The skulls of four Paiwan warriors have been returned to their ancestral home from Scotland’s University of Edinburgh in Taiwan’s first such repatriation as the government continues to seek historical and transitional justice, the Council of Indigenous Peoples said Nov. 6.
According to the CIP, the remains belong to four members of the Paiwan tribe from a community living in today’s Mudan Township in southern Taiwan’s Pingtung County. They were killed in 1874 during the Mudan incident, a retaliatory attack by Japanese soldiers who sought to avenge the deaths of 54 sailors who had been killed three years earlier by members of the tribe.
The skulls were thought to have been taken back to Japan as trophies by soldiers before falling into the hands of collectors and finally being given to the University of Edinburgh in 1907.
During a ceremony at the Museum of Archaeology in the southern city of Tainan, CIP Minister Icyang Parod said arranging the repatriation took three years. The endeavor reflects the importance of collaboration among academia, government agencies and museums in redressing injustices to Indigenous people around the world, he added.
As the 150th anniversary of the Mudan incident approaches, the minister expressed his hope that the return of ancestral bones would bring peace to the deceased and their descendants. The historic repatriation is also expected to enhance public awareness of the rights of Taiwan’s original inhabitants to uphold the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he said.
The CIP said a formal handover ceremony was also held Nov. 3 in the U.K. that involved Deputy CIP Minister Calivat Gadu, Mayor Pan Chuang-chi of Mudan Township and other delegates and university officials. The university issued a statement saying that the repatriation is in line with its policy of returning items to appropriate representatives of the cultures from which they were taken.
The remains will be temporarily placed at the Tainan museum before a permanent resting place is decided in consultation with the community of Mudan, the council added. (SFC-E)
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