News & Events


January 16, 2014

Ciwang Teyra, School of Social Work PhD Student at IWRI

Ciwang TeyraKmbiyax Su Hug! “Are you strong?” is the traditional greeting in the Truku language of Taiwan. Before being colonized by foreign countries, the Truku people lived in the mountains. Only strong people can survive and live in the mountains, so Truku people say hello to tribal members by asking “Kmbiyax Su Hug?”

My name is Ciwang Teyra and I am a member of the Truku Tribe in Taiwan. Like the majority of our tribal people, I grew up in Hualien County, on Taiwan’s East Coast.  Five years ago, I began my journey for studying abroad in the United States, in a graduate training program in social work at Washington University in St. Louis. Then, three years ago, I moved to Seattle to enter the doctoral program in school welfare at the University of Washington.1371_10151798197455259_1383407356_n

I am motivated to study abroad by my experience as an activist in Taiwan’s indigenous movement. I have been an organizer for the Truku Youth Association for ten years and have been involved in Truku tribal movements fighting for government recognition and tribal sovereignty. I also worked as a human rights / indigenous rights activist in the Taiwan Association for Human Rights for two years before studying abroad. During my involvement in indigenous movements, I heard some scholars share examples from the United States regarding how American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) peoples fight for their recognition and sovereignty, which caught my attention. I was surprised to find out that even though indigenous peoples in Taiwan and the United States have different cultures and traditions and are separated by an ocean, we share some similarities, such as having endured histories of colonial oppression by foreign governments. In order to study AIAN peoples’ experiences and learn from their different strategies regarding fighting for recognition and sovereignty, I decided to move from Taiwan to the other side of Pacific Ocean.

IMG_0351I am appreciative of being afforded a great opportunity to learn, study and work with mentors and colleagues in IWRI. Through being involved in different IWRI projects and being mentored by IWRI faculty, I am not only learning about indigenous theories, indigenous methodologies, culturally responsive intervention/prevention and community engagement, but I also find a sense of belonging. As an international student from a foreign indigenous community, IWRI is like a “home away from home” to me.

I remembered writing the following script for my digital story-telling for IWRI’s Yappali project, “Through walking the Choctaw Trail of Tears with Native folks and allies, I found I am not alone anymore. . . Even though we come from different backgrounds, we hold and support each other during the walk. . . Thanks for having me join this amazing walk with you all. Let me have the chance to reconnect myself with indigenous peoples and also find belonging in indigenous communities throughout the world.” In addition to the Yappali project, the script also truly reflects my feelings regarding engagement in other IWRI projects. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of IWRI and to increase my understanding and knowledge of indigenous well-being with such a wonderful group of people.