic group in Taiwan can construct history together, she said.
Photo: Luo Chi, Taipei Times
Some attendees shared troubles they had encountered for using traditional names.
Sameguwan Paljaveljav, a 16-year-old Payuan based in Pingtung County, said that he now studies at home, but when he attended school, many classmates mocked his name by deliberately mispronouncing it or giving him nicknames.
When written in Chinese, his name requires nine characters, while most people have three or four, he said.
Although he once hated his name, he came to feel that it brings him closer to his community elders, he added.
Sameguwan Paljaveljav said that he still gets asked by people how to pronounce his name — some treat him as a Japanese or English speaker — but people are learning it.
He said that he is glad that he has embraced the name that his parents game him.
Presidential Office spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said that some reporters had complained about her insistence on using the romanized spelling of her name when she became Executive Yuan spokeswoman in 2018.
Recovering their traditional names means they are retrieving subjectivity, which does not mean they are troublemakers, Kolas said.
Aborigines can register their names with Chinese characters or romanized along with the Chinese characters, Council of Indigenous Peoples Deputy Minister Iwan Nawi said.
Since Aborigines were allowed to resume official use of their traditional names when the Name Act (姓名條例) was amended in 1995, only 31,917 people — or 5.5 percent of the nation’s Aboriginal population — have done so, she said.
The government’s ultimate goal is that all Aborigines can use the romanized spelling of their name without Chinese characters, Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥) said.
However, more social support is needed to push for updates to government and airline registration systems before the change could happen, he said.
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