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Responding to the United Nations 2023 International Year of Millets, NSYSU, indigenous people, and cultural preservationists jointly return to Kucapungane with traditional foxtail millets



In response to the United Nations (UN) declaring 2023 the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023), the research team of National Sun Yat-sen University and those who value Taiwanese indigenous foxtail millet culture jointly held the activity of "Let’s millet: Opening the door for the world" and returning to the ancient home of Kucapungane Rukai, one of Taiwan’s indigenous tribes, in Wutai Township, Pingtung County, worked hard to restore the Kucapungane Rukai foxtail millet ecosystem.


Assistant Professor Shih-Hui Liu and Professor Yuen-Po Yang of the Department of Biological Sciences of NSYSU pointed out that millet is the main food crop in Taiwan's indigenous tribes and is also the core of tribal cultural development. The research team carried out the "Da-Wu Mountain Forest Ecological Wisdom Survey - Taking the Foxtail Millet Culture Ecosystem as an Example" project commissioned by the Forestry Bureau of the Council of Agriculture. Working on the biocultural diversity of the agricultural system of Pingtung and Taitung's Rukai, Paiwan, and Puyuma ethnic groups, recording and inventorying the indigenous ecological knowledge of the farming system, actively collecting and preserving traditional foxtail millet landraces, and conducting classification research and promotion, this project coincides with the spirit of the UN IYM 2023, calling for the preservation and promotion of millets in response to global environmental changes.


To preserve, promote, and re-cultivate the foxtail millets of Kucapungane Rukai, the research team brought the foxtail millets landraces and back to Kucapungane in Wutai Township, Pingtung County three times to cultivate. Shih-Hui Liu pointed out that the Kucapungane Rukai is culturally rich and has the highest diversity of foxtail millet landraces in Taiwan. After the tribe moved the settlement several times from their ancient home finally to the modern Rinari, the activity of "Let’s millet: Opening the door for the world" is culturally and historically significant in bringing back the traditional foxtail millet landraces, preparing the land, and sowing seeds at Kucapungane.


On behalf of the project team, the research specialists Chih-Chung Lin and Chia-Ying Ou, with teachers and students of Evergreen Lily Elementary School, the Sense Life Maker team, Haocha Community Development Association, Wild Seed Library, and many indigenous people who value foxtail millets and millet culture in Rinari, jointly organized the "Let's millet: opening the door for the world" event. A group of people carried ears of indigenous foxtail millets, set off, and walked to Kucapungane on December 31, 2022. They bid farewell to 2022 in the tribal forest and greeted the sunrise of New Year’s Day on January 1, 2023. On new year's day, which symbolized the beginning of the new year, they led the students of Evergreen Lily Elementary School to harvest, prepare the land, sow foxtail millet seeds, and carry out inheritance and restoration of the farming system in the original place of these foxtail millets.


Chia-Ying Ou said that during the welcoming process, the children sang ancient tunes as a welcome gift for the elders of the tribe. When the children started singing, the elders hummed along with them. This picture spanned generations and brought together people with different backgrounds onto the same vibration, which was very touching. He laughed and said, "I think the old tunes can resonate even more deeply with the elders, and the songs they sang were used to be heard on this land." When the returnees round danced to celebrate the harvesting of foxtail millet, the elders of the tribe even sighed, "After 66 years, the scene of celebrating the harvest has finally reappeared at Kucapungane."


This activity, Let’s millet: Opening the door for the world, did not support by governmental or private funding. All participating members are independent and voluntary. The transportation and food need was taken care of by the participants themselves, and the consent and guidance of the tribal residents were obtained in advance. The tribal culture is highly respected. Shih-Hui Liu said that the event highlighted Kucapungane as an important cultural heritage site. It is a work to respond to the UN IYM 2023 and to restore the culture and ecosystem of foxtail millets for Taiwan's Aboriginals. "This is a beginning and a continuation." We want to make the world aware of the high diversity of Taiwanese foxtail millet cultures and ecosystems.


Supplementary information
The United Nations declared 2023 the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023)
Let’s millet: opening the door for the world

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