Introduction / History
The Pyuma are an Austronesian minority who reside in Taitung County, Taiwan. The Pyuma were traditionally hunters and farmers. Since the seventeenth century, there has been substantial contact between Pyuma and outsiders. Over the last two hundred years Han Chinese immigrated to the Pyuma area and authorities established government offices and schools in Pyuma communities. The influx of Han settlers correlates with the decreased use of the Pyuma language and the increased use of the Taiwanese, Japanese, and Mandarin languages by the Pyuma people. Pyuma language recession was noted in the first decade of the twentieth century.
Since the 1960s, the Pyuma have become increasingly integrated into Taiwan society. Migration of Pyuma to the cities mirrors the Taiwan business cycle. When there is an economic downturn, Pyuma return to their homeland area to farm. Since Taiwan's admission to the WTO in 2002, farming is no longer a viable option. Pyuma constitute a numerical minority even in their traditional communities.
Most Pyuma choose to speak Mandarin. Taiwanese is also widely spoken. Despite token mother tongue classes in local schools, there is no evidence that children are acquiring proficiency in Pyuma. In fact, younger Pyuma seem disinterested in the language. For most, the perceived benefits of Mandarin and Taiwanese (prestige and access to educational and economic opportunities) outweigh the perceived benefits of Pyuma. The Pyuma were first evangelized by Taiwanese pastors in the 1950s. At present there are 6 cell groups and churches in Pyuma villages. The Gospel of Mark was translated into Pyuma using kanji script in the late 1980s, but due to a lack of interest the translation was not distributed for general use. A revision process that includes the adoption of Roman script was recently begun. With the exception of a few elderly individuals, Pyuma are proficient enough in Mandarin to benefit from an existing Chinese translation of the Scriptures.
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