Indigenous peoples feature in new narratives . . .
Seqalu, a drama about a conflict between Indigenous groups and other peoples in 1860s southern Taiwan, is one of the first programs to pop up on TaiwanPlus, a new state-sponsored media platform for international audiences. The series, which features famous Indigenous actors, has become hugely popular domestically after airing on public television. Critics hailed it for offering a new narrative of a multiethnic Taiwanese history. Some Indigenous commentators noted that showcasing Indigenous languages and stories could spark new interest in learning about Taiwan’s unique history. Others have criticized the sidelining of Indigenous struggles in favour of an assimilating multicultural narrative. Regardless, Indigenous stories are becoming the face of Taiwan’s domestic and international image.
The rise of Indigenous transitional justice . . .
Indigenous peoples have inhabited the island of Taiwan for thousands of years. Today, they number more than 560,000 and comprise 16 officially recognized ‘tribes’ and several others seeking recognition. After centuries of land dispossession and oppression, an Indigenous renaissance began in the late 20th century. Taiwan has since created the Council of Indigenous Peoples, signed a ‘New Partnership’ treaty, and passed an Indigenous Basic Law. In 2016, newly-elected President Tsai Ing-wen launched a transitional justice campaign which included an official apology to Indigenous peoples and the launch of the Presidential Committee on Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice (ITJC). Still, the ITJC has been plagued with funding issues and land restitution has encountered obstacles. In May, a landmark Constitutional Court decision subordinated the Indigenous Basic Law when it upheld restrictions on Indigenous hunting.
The other Taiwan question . . .
Indigenous voices in Taiwan are diverse, as are the political priorities and tactics of Indigenous peoples. For example, representatives on the ITJC told People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Xi Jinping in 2019 that “we have never given up our rightful claim to the sovereignty of Taiwan.” Conversely, the negative experiences of some Indigenous peoples under Taiwan’s government have led them to support the PRC. Indigenous voters have historically backed the Kuomintang (a conservative party that ruled Taiwan as a dictatorship for more than five decades), but younger generations are now shifting to President Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (a liberal party that emphasizes local Taiwanese identity) and ‘third force’ parties (which mainly originate from progressive social movements). Indigenous issues go beyond the ‘Taiwan question’ and the aforementioned 'three forces’ of Taiwan’s politics. For many, the fate of Taiwan’s status is secondary to more immediate issues such as land restitution and self-determination.
- 親愛的漢人 (Dear Han People): Episode 8: 滴血驗親救台灣 (podcast, in Taiwanese Mandarin)
- g0v: Joint declaration by the representatives of the Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan serving on the Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee
- Indigenous Insight: Nation vs. Community: Where does Indigenous peoples’ transitional justice go from here?