Scott Simon gave a keynote speech in Taipei, Taiwan, on December 9, 2016, at the 20th anniversary conference of the founding of the Council of Indigenous Peoples (Taiwan).
The title of the speech was “The United States and Indigenous Sovereignty: Entangled Genealogies of an Inter-national Legal Concept.”
In this speech, Professor Simon examined the entangled genealogies of concepts of indigenous sovereignty and indigenous rights, but also colonial practices, as Formosa and the United States came into encounters in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1867, the American ship Rover shipwrecked on Formosa and the survivors were killed by the Koalut (now Paiwan) indigenous warriors. When Qing Dynasty refused to intervene, saying that it lay outside of their jurisdiction, the Americans sent a punitive expedition to Formosa. Although the Americans lost, diplomat Charles LeGendre signed a peace agreement with Chief Tokitok. In subsequent years, the status of the indigenous peoples of Formosa was a part of international legal disputes between China and Japan about the island’s sovereignty. After Japan gained Formosa in 1895, and “pacified” the mountain tribes after 19 years of warfare, the colonial government built up reserves and other indigenous institutions based partly on US precedents. In the post-colonial era, Taiwanese indigenous social movements have been inspired by the Red Power movement, and indigenous peoples seek to gain recognition as sovereign nations. The governments in Taiwan and the US have in recent years apologized to indigenous peoples, and acknowledged the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Nonetheless, both countries face human rights challenges, especially in the United States where it is still unclear if a Republican administration closely linked to oil interests will respect indigenous inherent sovereignty and the right to Free, prior, informed consent to development projects on indigenous territories.