Confrontation with the Bureau of Forestry

The day to present the petitions, April 24th, 2007

On April 24th, 2007, the Smangus went out to protest, presenting our five major petitions as below:

Five Major Petitions

1.The Forestry Bureau shall apologize for stigmatizing Smangus with charges of larceny.

2. The Forestry Bureau shall clarify the truth and bring the corrections to the court.

3. The Forestry Bureau shall agree to observe the Aboriginal Basic Law and respect our rights to our indigenous territory.

4. With regard to everything concerning the indigenous traditional territory, the Forestry Bureau shall discuss with the indigenous communities and villages for the management regulations.

5. The Forestry Bureau shall amend the law where the Forestry Act where it contradicts the Aboriginal Basic Law.
Arr. by Ruei-Ling Chen
Trans. by Yi-Ling Huang

After a nearly 4-hour dialogue… The Forestry Bureau's Reply:

The Forestry Bureau's Reply:

According to the Section 4, Article 15 of The Forestry Act “ the forest is located in the traditional territory of aboriginal people, the aboriginal people may take forest products for their traditional living needs. The harvesting area, variety, time, paid/unpaid, and other rules should be decided by the central government agency along with the Council of Indigenous peoples'Affair. However the details of the management regulations of the law, such as a clear content of traditional territory and customs, are not yet decided. It has to be decided by the central government departments including Council of Indigenous Peoples'Affairs. Therefore, we don't need to apologize! Besides, the Verdict is made by the Judge, not by the Bureau.

The Smangus Representatives (ten people including village chief, key villagers, Tayal leaders, and the scholars) responded:

Dr. Yih-Ren Lin of Providence University, on behalf of the Smangus, made an effort to summarize a nearly 4- hour dialogue between both sides and, suggested that,

It is the representatives’ agreement that the Bureau of Forestry should admit that the Bureau does not fully understand that complexities of the ways Forestry Act takes into account the spirit of indigenous traditional territory and custom. For that reason, the Forestry Bureau should not consider this case an offense of larceny before the court.

After the Forestry Bureau requested instructions from higher authorities, they came back to the conclusion in written words. “We realize that Smangus could consider this wind-fall beech case with the spirit of Article 15 of the Forestry Act. Therefore, when you appeal to a higher court, our staff could help clarify your thinking.”

However, the Bureau did not clearly express their respect and consent to the spirit of Article 15, but acknowledged the Smangus peoples'understanding only. After a discussion amongst Smangus representatives, Chief Icyeh called an end to the dialogue. The representatives left the meeting room and announced to the villagers and concerned people in front of the Bureau building, “No Consensus”, and vowed to fight to the end.

After the confrontation with the Forestry Bureau, Reverend Atung closed the meeting of Smangus Action Alliance with a prayer, believing that whatever the outcome is, we will fight for the good cause.
For more information in Chinese, please go to http://blog.yam.com/smangus
For more information in English, please go to http://smangus.blogspot.com/

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Original Texts Written by Lahuy Icyeh
Arranged by Ruei-Ling Chen
Translated by Yi-Ling Huang

The Site and History of the Event

Seated on the 1,500 km high Mount Smangus in Jian-Shih Township, Hsin-Chu County, Taiwan, Smangus may be said to be the most remote indigenous village of Taiwan. No electricity was available until 1979, and no opening road was ever built until the end of 1995. Before the construction of the opening roads, the inhabitants had to go on foot for several hours to Hsin-Kuang village that was across the valley to get contact with the outside world and to get the grocery. However, the discovery of the giant tree and the construction of the roads solved the problem and started to attract tourists.

The beech buried in the landslide caused by Typhoon Haitang, Sept. 2nd, 2005

One day after the severe typhoon left Taiwan.

Seeing that there were landslides and damages all over the place, the Smangus crew conducted road repairs the day after the typhoon ended.

During the process of the repair, the inhabitants budged the beech to the roadside without any assistance of the Forestry Bureau. Over a month later (on October 12th, 2005), they were shocked to discover that some parts of the main trunk had been sawn and taken away, leaving the tree roots and the remains of the tree crown. The Smangus people complained that whoever had taken the trunk of the tree had not given any notice to the tribe at all was in violation of Taiwan’s “Aboriginal Basic Law”. The inhabitants carried the remains of the tree back to the tribe. The Forestry Bureau subsequently charged them with stealing forest by-products.

"Our community holds a meeting to discuss the village issues every day."

The landlords (we, the Smangus people) took the wind-fallen wood into our home village but were accused by the Forestry Bureau, which said that we had smuggled the timber while they were understaffed. They neglected to acknowledge that it was right and proper for us to use wind-fallen timber in our own home village as has been practiced for thousands of years.
Why must the indigenous people apply to the related government departments when we take any of the wild vegetables and or dead wood? Some of the government departments, such as the Forestry Bureau, the Police, and the Judicial Yuan, work together to persecute Smangus under the name of the state. Please find the adjudication of the first instance made by Taiwan Hsin-Chu District Court as the following: The penalty shall be 6 months of imprisonment, the fine of NT$160, 000 for each person, and suspension of punishment for two years. (The village has received the verdict on April 26th, 2007) What on earth is the government doing?

Arr. by Ruei-Ling Chen
Trans. by Yi-Ling Huang

We Protested an Unfair Trial

Taking up the banners with the words written, “Implement the Aboriginal Basic Law!” “The Forestry Bureau Must Apologize to Smangus!” “Dignity! No Guilt!” on them, we went on the street to state and plead to the Forestry Bureau for falsely accusing Smangus of larceny when they dealt with the wind-fall wood on repairing the joint roads the previous year.
Arr. by Ruei-Ling Chen
Trans. by Yi-Ling Huang

Icyeh Sulung(chief):“Why don't you just put all of us behind the bars?”

Icyeh the wise chief cried out, “Why don't you just put all of us behind the bars?”
And why did such a moderate chief breathe out the voice of wrath?