Council of Indigenous Peoples

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Council of Indigenous Peoples
原住民族委員會
Yuánzhù Mínzú Wěiyuánhuì
Dadaocheng Building (Council of Indigenous Peoples) 20130708.jpg
Agency overview
Formed 1 December 1996 (as Council of Aboriginal Affairs)
25 March 2002 (as Council of Indigenous Peoples)
Jurisdiction  Republic of China
Headquarters Taipei City
Ministers responsible
Parent agency Executive Yuan
Website www.apc.gov.tw (English)

The Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP; Chinese: 原住民族委員會; pinyin: Yuánzhù Mínzú Wěiyuánhuì), formerly known as the Council of Aboriginal Affairs, is a ministry-level body under the Executive Yuan in the Republic of China. It was established to provide a central point of government supervision for indigenous affairs, as well as a central interface for the Taiwan's indigenous community to interact with the government:

Among its most visible responsibilities are the power it has to grant recognized status to indigenous tribes of Taiwan. The tribes must apply with a petition and various pieces of evidence of their legitimacy. Besides officially recognizing tribes, the Council has promoted the use and revitalization of Taiwan's aboriginal languages, supported legislation that would grant autonomous land to indigenous peoples, strengthened relations between Taiwan's indigenous groups and those in other countries, and raised awareness of aboriginal cultures.

The Council has been criticized by both indigenous and non-indigenous individuals and groups. These criticisms tend to accuse the Council of ineffectiveness, and of discriminating against plains aborigines.

History

The council was originally established on 1 December 1996 as the Council of Aboriginal Affairs. On 1 July 1999, the Aboriginal Affairs Commission of the Taiwan Provincial Government was incorporated into the council. The council also took over the management of the Indigenous Peoples Cultural Park from the commission. On 4 January 2002, the Legislative Yuan approved the amendments to the council and on 25 March in the same year, the council was renamed to Council of Indigenous Peoples.[7]

Leadership

As with all cabinet-level bodies under the Executive Yuan, the Council of Indigenous Peoples is headed by a minister who is recommended by the Premier of the Republic of China and appointed by the President of the Republic of China.[8]

The first chairman of the Council of Aboriginal Affairs was Hua Chia-chi of the Paiwan tribe. He was succeeded in 2000 by Yohani Isqaqavut, a member of the Bunun tribe, as well as a long-time aboriginal rights activist, chief of general affairs at the Yushan College of Theology, and Presbyterian missionary.[9] Yohani stepped down in 2002. His successor, Chen Chen-nien, a Puyuma, had been Taitung County commissioner from 1993 to 2001, a position in which he became known for his dedication to improving the lives of aborigines.[10]

On February 4, 2005, Chen was indicted for electoral fraud. He was accused of buying votes for his daughter, Chen Ying, in the most recent legislative election. Chen denied the accusations, but he nevertheless resigned from his position as chairman. He was replaced by Walis Pelin of the Seediq tribe.[11][12][13] In 2007, the Amis Icyang Parod became chairman,[14] and he was succeeded by Chang Jen-hsiang, also Amis, the next year.[15] Chang was criticized by both aboriginal people and legislators of all ethnicities. Aboriginal protesters outside the Council building demanded Chang resign, saying that she had disregarded the land and hunting rights of indigenous peoples. Protesters claimed Chang allowed the Atomic Energy Council to dump nuclear waste near aboriginal villages, and that the government would not let the Puyuma tribe participate in its traditional annual hunt without permission from the Forestry Bureau. Kao Chin Su-mei, an Atayal Legislator, criticized Chang at the same time.[16] Chang was later criticized by several other lawmakers, who questioned her effectiveness in her position, as well as her commitment to securing autonomy for indigenous peoples.[17]

Sun Ta-chuan, an academic and member of the Puyuma, became the chairman in 2009.[18] He was succeeded in 2013 by Lin Chiang-yi, formerly the deputy minister of the Council, from the Amis tribe.[19]

Tribal recognition

Before the establishment of what was then called the Council of Aboriginal Affairs, there were nine aborigine tribes recognized by the government of Taiwan. These tribes had been classified by Japanese colonial authorities, and the designations had been kept in independent Taiwan. The Thao became the first new tribe recognized in 2001.[20] The next year, the Council of Indigenous Peoples approved the Kavalan in becoming the eleventh recognized tribe, as well as the first plains aborigine tribe.[21] The next tribe to be recognized, in 2004, was the Truku, who had been classified as Atayal. This recognition was controversial, however; some Seediq, also classified as Atayal, did not consider the Truku to be distinct from them, and claimed that giving Truku independent tribal status was a political move.[22] In 2007, the Sakizaya, who had been classified as Amis, gained recognition.[23] The fourteenth recognized tribe was the Seediq, who were officially split from the Atayal in 2008.[24] The most recent additions were in 2014, when both the Hla'alua and the Kanakanavu were recognized.[25]

