Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Taiwanese indigenous tribes want Maori 'cuzzies' to come 'home' for a holiday

Taiwanese indigenous tribes are long lost cousins of Maori. Pictured is Sauru from the Paiwan Tribe with Sir Pita Sharples at a Taiwan Indigenous Tourism Promotion. Photo / Doug Sherring
Taiwanese indigenous tribes are long lost cousins of Maori. Pictured is Sauru from the Paiwan Tribe with Sir Pita Sharples at a Taiwan Indigenous Tourism Promotion. Photo / Doug Sherring

Taiwanese tribal woman Jouan Pan is in New Zealand with a mission - to get her "long lost cuzzies" to visit "home".

Taiwan is believed to be where the cultures and languages of the Austronesian tribes began, and that indigenous people of Taiwan and Maori are genetically connected.

Its Council of Indigenous Peoples along with tribal tour operators are in New Zealand to promote Taiwan's indigenous tribal tours for the very first time.

"Our relationship with New Zealand as very special, because we consider Maori as part of our extended family," said Pan, a senior council officer and member of the Amis tribe.

"Taiwan is therefore the ancestral land for many New Zealanders, this tour is designed to help people experience our long surviving cultures."

Austronesians also include Pacific Islanders and Polynesians in Hawaii.

Sir Pita Sharples, a former Minister of Maori Affairs, said it was a "know fact" that there was genetic link between indigenous Taiwanese and Maori.

"Maori are the original people of Taiwan, I hope you are taking care of our country very well," Sharples said on Friday at the council's promotions in Auckland.

"There is no doubt you are my cousins...you look like my brothers and sisters."

Sharples has yet to visit Taiwan but said he was planning to do so and find a projects to formally establish the Maori-Taiwan link.

A majority of the Taiwan population are Han Chinese, but its 16 indigenous tribes have occupied the island for about 15,000 years before the Hans.

Most of them are fishermen, hunters or gatherers in the mountain regions.

Another council officer Sayun Tosu, a member of the Atayal tribe, said the tours are designed to help people experience their unique cultures.

The brand identity "uhtan'e ho mimimiyo" in the Tsou language means "wandering from one village to another".

"It is possible to experience the unique cultures, experience the lifestyles and hospitality of the different tribes and indigenous villages," Tosu said.

"Some have similarities with Maori, but most are totally different and New Zealanders will find it interesting."

Tosu said the proof of New Zealand Maori links to her tribe was that they with her tribe was also in the language shared a similar language.

According to her, counting numbers from 1 to 10 and the word for eye is almost the same in both languages.

A University of Victoria in Wellington research also backed the claim of this genetic links.

Biological scientist Geoffrey Chambers believed the connection can be traced back 60,000 years.

During this time, people of the Papuan language group populated Australia, Papua New Guinea and some Bismarck Archipelago Islands.

Later they travelled south from Taiwan and passed through the Philippines and Indonesia.
Papuans and Austronesians intermarried and gave birth to contemporary Polynesians, and ultimately settled in what is now New Zealand.

Taiwan's indigenous cultures are among the world's oldest surviving, and make up about 500,000 or 2 per cent of the population.

Travellers can also stay and eat at tribal-owned accommodation and restaurants, and this helps them make a living in their ancestral land.

Tribal tour operator Asan Surut, from Torik Village, said tribal tourism also helped the different tribes preserve their language and culture.

- NZ Herald

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