Dozens of Aborigines representing various tribes throughout the country yesterday gathered on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office to voice their anger at the Republic of China (ROC) government’s occupation of Aboriginal land as they performed a traditional ritual to drive away evil spirits.
“Let’s kick the ROC government out of here. Let’s kick the ROC government off the land that our ancestors passed down to us. Let’s drive away the evil spirits that come from this government,” an elder Amis shaman sang in a traditional Amis song, while waving a piece of banana leaf.
Hsiao Shih-huei (蕭世暉), a member of the Association of Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policies explained the meaning of the ritual to reporters.
“What she is doing is a ritual that proceeds a headhunt to point out to a villages’ warriors where the evil spirits are,” Hsiao said. “For the Aborigines, a headhunt is a way to clear away evil spirits that are causing harm to their village.”
Before the headhunt began, the leader of the warriors prayed to an ancestral spirit and spat millet wine on everyone participating to bless them.
As the shaman pointed to the Presidential Office to indicate the direction from where the evil spirits resided, the warriors ran toward it, shouting, pointing their pikes and miscanthus stems at the building.
Hsiao said the Amis believe miscanthus — a grass — can protect them from the evil spirits.
After repeating the act, the shaman said they had successfully driven away the evil spirits. The men cheered and performed a symbolic headhunt by attacking a ball wrapped with an ROC flag. After taking the “head,” the warriors tied it to a spike with miscanthus.
One by one, warriors poked the flag with miscanthus, a symbolic gesture to vanquish the evil spirit before the head would be taken back to the village as a trophy.
Although several tribes were represented at the event, the ritual was performed according to Amis tradition, as Amis from Hualien and Taitung counties outnumbered other tribes and are impacted more by the government’s handling of Aboriginal land, organizers said.
Indigenous Peoples’ Actions Coalition of Taiwan secretary-general Omi Wilang, an Atayal, said Aborigines were fed up with the ROC government’s disrespect for Taiwan’s first inhabitants.
“We’ve been here for thousands of years and the ROC is only going to celebrate its 100th anniversary — not to mention that the ROC has actually only been on Taiwan for more than 60 years,” Omi said. “The ROC is no different from the Japanese colonial government, as both seized our lands and repressed our cultures and languages.”
A rally was held in the evening for each village that has fallen victim of government-land use policies.