Taiwan: The future for the aboriginal people after Typhoon Morakot

Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan Aug. 7-9, triggering the worst flooding in 50 years in southern Taiwan and leading to landslides that buried remote mountainous villages and tribal settlements. In order to speed up the post-disaster reconstruction, the Legislative Yuan passed an urgent special statute to raise a special budget on 27 of August. However, the Statue authorizes governments at all levels to impose compulsory relocation of villages or tribal settlements from areas vulnerable to floods and landslides to safer areas. For aboriginal people, the geographical location and tribal community are crucial to the preservation of their culture and tradition, many are worried that the “compulsory relocation policy” would make their more vulnerable in the future.

Home buried in mud

imagelight visited Mashia village and reported,


The bridges and buildings were all engulfed by the mudslide…The village looks like a battlefield… More than twenty people were buried in the mud.


Because the roads are still blocked by the mud, there is no electricity…Villagers have to eat dinner at 5pm or they have to eat in the dark after sunset…Now the residents are trying to clean the roads so that they can bring fruits to sell in the markets and bring back some electricity generators.

After the typhoon, many people from other less affected aboriginal villages bring food and generators across the mountains to these isolated villages. Judie reported,


The Atayal people (including women) from Yilan, Taoyuan, and Hsinzu have carried these heavy supplies with the backpacks made of simple bags, cotton ropes, and plastic tubes for two weeks. They walked across the mountains to go to the Tsou villages.

The government asks the survivors to evacuate, but many of the villagers prefer to stay in the villages. Gaea explained their reasons.

居民不願下山「是擔心政府之後就不開路,我們就回不了家」…「下了山,我們就不是『居 民』,而是『難民』。」三民國中教師葉一萱指出,原住民離開部落,幾乎不受任何法律保障。

These residents choose to stay in the village because they are worried that ‘if we have left our village, we will not be able to come back.'…'Once we have left our village, we are no longer considered as “residents”, we become “refugees.”‘ A teacher in Sanming junior high school said there isn't any law to protect aboriginal people's rights and properties once they have left their villages.

Culture and social network

In addition to material damages, the Typhoon has also destroyed aboriginal people's culture heritage. Airportman said that in Hsiaoliin village,


the Siraya tribe is almost vanished; now everything is buried in the mud: the temples, the Daman tribe culture and the night ceremony the tribe tried to revive in the past few decades.

Furthermore, for the aboriginal people who have been evacuated, gaea said they will be more vulnerable.


They were forced to settle in different places. Such kind of arrangement is devastating to the aboriginal people.

Village relocation and Post-Disaster Recovery Statue

Coolloud, a citizen media website, discussed about the Post-Disaster Recovery Statue《莫拉克風災重建條例》:


The central and county government have power to decide on the land use policy in the disaster zone. They can evacuate residents by force or move the whole village to another region. Hui-Wen Jin criticized that the regulation had given the governments with unlimited power and excluded the aboriginal people from decision making process.

gaea reported that before the Post-Disaster Recovery Statue was passed


Representatives of the survivors and some civil associations protested in front of the Legislation Yuan…they asked to the legislation body to replace the principle of ‘forced village relocation’ with ‘village relocation with consensus.’

coolloud discussed the possibility of reaching a consensus:


Hui-Wen Jin said, the discussion about village relocation should be based on the concept of ‘traditional territory’ according to aboriginal culture. The aboriginal people should enjoy their rights to claim their traditional territory and decide on their settlement plan.

The government has a mortgage plan for the survivors, but kikisweets said there are still many problems for the survivors to rebuild their home.


The deadline for applying this mortgage is one year from now, which means the survivors have to make decision on where they want to settle within this year. Even though the aboriginal people do not want to be displaced, some of the tribes have been buried in the mud and according to experts’ opinion, it is impossible for them to move back. It is inevitable that they have to settle elsewhere.…What Chialan tribe needs is financial support and professional advice on future relocation of the tribe. They have already lost their homeland, they cannot lose their culture and relation among members of the tribe.


Day by day, time passes by. What will be the future of the aboriginals?

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