What is this all about?!

Saving Siraya is a blog dedicated to the protection of a Taiwanese indigenous tribe that is not officially recognized by the government and therefore denied of basic human rights.

Due to the demands of Zhong Xing University and the Taiwanese national government, starting JUNE 29th, 2011 Siraya homes will be demolished and families already suffering from poverty will become homeless. After demolition the university intends to use the land for its agricultural department.

Approximately 20 Siraya families will be affected, some of which have lived on this ancestral land for up to 150 years.

See "Saving Siraya" for a detailed post on the Siraya's situation.

** UPDATE: A recent meeting between Zhong Xin University representatives, the Tainan City mayor, city councillors, and Siraya representatives has resulted in an agreement. The city government has been granted three months to prepare documents proving that Siraya settlements predate 1920. These documents will be signed by the mayor and will thereby protect ancestral land from further disruption. The university agrees to cooperate once these documents have been approved by the Tainan City mayor! Court hearings and demolitions have been postponed three months accordingly.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Formosa's Flowers

Formosa’s flowers
cast in the shadow of authority
Formosa’s flowers
flattened by an encroaching majority


Formosa’s flowers
petals once throbbing red now dead
Formosa’s flowers
from foreigners and hearth once fled


Formosa’s flowers
above soil all visible shoots wither
Formosa’s flowers
from the slaughter guilt will come hither


Formosa’s flowers
under cover of earth protect roots so green
Formosa’s flowers
I assure you number more than fourteen

Poem by Madison Messinger

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Success!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdo56V-PMnU

EXTENSION!!!




The date of the first demolition/eviction has been moved from June 29 to July 15!!! We are not out of the danger zone yet, but we have more time to rally a defense.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blog Improvements!

So I changed the blog a litte bit, I hope everyone likes the new improvements. Its now possible to click on words and they link to my Youtube videos. If you didn't visit any of the links I posted because you were too lazy to copy and paste then go back and click on the link, no copy and past necessary :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Idea!

How can we contact the student body at Zhong Xing? I'm sure the school's actions would cause an outrage, especially because college students love to make a scene. We need to get them involved so they put pressure on the school to stop this atrocity. I just need to be careful that I don't upset the university and get deported...or thrown in jail :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Saving Siraya Corrections

It has been brought to my attention that there were several mistakes in my original post titled "Saving Siraya." I apologize for the inaccuracies.

1. Tsiong Shing University--> Zhong Xing University
2. The Taiwanese government did not transfer the land in 1920 considering the Japanese were in power at that time
3. There was some confusion caused by my imprecise wording, but the Siraya are currently in possession of the land despite not having registered ownership
4. There are 20 houses that will suffer serious damage (1/2 or more of the structure will be destroyed) due to demolition, yet there are a variety of other houses that are only being partially torn down

Hope this helps! I am dedicated to providing you with the most accurate and updated information I can find. I will continue to make change to the blog as events unfold.

Thanks Jen Teeter!

Visit Jen's blog on the Siraya! We appreciate her concern all the way from Japan! We are going global guys!!!

http://tenthousandthingsfromkyoto.blogspot.com/2011/06/university-to-destroy-indigenous.html

Thanks Euphony!

Another compilation of videos and pictures of the Siraya and by the Siraya. I was not able to attend this protest, so there are some fresh videos here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TswIPfikI7s&feature=player_embedded#at=216

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Youtube Video: Not Easily Silenced

For some reason the quality of this video is not as good as the last one I published. Lets gets some views and continue to spread the word! Repost the link wherever you can.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yby1eJ4iARo

We [will be] the Champions



June 29, 2011


The first of the doomed. Please see the post "Saving Siraya" for details.

Thanks Austin College!

Just want to say thank you to Austin College for helping me promote the Siraya's current situation. The first of the homes is still scheduled to be demolished on June 29th, 2011. Contact anyone you know who might be able to help us!

Friday, June 10, 2011

TITV Weekly and Taipei Times

Here is the link for the TITV Weekly Youtube channel. There are some great clips pertaining to Taiwan's indigenous affairs (in English). I learned a lot from watching these. Hope you enjoy :)

http://www.youtube.com/user/TITVWeekly

The online Taipei Times also has some great stuff!

http://www.taipeitimes.com/

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Each Day A Little Closer

I continue to receive emails and Facebook messages recommending the Siraya contact various lawyers, reporters, and government officials. This support is exactly what the Siraya needs. Maybe you cannot personally help the Siraya because like me you have very few resources. However, that shouldn't stop you from contacting people you know who do have resources and who do have connections and who do have the power to change lives. Take a look at the pictures that have been posted and you will see not only buildings but faces. Those are people who need your help. Those are people with families and lives and it is our job to protect them. People take care of people. Become one of the people.

