Note from translator Tonyc: I live in New Jersey, USA and try to help raise the publicity of this issue. I try to capture the original essence of elder Batu's disclosure by coordinating the usages of different languages. Welcome to give correction if any place in the translation is not authentic.


"What I want to say is why a log of beech tree was at roadside. For 26 years, the Forestry Bureau has been in partnership with some business people who casually develop roads in the bamboo woods, the area of about 0.97 square kilometer, where this event happened. The development has seriously damaged the land our ancestors gave us. We feel resentful and sad!" (see picture 1: roads are casually built for cutting bamboos) --Batu (Tribal assembly -- Stated clerk)

What I want to say is why a log of beech tree was at roadside. This beech tree event has been going on for almost 2 years. I clearly know about how it progresses..   

In about 1981 the Forestry Bureau "Sold the bamboos our ancestors Mrgwang had grown to business people." Then the business people built a road toward Smagus. At the same time, for expanding the space to grow more bamboos, the officials colluded with the business people to hire some labors form other villages. They had cut down all the trees growing among the bamboos for 5 years. Moreover, " For transporting the bamboos cut, the business people recklessly opened and built roads." This destroyed forestry and the ecological system originally in balance. As a result, now the foundation of the road through which people in Smagus link with the world outside is for 5km~7km sliding down from slope every year.   

About the trees cut down, "those identified valuable were all transported out. The others valueless were left to rot in the bamboo woods." I felt resentful and sad as seeing this act. Because being abused in this way, the place where the beech tree grew could not stand torrential rain. In August 31, 2005, when typhoon Feria swayed, this beech tree fell with the mud and rocks sliding down to roadside. We can see picture 2 (picture 2: Fallen beech event -- the scene of collapsed landscape)

  For "our own people's living and students' commute between home and the school, the tribal assembly agreed to send 4 delegates to examine the road condition. " At that time the delegates did see the beech tree that blocked the road was covered by mud and rocks. "At that night when they came back to join the tribal assembly, the proposition to move this tree back to our village for the use of landscaping was raised." In clearing the road blocked, we moved this beech tree to roadside. After one month and seven days, the staff of forestry administration came to cut the tree into a few logs and transported them away, only leaving the stump.

  In 2005, Oct. 8, when visiting the spot I saw the trunk of the beech tree gone. Right after my returning the assembly called meeting immediately and discussed that we had to take the root part of the stump back to be used for tribal landscaping.

   In 2005, Oct. 14, the assembly dispatched 3 people to move the stump back to the village. On the way back they were encountered by the branch office head of Heng-Shan and two policemen. They stopped and on site searched the 3 people and also called the local police and the forestry administration to visit our village. The officers demanded the 3 people to be formally interrogated. Right then we did not concede to the request. Not until at about 10 o'clock that night both sides reached consensus that " the three people would be questioned only for the record and nothing more!" So the 3 people went with the officers. However, the result became totally out of our expectation after the interrogation.

  Soon, we received the warrant from court. Following that it was the first and the second investigations. In the civil court, the prosecutor raised bargain, saying that " why not just to admit guilty. Each of the three pays fine of 10,000 New Taiwan dollars and then this thing will trouble you no more."

  But we as a tribe argue "Since not committing any crime, why do we need to admit guilty? Can only 10,000 dollars buy the right of our tribe?" We continued to appeal for not guilty.

  At the third appearance in court, a lot of the tone and the words the judge questioned I could not agree to. For example, the judge asked the three defendants : "Do you have any opposition to the two witnesses' testimony? Please state your stance." The three defendants did not respond, because "they did not understand what the judge meant at all." What Elder Amin stated was his own opinion regardless of the testimony. The judge asked Amin again: "Do you have any opposition to the witnesses' testimony? You need to state your opinion." Elder Amin still presented his own opinion about the fact. After that he did not know how to say further. So he stopped. The judge asked the witnesses to leave. The silence of the three defendants did not mean that they fully agreed to the witnesses' words. In fact, we did not know whatever the exact meaning of the judge's inquiry.

  The judge questioned again : "The stump was away from the village for 12 kilometers (the direct distance is about 2.5 kilometers), why did you go so far to take it?" On this the judge did not realize our aboriginal people's way of life. The road is the one we have been using. We have the right to take and use the bamboos and woods fallen on the way. There was not such a path and therefore we were only able to pick up those stuff within 5 kilometers to be the material for house building and for building fire for heat. Now the situation has changed. There has been a road for cars to go through. Life gets much easier. "What the judge said was not that bad. It was simply because he did not understand the life in the mountain. When having time, he is welcome to have field trips to the villages in order to understand the life of the aboriginal people, OK?"

  We always live in highland and tie with the mountains and forest. Any tree / log fallen on the road we will pick up and use to the most without a waste, such as for building fire to keep family warm or for house improvement. Our people really feel hard understanding the law of the Republic of China. There are many points problematic in the testimony. I sat in the court but was not allowed and not able to say anything for the defendants.

   In 2007, April 18, the result of the first verdict : "Each of the defendants is sentenced to 6 months in jail, fined New Taiwan dollars 160,000, and given a reprieve for 2 years." The result angered our people and drove us to protest at the Forestry Bureau of the Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan in Taipei.

   In this controversy we are rational. We would like to expose this unjust regard to us to the public. Spending 4 hours on the negotiation with no positive response from the other side, our efforts were in vain. When back to the village we will be discussing about how to go on on this issue. For upholding the right of aborigines, we will hold up our ground without compromise! At this moment we need support from all our friends to escort our way. Similar to the day in April, 22, when we protested in Taipei, our Mrhua (chief) Icyeh revealed determination -- " We will appeal against the judge's decision !"

