Indigenous People in Taiwan gain some rights
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Indigenous People in Taiwan gain some rights

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John Ahni Schertow
October 19, 2007
 

An elder from the Atayal. Her facial tattoos (blue in colour) are a symbol of adulthood and tribal identity, and were banned by the occupying Japanese government in the 1930’s.

In association with the Council of Agriculture (COA), Taiwan’s Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) held a news conference yesterday, announcing the Atayal People living in the Yufeng village and Hsiuluan village now have rights to their land, an area of about 37,000 hectares.

This is a particularly significant step, since it was only six months ago that an Atayal resident in the remote Montains was charged, and convicted of theft for picking up a fallen trunk near his home.

CIP Minister Icyang Parod said during the conference they specifically chose the Atayal in their program to begin returning traditional lands, because of this incident.

COA Vice Minister Lee Chien-chuan also spoke at the conference, expressing a hope that more regulations will follow to protect and enable Taiwain’s indigenous People.

This announcement comes on the same day the UN-organized Conference on ‘The Future Of Forests In Asia and the Pacific‘ came to a close in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Likely to determine forest policy for the next 20 years, the conference discussed an array of concerns over 3 days, giving particular attention to the important role of Indigenous people as Stewards and Caretakers of the land.

Currently, there are between 210 and 260 million indigenous people throughout Asia and the Pacific, a majority of whom are dispossessed, impoverished, and living as minorities and stateless people without any rights or protections.

Despite this, Indigenous people have continue to play a key role in the forests. Peter Walpole, executive director of the Asia Forest Network said in an interview with IPS, “If you want to protect the forests you have to begin by dealing with them.” He goes on, “You cannot walk over them as has been always the case. These communities were there much before forests were declared as protected areas;” adding that “empowering indigenous people is essential to help manage forests… ” “But we are also saying that just empowering them is not enough; they have to benefit from the change.”

Acknowledging this, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, who organized the conference, has endorsed the call for local institutions to be built to support Indigenous People.

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