Support Siraya and other low-land indigenous peoples of Taiwan for recognition


        Siraya is one of the 11 Pingpu, or low-land,indigenous peoples (Austronesian) in Taiwan that have not been given an official status by the current Chinese government who took over the island in 1945. These peoples, in the earlier colonial period of Taiwan in the first half of the 20th century under Japanese rule, were, albeit registered, labeled as "ripe savages" [sic] as opposed to the "dangerous raw savages" [sic] who dwell the mountains. (Note: "ripe savage" and "raw savage" here are literal translation that reflects the colonist's perspective. But Jason Pan [Pazeh Tribe] points out to me that many low-land peoples today prefer a more politically correct English translation: "familiar indigenes" and  "unfamiliar indigenes." In this interpretation, the low-land peoples are familiar to the dominant Han groups.) Such colonial history has contributed to the dormant status of the Siraya language since 1908, and hence it is labeled as "extinct" by the mainstream society and academia. The relation between such labeling and the denial of our identity is hence obvious.

        However, the fact is that the Siraya people are still living strong. And we in the Tainan Pingpu Siraya Culture Association have been working on awakening our sleeping mother tongue and native culture since 1997. Through such a decade-long effort, we have formed a band of youth and children called Onini, "sound of bamboo," that sings and performs Siraya songs, organized several annual Musuhapa, "re-burgeoning," language/culture summer camps that teach the reconstructed Siraya mother tongue, and published a modern Siraya dictionary in November 2008. It is a shame that these achievements are not fully recognized because our identity is denied.

        On May 2nd, 2009, the Siraya Culture Association and friends are going on the street to demand Taiwan government recognize and redress the "indigenous" status of Siraya and also other Taiwanese low-land indigenous peoples. Such political recognition is of great significance to our language/culture reclamation effort, for it concerns availability of funding and resources. Also, to our people, it will mean that we are no longer mistaken as "extinct." Your support means a lot to us.


Our Statement: Please give us back our names

        For us Pingpu peoples in Taiwan, it is too long a time that we have been forgotten in the modern history of Taiwan. Structural violence in the government's policy has emptied the phrase "life of Pingpu" and made it a historical term that only awaits condolence. Such policy and history ignore the fact that we are still living strong. For generations, we reside on this beautiful island of Formosa, surviving and reproducing, but we remain unrecognized and our names lost. Today, the Pingpu peoples have become orphans in our own country. We are absent, with blank names.

        Based on (1) the acknowledgment of self-determination as one of indigenous peoples%u2019 basic human rights, (2) the recognition of Siraya people%u2019s own claim to indigenous identity and justice in history, (3) and reassuring the collective will of the indigenous peoples, since the beginning of 2009 Tainan County Government has responded to the Siraya individuals, whose families were registered as "ripe (savage)" during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, by re-registering them officially as "indigenes." Such an act has its legal basis: Taiwan Government's Province Regulation, Item 128663 (1/22/1957), and Civil Regulation, Item 01957 (3/11/1957), clearly state that the individuals registered as "ripe" under Japanese rule should be recognized and re-registered as low-land indigenes.

        Unfortunately, the Council for Indigenous Peoples under Taiwan's central government has still not yet responded to the Pingpu peoples' claim and request. Therefore, Tainan Pingpu Siraya Culture Association has taken the initiative to start this petition. Also, on May 2nd, 2009, the Siraya people and our friends will gather on Katagalan Blvd. in Taipei for a street protest in front of the central government, to express our voices and seek support from all sectors of the society and governmental institutions. For our children, for the Pingpu group, for the basic human rights, and for justice in the history, we demand the government return the accurate identity and deserved dignity to the Pingpu peoples, who have never disappeared.

Our request

1.     Council for Indigenous Peoples (CIP) should admit that it is the government's mistake and its improper laws that have deprived the indigenous identity of the Pingpu peoples. We request CIP redress such mistakes by directing the local governments on the city and county levels, via official administrative orders, that they recognize and return the "indigenous" identity to the Pingpu individuals whose families were formerly registered as "ripe (savage)" under the Japanese rule.

2.     CIP should also recognize that there are Pingpu individuals who and/or whose families were not able to be registered as "ripe" under the former governments. Hence, we demand CIP re-examine Item #8 of the Regulation Concerning Indigenous Identity and adhere to the two principles in common legal practice, "analogy" and "applicability," to provide these individuals a proper legal basis for attaining the official indigenous identity.

3.     It is a simple fact that the Pingpu peoples' concern with attaining official indigenous status is completely constitutional, legal, rational, and humane. Hence, CIP should also seek consensual resolutions for the related issues such as human rights, policies, and their implementations, by having honest conversations with the Pingpu peoples. CIP should never put inadequate political considerations above the basic rights of the Pingpu peoples.

Link to in-depth discussion of Pingpu identity issues: (only available in Chinese print)


Official blog of the May 2nd event: (articles only in Chinese print, but there are related photos)

Madag ki alilid (thank you very much!)

Dear friends and colleagues,

I have created an English-friendly site for the Siraya petition through and edited some background information. Please show your support and/or share this with your other friends.

Chun Jimmy Huang
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