Erenlai - 按標籤顯示項目: cultural exchange
週一, 21 十一月 2011 18:16

Bringing Home the Seeds of Indigenous Autonomy

The Council of Indigenous Peoples held the 13th Taiwan Indigenous Students Cultural Exchange Program (TISCEP) this year. The destination was the Vancouver region in Canada's most western province - British Columbia. eRenlai's mother organisation, the Taipei Ricci Institute was the organising committee. In contrast with previous years, the students had a more central role, submitting a proposal for the goals and program of the exchange trip. In eRenlai's December Focus we will bring you accounts of the trip from the students who took part, along with a mini-documentary in eight parts, which documents their journey from start to finish..

We begin with an interview with the director of the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP), Ta-chuan Sun, in which he expresses the need for reform of Indigenous cultural industries, and sets out a mission for future generations of indigenous peoples in Taiwan. Responding to the CIP's call for applications, thirteen Indigenous students from Taiwan came together as a team in a quest for knowledge and experience that could be used to improve the situation of indigenous peoples in Taiwan. As they prepared to fly into an unknown world, the students were full of anticipation, nervousness and gratitude for this once in a lifetime opportunity, which would hopefully lay the foundations for a new chapter in the history of their peoples.

The students divided themselves into four groups, each tasked with engaging with an issue of great importance to aboriginal people: Autonomy, Health, Education and Media & Cultural Enterprise. Insights into these four issues allowed them to focus on various aspects of the decision-making processes behind policy formation, social engagement and cultural heritage. Each group was tasked with engaging with various organisations they would be visiting in Canada, in an effort to glean as much knowledge as possible from the short trip. Canada is often considered a world leader when it comes to dealing with indigenous affairs and there are over two hundred First Nation's tribes and 37 languages in British Columbia alone, making Canada an ideal place to learn about the interaction between governments, settlers and indigenous peoples.

The team was taken into an unknown world in their quest for knowledge, experience and identity - the seeds of indigenous autonomy - to bring home to Taiwan. The students explored indigenous studies and pedagogy at the University of British Columbia's Aboriginal House of Learning; at the same university's Department of Anthropology, Dr Bruce Miller talked about the practice and process of achieving autonomy from nothing; furthermore, the students were introduced to an array of new perspectives on Aboriginal health research at the University of Victoria. Visiting successful examples of sustainable tourism that incorporated traditional rituals, song and dance with natural beauty at the Aboriginal-themed Klahowya Village in Stanley Parkand the U'mista Cultural Centre, demonstrated to them the potential for development of indigenous cultural tourism and industry. Meanwhile, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC made evident to the students the importance of preserving their cultural heritage and protecting cultural relics. From their time spent at the Victoria Aboriginal Friendship Centre, they took back home with them first-hand observations of how a charitable organisation could help urban Aborigines better cope with the transition from a First Nations reserve to urban life. Furthermore, during their trip toDuncan City Hall, Mayor Phil Kent and Councillor Joe Thorne honoured the students with a convivial welcoming before describing Duncan's intercommunity relations and experiments with participatory democracy at a local and federal level.

Piho Yuhaw, was one of the student leaders who was involved in writing the groups project proposal, here he gave his final thoughts on the exchange and his personal goals for the future:

"I think the East could learn from the West and its experiences with autonomy. The Eastern discourse views self-government as ‘seperationist’ or ‘splittist’, while in the West they see it as national or ethnic ‘self determination’. In the future, as an Indigenous scholar, I would like to reinterpret aboriginal cultural research through a new native lens. It will be a long and difficult road, but to quote Dr. Bruce Miller “The indigenous movement needs to be put into practice, even when you have nothing”. Looking at the indigenous struggle and indigenous empowerment from a historical perspective, something has always come from nothing - this is called practice."


Photo 1: Yubax Hayung
Photo 2: C. Phiv

週一, 14 十一月 2011 18:25

The Mission of This Generation

Change is in the Air, Twenty Golden Years

From the 1990s, the concept of multiculturalism gradually took shape, as Taiwan amended its constitution and underwent social changes. 1996 saw the establishment of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, in accordance with the constitution, and with an integrated administrative body, which led progressively to the formation of a legal and political framework for indigenous peoples.

To those of us in our fifties and sixties, maintaining our indigenous cultural practices was an important responsibility, as we had experienced tribal life, had attended traditional rituals and could still talk to the elder generation in our native tongues. I absorbed myself in aboriginal literature, as well as investigating and translating traditional indigenous rites, taking advantage of my own reserves of knowledge on traditional practices, in the hope of preserving it for the indigenous peoples to come in the next 50 years. It was my fervent wish that aboriginal children 50 years from now would be different from my generation, struggling to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors due to a lack of information about their past.

