Tue, Jan 26, 2016 - Page 12 News List

A clash of cultures

A recent court case raises concerns over the disregard shown towards the traditions and customs of Taiwan’s Aboriginal hunters

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Last year, the NPA approved the use of the safer Hilti Corp nail guns, a type of modified shotgun using Hilti nails for ammunition and commonly used by Aborigines.

Legal activists, however, say the limitation on firearms is groundless because there is currently no provision in the law that restricts the types of home-made firearms that Aborigines may own or use, and the possession of unregistered guns are only liable for a fine of up to NT$20,000, not imprisonment.

Today, judges tend to rule in favor of Aboriginal hunters, says attorney Chen Tsai-yi (陳采邑), who has worked at the Legal Aid Foundation’s (法律扶助基金會) Taitung branch for the past five years.

“But the police on the front line keep making arrests.... If a hunter is unfortunate and meets a conservative prosecutor or judge, then he will be the next Tama Talum,” says Chen, who represents the Bunun hunter.

According to Legal Aid Foundation data from 2013, it provided legal assistance to Aboriginal defendants on 73 criminal cases of violating the Controlling Guns, Knives and Ammunition Act, 42 violations of the Wildlife Protection Act and 125 violations of the Forestry Act (森林法).

Among the more notorious cases, four Truku Aborigines of Knkreyan village, also known as Tongmen Village (銅門), in Hualien County, were arrested last year when returning from a hunt as part of the celebrations of mgay bari, the Truku Thanksgiving Day festival. Their hunting activity had been legally pre-registered with authorities.

“The young men [in Tongmen] were handcuffed, and are now afraid to go hunting,” says Chen, who also represented the hunters in Tongmen.

Legal activists say the Supreme Court ruling against Tama Talum’s appeal is particularly troubling because it may affect decisions by lower courts.

Last month, a number of individuals and groups supporting Aboriginal rights staged a series of protests for the Bunun hunter. Shortly after, Prosecutor-General Yen Ta-ho (顏大和) filed an extraordinary appeal against the hunter’s jail sentence, stating that the ruling is based on a narrow interpretation of the laws, which limits Aborigines to the use of primitive firearms and prohibits them from hunting protected animals for personal consumption.

Back in the village, Tama Talum resumes life as normal, spends most of his time looking after his 94-year-old mother and two-year-old grandson. Life goes on as usual, as least for now.

“I will continue to hunt. It is our culture,” he says.

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