Calling the past century “100 years of suffering for Aborigines,” activists yesterday issued a Declaration of Aboriginal Rights, while also urging the passage of laws that would facilitate and speed up Aboriginal autonomy.
“While the Republic of China [ROC] celebrates the centennial of its founding, that period was an era of painful suffering for us Aborigines,” Taiwan Aboriginal Society chairman Tibusungu ‘e Vayayana told a press conference at the legislature.
“At the beginning [of the 20th century], it was the colonization of Japan, and then it was the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] regime,” he added.
“Both regimes were colonial regimes to the Taiwanese Aborigines. Both of them imposed severe losses on the Aborigine community in terms of the knowledge and dissemination of our own languages, cultures, traditional domains and traditional lifestyles,” he said.
The destruction of traditional Aboriginal domains not only led to the suffering of Aborigines, but the suffering of all, he added.
“Over-development means that we are constantly threatened by natural disasters, such as mudslides, that turn everyone into a victim,” Vayayana said. “Actually, I wouldn’t call such disasters ‘natural’ at all, because they are the results of human activity and are thus ‘manmade disasters.’”
Former People First Party legislator Tsai Chung-han (蔡中涵) of the Amis tribe, said that, having reviewed the suffering of Aborigines over the past 100 years, “I’ve refused to take part in any -celebration of the ROC’s Centennial anniversary.”
He said the government continued to overlook the rights of Aborigines.
“Right now, we’re talking about improving Aboriginal rights and there are official tribal representatives from the Council of Indigenous Peoples in attendance,” Tsai said. “Well, they don’t have any actual power and I don’t know how it would actually help to share our opinions with them.”
The activists also publicized a Declaration of Aboriginal Rights, in which they urged the government to grant autonomy to Aborigines, protect their rights to land, water and other natural resources in traditional Aboriginal domains, and help to maintain Aboriginal languages, cultures, sacred sites, legends and lifestyles.
KMT Legislator Chien Tung-ming (簡東明) of the Paiwan tribe said that although the Aboriginal Basic Act (原住民族基本法) was passed in 2005 to protect Aboriginal rights, “subordinate laws to the act have not been passed despite a deadline, making it difficult to do anything concrete to protect Aboriginal rights.”
The Aboriginal Basic Act provides only a framework, leaving details to be developed in subordinate laws, and stipulates that all subordinate laws must be passed within three years of the adoption of the Aboriginal Basic Act.
For example, it is impossible to protect Aborigines’ right to non-commercial hunting in their traditional domains — as stated in the Aboriginal Basic Act — because subordinate laws on traditional domains have not been adopted, and the boundaries of such domains have not been defined.