The Mission of This Generation

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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:

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 17:33
Ta-chuan Sun (孫大川)

Professor Sun is a renonwed advocate of aboriginal culture in Taiwan. A member of the Beinan tribe he teaches at Tunghua University, Hualien.

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