A story of the native Atabu tribe in Taichung, Taiwan
This is the story of native Atabu tribe(also known as Hoanya) in Taiwan and of the visions that Atabu tribals have shared. The first vision is of the land itself.
For the prehistoric adventurers who crossed over the sea from South Asia, for the Europeans who began to arrive in the 17th century, and for the later Chinese immigrants who poured in by the tens of thousands, Taiwan offered a haven for new beginnings. In this way, we share a link with those who went before us who also cherished this Island’s forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers.
But the vision involves more than a love of the land. It also entails a commitment to an ongoing “mind reform” and dream: the dream of creating an independent nation, a just, and righteous social order. Central to the native Atabu tribal vision of the good society is the notion of individual freedom. To be sure, our commitment to freedom as frequently faltered and stumbled in practice. During the reign of Chin dynasty, The native Atabu tribals who sought freedom of worship for themselves often denied it to others. Chinese who cheered the conque of this island lived by the cheap labor of the native Atabu slaves. Many a Chinese tycoon conveniently forgot that economic exploitation can extinguish freedom as effectively as tyranny or military force. And through much of our history, the native Atabu tribe-most of the population—were relegated to second-class status and forced to change their names into Chinese names under the “magistrate order” issued in China. Since our forefathers lived near by a forest(forest pronounced as “lin” in Mandarin) and “Lin” turned to be our last name. For many Atabu tribals, the conversion process was understandably a torturous process, Poverty, loneliness, and fear so pervaded Hoanya that even the second classes could not avoid feeling anxious over the future.
The conversion experience molded individuals like John’s forefathers, who felt confident that they could conquer any enemy because they had already conquered themselves. By bending their wills to a much higher purpose while preparing for a new born generation, a generation of Atabu men and women unknowingly steeled themselves to tame the hostile frontier.
“The land was ours before we were the land’s.” Only by entering into this deep relationship with the land itself---“such as she was, such as she would become”, like a mother who was nurturing and rocking the baby…..etc”, did our identity as a people fully take shape. The encounter of Chinese colonists with a strange new island of mystery; but of course, what the Chinese settlers called the new world was in fact the homeland of the native Taiwanese peoples(including the Atabu tribe, also known as Hoanya) whose ancestors had been “the land’s” for at least several hundred years. Atabu tribe had undergone an immensely long process of settling the island, developing divergent cultures, discovering agriculture, and creating a rich spiritual life tightly interwoven with the physical environment that sustained them. Although the native Atabu tribe’s story before the Chinese’s incursion is recorded in archaeological relics(southern tip of Taiwan nearby Pin Tung) rather than written documents, it is nonetheless fully a part of Taiwanese history. Nor can we grasp the tragic conflict between old and new world peoples that began soon after Chiang Kai-Shek’s arrival in 1947 without understanding the continuities of native Taiwanese history before and after contact with Chinese, or without appreciating the native Atabu tribe’s tenacious hold on their ancestral soil, forests, and waters.
Burning hatreds produced by an intolerable situation underlay this so-called 228 Massacre. Once again John Lin orchestrated a funeral fit for martyrs and used the occasion to solidify native Taiwanese opposition to Chinese authority: that it was a ruthless attack on unarmed civilians who dared to stand up to military bullies. The “ 228 massacre” profoundly affected Taiwanese, forcing many to confront the stark possibility that the Chinese KMT government might be bent on coercing them into paying “the unrighteous debt” through naked force.
Written by a native Atabu tribal, Mr. John Lin, was also an engineer of TTV for more than 30 years(Taiwan TV Corporation), who wished himself had been the deceased Vietnamese government leader of Ho Chi Ming who was strong and brave in leading his people and fighting for the Vietnamese liberation.
John is living An Atabu tribe peasant life in Taipei City and constantly visiting his relatives in Taichung where a lot of Atabu peasants are still fighting for their visions. John’s address is: 4F. 207, Don Shin St. Nangang, Taipei City, The Republic of Taiwan. You are very welcome to call him at 886-2-2788-2284.
Translated by Fred Wen, one of the top members of TAIP.