On Aug. 1, Indigenous People's Day, President Tsai Ing-wen issued a formal apology to Taiwan's aboriginal peoples for centuries of oppression, and outlined her policies for reconciliation. In a ceremony attended by leaders of aboriginal communities from throughout the island, she said: "For the past 400 years, each regime that came to Taiwan has brutally violated indigenous people's existing rights through military might and land looting." She pledged that her government will give indigenous communities greater autonomy, improve their land rights, and work to preserve native languages.
Taiwan's first woman president, Tsai is also the nation's first leader with aboriginal ancestry—her paternal grandmother was of the Paiwan people.
The indigenous community—which makes up about 2% of Taiwan's 23.5 million people—has seen its traditional cultures eroded since immigrants started arriving from China four centuries ago The Dutch, Chinese and Japanese each colonized Taiwan in turn, with the Spanish and Portuguese also establishing colonial footholds on the island.
Much of thei aboriginal peoples' ancestral lands are now as designated national parks, leading to clashes over hunting, fishing and foraging in areas where permits are needed. Today, they are remain a marginalised group, with wages about 40% below the national average, as well as a higher rate of unemployment.
While the UN-designated Indigenous People's Day is Aug. 9, Tsai has designated Aug. 1 as the date Taiwan celebrates it—in recognition of a constituional amendment recognizing aboriginal rights passed on Aug. 1, 1994, shortly after the island's democratic transition. (Focus Taiwan, Focus Taiwan, BBC News, Radio Australia, NPR)