Rukai indigenous group sets up tribal assembly

The Rukai, one of the 16 officially recognized indigenous groups in Taiwan, established a tribal assembly April 3 with the goals of preserving their cultural heritage and facilitating eventual autonomous rule of traditional lands.

Launched in Wutai Township of southern Taiwan's Pingtung County, the body is the seventh of its kind set up by the nation's indigenous tribes and the first since President Tsai Ing-wen unveiled the Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Commission.

Chaired by Tsai, the commission, which met for the first time March 20, is tasked with uncovering historical truths, righting past wrongs, building consensus on policy directions, promoting reconciliation and further ingraining justice and diversity in society.

The Rukai assembly is comprised of tribal leaders as well as elected representatives, with each Rukai community selecting one or more delegates depending on its population size. We held conferences in all of our communities and there was a solid consensus on the creation of this new body, said Sasala Taiban, secretary-general of the assembly.

Du Zheng-ji, mayor of Wutai and chief adviser to the body, said that after nearly two decades of field research and interviews with elders, 96,114 hectares of Rukai lands have been identified, about 77 percent of which are currently controlled by the Forestry Bureau under the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture.

The assembly's primary goal will be to help facilitate the establishment of a joint management mechanism for these areas, Taiban added.

Totaling some 13,000 people, the Rukai mainly reside in the southern counties of Kaohsiung and Pingtung as well as the southeastern county of Taitung. The tribe consists of six subgroups, each of which has its own dialect of the Rukai language.

According to the Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples, indigenous Malayo-Polynesian peoples have lived in Taiwan for millennia, with archeological evidence confirming their presence dating back 12,000 to 15,000 years. The latest CIP statistics revealed that the population of the country's 16 officially recognized tribes stood at around 530,000, or 2.3 percent of the nation's total. In addition to the Rukai, the Atayal, Bunun, Saisiyat, Puyuma, Thao and Tsou tribes have established assemblies.

Source: Taiwan Today