Christine Porter
UNITY youth leaders and their chaperones pose in front of Taiwan's National Concert Hall. The National Theater and Concert Hall are two of the first major modern performing arts facilities to be established in Asia. On this day a large ceramic panda exhibit was on display. Pictured, from left in the back, are Mary Kim Titla, Carrie Hood, Tyler Owens, Aaron Leaureaux, Santana “Sonny” Johnson, Christine Porter, and Simon Montelongo. Alex Toledo is in the front.

UNITY Youth and Indigenous Tribes of Taiwan Exchange Culture, Memories

Mary Kim Titla
5/9/14

The idea that indigenous tribes of Taiwan might benefit from the creation of youth councils led to an amazing overseas exchange between six Native American youth leaders and two chaperones during a 10-day journey in East Asia. The six Native youth leaders, representing tribes across the U.S., are part of UNITY—United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc.

UNITY has a network of 140 youth councils in 35 states. The UNITY delegation, sponsored by Taiwan’s Vox Nativa, visited the aboriginal homelands of seven of the 14 indigenous tribes including the Thao, Bunun, Rukai and Paiwan tribes in the lush and mountainous interior of Taiwan.

Flying 6,500 miles to Taiwan requires a 14-hour plane ride from San Francisco. The 14,000 square mile island sits more than 100 miles off the southeast coast of mainland China with sub-tropical and tropical weather.

Taiwan’s history is intriguing. Between 1626 and today, the indigenous tribes experienced colonization with the Spanish, Dutch, Japanese and Chinese. The tribes face challenges similar to those of U.S. tribes with culture, language and ancestral land preservation. Tribal leaders are battling social ills such as rampant poverty, alcoholism, and high school drop out rates while striving to build their local economies. Indigenous villages, some rich with slate rock and nearby marble canyons, rely heavily on tourism by performing tribal dances and selling tribal arts and crafts.

These young women are members of the Thao Tribe. They posed for a picture in between their performances for tourists at Sun Moon Lake, the tribe’s indigenous homeland. (Mary Kim Titla)

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