A group of Aborigines petitioned the Cabinet's Council of Aboriginal Affairs yesterday for help in recovering land taken by the Ministry of National Defense in 1967.
The 45 petitioners, who include senior citizens, middle-aged people and children, produced evidence documenting that they were the original owners of 77.402 hectares in Hoping township (
"President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has shown his concern for Aboriginal land rights and has committed the government to a policy of returning ancestral lands to Aborigines," the council's chairman, Yohani Isqaqavut (尤哈尼), told the petitioners. "During my term, I will endeavor to see that Aboriginal land rights are respected."
PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES
Chin Su-mei (
The ministry used the land to set up barracks and training camps, Chin said, and it offered "other land as compensation, but they never stuck to the deal."
Another petitioner, Hsu Wan-fu (
"Since the ministry is not using the lands, why not return them to us?" Hsu said. "It's my ancestors' land. I have to take it back."
The defense ministry stopped using some of the land in 1998 and agreed to return it, the petitioners said, but Hoping township officials failed to inform the original owners about meetings with the ministry to discuss transfer of the lands.
The petitioners said township officials located just two of the original owners and returned three plots of land to them. The remaining property was taken over by the township.
The Aborigines asked the council to help them recover 7.402 hectares currently under the township's control, and a 70-hectare plot that is still being used by the defense ministry's Yueh Wu Camp (岳武營區).
In response to the request, Yohani Isqaqavut told the petitioners, "I will continue with my efforts to campaign for land rights and will do so earnestly."
Aboriginal activists, mainly from the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan where Yohani Isqaqavut was once a leader, launched campaigns named "Return Our Lands" in 1989, 1990 and 1992.
The main challenge facing Aborigines is producing documents that show they were the original owners of land.
Mayaw Kumud (
Mayaw Kumud served a one-year jail term in 1995 for breaking laws against assembly and demonstrations during the 1992 "Return Our Land" campaigns.
"Many activists from that time have entered the new government. We won't let go of [the land rights issue] easily," Mayaw Kumud said.
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