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Origins of Indigenous People’s Day On August 1, the term “Mountain Compatriots” was Rectified to “Indigenous Peoples”

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  • Online Date:2022/07/21
  • Modification Time:2022/07/21 13:54:48
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Taiwan’s indigenous peoples are the original owners of this land. However, for almost 400 years, foreign regimes have referred to the island’s indigenous population as “fan” (savages), Takasago, and "mountain compatriots." The stigmatization and discrimination represented by these terms have undermined indigenous people's self-identification.

The year 1984 marked the commencement of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples’ rectification movement when the Taiwan Indigenous Rights Struggle Movement proposed renaming "mountain compatriots" to "indigenous people" to eradicate the stigma and promote indigenous people's self-identification. 

On April 18, 1991, the Taiwan Indigenous Rights Struggle Movement began its first rally by presenting a petition to the National Congress at Yangmingshan Chungshan Hall to advocate for indigenous peoples' constitutional rights. One of the petition’s demands was that the term "mountain compatriots" be renamed “indigenous people." Although the petition did not receive a favorable response from the National Congress, the name rectification movement persisted. Over a thousand indigenous people marched in the rain to Yangmingshan Chungshan Hall on May 21, 1992 to support the demand for amending the Constitution to rectify the designation given to the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. The National Congress, however, did not accept the demand. 

On June 23, 1994, a third rally demanding the rights to name rectification, land, and autonomy was launched in front of the Office of the President. More than 3,000 indigenous people and 37 indigenous organizations attended the rally, the largest number of participants in an indigenous rights protest in history. President Lee Teng-hui met with representatives of the indigenous peoples’ movement on July 1 and pledged his support for the name rectification effort. On July 28, after two rounds of voting, the National Congress ratified the change to the constitution by a single vote. After 10 years of campaigning and struggle, the term “mountain compatriots” was finally rectified. The constitutional amendment was promulgated on August 1, and the term "indigenous people" was officially added to the Constitution.

To promote indigenous peoples' collective rights, indigenous movement groups organized a fourth rally on June 16, 1997 calling for the incorporation of the term indigenous peoples, and of autonomy and land rights into the constitution. The term "indigenous people" was changed to "indigenous peoples" with the full support of indigenous members of the National Congress, to emphasize the concept of collective rights.

On July 31, 2005, the Council of Indigenous Peoples hosted its inaugural ceremony for the rectification of the name ‘indigenous peoples.’ President Chen Shui-bien spoke at the event and declared August 1 to be Indigenous Peoples' Day. On August 1, 2016, President Tsai Ing-wen apologized on behalf of the government to indigenous peoples and promised to pursue historical and transitional justice for indigenous peoples.