of course, there are many different perspectives

when it comes to issues surrounding protest there are many different perspectives. although both age and experience outside the niyaro’ (as one’s home community is called in ‘amis) influence what one thinks about movements like the ketagelan village, we can roughly describe these perspectives according to axes of scale and state engagement

for example, my ina (‘amis mother) has never resided outside of ‘atolan. she is a canny businesswoman who can tell you exactly how everyone in the niyaro’ is related and their family histories over several generations, but only completed elementary school before she went to work–at the age of 13–in the sugar factory. she might seem completely “local.” and yet, she has served in voter mobilization work for the KMT (after all, her betel stand is a place where many people hang out). her late husband worked on the fishing boats, as did one of her brothers. among her three children, her youngest son lives in the niyaro’ while her daughter and eldest son live in the greater taipei area. one of her younger brothers lives in malaysia. so what appears to be “local” is actually the result of a number of choices of positioning and self-definition. i’ve wondered whether never residing outside the village has been good for her business of selling betelnut, rice, wild vegetables, shellfish, miciw, and beer. now with same day refrigerated delivery just about anywhere on the island, the wild vegetable and sea products clients live in urban areas, maintaining relationships with the niyaro’ through eating fish fresh from the pacific

ina has often complained about the support many young people from the niyaro’ give to “opposition” or “protest.” to ina, of course, “opposition” includes the current DPP administration. at times, i have tried to explain to ina why young people might lean away from the KMT. she has little time for such explanations, however, and warns me that those engaged in protest are either “outsiders” or “elites.” ina’s position is that government should bring economic development. in regard to protests at pacifalan or at the infamous miramar resort at fudafudak, ina would rather the young people show that they can do better at maintaining the coast. overall, i would say that she defines protest politics as non-local (in opposition to her own “local” position) and thinks of engagement with the state as a good thing

there are, of course, people who might fall in any or across the quadrants my axes lay out. the protesters think of their work at a global level and desire the support of global media and networks to further awareness of their cause. so do indigenous elites most opposed to the protests, in fact. the difference here is not about scale but state engagement. for the most part, the protesters–who were at the core of the movement against miramar as well–reject state engagement. they consider themselves as outsiders or even possibly too pure to engage in compromise with the state. so they remain on ketagelan even after the second demolition of their protest village

most interesting to me, however, is the sometimes contradictory way that many young people negotiate these axes in their own projects. many young people who have returned to the niyaro’ after a long period of residence in urban areas maintain an open, pan-indigenous outlook and would support some of the ketagelan village platform. after all, it was likely these young and middle aged people who encouraged the ‘atolan’s kakitaan to coordinate his statement of niyaro’ sovereignty over all traditional territory land public and private with the ketagelan protests. however, as a careful observer, you will note that neither the kakitaan nor the core group of organizers traveled to taipei to make the proclamation. several people in this core group did not even head over to fudafudak to protest miramar. in their conversations with me about their view of politics, they point out that while they might make alliances with other indigenous groups, particularly ‘amis, whom they can rely on when they need assistance, they think of their struggles as local ones. it is not so much about “indigenous land” to them as it is about their own niyaro’. in other words, they think of the scale of their work as primarily local–it is about the sovereignty of ‘atolan–and only incidentally global

i think that calling their relationship with both the state and pan-indigenous political movements a kind of “articulation” gives us the right image. they might connect their own projects with those of other indigenous groups, but do not feel compelled to engage in a politics of scale that would define their work as part of a global movement. thus, disputes over spearfishing might articulate with environmental movements, notions of gift economy versus capitalism, traditional indigenous knowledge, and indigenous land movements; however, these activists, if we may call them that, never hitch their projects entirely to any of these global imaginations or networks. like my ina, they would rather return continuously to a local position. it might be an interesting project to examine how they adjudicate contradictions between these extensive networks and the construction of locality, which i hasten to add is an ethical practice

if these youths and some middle aged people could see their struggles connected to ketagelan but did not commit to its pan-indigenous politics, they also maintain a pragmatic relationship to the state, likely conditioned by their commitment to locality. the core group of these people, ranging from their 30s into their late 40s are now either the eldest youths, mikomoday (those in charge of managing the community), or in age grades just above or below. some of them were most energized by last year’s promise about a process for realizing self government and are now correspondingly most let down. nonetheless, they would point out that it is important to engage with government agencies, particularly under the current administration, which has been more amenable to communicate with indigenous communities

a middle aged man from the makota’ay pangcah community who opposes the ketagelan village protests typifies this kind of pragmatic engagement. although he would hasten to point out he is not a member of either political party, he asked me under which administration did the indigenous basic law enter the constitution? which political party has done more to open possibilities for return of traditional lands? which administration made an apology? he could not support a position that, because it defamed president tsai as a liar, left no room to negotiate with an administration that has shown a willingness to negotiate. behind this pragmatics, however, one can see both the role of party politics and a sense of indigenous vulnerability to what happens in the next election. do the protesters want to damage tsai’s chances at re-election? if so, do they really think a KMT administration would be better? and what happens if one has damaged relationships with both political parties so badly that administrations of either party are willing to disregard indigenous people, whose vote is too small to matter but does has symbolic value enough to encourage (or discourage) some urban, sinophone voters? most of this man’s arguments against the protesters had to do with the need to engage the state both as a source of resources and because, as people whose communities are located within the borders of the ROC (Taiwan), indigenous people’s desire for sovereignty must be negotiated (articulated?) in some fashion with the state

what about most people living in communities like ‘atolan? my sense is that most, like many of my age mates, are concerned with the everyday business of having work and caring for their families. they notice the protests but often think, these arguments are affairs of elites and young people living in taipei. however, they are often very articulate about the need for local management of marine resources, better environmental oversight of industrial agriculture (meaning reduction in pesticide use and runoff), and some means for language revitalization. like those engaged with politics, they must manage to balance contradictions between local commitments, including those to family, and a sense of themselves as both indigenous and citizens of taiwan. they also shift between desires for more resources from the state and their pride in being able to gather what they need from the land and the ocean

any articulation of indigenous politics in taiwan today must find ways to balance these often contradictory commitments, particularly when these articulations wish to operate at a pan-indigenous (and possibly global) scale. planting wild vegetables at ketagelan was an index of this attempt to find balance. but i suspect that we could discover many more of these attempts in the everyday politics of running coffee shops, selling shellfish, or making art in the niyaro’ today

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