Pikikotuku Hamilton, 11, is a New Zealand-born Māori, but she will be taking a trip overseas next month to visit her "ancestral land".
The Birkdale Intermediate student is one of 10 young Māori students from Ngāti Manu, a Northland hapū, who will be travelling to Taiwan as part of a cultural exchange.
The exchange is a pilot programme of the Hawaiki Project, a social initiative aimed at connecting indigenous tribes along the Polynesian migration pathway from Taiwan to Aotearoa.
Project director Marareia Hamilton, 32, said there had been a long-held belief that Māori and indigenous Taiwanese are cousins, and that Taiwan was where "it all began".
"The Polynesian migration pathway that started in Taiwan is something that our ancestors travelled, and it is something our iwi want to explore and teach our children about," Hamilton said.
"This project is about taking our children over there and meeting the Taiwanese indigenous people, hapū-to-hapū, and seeing how we connect."
Taiwanese indigenous people, numbering about 500,000, make up about 2 per cent of the island's total population, who are mainly of Han Chinese origin.
Hamilton said it had been confirmed by geneticists that modern-day Polynesians, including Māori, had a clear lineage running from Taiwan's early indigenous inhabitants.
"There's similarities in the songs that we sing, the marae structure, language and even the moko," Hamilton said.
"The tribes have got a deep connection to the river and the land, and so do we. We want our children to build on these similarities and strengthen their indigenous identities."
She said the indigenous Taiwanese had to fight for the language, land rights and customs and also faced the same employment issues as Māori do.
"There is so much we want our children to learn from each other, but this connection is just a start and possibilities are endless," Hamilton said.
The children will be hosted by three Taiwanese tribes, including Pangcah, who share a similar mitochondrial DNA as New Zealand Māori according to Hamilton.
The idea of the exchange was first mooted last year when key members of Ngāti Manu was invited to dinner in Auckland by the Taiwanese Business Association.
The project's co-director Eva Chen, originally from Taiwan, said the programme was supported by Taiwan's Council of Indigenous People which was covering all the ground travel and accommodation cost.
Chen has set up a Givealittle page, and said the challenge was to raise funding of about $10,000 for the children to fly to Taiwan.
"The people of Taiwan are just as excited about building on this relationship with Māori as we are here in New Zealand," she said.
For Pikikotuku, this will also be her first time travelling beyond New Zealand. The group leaves for the 12-day trip on August 20.
"I am really excited about going to Taiwan and find out about my ancestors, meet new people and to taste the different types of food that they have," she said.
"I am also very keen to perform the kapa haka and learn some of the dances that our cousins in Taiwan perform."
The participants were selected based on their contribution to the hapū, their te reo Māori speaking abilities and kapa haka performance skills.