Aboriginal tradition and national law collided in the case of three Atayal tribesmen from Smangus in Chienshih Township (
The Smangus tribe has said it cannot accept this ruling. This lawsuit is a clash between the rights and interests of Aborigines and national forest management. It reflects the conflicts that arise between the diverse ideas about life of the Aborigines and the nation's machine-like management model.
The tribes and the government have completely different systems and ways of thinking, and when these two meet, clashes and confrontations are almost inevitable.
In Canada, for example, from the 1970s onward, there were more and more conflicts between the economic exploitation of forest resources and the Aborigines.
Logging not only affects the environment of Aborigines, but also their culture and their inalienable rights and benefits. That is the reason many Canadian environmental groups and Aborigines shut off forest roads, blocking lumber workers and their machinery and equipment from entering forest areas, and carry out large-scale protests.
The world sees this as a "forest war." Aborigines cooperate with international environmental organizations to call on consumers in Europe and North America to boycott products like furniture, paper and plywood made of Canadian wood in ways that influences the rights and benefits of Canada's indigenous people.
These campaigns have had a significant influence on Canadian timber sales.
Although protests and boycotts can attract the attention and expressions of support from people around the world, in the end these methods are outside of the system.
Lawsuits and negotiations within the system are even more important. In 1970, the Canadian Aborigines filed a lawsuit at the Supreme Federal Court, demanding that their basic rights be returned to them.
In 1982, the Canadian government officially included in the Constitution that it had to protect the rights of Aborigines.
In July this year, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that Aborigines had the right to establish their own autonomous governments.
Based on this law, there are currently 53 Aborigines peoples in British Columbia carrying out negotiations with the government, seeking autonomy.
The autonomous Nisga'a Government was established in 1998, and it controls the area's rich water, forestry, mining, fishing and other natural resources.
The Canadian government has advocated many policies as a reaction to the surge in Aboriginal consciousness.
In 1986, the Canadian government started to promote a plan for the forest industry on Indian lands, systematically training Aborigines to participate in managing the forest industry. This plan ran for ten years.
In 1992, a congress of forest ministers decided on the basic principle that the Aborigines should participate in the sustainable development of the forest. They also drafted a concrete plan of action that included furthering Aboriginal participation in the management of forest areas, ensuring all the rights of Aborigines in the forest industry, and strengthening the opportunities for economical development of Aborigines with the forest as a basis.
In April 1996, the Canadian Ministry of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Ministry of Natural Resources started to actively work together, and jointly funded the new First Nations Forestry Program (FNFP). This program, which is still running, implements the above basic principles and plan of action.
Taiwan should review the experience gained in the fight for the rights of the Canadian Aborigines against the national forest industry, and it should moreover give some thought to the case of the members of the Smangus tribe who took the tree stump back to their village.
Taiwan's forest industry should protect the rights and interests of the Aborigines because their livelihood needs, communal relations, cultural identity and other issues are all closely related to the forest.
In the future, communication and co-ordination between the tribes and the government should be strengthened to avoid conflicts.
The government should also let the Aborigines play a more active role in the planning and management of the forest resources.
Apart from that, we have to be aware that a sustainable forest industry is built on the basis of mutual trust and help of the government and the Aborigines. This is the only way to establish a sustainable forest industry and make sure there is a way to solve the problems that occur when the tribes and the government collide.
Liaw Shyue-cherng is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at National Taiwan Normal University.
Translated by Anna Stiggelbout
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