Hawaii 2017 Cultural Sustainability Educational Tour: Finding Resonance through Reflection for Indigenous Taiwan
Sixteen representatives from Taitung communities, ranging from cultural workers across private and public and non-profit sectors, embarked on the second run of the Hawaii Cultural Sustainability Educational Tour from 14th to 24th October in effort to nurture a new generation of indigenous Taiwan leaders with international perspectives.
The team of promising youths includes Li Cheng-hang, Chief of Paiwan tribe’s Ljiliv community in the Dawang Village, also Physical Education Teacher at Binmao High School, Pan Zi-su of the Puyuma tribe, working at Taitung Indigenous Cultural and Creative Industries Park, and Amis youths Wang Wei-ting and Chuang Chiao-yun, from the Tiehua Music Village and Yujoy House respectively. They were joined by contemporaries such as Wang Ziya from the Bunun tribe, Chief Executive Officer, Luanshan Forest Museum and Chang Jia-rong, social worker at Lanyu. It is hoped that the team will apply valuable lessons in their work and lives upon return, as with the four Asian Executive Management (AEM) program graduates and the 14-strong team of the first tour.
Besides Brigham Young University-Hawaii (BYUH), the team visited Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC), the Kahana Valley community, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and Outrigger Enterprises Group. The team learnt the ohana principle which PCC and Outrigger operate by, with the former valuing personal growth of employees. At Kahana Valley, the team learnt that mature yam plants are known as ‘oha and the growth of ‘oha in clusters show the sense of belonging for local families and friends of the valley. The team planted yams with the community, making a connection. At OHA, the team received an impactful response when told that all who live on Hawaii islands are Hawaiians and will be served accordingly. The team felt that having less ethnic consciousness in Taiwan could bring more collaboration, in the spirit of ohana and mutual understanding, soothing conflicts from competition for resources.
The team met monthly since May to bond and prepare, even attending dining etiquette training. It was ensured that the BYUH lessons will meet the learning outcomes expected by each participant. Seniors in the first batch shared their experiences and Chair Wei-wei Sun of WISH Communication Co offered insights from her professional and living experiences in Hawaii. Sakinu Ahrongrong, indigenous writer, founder of the Hunter School and organizer of Sing for Taiwan, shared his personal journeys of engaging in community work as a youth and interacting with foreign indigenous groups, encouraging participants to open up and be enriched.
The team also gained understanding of environmental challenges in Hawaii and how government and people worked towards sustainable development. The team reflected on Taitung’s environmental conservation woes and room for improvement in unique and in-depth cultural tourism with more cultural confidence and sense of place. Chang Jia-rong opined that there can be more intergenerational discussion in Lanyu on long-term visions. For instance, pre-visit education on the endangered species in Lanyu for visitors would lessen the anxiety of visitors and the host communities.
Li Cheng-hang hoped youths maintain presence in their communities, contribute to local economy development and affirm their cultural belonging. Hu Pan-yan, who heads traditional craft in Yilan’s Bulao Bulao Aboriginal Village reflected that that cultural education still has a long way to go in Taiwan. Several team members agreed to come together to learn from each other and share their cultures in Taiwan and beyond. Lu Chaoyang, manager of village infrastructure in the county government felt that he can educate his children to look at the world more openly.
ACF Chair Stanley Yen said tourism or infrastructural development is a race with cultural development. Many atimes, cultural development loses the race. With Taitung’s rich indigenous arts and cultures and well-preserved natural scenery, ACF’s educational endeavour with Junyi School of Innovation aims to grow local cultures. Chair Yen said he objected to the development of the Suhua Highway to prevent external exploitation. The Hawaii Cultural Sustainability Educational Tour hopes to let everyone to see the hits and misses of developed tourism and infrastructure and reflect upon the case studies, for Taitung residents to understand its advantages, weaknesses and threats to forge a new path ahead.
Special appreciation to Chair Wei-wei Sun and General Manager Bruce Wu of WISH Communication Co, USI Group Chair Quentin Wu and Weici Huatung Youth International Educational bursary fund, who without their support the project wouldn’t be possible.