SMEA Alum Kicks Off Winter Series

This quarter’s SMEA Environmental Justice Speakers Series will begin on Thursday, January 21st from 12:00pm to 1:00pm via Zoom.

Michael Jacobson first went to Taiwan in 1986, returned in 1994-5, and in 2018 spent 3 months living in Taiwan’s indigenous communities. For 30 years he pursued and finally rescued two Tao (Yami) fishing boats called tatala from a restaurant in Seattle and went to Orchid Island to learn about contemporary Tao culture. Michael works for the King County (WA) Office of Performance, Strategy and Budget and is national award-winning expert in organizational performance management and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He has Master’s degrees from UW’s SMEA (then SMA) and the Jackson School of International Studies.

Jacobson will be presenting Indigenous Taiwan: Traditional Knowledge Navigating Modernity

Making up less than two percent of Taiwan’s total population, Taiwan’s 16 recognized indigenous tribes daily navigate the pressures of modernity while maintaining their traditional cultures and traditions. Contemporary indigenous people must make a living in a global economy, maintain their language and culture within a dominant Han Chinese culture, fight for land rights and sovereignty, and deal with the negative impacts of mass tourism and environmental degradation. Despite these challenges, many communities retain strong cultural practices tied to their traditional knowledge, customs, and beliefs. In addition, indigenous pride and self-determination has blossomed in the last 20 years with even Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, proudly noting her Paiwan heritage. This talk will focus on the Tao (Yami) tribe, who lives on Orchid Island, and which is also the storage site for Taiwan’s low level radioactive waste.

To RSVP for the event, please contact Leah Quinn (

Suggested readings from the presenter:

Backstory on How I Rescued the Tatalas (8 min radio article)

Indigenous Taiwan Overview (for general familiarization)

“What you should know about being Indigenous in Taiwan”

Taiwan Indigenous Treatment and Presidential Politics (news article)

Orchid Island Flying Fish Season (including some short videos) (short 4:38′ movie)

Orchid Island Nuclear Storage

Taiwan Indigenous Activism