Pingpu

Among the Pingpu, or plains aborigine, tribes, only the Kalavan have been officially recognized by the government of Taiwan. Unlike the "mountain" or "highland" aborigines, Pingpu were largely assimilated into Han society, and they typically lost any official recognition as indigenous after the Kuomintang came to power. Efforts to gain recognition for Pingpu tribes from the Council of Indigenous Peoples have been largely ineffective. Pingpu activists have called on the Council several times, but every time the Council has a reason not to grant them recognition. In 2009, calls for recognition were denied on the ground that law only granted aboriginal status to those whose parents were registered as aboriginal.[26] The Council later said that plains aborigines should have registered in the 1950s and 1960s and said compared modern Pingpu seeking recognition to "the homeless beggar who kicked out the temple administrator," a Taiwanese analogy used to describe someone who attempts to displace something rightful owner.[27] The Council apologized for making the analogy, but activists refused to accept the apology.[28] In 2010, after more dissatisfaction with the Council, Pingpu activist Lin Sheng-yi called on the government to create a new ministry specifically for Pingpu affairs.[29]

Struggles for autonomy

Historically, one of the main goals of the Council of Indigenous Peoples has been securing autonomy for aborigines. When Yohani Isqaqavut was chairman, he worked towards securing land rights for Taiwan's indigenous people, saying "During my term, I will endeavor to see that Aboriginal land rights are respected."[30] Despite autonomy being one of the most notable issues among aborigines, many activists feel that the government of Taiwan has not made adequate progress. In 2010, ten years after the completion of the first draft bill on aboriginal autonomy, it still had not passed. Sun Ta-chuan, Minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, said that a bill would be passed within two years.[31] By September of that year, the Executive Yuan passed a bill, supported by Sun Ta-chuan, Minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples. However, some indigenous activists were against the bill, claiming that the government did not accept input from indigenous activists when drafting the bill, autonomy would still be dependent on the approval of local governments, the government would be given power of aboriginal farmers, and autonomy could be decreased due to aboriginal territory being spread over many government-created divisions of land.[32] In November, activists said that, despite the bill, the Executive Yuan did not care about autonomy, as aboriginal townships were to become districts in special municipalities, in which indigenous people would no longer have self-governance.[33]

Other actions

The Council of Indigenous Peoples has supported efforts to protect and revitalize the languages spoken by Taiwanese aborigines. In 2001, the Council commissioned the first proficiency tests for aboriginal languages in Taiwan.[34] In 2005, the Council created a romanization of all aboriginal languages.[35] The annual exam later began to wane in popularity; in 2009, the proficiency test for the Thao, Saaroa, and Tona Rukai languages had no participants, and the passing rate of test-takers dropped five percent from the previous year.[36] In 2013, the Council published an online dictionary of seven aboriginal languages: Bunun, Saisiyat, Tsou, Truku, Thao, Kanakanavu, and Tao. The Council consulted with tribal elders, speakers of the languages, and linguists to create the dictionary.[37] The Council has recruited speakers of indigenous languages to study the rates of comprehension and use of those languages.[38]

The Council of Indigenous Peoples has promoted international solidarity among indigenous peoples. The Council sponsored a group of Taiwanese aborigines' trip to the 18th session of the UN-sponsored Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 2000.[39] Besides political actions, the Council has supported trade, economic cooperation, and cultural exchange with Canada's aboriginal peoples and New Zealand's Maori people.[40][41][42]

After the enactment of a 2000 law which required the Taiwanese government to either allocate time slots on public television to aboriginal culture and education or to create a channel solely devoted to aboriginal issues, the Council began to push for a channel to be made. In 2005, the channel was finally created, becoming the first such channel in Asia.[43] Aboriginal producers criticized the channel, arguing that most of the programs were not produced by aborigines.[44]

The Council produced an anthology of indigenous literature, including poetry, prose, and short stories, and a history of Taiwanese indigenous literature since 1951, and promoted this anthology alongside other indigenous documents, such as historical documents and oral histories.[45]

Criticism

The Council has come under fire for ineffectiveness. In 2002, the Executive Yuan reported that the Council created job service stations in areas with low concentrations of aborigines, and that the stations were not effective in lowering unemployment.[46] In 2008, aboriginal legislators criticized the Council for delaying legislative proposals.[47]

In 2010, Jason Pan, director of the Taiwan Association for Rights Advancements for Pingpu Plains Aborigines, wrote a letter to the United Nations on behalf of Pingpu rights groups, in which he asked the UN to investigate the refusal of the Taiwanese government, and specifically the Council of Indigenous Peoples, to recognize Pingpu as aboriginal.[48]

Young aborigines criticized the Council for a lack of transparency regarding a cross-strait service pact.[49]

Organizational structures

  • Department of Planning
  • Department of Education and Culture
  • Department of Health and Welfare
  • Department of Economic and Public Construction
  • Department of Land Management
  • Bureau of Culture Park

Transportation

The council building is accessible within walking distance South from Daqiaotou Station of Taipei Metro.

See also

References

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