Support from around the world: Dr. Teresa Tao's support for Smangus people

I would like to support Smangus people as a lecturer in the Department of Geography at University of Toronto, Canada by adding the following message. Please provide only my English name. Thanks


A letter to Taiwanese Authorities:

I am a lecturer in geography at University of Toronto, Canada and one of the authors of "Guidelines for Tourism in Parks and Protected Areas of East Asia", published by IUCN – The World Conservation Union. My specialization is sustainable tourism development and resource management in indigenous communities. I have worked with Smangus people in 2004 on ecotourism development.

I would like to join Dr. Jeanine Pfeiffer, Dr. William T. Hipwell, and Dr. Kelly Bannister to add my support to the villagers' request of dropping the adjudication of the first instance made by Taiwan Hsin-Chu District Court.

In order to effectively manage mountain forest o n an extensive scale, Forestry Bureau needs the aid and human resources of local indigenous communities who are born and brought up there and familiar with mountain forests and topography . It is the time to establish a mutually beneficial and respectful partnership with local indigenous communities .

The community began the planning and development of ecotourism more than ten years ago. Their interpretation program of local natural and cultural features and conservation concepts has changed knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour of tourists in pro-environmental way. The tourism related activities in the community have been sustainably managed in way of supporting conservation and providing quality tourism. Full local participation and money generated has been evenly distributed within the community under their traditional culture Gaga (communal mechanism). As a result, it was chosen as the model tribal community by the Council of Indigenous People, Execurive Yuan. If this event was not handled properly, it would jeopardize other tribes ' confidence to the committment made by Chen's government of establishing a new parternship with indigenous communities in Taiwan.

Sincerely,Dr. Teresa Tao
Department of Geography
University of Toronto

What do you charge us with?

April 24th, 2007

Narrated by Amin, an elder of Smangus
Translated by Hsin-Hsin Liu
Arranged by Nequo Soqluman

I am Amin, the director-general of The Association for the Development of Atayal Smangus na Kalan, and a presbrtery in church as well. I don’t have a diploma higher than elementary education. Since I was a child, I have spent all my lifetime in Smangus, running around the mountains every day. Smangus is my home, and my village, where my families, my friends live. Moreover, it is the place my children were born and brought up.

To my understanding, it is only the shared tribal conventions and values that I know and respect. I know very little about the state law. I will obey the court order if they provide credible reasons. But so far I still believe I did not do anything wrong. From the viewpoint of my community, this is a very weird situation. The event does not make any sense at all, and I really don’t understand where we went wrong. Why should I be put into jail and get fined just because I took things in my house? Our living space is compressed and we don’t have much freedom. Even the court is not on our side. I have a question, “Do we ever have a right to live?” Indeed I can not understand why it is a crime to take the wood on our own land, which has always practiced since our childhood. They (the Forestry Bureau) have chopped down all the trees in the mountains but they are not charged. Besides, we do everything with our clear conscience, and never break the natural laws, that is, in Han people’s words; we never violate the law of eco-protection. Moreover, in fact, the beech DID fall down by itself because of the typhoon. Who will have stolen it that way if they meant to? During those days, we suffered from the landslide and the blocked traffic. Our children could not make their way to school. Therefore, we had to use our excavator and clear the roads. God knows how long it would take us to wait till the Forestry Bureau comes to help! They should have paid us for all the above-mentioned work instead. So we dealt with it on our own, and put the beech, aside of the road and planned to use it for the purpose of our village image. Our community is a hot touring spot where many tourists will come. If we meant to commit a crime, we wouldn’t have bothered to lay the beech aside for more than a month, instead of taking it home while solving the road block. By the time when we decided to take it, we found nothing remained but branches. Other parts had already been taken away by the Forest Bureau. They are the thieves who showed not a tiny respect to our village. My people and I insist to defend Smangus. We are innocent. We will never admit the offence of larceny to the Forest Bureau. I believe this is our right as a human!

** Added by Amin on April 28th, 2007

God has given this land for years and many Smangus people have been born on this land. We shall not be stumbled by the sentence of the first instance this time, and shall continue to manage this traditional territory that our ancestors have left to us. I persevered with my belief and will fight for it. I will let all of our indigenous friends know hear the voice of Smangus, which is, “Defend our land, our traditional territory and the spirit of our conventions. If I admit the crime, I will lose the most essential dignity and have the spirit of my village’s conference trampled on my feet.” I give my many thanks to all the friends who care for this event. May God bless you! Please continue to keep us in your prayer. Peace to all of you!