IHEYO Calls for Taiwan Authorities to Protect Traditional Culture, Well-Being and Lands of the Indigenous Population
IHEYO stands in solidarity with organizations chastising the Tsai administration for the forceful acts of dispersing indigenous protesters, and urges President Tsai to uphold their territorial rights. President Tsai must redress past faults and keep her promises made last year of realizing transitional justice for indigenous people.
Demonstrations had been held over a hundred days; yet, the government representatives only spoke with the protesters once, and yet still failed to address the problem of delimiting traditional indigenous land effectively. The government has left indigenous land rights unprotected; huge numbers of police forcibly dismantled the occupation and removed protesters under cover of heavy rains and severe floods. The government spoke fair words when facing public opinion, but not with sincerity. All the facts highlight their continued colonial mindset toward the indigenous peoples of Taiwan.
Land is not only property to indigenous people, since it relates to the maintenance of traditional culture and social relationships. Once they lose their territory, they will not only lose their language and culture but also undergo economic and health problems. Australian humanist Michele Harris has discussed how aborigines were forced to leave their land because of mining policies, which tragically caused an increase of youth suicide by 160%. A similar situation happened in Taiwan. Orchid Island indigenous people moved to Taiwan for jobs due to economic incentives. The prevalence of mental disorders increased because they were estranged from their tribes and land. If even voluntary migration has mental health implications, then the huge impact when they lose control over their own land forcibly must be taken seriously.
In Humanist Manifesto III, it is stated that “Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.” Therefore we recognize the important role the land plays in the indigenous culture: only by ensuring indigenous land right can their culture be sustained. The land will be able to continue functioning as the bond that holds the indigenous community together, uniting people’s feelings and spirits. In the Amsterdam Declaration, it is stated that “Humanism supports democracy and human rights. Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being.” The indigenous community is dependent on the land. Without it, not only will their culture and society be incomplete, but the development of their mental and physical health will be affected, thereby damaging their well-being.
Acknowledging the government’s history of mistreating indigenous people, last year President Tsai apologized to the indigenous community and pledged to make several changes to the policies concerning indigenous people, including adopting into the policies the spirit of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Tsai recognized indigenous people’s special connection to their land and pledged to enact laws to protect their rights to their traditional land and also their rights of FPIC (Free, Prior, Informed Consent). Moreover, she aimed to preserve the link between urban indigenous people and their homelands, so that their language and culture can be passed on. She also realized indigenous people’s right to health, reducing their shortfall in health index. These acts and prospects were noticed and lauded by humanists around the globe. As an NGO with Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Human Rights Council, IHEYO agrees with United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People on protecting indigenous land right, as President Tsai does.
However, CIP distorted The Indigenous Peoples Basic Law article 21 by excluding private land, and only the government owned land needed to obtain indigenous peoples’ consent. Government representatives claim they will promote The Indigenous Peoples Land and Sea Areas Law to guarantee indigenous people’s right on private land. But the bill has been forestalled in Legislative Yuan. Editing the CIP plan is the fastest way so that the indigenous communities will truly trust the government. Dispersing protesters and wrong policy erode indigenous land rights, and stand in stark contrast to the content and tenor of President Tsai’s past apologies and rhetoric. Many humanists from around the globe are disappointed with these acts.
In this open letter, we call for President Tsai to follow through on her past promises made to the Indigenous People of Taiwan, and to set a positive example of indigenous issues, and give this long fight a satisfactory end.