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June 28, 2017

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Exhibition of tribal artifacts from indigenous Tao opens in Taitung

TAIPEI--A collection of artifacts from the indigenous Tao tribe went on display Saturday in Taitung for the first time, four decades after the 200-plus items were taken to Europe.

The artifacts include wooden plates, pottery jars and a wooden boat known as a tatala in the Tao language.

These are precious items and should be returned to their home, said Elisabeth Gschwind, a Swiss national who helped bring back the collection for safekeeping at the National Museum of Prehistory in Taitung.

The current exhibition features 15 of the artifacts from the Tao people on Orchid Island.

The full collection of over 200 items was acquired between the 1950s and 1970s by the late Father Alfred Giger of the Bethlehem Mission in Switzerland; Zuger Josef, who had taught in Taitung and helped Giger build a church on Orchid Island; and German ethnologist Dominik Schroder.

The Si-Sasagazo Memorial Cultural Foundation, which was formally established in memory of Giger alongside the opening of the exhibition, said some of the items are no longer in use by the indigenous people of Orchid Island.

Giger arrived in Taiwan in 1954 and worked mostly on Orchid Island before his death in a car crash in 1970.

He was seen as a father figure by the Tao people because of his efforts to improve their lives and help fund their children's education.

After Giger's death, Gschwind, who at the time was serving at the mission, continued to work between Taitung and Orchid Island for two years.

The idea of bringing back the artifacts from Europe was proposed in 2012, when Gschwind made contact with a priest from the mission who was on a trip to Switzerland.

The museum has agreed to store the artifacts, since the foundation has not yet found an appropriate place on Orchid Island to keep them.

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