A group of Amis Aborigines yesterday held a news conference in Taipei to protest against development projects launched by the Hualien County Government, accusing it of forcibly seizing their traditional domain and threatening their survival.
“The land on which I am living and farming has always been ours for as long as I can remember, and I am 63,” Karo Ona, an Amis farmer from Fenglin Township (鳳林), told the news conference. “I do not understand why the government has to take my land. I do not know what to do to stop it — without the land, I do not know how I can make a living.”
Karo said he and his neighbors have received a notice from the county government, asking them to tear demolish their homes and move away from a plot of land right on the border between Fenglin and Guangfu (光復) townships. The county wants to build a stray dog shelter on the site.
“I wonder if the county government considers dogs more important than people, so it wants to drive us away to make way for a dog shelter. But is not the government’s job to take good care of its people?” farmer Cunsing Rokateh said. “The problem is we do not have another place to move to even if we were willing to move.”
Namoh Nofu, an Aboriginal rights advocate who is from the area, said that in the past decade, the county government has planned development projects for about 1,400 hectares of land around the border area of Fenglin and Guangfu townships, which is the traditional domain of the Amis villages of Tafalong and Fata’an.
“The development projects include car-racing tracks, a camping park, golf courses, holiday resorts and an ‘eco-friendly industrial park,’” Namoh said. “However, the county government has never consulted local Amis villagers before coming up with the plans. It simply pretends that it does not know these are lands on which the Amis of Tafalong and Fata’an villages have lived for thousands of years.”
Namoh Fono, the head of Beifu Village (北富) in Guangfu Township, said the Amis have no written proof of land ownership, “but it is an unequal battle because Amis do not have a writing system, though everyone among us knows which plot of land belongs to which family or individual.”
However, Pasang Hsiao (蕭世暉), a representative of Indigenous Peoples Action Coalition of Taiwan, said whether there is written proof of ownership is not important.
“The Council of Indigenous Peoples have designated ‘Aboriginal townships’ and these designated townships should be considered traditional Aboriginal domains,” he said. “Therefore, any development project that involves Aboriginal townships should have consent of the locals, as stipulated by the Aboriginal Basic Act (原住民族基本法).