Cultural exchange – Exploring the ancestral whenua of the Amis people

By Talisa Kupenga

DNA research suggests that Māori originated from Taiwan. This week Te Kāea reporter Talisa Kupenga embarks on an Asia New Zealand Foundation-sponsored cultural exchange to the Island nation some 180-kilometres East of China. The exchange aims to explore the indigenous links and the potential for greater economic ties between Taiwan and Aotearoa.

Under the Taiwan Government, there are approximately 16 recognised groups of indigenous peoples and many other groups yet to be officially recognised. One of these groups includes the Amis people in the Ciwidian [said: g-wee-dee-an] village about an hour South of Hualien. The village has about 800 inhabitants and is one of 743 villages throughout Taiwan.

Te Kāea was also invited into the traditional Cidal Hunter School. Established in 2008 it is a place where people from all over Taiwan and the world can come and learn traditional survival techniques for the wild; like how to light a fire, find plant-remedies and natural food sources armed with only a knife and salt.

Like Māori, the indigenous people of Taiwan traditionally pass knowledge on orally and as the elders did not have the methodologies to teach these skills in a modern setting, this school is a way for the village to retain its cultural practices, earn a small income for the village and share its culture.

Their traditional waiata of the Amis also bears striking similarities to the Polynesian and Native American cultures.

The experience is sponsored by the Asia New Zealand Foundation at the invitation of its Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) to foster relationships between the two cultures. The initiative also aims to further enhance the intercultural relationship CIP has with Te Puni Kokiri (TPK).

Te Kāea reporter Talisa Kupenga will be providing in-depth stories on the exchange over the next few days. Look out for her updates on our Te Kāea Facebook page.