Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Activists promote rights with boat

ABORIGINAL AUTONOMY:A sailboat produced with traditional techniques unused for about 100 years is to make a voyage off Taitung to promote territorial claims

By Lii Wen  /  Staff reporter

Members of the Amis Aborigine village of Farangaw in Taitung County work on a traditional bamboo sailboat, which is set to make its maiden voyage on Monday next week.

Photo: Council For Farangaw Autonomy

A bamboo sailboat constructed using traditional shipbuilding techniques is to begin its maiden voyage off the coast of Taitung County next Monday, Amis activists from Taitung’s Farangaw Village announced yesterday.

The boat — named the Farangaw Autonomy — is to undertake a voyage to inspect the village’s traditional maritime territories, which activists hope will promote autonomous rule for Farangaw, as well as rally support for Aboriginal autonomy nationwide.

Villagers in Farangaw ceased production of traditional bamboo sailboats in the early years of Japanese colonial rule about 100 years ago, Council For Farangaw Autonomy chairperson Raranges Hoki Na Tungaw said.

“Through this voyage, we hope not only to reaffirm our traditional territories on land, but also to lay claim to our maritime territories,” Hoki said.

Five village elders in their 70s and 80s, although never having seen or built a bamboo sailboat themselves, led the project by relying on oral accounts of traditional shipbuilding they heard when they were young.

Bamboo from hills close to the village was harvested to construct the hull, while the ship’s sail was weaved from the leaves of screw pines found in coastal areas.

The villagers were once summoned to the police station for questioning after being accused of stealing the bamboo, which local authorities regard as public property, Hoki said.

Blasting government policies and laws which he said were “stifling” Aboriginal cultural development, Hoki called for Aboriginal sovereignty over traditional territories.

One of the main organizers of the event, National Taitung University professor Jesse Liu (劉炯錫) said access to the land and its resources was integral to the livelihood and cultural integrity of Aborigines.

Legal amendments to grant increased local autonomy should not be difficult as long as consensus is reached in Taiwanese society, Liu said, referencing as an example the Nov. 29 nine-in-one elections, which were modified in May to include the elections of Aboriginal district representatives and district council members.

Several other Aboriginal activists and representatives from around the nation also showed up to express solidarity with Farangaw’s cause, including Su Ching-chen (蘇金成), a Rukai Aborigine from Taitung’s Tarumak Village.

As Tarumak is located in Beinan Township (卑南) — home to a Han Chinese majority — Aboriginal voices are often unrepresented in local government, Su said.

Su demanded a redrawing of township boundaries to establish a new autonomous Aboriginal township, which would include Tarumak and some other Aborigine villages from neighboring townships.

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