Sat, Mar 01, 2014 - Page 3 News List

228-67 YEARS ON: Aborigines use smoke in protest

HISTORY, CULTURE, LAND:The Smoke Signals League said during protests yesterday that the government had failed Aboriginal people in three important areas

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

On 228 Memorial Day yesterday, several Aboriginal groups sent up smoke signals to raise awareness of the nation’s history and development and to bring attention to “Aboriginal transitional justice.”

On Feb. 28, “the memorial that society uses to promote freedom from the grip of confrontations between different ethnic groups and classes and to attain truth and reconciliation,” Aborigines are not to be excluded from the nation’s history, the Smoke Signals League (狼煙行動聯盟) said in a statement.

“Whose country? Whose development?” the statement said.

The league was established in 2007 to improve communication between Aboriginal tribes and to offer mutual help on various fronts. It has organized nationwide smoke signal campaigns on 228 Memorial Day for several years.

“Aboriginal rights have been repressed and violated by the government in at least three major areas in the past year: history, culture and land,” the league said.

With regard to history, the government has re-emphasized the Chinese and Han-centered historical perspective with its adjustments to the history curriculum, the league said.

In culture, it has attempted to incriminate Aborigines found in the possession of shotguns, a practice that has long been vindicated by the legislative body as a preservation of traditions and the Taitung County Government has forced the relocation of Katripulr tombs, the leagues said.

On the issue of land, at least five disputes over land development either sprung up or continued last year, including Taitung’s Hongyeh Hot Spring Area and the build-operate-transfer project at Sun Moon Lake, to which the Thao objected, the league said, adding that the Bunun people in Hongyeh Village (紅葉) and the Thao people in Nantou County joined the cause and sent up smoke signals as a form of protest.

Independent Tainan City Councilor Kumu Hacyo (曾秀娟), accompanied by a group of Aborigines, sent up smoke in front of a statue of Koxinga in Tainan, calling for the removal of the statue of the person who “killed indigenous people and deprived them of their land” and the termination of the Koxinga Cultural Festival sponsored by the city.

The group said that just as the statues of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Republic of China (ROC) founder Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), figures symbolizing a colonial regime, are to be torn down, statues of “invader Koxinga” should be removed, too.

“Koxinga is by no means our hero; he was an invader. What Koxinga means to Aborigines historically parallels what Chiang Kai-shek means to Taiwanese,” Hacyo said.

Meanwhile, the campaigners in Taipei rallied against changes to school curriculum guidelines that they said rob Aboriginal children of the opportunity to learn about their own histories and cultures.

“Studies have shown that there was human activity on the island thousands of years ago. How is that all part of Chinese history?” Taiwan Aboriginal Society chairman Tibusungu Vayayana said. “Chinese [ROC] history is part of Taiwan’s history, not the other way around. All the ethnic groups living here have a place and say in this country’s history,” he added.

Savungaz Valincinan, one of the organizers of the Taipei event, said that the smoke was a traditional way to communicate with ancestral spirits and that the league aimed to raise consciousness about the survival of Aboriginal tribes and their cultures.

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