The age-old battle of cowboys and Indians never really ended, at least not for the indigenous peoples of the world. They have been fighting for their inherent right to live on this planet for centuries, and the battle rages on to this day. After living in harmony with nature for thousands and thousands of years, they have been, and still are being, wrenched off the land that is not only their means of survival, but also defines who they are.
Chief Yellow Hair and council of Chippewas
Indigenous peoples have always known that the earth is our mother, our provider and that we all belong to her. They know that nothing is more valuable than what nature gives to them. It is on this principle that their relationship with the land is founded, a relationship of love and respect. Then came the invasion of the opposite belief system. A belief system that regards the earth and its resources as a commodity, to be extracted and sold as fast a possible with no thought towards the life that is sustained by it. And when indigenous peoples didn’t seem so eager to accept this belief system, or adopt a value system that worships money above all else, they were pushed to the margins of society, held there by racism, poverty, and other forms of systematic oppression.
One of the biggest tools in keeping this oppression in place is the media. When we hear of indigenous communities standing up for their rights, it is always shed in a political light. They are portrayed as troublemakers or victims, and it is always the “indigenous peoples’ struggle”. The media has brainwashed us to believe that it is “their” struggle, not “our” struggle. And this struggle has been going on for so long that it is nothing new when you read in the newspaper that another nuclear waste site is going to be dumped upon an aboriginal village. Or an illegal resort built on traditional lands. When they complain of polluted drinking water and rising cancer rates, it’s old news, and it’s not our news.
Around the island, Taiwan’s indigenous peoples are at war with the cowboys as we speak. You have probably heard about it in the news. Maybe even felt some compassion towards these people while you read the article.
Indigenous people demand removal of nuclear storage facilities from Lanyu island
Why would you go any further? We have all heard of the danger of becoming “politically involved” in a country that is not our own. So, why should the foreigner community come together to speak up against the Miramar resort on Shanyuan beach? And those standing beside the Tao people of Orchid Island in protest of the Lanyu nuclear waste site, shouldn’t they mind their own business? The truth of the matter is, we are all being robbed of our one and only home - the earth. We are all having our clean water and air stolen from us. It doesn’t matter whose land it is, the little bit of coastline that still remains untouched, is about to be gone. Nuclear waste may not be leaking into our own backyards, but it will eventually reach us.
In a way, we are all “Indians” now. The cowboys may have dwindled in numbers, but they are more powerful than ever, with bigger guns, faster horses and plenty of dirty tricks up their sleeves. So, it doesn’t matter if you are Amis, Taiwanese, Chinese, Canadian or anything else, and it doesn’t matter if it is on your soil or not. It is all the same battle, for all of our homes, for all of our survival.