New R.O.C. ID cards should mean having the option to use one's ancestral name, according to an indigenous group that asked the government yesterday to make this procedure easier.
A 1994 amendment to the law regarding how names should be displayed on ID cards states that Taiwan's indigenous people can register their ancestral names using their indigenous mother tongue. However, as of September of this year, only 890 people had chosen to use their aboriginal name on their ID cards. Sixty-five of these have already come forward publicly to say that they regret having made the change.
In an attempt to reclaim their ancestral culture, the indigenous group that calls itself the Vine Cultural Association has called on more than 50 of its members to change their Chinese names on their ID cards into their mother tongue at a household registration office today, the day that the Ministry of the Interior will begin to issue the new version of IDs.
"We hoped to convince at least 100 of our members to correct their names, but only a bit more than 50 were willing to do this, " said Mayaw Biho, the head of the association.
Mayaw said he hopes the procedure to change a person's name on their ID card can be simplified.
"For starters, the application time for this ought to be shorten to one day," he said.
The time the household registration office currently needs to change anyone's name takes at least three days to run a check to see if the person in question has a criminal record.
Mayaw explained that a name rectification by an aborigine would be to " correct" their name instead of changing it; therefore, the time spent on investigation into the background of the applicant could be saved, assuming that officials would see the difference between "correcting" a name and changing one.
"Of course the new version of the ID card should have our traditional name on it, and the household certificate transcript modification fee should be waived," Mayaw said.
"The household registration office should be in charge of correcting our names on all other official papers such as driver's licenses, health insurance cards, passports and so on. We'd also like to see the Romanization of our mother tongue name under the Chinese characters on our ID cards," Mayaw added.
Mayaw said that it's a difficult decision for indigenous people to actually change the name shown on their ID cards as society basically frowns on the practice, not to mention the fact that many feel that they will be discriminated against by those who do not understand the meaning of using an ancestral name.
Mayaw gave an example. "An indigenous teacher in eastern Taiwan got very frustrated when a student's parent told the school principal that he didn't want his child to be taught by an aborigine," he said.
Lipay Sinsi, a woman in her 50s, said that it took her about four years to cut through all the red tape to finally get her ancestral name on all her official documentation. "I first corrected my ID card, then the other cards were corrected when they expired," Lipay said.
Ado Kaliting Pacidal, a TV commentator, said that she uses her mother tongue name on her TV programs, but hasn't yet corrected her name on official documents.
"When I was a little girl, I had to be familiar with two names. One used in my family when speaking my mother tongue, especially when my grandparents wanted to tell me intimate things, and the other Chinese one, which was only used at school and on administration forms," Ado said.
Panay Arik, a young woman student in her early 20s, said that she only learned the meaning of the word "Panay" at school when she was 19 years old. "Panay means 'a stalk of rice.' I did not like the name until I learned its meaning. My parents expected me to be humble when they gave me this name because the more rice on a stalk, the more it bends," Panay said.
A series of TV commercials will be broadcast at the beginning of January next year to encourage more indigenous people to correct their names.