Lighting the Kindling to Weld a New Perspective on the World

The organization of the 'Taiwan Indigenous Students Cultural Exchange Program' was an experimental attempt to encourage younger people to better themselves. The program was aimed essentially at broadening the horizons of young aboriginal people, meeting with people with a similar historical experience to us, and allowing for comparison of policy and strategies that perhaps Taiwan can learn from, as well as sharing the unique innovations that we have to offer the world. The program was planned over the course of the last few years in cooperation with other bodies, but the result was not quite what aboriginal youths had hoped for, therefore, this year the program was changed substantially, the students themselves put forth a proposal, and designed their own agenda for the visit, with groups formed from different schools.

This was a breakthrough, on the one hand it increased the participation of the young people in the program, and on the other it made them responsible for their own choices. The advocacy and responsibility of participants had to be balanced somewhat, as young people tend to plan that which they are used to, so we couldn't expect them to come back with a broader global perspective in that instance.

Ploughing Deeply, to Cultivate Cultural Soil

A lot of problems are often not simply indigenous problems. Indigenous industry is an example of this; it doesn't function in and of itself, but rather follows mainstream society. It is perhaps possible to think outside the box on this issue, and hand over responsibility for conservation and forestry over to indigenous peoples. If there was a budgetary consideration to train indigenous peoples to change the focus of their industries to conservation and forestry, restoring stability to the environment, then this would be, at least from the aboriginal point of view, a great step forward.

If these principles were to be clearly adhered to, indigenous industry, in terms of ecology, culture and existentialist concerns, would be greatly benefitted. We have to find certain industries which would engage in dialogue with contemporary society and not just doggedly attempt to keep up with mainstream culture. I believe this is the right path.

By Ta-Chuan Sun, edited by Raining Be, translated from the Chinese by Conor Stuart
Photo by Yuanxi Chuang

Video filmed by Yuanxi Chuang, edited by Nicholas Coulson, subtitled by Conor Stuart

For readers in Mainland China:


週四, 24 二月 2011 16:45

Let's 'SayTaiwan'

The build-up to ROC Taiwan's "International Youth Week - Centennial Homestay" has begun, with SayTaiwan calling for 250 participants from over one hundred countries, for this one off opportunity to experience the various colours and moods of this beautiful island. For the event that will be held over 12th-25th August, applicants are encouraged to send an optional video, 3-5 minutes in length, introducing themselves, along with the relevant documents before April 15th 2011.

In the Taiwanese dialect Seh-daiwan (遊台灣) means 'wander Taiwan'. SayTaiwan aims to promote Taiwan abroad, by giving these lucky individuals the chance to see for themselves what a beautiful, friendly and safe place Taiwan is. The winning participants will live with local families in different areas of lucky visitor will even get the opportunity to run in the park with Vice Premier Chen and his beloved dog. Asides from home staying with local families, the participants will be expected to report about their experiences in Taiwan through blogs, social networking and other internet mediums. Finally all the participants will travel to the very fringe of Taiwan, as they visit Kinmen Island, home of Taiwan's favourite sorghum wine - Kinmen Kaoliang - and just two kilometres from mainland China. There they will attend the "ROC Centennial Peace Day in Kinmen" and a farewell banquet.

During the opening press conference, journalists, government officials and some foreign guests were treated to a unique and lively Taiwanese dance performance. Afterwards Jasmine Brown, a Belizean student at National Taiwan Normal University, the home of the biggest Mandarin language centre in Taiwan, was asked to give her thoughts on Taiwan. "Taiwan is a beautiful country" she replied, before throwing praise on how "extremely safe" and "convenient" Taiwan was for her regular 3am journeys to convenience stores and fast food joints. She also expressed gratitude for how "friendly and helpful" the people on Taiwan were, giving a personal example:

"My little brother came to visit me in Taipei, and on his way back to Taipei from Tainan, he forgot his wallet in the Taxi. So he went back to Tainan and then he realised he didn't have his wallet. The taxi driver took his wallet to the police station and the police officer found his ID card from the Taekwondo teacher that my brother has. The Taekwondo teacher called and told my little brother that the card was safely back in Taipei. In any other country your wallet would be gone, but not in Taipei."

saytaiwan2But Taiwan is more than midnight snacking, Yoyo cards and metropolitan safe havens. Indeed there is much that the world can learn from Taiwan. It is one of the most advanced technology hubs in the world, uniquely positioned to share its culture and society through Asia and the Pacific; its demographic landscape is a sea of diversity, with over ten languages still spoken in Taiwan, even more native ethnic groups, and  very healthy Austronesian, Hakka and Chinese arts scenes all coexisting harmoniously together; finally, it is the home of bubble or pearl milk tea (珍珠奶茶), a fact not lost on those who received their own bubble tea as a leaving present. Taiwan also has much to learn from the rest of the world and will greatly look forward to the stories and experiences of their visiting friends.

For those interested in the project you can apply from the beginning of March 2011, until April 15th, 2011. More information here or email: Email住址會使用灌水程式保護機制。你需要啟動Javascript才能觀看它">

Focus: SayTaiwan





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