The Narrm Oration is the University’s key address profiling leading Indigenous peoples from across the world. The 2023 Oration will be delivered by Akawyan Pakawyan, a senior leader of the Indigenous Pinuyumayan people in the Puyuma village of Taiwan, and is titled:
Cultural Reawakening: a Taiwanese Indigenous woman’s journey through memories and revitalisation.
In the 2023 Narrm Oration, Akawyan Pakawyan will reflect on her own journey and work influenced by major historical events and their impacts in Taiwan.
This Narrm Oration will be delivered in the Indigenous Taiwanese Puyuma Language. Live written translation will be provided onscreen in English. Audio translation services will be provided in English and Mandarin.
Akawyan Pakawyan, born in 1938 in the Puyuma Indigenous village of Taitung, Taiwan, is a witness to the historical transitions and colonial influences that have shaped Taiwan.
She started her education journey during the Japanese colonial period of Taiwan (1895-1945), and attended two years of Japanese elementary school, before having to learn a new language – Chinese – when the Republic of China (ROC) took control of Taiwan after 1945. Taiwan, home to the Pinuyumayan people among other Indigenous groups, endured transformations initiated by the arrivals of the Dutch and Portuguese in 1624, followed by Han settler workers. These waves of colonisation led to the displacement of many Indigenous communities.
Taitung, home to the Pinuyumayan and many other Indigenous groups, has its unique narrative. The Puyuma, one of the Pinuyumayan communities, cultivated partnerships with early settlers. These alliances fostered the community’s prominence in southeast Taiwan, a status quo sustained until the Japanese colonisation in 1895.
Akawyan’s early years were immersed in the juxtaposition of Japanese and Chinese influences. The shift from Japanese to Chinese rule in 1945 intensified the assimilation policies, threatening many Indigenous languages and traditions. Despite these pressures, Akawyan retained her fluency in Pinuyumayan, a testament to the resilience of her cultural identity.
The cessation of 40 years of martial law in 1987 marked a turning point for Indigenous rights, catalysed by relentless protests. For Akawyan, the journey transcends personal experience; it epitomises the indomitable spirit of the Puyuma people. For over three decades, she has been a bastion of cultural preservation, safeguarding the Puyuma language and traditions amidst historical and political upheavals.
This narrative unveils the story of a Puyuma woman who not only derives strength from her cultural heritage but also elevates its prominence. Akawyan’s life is a tapestry of resilience and cultural fidelity, a legacy that illuminates the path of cultural revitalisation for the Pinuyumayan and other Indigenous groups in Taiwan.