In a show of solidarity among the Puyuma people in Taitung County, the Puyuma National Congress voiced its support for five hunters who were detained in December last year, demanding an official apology from police officials as well as legislation to protect the hunting rights of Aborigines.
Representatives from all 10 Puyuma villages — which contain eight clans and a total population of about 13,000 people — announced the launch of a broader campaign to rally support among Aboriginal people nationwide.
The five hunters — all from Taitung’s Papulu village — were detained by officers for nearly a full day from Dec. 30 to Dec. 31 over allegations that they had unregistered firearms in violation of the Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives Act (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例).
The incident forced the abrupt end of the group’s annual mangayaw, or hunting festival.
The arrests sparked an outcry among Aboriginal residents, who accused police officers of arresting the hunters to boost their year-end performance records.
Aboriginal rights advocates from across the nation said that the incident reflected disrespect toward Aboriginal culture, adding that regulations on gun control failed to account for different cultural traditions.
The Taitung District Prosecutors’ Office rejected the case and the hunters were released.
Villagers from Papulu and their supporters then launched a string of protests against the arrests, including a demonstration in front of the Chenggong Police Precinct in Chenggong Township (成功).
Group spokesperson Pan Tiao-chih (潘調志) questioned the sincerity of police officials, saying that although the villagers received a spoken apology from the precinct chief, their other demands for reform have been ignored.
Pan said the incident highlighted the importance of national legislation to protect Aboriginal hunting rights, adding that Puyuma people should have the right to utilize natural resources during mangayaw.
Further protests are set to take place before a meeting with inspectors from the Control Yuan scheduled for Feb. 24, Pan said.
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