Taipei times News :CIP(The Council of Indigenous Peoples, Taiwan ) defines boundaries over Smangus!

By Loa Iok-sinSTAFF REPORTER Friday, Oct 19, 2007, Page 2 (Taipei Times)
More than two years after a group of Atayal Aborigines from Smangus Village in Hsinchu County were sentenced to prison terms by the Taiwan High Court for removing a fallen tree from the forest, the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) made a "historic" announcement yesterday that defined boundaries of traditional domains belonging to Aboriginal villages in Hsinchu County.
"The 37,874.04 hectares of land belonging to Yufeng (玉峰) and Siouluan (秀鑾) villages of Chienshih Township (尖石), Hsinchu County, are now the traditional domain of the Atayal tribe," council Minister Icyang Parod announced at a news conference at the council yesterday.
"Local Aborigines may apply to gather forestry products for cultural and ritual purposes or private use," Icyang said.
A detailed map and set of guidelines on collection of forestry products were also announced yesterday.
The traditional domain definition came as a result of the Smangus case, Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Lee Jen-chyuan (李健全) said at the press conference.
In 2005, three young men from the Atayal community of Smangus in Yufeng Village were indicted for stealing national property as they moved part of a fallen tree after a typhoon.
Although the Aboriginal Basic Law (原住民族基本法) protects Aborigines' rights to handle forestry products within their traditional domains, no legal document could prove the location of the fallen tree was within the Smangus community's traditional domain.
The three young men were found guilty by district and appeals courts earlier this year.
"The executive branch of the government certainly has no power over the judiciary, but we'll submit the documents to the court and would be glad to testify in court if necessary," Icyang said.
Jienshih Township Mayor Tseng Hsiao-chung (曾效忠) lauded the announcement as a "historic breakthrough."
Some Aboriginal rights activists and Smangus residents said the "guidelines" are far from perfect.
"The concept of Aboriginal autonomy outlined by the Aboriginal Basic Law is absent -- having to `apply' before being `allowed' to gather forestry products still puts Aborigines in an inferior position," said Lin Shu-ya (林淑雅), secretary-general of Taiwan Association for Human Rights.
Lahuy Icyeh, a Smangus resident, said that the announcement represented significant progress, but agreed that there was still room for improvement.
"We have our own traditional law regarding gathering forestry products. Requiring applications and the issuing of permits constitute repression of our traditional culture," Lahuy said in a telephone interview.
According to the guidelines, Aborigines must apply one month in advance for permission to gather forestry products.
"If someone's wounded and we need to gather herbs for medical use -- are we supposed to apply in advance too?" Lahuy asked.
Lahuy said that representatives from 20 Aboriginal communities among the two villages will meet to discuss relevant issues and present their opinions to the government.
In related news, three books on the history of the Taiwanese Aborigines were launched yesterday.
The three books, covering the Nanjhuang Incident and the migration histories of the Rukai and Bunun tribes, are the product of cooperation between the CIP and Taiwan Historica.
"In the past the most important events in Aboriginal history were never viewed from the Aboriginal point of view," Icyang told the audience at the launch of the book in Taipei.
Icyang said that the publication of the books was just the beginning.