NEW VIDEO (updated)

The last video posted needed a minor correction, so here is the updated video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UgonkWO0lA

My apologies!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX9E0Ffbh_Y

*20+ families not 35 (correction)

Planning a Protest

video

Doomed for Demolition








Never Giving Up



Protesting




This art is the work of Madison Messinger and was inspired by the Siraya tribe. Not masterpieces, but they came from the heart :)


The Siraya glossary was composed to revive the dormant Siraya language. It is a beacon of hope for future generations.

Polls!

Don't forget to check out our polls on the right side column. Please be honest, we are trying to gauge your interest level.

What is this all about?!

This blog is for the purpose of raising awareness about the Taiwanese Siraya tribe and their current situation.

Starting JUNE 2011 Siraya families will be removed from their homes and there houses will be DEMOLISHED due to the demands of a Taiwanese university and the national KMT government.

The Siraya are not officially recognized by the national government therefore their basic human rights are NOT PROTECTED

35 Siraya families will be affected
20 of these families have lived on this ancestral land for generations, in some cases up to 150 years.

How can YOU HELP?
post the link to this blog everywhere you can in hopes that we find someone who can assist us in our fight to SAVE THE SIRAYA

Any questions or comments or information that might be helpful please email SAVINGSIRAYA@GMAIL.COM

Thanks!

Noteworthy Youtube Videos

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Siraya's situation let me clear one thing up, the Siraya are supported by the Tainan COUNTY Government but continue to be oppressed by the NATIONAL KMT government.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHgekLF7ptM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuXE5zJLnjw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGENk0ubFeE

Protest and Press Conference




Anything But Silent




Why Come to Taiwan?

When I tell people I’m in Taiwan for the summer volunteering the most common question that I am asked is “Why Taiwan?” Well, I’ll tell you why—because in January 2011 I came to study politics with classmates from Austin College, but one of the highlights of the trip was meeting the Siraya at the Presbyterian Church. They were so welcoming, so enthusiastic, they served us one of the best meals of the trip, and I told my friends later that day that the Siraya already felt like family. Family is so important because everybody needs a sense of unity to feel safe and loved. Yet family is not only the people we live with or the people we are related to, family is the networks we create around us and the friendships we establish that last a lifetime and bring unending joy and happiness. When I visited this Siraya village I saw a family, I felt the warmth of family and I witnessed the love of a family. What can be found in this village is so special and so precious, and forces in Taiwan are trying to tear it apart. But these forces are not beyond our control. The Siraya must stand together in this time of sorrow because a united front is the strongest weapon against any enemy. A people united rise and a people divided fall, so remember your family, remember your people, remember your ancestors and your heritage. Most of all remember God and his love for this family of Siraya that he has created. God gave the world the gift of the Siraya people, and it is time for the Siraya to show God how much they are willing to sacrifice to keep this family together. “Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Winston Churchill

Saving Siraya

Cancun. Rome. Dallas. Summer calls to mind countless images of beaches, campfires, and carefree cut-offs, but none of those images are found in the jungles of Southern Taiwan's Tainan County. Delve deeper into the thickets of bamboo and mango trees and one may find Khau-pi village in Xinhua Town. This remote clearing in the rolling mountains of Taiwan is where I have chosen to spend my summer vacation, and it is here that I have discovered the Siraya. The Siraya tribe is an indigneous tribe of Taiwan, belonging to the Pingpu peoples (low-land indigenous peoples), that is not officially recognized by the national KMT government. A thorough history of the Siraya and their struggles would require writing a book (and there are some for any who are interested), but my immediate goal is to attract attention to the current atrocities that have befallen this humble people. Of course the problems originate with the tribe's lack of official status. There are fourteen aboriginal tribes in Taiwan that are recognized by the government and therefore receive specified benefits and are granted certain protections. Although the Siraya have been protesting, appealing, and fighting the government for years with no success, they are still denied the protection of their basic rights including a right to property.

