Government seeks diplomatic ties through exchanges of indigenous peoples

The Intl. Austronesian Conference began on Monday, the government promises more resources to preserve indigenous languages of Taiwan

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Office)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) attended a conference on Monday during which he reiterated an earlier idea about developing special diplomatic ties among Austronesian-speaking peoples and said that the government would devote more resources to preserving the indigenous languages of Taiwan. 

Chen said in his opening remarks for the International Austronesian Conference that the president's Pacific tour, which took place between October 28 and November 4, was a way to connect culturally with island states in the Pacific region along with the goal of seeking sustainable solutions in face of climate change with regional allies.

Speaking of the recent governmental works related to the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, Chen said the government had passed a law in May to make languages of indigenous peoples national languages in Taiwan and that more national resources would be allocated to help preserve those languages.

In addition, the government has embarked on the preparation of the National Indigenous Museum in Kaohsiung, the first national-level museum dedicated to the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, Chen added.

Icyang‧Parod (夷將.拔路兒), minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, said hopefully the conference this year would facilitate exchanges between countries, and that Taiwan would be able to learn from others' experiences while preparing for the indigenous museum.

He also said the museum would have two goals. One is to create a more culturally diverse society in Taiwan, and the other is to go beyond the 16 indigenous peoples in Taiwan to reach out to the Austronesian-speaking peoples in the south Pacific.

The 2017 International Austronesian Conference began on Monday with the theme of "Cultural heritage and community empowerment: Taiwan"s southbound connection." Officials and scholars from 13 countries were invited to the conference co-organized for the first time by the Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Ministry of Culture.

The conference was initiated in 2002 with the aim of promoting the political, social, economic and cultural development of Austronesian peoples and enhancing exchanges and understanding among Austronesian-speaking peoples, according to its website.

The Austronesian language is the second-largest language family in the world with more than 1,200 languages spreading over a vast amount of territory, including Madagascar in the west and Easter Island in the eastern Pacific.

Linguistic and archaeological studies have generally agreed on the "out-of-Taiwan" theory, which suggests the island be the origin of the Austronesian languages, for out of the 10 branches of the languages, nine are found among the indigenous peoples of Taiwan.

In the meantime, theories proposed by genealogists contend that the proto-Austronesian-speaking peoples, meaning people who lived before the first Austronesian language was developed, actually moved from the south of China to Taiwan.