north america and taiwan were settled at roughly the same time, beginning in the early 1600s -- one from northern europe, one from china. both streams of settlers encountered people already living there. colonial americans largely revolted against royalist attempts to constrain their movement, most notably in bacon's rebellion in virginia, setting a pattern for elite attempts to prevent friction by protecting marginal groups, and popular efforts to break these cordons and target the land and livelihoods of 'the other,' whether indian, black, or mexican. we see this dynamic today. china's imperial government was more successful in cordoning off aboriginal territories; it was only the japanese colonial government (1895-1945) which militarily subdued these highlanders. today, these 'mountain comrades' (so said the paternalist nationalist dictatorship) have renamed themselves 'original peoples,' or 'aboriginals' (yuanzhumin), and engage in electoral politics.
yesterday i saw a bit of the news being read in a native language. their languages are austronesian, a family stretching across the pacific from hawaii to madagascar -- scholars think this expansion came from or through taiwan. i think there are at least nine major aboriginal languages in taiwan, so only certain viewers could have understood it. when people were interviewed about a stretch of road threatened by landslides, all answered in chinese. like english for american indians, chinese is the lingua franca of taiwan's aboriginals. they worry about losing their language; an anchor speaking formally about local affairs in a native language must be a powerful sight for older people once banned from speaking their home language at school. but can such a sight get young people to speak it?