Disrespect of Flying Fish Festival Reflecting Marginalization Trend of Aboriginals

Disrespect of Flying Fish Festival Reflecting Marginalization Trend of Aboriginals
Photo Credit: jacob jungflickr @ CC BY-ND 2.0

What you need to know

Tourists have been disrespecting the traditional culture of Orchid Island’s indigenous people.

Translated and compiled by Bing-sheng Lee

In early May, the Tao people, a Taiwanese Aboriginal tribe on Orchid Island (also known as Lanyu), discovered that traditional fishing boats had been damaged by tourists.

An elderly Tao villager says that during the annual Flying Fish Festival, Tao moor wooden boats around the island's harbors. People, especially women, are not allowed to approach them without permission.

The villager says that while it is acceptable for visitors to take their pictures with the boats, some actions have crossed the line. Tourists have littered around the island, damaged boats, and illegally entered houses. According to the taboos of the festival, the period during which the Tao collect wood in the mountains has passed, so the villagers have no material to repair the damaged boats.

Hu Long-hsiung (胡龍雄, Syamenwomzas), director of the Tao Foundation, says the traditional wooden boats are not only a symbol of Tao culture, but also a significant tool the Tao people use to acquire food.

The flying fish season usually starts in March and ends in June, during which time the Tao people sail on the traditional boats to catch flying fish for food. It is a very important custom in the Tao culture.

As tourism on Orchid Island has developed in recent years, more people have traveled to the island hoping to learn about the Tao culture. Even though the Tao have asked tourists to respect their rituals and not violate the taboos of the Flying Fish Festival, many visitors still disrespect the traditions.

Water scooters incident

Adding to the trouble regularly caused by tourists on the island, some water scooter enthusiasts who were receiving rescue training earlier this month also disturbed the locals.

Around 25 water scooter riders attended a rescue training project organized by the Taiwan Personal Watercraft Association (TPWA) on May 20 and 21. The training was held in an area very close to the Tao villages and interfered with local fishermen’s work. The loud noises created by the motorbikes also bothered locals.

The situation provoked a conflict between the riders and locals, resulting in hostile verbal exchanges.

Tao people criticized the riders for not respecting the Flying Fish Festival and the local tribe while the riders said they were physically threatened by the villagers and considered them “savages.”

The Taitung County Government said it granted TPWA’s application to conduct training around the area, but it did not expect such strong opposition from the local residents. The government says it has held negotiations with the association and that riders will not train at the location in future.

Lanyu Township mayor Chang Ching-lai (張慶來) says the riders’ behavior was not acceptable even if it was not during the Flying Fish Festival.

The TPWA later apologized and said it will review its training program.

To prevent further trouble by tourists and to make sure the Flying Fish Festival can continue without disturbance, the Tao held a tribal meeting on May 23. They introduced protocols to regulate how locals should guide tourists and prohibit visitors from entering restricted beaches and other areas.

One Tao member says the locals welcome tourists to participate in the Flying Fish Festival, but hope people can show respect to the local community.

On May 26, 150 Lanyu Township residents gathered at the local Kai Yuan Harbor and protested against the water scooter incident.

Justin Huang, Taitung County commissioner, says the government takes the issue seriously and will be more careful when reviewing event applications for the Flying Fish Festival.

Some legislators also called on the Eastern Costal Patrol Office to protect the rights and safety of the Tao people during the festival. The government is obligated to preserve the traditional cultures and rituals of Tao, according to a project aimed to protect fishing resources and preserve traditional cultures.

Continued marginalization

From 1982 to 1996, Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) transported nearly 100,000 barrels of nuclear waste to Orchid Island without securing the locals’ permission. To this day, the company has yet to dispose of the waste. Despite protests over the years, the Taos' voices have rarely been taken seriously, which has contributed to their marginalization by Taiwanese society and the government. Taipower maintains that its storage facilities are safe.

Edited by Olivia Yang




Taiwan Indigenous TV





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