Transitional Justice and the Delineation of Indigenous Peoples’ Traditional Territory in Taiwan

Dr Shu-yuan Yang1

1Institute Of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, 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 Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee. This is a watershed moment in state-aborigines relationship. 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 sparked heated debate and incited protest. Indigenous activists regard the policy as the perpetuation of the injustice done to them for more than a century. The notions that indigenous peoples have natural sovereignty over their traditional territories, and they are the best custodians of land, are central to their rhetoric of protest. However, under the trend of indigenism and identity politics, differences between various indigenous peoples’ concepts of land have been ignored, and socio-cultural contexts unattended, thus producing a simplified indigeneity. This paper attempts to provide a more nuanced analysis of how the indigenous peoples in Taiwan negotiate claims to land within the nation-state by analyzing the Bunun’s movement to reclaim their traditional territory.


Shu-Yuan Yang is an Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica. She received her PhD from the Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Sciences. She has extended fieldwork experiences among the Bunun of Taiwan and the Bugkalot (Ilongot) of the Philippines. Her research interests include indigenous Christianity, sociocultural change, idenity politics, and state-minority relations.



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