Indigenous peoples gather in Taiwan for 2017 International Austronesian Conference

A large delegation of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples welcomed guests from Aotearoa, Canada, Hawaii, Tahiti, Guam, Malaysia and the Philippines this week for the 2017 International Austronesian Conference in Taipei.

Conference participants were welcomed at the prestigious Grand Hotel in the presence of Taiwan’s Minister for the Council of Indigenous Peoples, Icyang Parod.

The term ‘Austronesian’ refers to indigenous peoples of the Pacific region and each year a conference is held to enhance the international visibility and status of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples.

A number of academics along with other specialists in indigenous cultural revitalisation are invited to speak with the aim of promoting substantial cooperation between Taiwan and international indigenous peoples.

This year’s theme is Taiwan’s ‘southbound connection’.  The first day of the conference is focused on archival preservation of knowledge, the importance of indigenous media for empowering indigenous peoples, and challenges in providing programming in indigenous languages.

There are 16 officially recognized indigenous languages in Taiwan.

The Taiwan government has just approved funding for the establishment of the country’s first indigenous museum.  It is likely that Taiwan will be looking to Te Papa Tongarewa Museum and others for advice on how to establish the facility.

Keynote speaker, Te Papa Director Dr. Charles Te Ahukaramū Royal, talked about the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi in the relationship Te Papa has developed with iwi and Māori to help preserve Māori language and culture.

 “The commitment is expressed in numerous ways including the Mana Taonga policy which seeks to meaningfully involve Māori communities in the care and display of their taonga,” says Dr Royal.

“Our tribal exhibition and tribe-in-residence-programme is one of a number of initiatives which speaks to Te Papa’s relationships with Māori tribes,” he says.

The delegates are also visiting with indigenous groups that dwell in the Taitung region of Taiwan as part of the weeklong conference in order to see and hear the issues that affect their communities first-hand.