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President Tsai attends 2017 National Administrative Conference for Indigenous Peoples
President Tsai attends 2017 National Administrative Conference for Indigenous Peoples
2017-08-01

While attending the 2017 National Administrative Conference for Indigenous Peoples on the morning of August 1, President Tsai Ing-wen emphasized that the government will do everything it can to create an environment conducive to the learning and speaking of indigenous languages. She also said that in the future, Indigenous Peoples' Day, which is observed each year in Taiwan on August 1, will not be just a day for the people of Taiwan to commemorate the rectification of the official name referring to Taiwan's various indigenous peoples. It will also be a day on which Taiwan aligns itself more closely with the international community, expands exchanges with indigenous peoples around the world, and shares its experience promoting historical justice and transitional justice.

After arriving at the National Taiwan University Hospital International Convention Center, the president first watched as children from the Laiyi Township Kindergarten in Pingtung County performed traditional indigenous songs, then delivered prepared remarks. The following is a translation of those remarks:

First, I want to thank the children of the Laiyi Township Kindergarten in Pingtung County for their performance. Hearing the children converse naturally in the Paiwan tongue with their teachers shows that we've made great progress in our work to promote a multiethnic, multilingual, and multicultural society.

Language is the most important expression of self-identity. Children who are able and willing to speak their indigenous language will feel confident in their indigenous identity, and will be able to pass their culture on to future generations.

That is why we've enacted the Indigenous Languages Development Act and included Taiwan's indigenous languages among our country's official languages. And that is also why we've chosen "New Era of Indigenous Language Development" as the theme of this year's conference.

The Indigenous Languages Development Act was promulgated and implemented this past June. This comes 12 years late, but in any case, where previous administrations have failed, we have succeeded.

From now on, there will be ample funding available for an indigenous language caretaker program and a nursery school indigenous language immersion program. More importantly, teachers of indigenous languages at the elementary, junior high, and senior high levels can all become regular faculty members, and universities will start offering more courses in indigenous languages to train language professionals.

Also, full-time "indigenous language extension officers" will now be required in indigenous townships and cities throughout the country, and in any administrative district with more than 1,500 indigenous residents. These officers will use indigenous languages to provide services to the elderly, and encourage young and middle-aged indigenous persons to use their indigenous languages.

The requirement to hire full-time indigenous language instructors and extension officers will create a total of a thousand job opportunities. We are determined, and will do everything we can, to create an environment that is conducive to the learning and speaking of indigenous languages.

Some administrations of the past prohibited the speaking of indigenous languages, while others sat idly by as precious linguistic knowledge slipped into oblivion. We hope that will never happen again. That is what historical justice is all about.

On this day last year, I apologized to the indigenous peoples on behalf of the government. In the year since then, thanks to the promotional efforts of government teams, we've made concrete progress toward fulfilling each of the promises I made to the indigenous peoples in my apology. You will all be hearing a comprehensive report in just a bit.

Of course, I'm very aware that more than 400 years of injuries and abuse will not fade away in a single year. My apology cannot immediately restore the trust that was destroyed in the past. We have indeed heard many different views regarding indigenous historical justice and transitional justice. Some feel the government should have done better, while others feel the government needn't do this at all.

Such disagreements show that we still have a long way to go. We will continue striving to do what must be done. We will not shrink from the task.

In recent years many governments around the world—including those of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Norway—have apologized to indigenous peoples and embarked on quests for reconciliation and truth. This shared experience creates an excellent link between Taiwan and the rest of the world, and is a driving force that moves us forward.

Taiwan's efforts to achieve indigenous historical justice and transitional justice have not fallen short of international standards. I want to take this opportunity to announce that every year from now on, August 1 will not just be a day for the people of Taiwan to commemorate the rectification of the official name referring to Taiwan's various indigenous peoples. It will also be a day on which Taiwan aligns itself more closely with the international community.

Building on the foundation provided by the International Austronesian Conference and the Global Indigenous Peoples Performing Arts Festival, every year on this date Taiwan will expand exchanges with indigenous peoples around the world, deepen friendships, and share its experiences in promoting historical justice and transitional justice.

We intend to invite indigenous friends from around the world to come to Taiwan so we can use culture, music, art, and a sense of historical justice to enrich the content of the Indigenous Peoples' Day. We will resolutely and proudly say to the world that Taiwan is a country of diversity and beauty, a country of indigenous peoples.

In closing, I want to thank the Council of Indigenous Peoples as well as our many colleagues from county and city governments in attendance. You did an excellent job during the recent typhoon of evacuating villages at risk, reducing the typhoon's impact. However, rain has continued to fall heavily since the typhoon moved on, so I also need to ask everyone to be alert and provide indigenous peoples with any needed assistance.

 
President Tsai attends the 2017 National Administrative Conference for Indigenous Peoples.
 
 
President Tsai poses for a photo with indigenous children from southern Taiwan's Pingtung County.
 
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