Our tribal village -- Smagnus' resolution:

1. We have been living in Taiwan for thousands of years. For only 62 years the law of the Republic of China has been applied. We do not give nor sell the land our ancestors endowed us to the country. This is the fact, isn't it? Why can the plaintiff pose the land entitlement to oppress our tribe / nation? Was this land entitlement stolen from us? Or was it made up anyway? We cannot accept the current situation! The government please be conscientious and acquit our three defendants.

2. The people of Smagus are solid. For a decade our work for building our village has been apparent. This achievement matches how we have been establishing Taiwan called home. The outcome we present yields the visitors to experience and understand our culture and history. When we work on this wholeheartedly, what we have done in this beech tree event is accused of stealing. How could this be just?

3. I am very disappointed about the attitude the government officials keep for administration. For achieving good performances in face value, they by all means take advantage of us the local. Is it a fact that our society is on the way of moral deterioration?

4. Since long before we the people of tribal village Smagus have been protesting to the Forestry Bureau. This event again alerts us that we have to tightly hold on the land our ancestors gave us and should never give it up.

5. As appealing to the higher court, altogether our village people will attend the court. This is not just the personal business of the 3 defendants. If accused of, we require the judges to regard us people of Smagus all as one body.

6. As long as we shall live, do not belittle Tayal!

Batu Icyeh 2006.04.28 morning

Smangus friends need your help‎ !!by Dr. Jeanine Pfeiffer(Science and Society Program, University of California at Davis)

To the Taiwanese Authorities:

It is of great concern that I, and my colleagues at UC Davis, hear of the gravely misinformed policies and irresponsible actions of the Hsinchu Forest District Office and the Forestry Bureau towards members of the Tayal/Smangus community.

The traditional rights of Native communities such as the Tayal in Smangus over their ancestral lands - and the biological diversity within those ancestral lands - are internationally recognized by academics and agencies familiar with indigenous history, culture, and law.

The survival of an indigenous community such as the Tayal is deeply connected with their ancestral lands: to deny, or to undermine their biocultural heritage is a very short-sighted policy. A wiser policy would recognize and protect aboriginal cultural groups -including the Tayal - because Native cultural groups are what make the Hsinchu Forest District a unique and culturally rich region.

When I visited Taiwan in December 2006, and traveled to the Hsinchu forest, I was greatly impressed with the sophistication of the cultural and ecological tourism programs offered by the Tayal/Smangus communities, and by other aboriginal groups in the district. It gives me great sorrow to hear that these programs are threatened by the Taiwanese governments.

A well-educated and just Taiwanese government would support the Tayal and their traditional rights, in order to ensure the future political, social, cultural, and economic sustainability and prosperity of the Hsinchu Forest Region. Instead of fighting over one tree, let us all cooperate to protect the trees, the forest, and - most especially - the aboriginal peoples whose lives are so deeply connected with the forest.

Dr. Jeanine Pfeiffer

Science and Society Program, University of California at Davis

Dr. Kelly Bannister and Dr. Kerry R. Foresman's Incoming letter

By Dr. Kelly Bannister :

Adjunct Professor,
School of Environmental Studies
University of Victoria, BC ,Canada.

I am saddened to learn about this situation with the Smangus community andI am writing to add my support to the villagers' request to be granted a"not guilty" plea. In this email, am speaking as a Board member and Chairof the Ethics Committe of the International Society of Ethnobiology. Frommy personal and professional interactions with people of Smangus and withthe Taiwan universitiy and ngo colleagues copied on this email, I knowthere is great integrity in all your work and you have always maintainedand striven for highly respectful and ethical standards in yourrelationship with Indigenous peoples, government and the local andinternational scientific communities. Indeed, your large delegation fromTaiwan last November made a tremendous contribution to developing a newCode of Ethics for the International Society of Ethnobiology and ensuringits translation to Chinese. See http://ise.arts.ubc.ca/ethics.html

I cannot believe that Smangus villers would purposely act unethically and illegally. There appears to be a logical explanation for taking thecontroversial windfall for their use, and indeed their rationale andconduct seems reasonable under the circumstances. I strongly urgeofficials to accept the "not guilty plea" and use this situtation as apostive opportunity to strengthen communications between government andvilligers and, if needed, develop an agreed protocol for if such asituation arises in future so that all parties can interact respectfully.I have had great admiration for the Taiwan government in supportingTaiwan's Indigenous peoples in the recent years. I hope my admiration cancontinue and not to be diminished by the outcome of this troubling event.

Sincerely,Kelly Bannister

Kelly Bannister, M.Sc., Ph.D.Director,
POLIS Project on Ecological Governance
Adjunct Professor, School of Environmental Studies
University of Victoria

PO Box 3050, University House 4
University of Victoria
Victoria, BC V8W 3R4

website: www.polisproject.org


By Dr. Kerry Foresman:

Professor of Biology and Wildlife Biology
Division of Biological Sciences
The University of Montana


I am very sorry to hear that this event has occurred and that these individuals are being prosecuted. I would be glad to add my name to thosewho protest this prosecution. The last time I was in Smangus Lahwy videotaped me speaking about the cypress trees and the villagers reverence forthese forests. Though this doesn't deal specifically with Zelkova I did talkabout the importance of these forests to the villagers and it would seemappropriate for my talk to be posted if Lahwy still has this video. I can'tread any of the postings on this web site since they are all in Chinese; isan English version available?

It is very nice to hear from you even though it is about a problem likethis. Please keep me informed about this case. I think about everyone often.

Kerry R. Foresman
Professor of Biology and Wildlife Biology
Division of Biological Sciences
The University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812 406-243-4492