Fri, Feb 27, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Aborigines to stage smoky land protest

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Aboriginal tribes around the country will simultaneously light fires in their communities tomorrow, using the resulting “smoke signals” to send a message to the government that they are sovereign owners of their land, a spokesman for an Aboriginal rights group said yesterday.

The Taitung County-based Smoke Motion Union said it would be the second time in a year that Aboriginal tribes, including the Pinuyumayan, Amis and Bunun, would act in unison to spread their message in the same way their ancestors once communicated with the spirits.

On Feb. 28 last year, dense smoke rose simultaneously from dozens of tribal villages around the nation, conveying the angry voices of Aborigines over the government ignoring their hunting and fishing rights, even though they are on their own land.

POLICE OBSTRUCTION

The campaign was formed after a group of Pinuyumayan hunters from the Katatipul tribe in Taitung were obstructed by forest police from their annual sacred hunting ceremony in late 2007 in what they said was a “rough and disrespectful manner.”

The incident triggered protests by the Katatipul, which then developed into a joint call among Aboriginal tribes around the nation for the government to respect their rights and sovereignty, said Mateli Sawawan, a spokesman for the Smoke Motion Union.

PROTEST RALLY

The call turned into a protest rally held by Aborigines from around the country in front of the Presidential Office on March 8 last year.

The call, however, has never been properly answered, the union said, which is why it has prepared a second round of protests for tomorrow.

DAY OF JUSTICE

Asked why the group chose tomorrow for their protest, Mateli Sawawan said that Feb. 28 was a day on which justice had been upheld after the government made a public apology to the families of the victims of the 228 Incident, which took place in 1947.

Tomorrow, the Aboriginal groups will advocate forming a constitution for Taiwan’s Aborigines that is equal to the Republic of China Constitution.

The groups will also promote the establishment of a non-governmental organization to handle incidents in which they believe Aborigines have been mistreated by the government, the union said.

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