Urban Development Threatens Kaohsiung's Oldest Aboriginal Community

Urban Development Threatens Kaohsiung's Oldest Aboriginal Community
圖為排灣族人神盟約祭。Photo Credit:billy1125 CC BY 2.0

What you need to know

What is home if the people are no more, a member of Taiwan’s Indigenous Youth Front asks?

Although Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has formally apologized for the unfair treatment that Taiwan’s Aborigines have faced over centuries, the fight for legitimacy is far from over for a Payuan (Paiwan) tribe community in Kaohsiung.

In an op-ed published in the Chinese-language Storm Media, Savungaz Valincinan, a member of Taiwan’s Indigenous Youth Front, called on Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) to rethink the relocation of the Ljavek settlement.

The Ljavek community, founded in 1953 by members of the Payuan Tribe who moved to Kaohsiung seeking work, is the only Aboriginal community located within a city in Taiwan. The name Ljavek means “by the sea” in Payuan, the author says.

Valincinan writes that the community has stood for over 60 years and witnessed the development of Kaohsiung from its location by the canal. They suffered through pollution from the neighboring Formosa Plastics factory, but after the factory shut down, they could not renovate their homes because the city council considered the buildings illegal.

“Members of the Ljavek community contributed to the development of the city, but after the city was developed they could not share in the fruits of their labor,” she says.

Plans for urban renewal prepared in 1999 included the area adjacent to the Port of Kaohsiung where the Ljavek community is located. Despite paying property taxes, the community has faced the possibility of eviction by the city council for the past 20 years.

When a fire broke out this April due to faulty wiring and destroyed several homes, the city council began asking people to relocate and community members were forced to sign relocation documents, the author says.

The author has been working with the Ljavek community for the past three years, but the Kaohsiung mayor has not once visited the location, "stubbornly" believing that relocation is the most pragmatic solution for the residents.

“Please, come walk through Ljavek before it falls apart, sit on the sidewalks and feel the wind, listen to vuvu (tribe leader) singing, and watch the children running between the houses. Maybe you can see past the shabbiness of the community, and understand why this is home for them,” Valincinan says.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White