Nearly 200 Amis Aborigines, representing a dozen Amis Aboriginal communities nationwide, and their supporters clashed with police last night as they tried to move toward the Presidential Office during a protest about the government’s takeover of their tribal land.
The overnight demonstration, held in front of the Presidential Office, was organized by Amis Aborigines from Hualien and Taitung counties, as well as Aboriginal rights activists, and demanded that the government apologize to them and return their land.
“A lot of Amis people are now living in cities because they’ve lost the land that their ancestors passed down to them at the hands of the government,” said Anaw Looh Pacida, an Amis from Hualien County. “Because of this situation, many of our younger generations that were born and raised in cities, away from Amis villages, are no longer able to speak the Amis language or know our culture.”
Anaw said the government’s move not only takes their tribal land, but it also leads to a crisis for Amis culture and language.
Anaw said his own village, Karowa, is one of Hualien County’s “disappeared” Aboriginal communities.
Decades ago, the land on which the village was located was taken by Taiwan Sugar Co to be used to plant sugarcane for sugar production at a large-scale sugar mill in the county’s Guagnfu Township (光復).
Later, when the sugarcane plantation closed, “the Forestry Bureau then took the land and now plans to build a recreational park on it,” Anaw said.
“As so many of us are gathered here — young and old from everywhere — we want to demand that the government give back our lands,” Anaw said, as the crowd responded with applause and cheers.
Kacaw Sabon, chieftain of Bariyalau — an Amis village located in Shoufeng Township (壽豐), Hualien County — was upset about the Veteran Affairs Commission’s takeover of their tribal lands in the 1950s after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government moved to Taiwan.
“The KMT needed land, but they didn’t bring their own from China. Instead, they robbed the lands from us after they were [defeated] in China,” Kacaw said. “It’s ridiculous that now we have to pay rent to the commission to farm on our own tribal lands — the KMT is more communist than the [Chinese] Communist Party that defeated them.”
Kacaw later compared maps from the Japanese colonial period with those of the present day, as well as the leasing contracts, to support what he said.
The land crisis facing the nation’s Aborigines is not only on tribal lands already in government hands. According to official figures, there are more than 20 development projects in traditional Aboriginal areas in the two eastern counties.
“At least 87.5 percent of Aboriginal lands in Hualien and Taitung counties now belong to the government,” said Kawlu Iyun, a spokeswoman for the demonstration. “The situation is more serious for the Amis because most other tribes have Aboriginal reserve lands, but the Amis have almost none at all.”
Attempting to take their petition to the Presidential Office, the demonstrators moved toward the Presidential Office after a few hours of peaceful demonstration. However, they were stopped by the police.
The demonstrators then tried a couple of times more, leading to a clash with the police.