“We have to face the truth. Most importantly, the government must truly reflect on itself and that is why I’m standing here today.”
These were just a few of the words Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen shared while addressing the island’s official aboriginal people’s day before representatives of the island’s 16 officially recognized Native tribes on Monday, according to an Associated Press article.
Ing-wen said her government wanted to “take a further step” and offer its “fullest apology” — that would be the island’s first apology to its original inhabitants for 400 years of conquest and colonization.
“If we wish to declare ourselves as a country of one people, we need to face these historical facts,” the first leader of Taiwan with indigenous heritage said. She is also Taiwan’s first female leader. Ing-wen’s grandmother was from the Paiwan indigenous tribe.
The Dutch, the Chinese and the Japanese colonized the island at various times and the ancestral lands of Taiwan’s indigenous people are now owned by the state, with tribal members having limited land rights.
During her speech, Ing-wen announced the formation of a “justice and historical justice commission” to address the historical treatment of Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples.
“Today, indigenous people account for only 2 percent of Taiwan’s population,” NPR reported. “They face a lack of economic opportunity in their own communities, forcing them to look for work elsewhere. They lack control over their resources – timber and water, for example, which are often taken from them without compensation. Many younger indigenous people are unaware of their own cultural and linguistic traditions.”