Siyac Nabu, a senior citizen of the Sediq ethnic group, whose mother was involved in the incident, agreed with Kumu and suggested that indigenous people should review the history of the event and compare it with their current situation.
They agree that a transformation of education, putting more emphasis on the culture and history of the tribes, is vital for the self-identity of indigenous people and awareness of their own rights as a counter weight to "Han chauvinism."
Losing land rights
"I think the Japanese incurred the great wrath of our ancestors because they neglected the fact that we Aboriginal people have rights over lands inherited from our ancestors," Siyac said.
Siyac said the Japanese had ignored the traditional legal practice of claiming land properties by burying rocks. He urged the government to return lands
"The rocks our ancestors buried are still there, please give us what we deserve," he said earnestly.
"Our lands are falling even faster into the hands of the government and the Han people than they fell into those of the Japanese," said Isak Afu, board chairman of the Association of Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Policy (台灣原住民族政策協會).
"Badly made policies in the past indeed have made the plight of indigenous people worse," admitted Council of Aboriginal Affairs (
The KMT government established regulations to reserve some lands for the indigenous peoples in Taiwan. Such reserved lands are divided for private agricultural purposes and for larger-scale development projects that could be controlled by Han people, explained Pasun Tali, a legislator's assistant.
Nevertheless, the ultimate ownership of the land is still in the hands of the government, which could take it back at any time, according to Kumu Iyung.
A major problem of the reserved land policy is that the area of agricultural land allocated to each Aboriginal farmer is shrinking, making unviable the purchase of fertilizers and other agricultural equipment, as the possible harvest will be too small. The situation is all the worse in the case of farmers who lack sufficient capital and training in cultivation skills.
As a result, illegal renting or transfer of ownership of the land to Han people -- with more capital and skills who are able to make better use of the land -- has occurred frequently. In such cases, the indigenous farmers either become tenants of the farm or give up the land altogether, making their way to the cities where they typically find work doing heavy labor.
The same happens in the case of farmers who have had to follow the forestation policy of the government because they were allocated land for forests instead of fields to cultivate. "But the government grants them little aid in the 10 years or so before the trees grow big enough for any profits," said Yohani.
Illegal land sales often legalized
Although the sale of reserved lands is illegal, judges always legalize the contract when the two sides go to court to seek contractual validation.
"While the enactment and enforcement of law are controlled by the Han people, the indigenous people are doomed to lose the game, because the government will never care about our rights ..." said Yohani.