Fighting from the Grassroots: Indigenous Health Justice is All About Life

Written by Yunaw Sili and Besu Piyas. The story began in 2006. That year, the Council of Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan issued a guideline stating that if Indigenous students need preferential treatment for college admission, they must pass the national Indigenous language certification test. As a result, many parents were worried that their children’s access to higher education would become more difficult. Because of this issue, we started our grassroots organising work in Hanxi Village, Datong Township of Yilan County. That was the first time we engaged and coordinated with the community people on local concerns. On April 19th, 2006, we demonstrated in front of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, fighting for our youth’s college rights. 

Why Do We Have Poor Health? How Colonialism Continues to Marginalise Indigenous Peoples

Written by Wasiq Silan. Despite the varying colonial histories with Indigenous peoples in other parts of the world, Indigenous people in Taiwan have one disturbing issue in common: poor health. Among other indicators (such as maternal mortality, birthweight, malnutrition, obesity and so on), Indigenous peoples in Taiwan die almost a decade sooner than the general population. Why this disparity? We are taught to believe the argument that blames Indigenous peoples for their own high-risk behavioural choice, lack of awareness, low educational attainment, and dysfunctional families; closer examination shows that we need to look beyond the individual level.

Finding the Needle in a Haystack: Why Small Sample Studies Matter to the Health Justice of Indigenous Communities in Taiwan?

Written by Kalesekes Kaciljaan (Yu-Chi, Huang) and Ta-Chun Hua.

We often see that Indigenous-focused research is excluded from major research programs with the capacity to influence policymaking, ignoring the impact of Indigenous cultural distinctiveness on health disparities. For example, in the annual statistics of health promotion in Taiwan, the authors didn’t separate most disease-related statistics, such as prevalence, incidence, and age distribution of individual diseases, of Indigenous Peoples from the general population. It has been tough to present the extent of the health differences between Indigenous People and the rest of the Taiwanese population in the absence of these essential figures. Lack of information also posed many difficulties for community health practitioners attempting to establish a health promotion plan for undersized Indigenous communities. This phenomenon occurs in Taiwan and many other countries with multiple ethnic minorities.

The Homecoming of Indigenous Tea Farmers

Written by Szu-yu Lai, translated by Sam Robbins. When people in Taiwan think of indigenous communities, they think of millet, traditional clothing, and other stereotypical markers. However, from the story of Atayal tea farmers in Li Mountain, we can see that such static imaginings don’t bind indigenous peoples. Admitting to Taiwan’s rapidly changing culture and economy, cultivating tea became a way for Atayal people to reflect on their own culture and relationship with mainstream society. Although tea is not a part of the Atayal people’s traditional culture, it has slowly become a crucial part of how Atayal tribes market themselves through legal and economic changes. 

A Great Linguist with a Scientific Mind and Poet’s Soul: In Memory of Professor Robert Blust

Written by Hsiao-Chun Hung. Professor Robert (Bob) Blust was a world-renowned linguist whose contributions will be sorely missed by his many colleagues. Bob’s ideas sometimes provoked controversy. Small groups sometimes seek fleeting moments of fame in academia by targeting well-known scholars, often without sufficient or relevant supporting evidence. This approach attracts attention as a “newsworthy” difference of opinion, at least temporarily, until it can be dispelled. Facing such challenges, Bob consistently retained stoic confidence in his scientific methodology, regardless of the enthusiasm of his critics.

In Memoriam: Robert Blust, 1940-2022

Written by Victoria Chen. Robert A. Blust, the leading scholar in Austronesian linguistics, passed away on January 5, 2022, at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. This loss has saddened linguists, archaeologists and anthropologists worldwide, along with researchers on Taiwan Studies who have benefited from his work over the past five decades.

Two Young Indigenous Scholars are Promoting Indigenous artists – in Taiwan and Beyond.

Written by Fanny Caron. Lin and Ismahasan’s academic disciplines and the career path they have chosen to highlight a change in Taiwan Indigenous studies on an international level. These choices enable them to play a part in shifting the discourse on Indigenous Peoples from “objects” of study to active “subjects” of their own (counter-) narrative, supporting their affirmation of Indigeneity and tribal sovereignty.

Unpacking the Colonialist Undertones of the Indigenous People’s Basic Law: Law as a Tool of Oppression in Taiwan

Written by Aaron Chen. In May 2021, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court considered a high-profile case concerning indigenous hunting rights. First opened in 2013, the Bunun man, Tama Talum, had been convicted for violating the Wildlife Conservation Act, which limited indigenous poaching to solely ceremonial activities. He was also prosecuted under the Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives Act, legislation that only allowed indigenous peoples to hunt using homemade weapons, whilst Tama Talum did otherwise.

Unrecognised Indigenous Groups of Taiwan and their Struggle for Language Revival

Written by Barnaby Yeh. Nearly all Plains Indigenous language advocates emphasize the importance of recognition from the national government. As summarized by Kaisanan Ahuan, a Taokas activist from Puli, lack of government recognition is the primary obstacle to a full-fledged revival. “Because Plains Indigenous are not nationally recognized as Indigenous people, their languages are not national languages. Therefore, we cannot teach our mother tongues under the national education framework.

Colonial Racial Science and Taiwan: How Indigenous Peoples Became Anatomy Data Points. Part II 

Written by Ko-yu Chiang, We received a reply confirming that the Mudan remains were indeed still stored in their collection. So, at this point, the puzzle was finally complete. This is the full story of the journey taken by these unfortunate victims. They came from a battle in Pingtung, to an anatomy lab in Yokohama, to the University of Edinburgh, where they were left in storage. 

Colonial Racial Science and Taiwan: How Indigenous Peoples Became Anatomy Data Points. Part I

Written by Ko-yu Chiang, Under the beating sun in Taiwan’s most southern tip, Mudan Township, an indigenous Paiwanese district with a current population of 5,000, opened a public committee in May 2020. Despite being in a small township in Taiwan’s far south, this committee was an international affair. In attendance was the council of Indigenous Affairs, Bureau of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture, the Pintung County government. The committee also extended to the other side of the world: Edinburgh University in the United Kingdom and the spirits of sixteen Paiwanese Mudan soldiers who have only recently returned home after 146 years abroad.

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