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Taiwan highlights indigenous rights, climate change at New York events

04/21/2023 03:03 PM
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Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples official Yapasuyongʉ.Poiconʉ (second right) attends a New York seminar surrounding the issues of Indigenous Peoples around the world alongside representatives from the U.S., Brazil and Canada. CNA photo April 20, 2023

New York, April 20 (CNA) Taiwan hosted two events in New York on Wednesday, seeking to raise awareness about issues surrounding climate change and the rights of Indigenous peoples, ahead of April 22 Earth Day, according to the organizer, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in New York.

The office held a seminar with the Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) with discussions focused on Indigenous peoples, climate change and human health, echoing the theme of the 22nd session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

The UNPDII22 is taking place in the Big Apple from April 17-28 on the key theme: "Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health and climate change: A rights-based approach."

Addressing the seminar which was attended by more than 100 people including U.N.-posted foreign officials and those participating in the U.N. forum, James Lee (李光章), head of the TECO New York office,emphasized the importance of Indigenous language revitalization and protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Taiwan promulgated the Indigenous Languages Development Act in June 2017, under which Indigenous languages are defined as national languages, Lee said.

While the knowledge of Indigenous peoples can offer solutions to the challenges of modern life such as ecological conservation and food safety, the sense of "indigeneity" should be included in discussions on relevant issues, the official said.

At the seminar, a group of students under John Furlow, director of Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society, presented research on the climate resilience of Taiwan's Indigenous peoples, citing the devastation caused by Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan in 2009 as an example.

Typhoon Morakot tore through central and southern Taiwan in August 2009, causing serious flooding and massive landslides including a landslide that buried Shiaolin village in Kaohsiung, killing 462 residents, mostly Indigenous people.

The team emphasized in their research that education, partnership and self-governance are the keys to deal with natural disasters.

CIP official Yapasuyongʉ.Poiconʉ told CNA after the seminar that 60 percent of land in Taiwan is the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples, while the main forests and clean rivers are also on land reserved for Indigenous peoples.

"If we fail to protect Indigenous peoples' traditional territory, it will be difficult for Taiwan to cope with climate change," he said.

In addition to the seminar, an exhibition for the Creative Climate Awards also opened at the TECO office on Wednesday, under the theme "Inspiring a Climate Renaissance."

Soprano Baitzx Niahosa (left) from Taiwan
Soprano Baitzx Niahosa (left) from Taiwan's Indigenous Tsou tribe performs at the opening of the Creative Climate Awards at TECO New York office. CNA photo April 20, 2023

The exhibition, which highlights the connection between diverse groups and climate change, will be open to the public on weekdays until May 12, according to the office.

A total of 31 artworks, including photographs, oil paintings, sculptures, installation art and cinematography, from artists around the world, is being displayed at the exhibition, according to the office and its co-organizer, environmental group Human Impacts Institute.

On the night of Earth Day, artworks that gain the most votes from the public online will be projected onto Manhattan Bridge in New York.

At the opening of the exhibition, soprano Baitzx Niahosa (梁芬美) from Taiwan's Indigenous Tsou tribe gave a performance that shared Taiwan's Indigenous peoples' admiration for the wisdom of Mother Nature.

The singer is in New York for the UNPFII assembly, which she has attended several times since 2014 as a representative of Taiwan's Indigenous peoples.

(By Ozzy Yin and Evelyn Yang)


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