In 1920 a portion of the land inhabited by the Siraya (what they continue to call their "ancestral land" despite the illegality of this term due to a lack of official recognition) was given to the Tsiong Shing University by the national Taiwanese government (KMT). The Siraya farms and settlements predate the transfer, but the Siraya have never had legal ownership of the land. The government claimed the land as its own and then made the Tsiong Shing University the official manager of the land, therefore the university had the power to do what it pleased concerning the use of the land after 1920. When this occurred the Siraya who occupied said land were never notified, and many continued to believe that the land belonged to them. As recent at 2009 the Siraya discovered that their land was not in fact in their possession. Then in June 2010 the first family was notified by court order that they must vacate their home by June 29, 2011-- the day their house would be demolished and the land would be used by the university. Although the university has owned the land since 1920, they had allowed the Siraya to continue living in their community. Yet, now the university has made the decision that it wants to use their land for their agricultural department.

By the end of the demolitions approximately 35 Siraya families will lose their homes or parts of their homes. This does not include the four temples that are located on the land being claimed and cleared by the university and a collection of other families that will be losing their homes that are not part of the Siraya tribe. Of the 35 Siraya families about 20 have been living on their plots for generations reaching back up to 150 years. The remain 15 Siraya residences were more recently established. I'll include some of the personal stories of these families because it is of the utmost importance that people realize these are not just buildings lost, but lives, life savings, retirement funds, and land that has cultural significance as the site of a full-blown heritage revitalization campaign.

One man bought land from his uncle to build himself and his family a home. The uncle sold his nephew half his plot, so the nephew was able to build a house adjoining his uncle's house. Neither man knew of the university's claim to part of this plot. Now the university has notified the uncle that part of his house will be demolished and he must leave. Only a portion of the uncle's house is located within the university's boundary, and the uncle has responded by forcing his nephew out of the adjoining home so that the uncle may still have a place to live while the nephew will become homeless.

The situation is desperate, but also very strange because in several cases only bits and pieces of buildings run over the boundary and lay on the university's plot. In these cases the university is only demolishing parts of these homes. In one specific case the university has claimed 1/4 of a building.

Another man recently retired spend his life's savings on building a new home for himself on his plot. In past years the university told people who wanted to build on their land (land that is official owned and managed by the university) that construction would only be allowed if the new building replaced an old building and was no larger than the old structure. However, the university recently changed its policy to claim all structures that are on university land regardless of whether or not these buildings were approved by the university in past years. The retired man built his new house according to all the university's constraints and regulations and followed all the rules he was given. Now after his new home as been completed and his savings completely depleted the university has informed him that his home will be demolished.

In another case a family that had been previously living in a flood plain moved to higher ground where they would no longer be in danger. Yet they unknowingly moved onto land that was owned by the university, and now their house is set to be torn down.

Uma Talavan, chairwoman of the Siraya Culture Association, drove through the Siraya village photographing and interviewing people whose homes were marked for demolition, and in some cases she encountered people who had not received court notices yet and were unaware of their impending fate. One elderly woman has been reportedly crying every night since realizing her life was being uprooted and her home taken from beneath her feet. This elderly woman is one of the few who still worships at a traditional Siraya shrine, and she will soon lose this as well.

One light in the darkness is the willingness of the Tainan County Government to support the Siraya in their fight against the national government. The county has been very cooperative, however even with the support of the local government the University is supported by the national government and both have chosen to continue with demolition despite local outcries.

Struggling to present a strong argument against university and KMT government, the Siraya have been collecting historical documents that prove their existence on this land long before the university laid claim to it. Some documents even date back to the era of Japanese colonialism. A map from 1904 shows the Siraya settlements and farms already established and spreading. Some families still have the deeds to their plots passed down generations. One 82 year-old woman's family has been living here since 1886, and now she is being forced out of a home that has provided safety and stability for generations. Yet, based on the past actions of the government it can be safely assumed that the KMT does not care about the Siraya tribe, and therefore it is of the utmost importance that the Siraya can gain the support of influential organizations or people. They must draw on local, national, and international resources to present a united front against this enemy that threatens their endangered way of life.

Protecting this land is not only about ensuring the safety and livelihood of 35 families, this fight transcends the physical and will impact the Siraya mentally, emotionally, and culturally. Khau-pi's Siraya is already struggling to prove to the world that they are emerging from the darkness as a thriving community that has embraced its traditional heritage. Current culture campaigns aim to restore the Siraya language to its former glory and resurrect customs that were once lost. In this category the Siraya have enjoyed great success, but there is still much work to be done.