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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 17:33 GMT
Taiwan recognises 'lost' people
Su Tseng-chang (file image)
Taiwan's premier congratulated the Sakizaya for preserving their culture
A Taiwanese indigenous group thought to have been wiped out more than 100 years ago has been officially recognised as the country's 13th aboriginal tribe.

The Sakizaya people were decimated in attack by Chinese soldiers in the 19th Century and the survivors lived among other tribes to avoid persecution.

In recent years they have fought for recognition as a separate ethnic group.

They will now have access to government funds to preserve their culture as well as medical and educational benefits.

The Sakizaya were granted their official status at a colourful ceremony, presided over by Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang.

The Taiwanese cabinet also approved funding for the reclamation of traditional Sakizaya land taken by the Taiwan Sugar Corporation, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck says it has been a long fight for the Sakizaya who, like other aboriginal groups in Taiwan, have suffered discrimination.

The tribe was believed to have been wiped out entirely in 1878 after losing a battle against Qing dynasty invaders from the Chinese mainland.

Letter campaign

Subsequent generations of Sakizaya tribe members survived by blending in with another aboriginal group, the Amis tribe, but discreetly maintained their own traditional culture and language.

Taiwan's indigenous peoples have pushed for greater rights and recognition over the past two decades since martial law was lifted and the country became a democracy.

The Sakizaya campaign began in 2005 and involved tribe members writing thousands of letters to Taiwan's central government demanding recognition, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency.

There are believed to be between 5,000 to 10,000 Sakizaya in Taiwan, traditionally based in the island's eastern county of Hualien.

Aboriginal groups account for around 2% of Taiwan's 23 million people.

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