China, Taiwan: Mei Ying Huang

We face violence from the government. The underprivileged cannot afford confrontation and oppression; on the contrary, they must unite and repair the damage caused by political-economic structures.

— Mei Ying Huang

Huang Mei Ying (54), an anthropologist and part-time instructor at the history department of Chinan University, has long worked for aborigine rights. In 1998 she worked with the Kahabu, a tribe not yet formally acknowledged by the Taiwanese government. Her group helped locals to build alliances and promote the protection of the underprivileged.

“To strengthen your roots you must take into account the local culture. The Kahabu for instance, have not been considered while formulating cultural policies; they have been neglected, their history and their rights have been overlooked." This is how long-term social activist Huang Mei Ying justified her work in a village in 1998, when the Kahabu tribe was not yet officially acknowledged. On September 20th, 1999, Huang Mei Ying was at a preliminary meeting of the Kahabu Cultural Organization; after that, she and people from the tribe went back to her office to continue discussions. Suddenly, at 1:47 am, the ground started to quake with a force of 7.3 on the Richter scale. The whole Pu-li area was devastated; the place she lived in was also shattered. In these chaotic circumstances, Huang decided to stay on and help rebuild the village, uniting the grassroots people. She founded a reconstruction station and collected funds, inviting professionals to rebuild and improve the cultural habitat. Using anthropological methodology and practice, she helped to revive traditions lost over fifty years ago and awaken a community consciousness. She taught communities to organize themselves into intertribal groups to be legitimately represented in a just system. She further helped expand the alliances. Huang Mei-ying says: “I was too deeply involved in the community, never had time to write or time for myself. People came and went in the station and I could barely sleep. Sometimes I had to hide and would fall asleep on a chair. That stage is now over. In the reconstruction of the Kahabu tribe, the focus is now on training the younger generation."

Kahabu Cultural Organization