label r shifted
Session A6
State Governance and the Bunun's Traditional Territory Movement
楊淑媛 Shu-Yuan Yang
Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

On August 1, 2016, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen offered the first-ever apology to indigenous peoples on behalf of the government, and established the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee. The purpose of the Committee is to pursue justice and serve as a platform for consultation between the government and the various indigenous peoples on an equal footing. Five subcommittees on land matters, culture, languages, history and reconciliation were formed to address the most urgent problems confronted by the indigenous peoples. Does this mean the state begins to adopt a new model of governance regarding indigenous peoples? How will this change the trajectories of identity politics in Taiwan? This paper aims to examine the new dynamics of state-aborigines relationship through the lens of land. On February 18, 2017, the Council on Indigenous Peoples announced new regulations on the delineation of indigenous peoples’ traditional territory and decided to exclude all private lands from being designated indigenous territories. The exclusion has sparked heated debate, and a group of indigenous activists have staged a “sleepout” protest for several months on Ketagalan Boulevard down the street from the Presidential Office Building since February 23, 2017. According to the demonstrators, the policy perpetuates the injustices done to indigenous peoples for more than a century, and is tantamount to letting large corporations arbitrarily develop lands that would otherwise be protected as traditional indigenous territories. The notions that indigenous peoples have natural sovereignty over their traditional territories, and they are the best custodians of lands who can resist the encroachment of capitalist invasion, are central to their rhetoric of protest. The somewhat romanticized notion that indigenous peoples are the best guardians of environmental sustainability is inspired by global indigenism. However, under the larger trend of indigenism and identity politics, differences between various indigenous peoples’ concepts of land and land tenure system have been ignored, and socio-cultural contexts unattended, thus producing a simplified and essentialized indigeneity. This paper will attempt to provide a more nuanced analysis of how the indigenous peoples in Taiwan negotiate claims to land, livelihood, and autonomy within the nation-state by analyzing the Bunun’s movement to reclaim their traditional territory.