Indigenous People’s traditional knowledge and climate change – Taiwan’s perspective

“Indigenous Peoples (IPs) are on the frontline to suffer! Meanwhile, they’ve been inherited from the wisdom of thousand years in combating threat of climate change, too.” claimed Prof. Dr. Chien-Te Fan, Professor for National Tsing-Hua University and Director for Institute of Law for Science and Technology. The third seminar in Taiwan enlightened us with Indigenous People’s traditional knowledge and climate change – Taiwan’s perspective.

Prof. Dr. Chien-Te Fan, Professor for National Tsing-Hua University and Director for Institute of Law for Science and Technology

Indigenous peoples (IPs), defined by Indigenous Survival International are “distinct cultural communities with unique land and other rights based on historical use and occupancy… whose cultures, economies and identities are inextricably tied to their traditional lands and resources”.

Taiwan’s IPs are considered as part of Austronesian peoples. They share similar experience  like symbiosis with nature. Council of IPs of Taiwan stated that there are currently 530,000 IPs  which accounts for 2% of the whole population in Taiwan, but only 16 are officially recognised as indigenous tribes. Among the known IPs in taiwan are the Yami people, native to the outlying Orchid Island are skillful fishermen and relies on fishing for survival. Apart from that, when facing water shortage, a farmer suggested drought resistance farming where IPs normally practices seeds barter in fall season. The Amis tribe (Chinese: 阿美族; pinyin: āměi-zú; also Ami or Pangcah) also known as urban aborigines has been recently recognised for finding the way out under extreme weather conditions.

It is evident that IPs may contribute enormously in adapting with the climate change threat though their systemic living experience – cheaper and durable. Through the IP basic law, article 4, government shall guarantee equal status and development of self-governance of IP and implement IPs autonomy in accordance to their will. Taiwan are moving ahead by providing preservation of rights and cultural aboriginal heritage. IPs through (1) Status Act for Indigenous Peoples, (2) Organisation Act of the council of Indigenous Peoples, Organisational Act of Indigenous Peoples Cultural Development Center, (3) Council of Aboriginal Peoples, (4) Act for the Establishment of the Indigenous Peoples Cultural Foundation, (5) Protection Act for the traditional intellectual creations of Indigenous Peoples, (6) Indigenous Peoples Employment Rights Protection Art, and (7) The Indigenous Peoples Basic Law.

Henceforth, IPs in Taiwan may look forward as the laws helps safeguard their cultural rights, knowledge systems and practices and intellectual creations. In contempt of consensus among tribes for intellectual collection still has yet come to any group agreement. For instance, in Taitung county, only Tao tribe has submitted their application. Pastor Sakinu Tepiq (戴明雄) of the Paiwan tribe mentioned that rituals and artifacts among Paiwan people are still in discussion as there are differences to be understand. Equivalently, a cultural worker Dahai (達亥) of the Bunun tribe said that their polyphonic choral speaking issue is yet to be determined as it is similar with Malastapang ritual that praises hunters’ achievements.

It is fascinating to learn how diverse the world can be with the presence of IPs. Considering their potential of knowledge with the earth, we need to recognise them officially so the knowledge won’t extinct. Government plays an essential role to have adopt language shift and cultural assimilation so the IPs will not feel left out in the process.

Written by Liyana binti Yamin

Edited by Varun


The Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia Seminar on Climate Change was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Taiwan and coordinated by National Tsing Hua University. Malaysia Youth Delegation (MYD) was honoured to be invited and hosted by the generosity of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia. 

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