After more than a decade of participating in the Aboriginal rights movement — fruitlessly, as he described it — documentary filmmaker Mayaw Biho of the Amis tribe has decided to run for the legislature, hoping to bring about change from within the system.
Having made several documentaries on, and played a part in, the Aboriginal rights movement for more than 10 years, Mayaw said he felt he had to do something different when he looked at Aborigines who stayed overnight during a demonstration in front of the Presidential Office, calling on the government to return their ancestral land on Jan. 28.
“I looked at them and many looked as determined as those who protested against Asia Cement’s seizure of traditional Truku domain [in Hualien County] more than 10 years ago when I shot a documentary on the Aboriginal land rights movement,” Mayaw told the Taipei Times during a telephone interview yesterday. “They are so determined because they believed that their traditional domains are passed down from their ancestors, and belong to them.”
“Although the Aborigines are determined, sadly, things have not changed much — and I thought it may be time to change the -strategy,” he said.
He added that in past decades, Aboriginal rights advocates have organized countless news conferences, demonstrations, rallies and parades, but received promises that are mostly empty from officials, lawmakers and other politicians.
Mayaw took his question to many of his friends, and a talk with Robin Winkler, the founder of the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Foundation, gave him the idea to run for lawmaker.
Wild at Heart is a legal defense organization focused on environmental and ecological issues.
“Winkler told me that Aborigines are most likely to lose all of their lawsuits against the government for land, because they [the government] made the law, and it’s favorable to them,” Mayaw said. “So I realized that maybe I should get into politics and try to make changes from within the system.”
In addition to trying to push for Aborigine-friendly law revisions, Mayaw said that he wanted to push for a change in the electoral culture in Aboriginal communities.
“Have you noticed that a high percentage of election irregularities have occurred in Aboriginal communities?” he asked, adding that vote buying was a serious issue in these communities.
Consequently, instead of -employing traditional campaign methods, Mayaw said that he would take a more grassroots approach.
He said that he has contacted different Aboriginal groups — especially youth groups — that he has worked with throughout his long participation in the Aboriginal rights campaign.
“Most of them responded positively to my decision to join the election and I hope that they will help influence their elders,” he said.
Although Mayaw is an Amis himself, he said he has met voters from other tribes, such as the Paiwan and Puyuma, and they have all responded to him.
Asked how he differed from Aboriginal activists in the 1980s and 1990s who also ran for office, Mayaw said he would run as an independent candidate.
“Some [earlier] Aboriginal activists could not insist on their ideas because they ran as political party nominees and when it comes to differences between the party and the interests of Aborigines, they would have no choice but to take party interests as the priority,” he said.