Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka takes a selfie with participants of the Austronesian Peoples’ Bilateral Visit Program in Taipei on Friday./Photo courtesy of Executive Yuan
Ten Amis teenagers left on Friday night for a 10-day trip to New Zealand as part of the government-sponsored Austronesian Peoples’ Bilateral Visit Program.
The group was seen off at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport by Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka, who grew up in the same Hualien County village as the teens, Halawan Village in Yuli Township.
The trip is a part of the “Hawaiki Nui” Project designed to help trace the common ancestors of the indigenous peoples of both nations along the migration pathway from Taiwan to Aotearoa — the Maori word for New Zealand through cultural exchanges.
In the Maori language, Hawaiki refers to the homeland where the Maori were born and where they return to when they die.
The Taiwanese teens are scheduled to visiting Ngati Manu villages on New Zealand’s North Island, the Executive Yuan said.
A group of 10 Maori youngsters, led by Kaumatua Arapeta Hamilton, the traditional leader of the Ngati Manu people on North Island, visited Taiwan in August last year, and were hosted by Halawan Village and other Aboriginal villages for 10 days.
Halawan was selected as the first of four villages invited to send a group to New Zealand as part of the project.
Kolas said she was moved that the trip had finally become reality and that indigenous peoples from Taiwan and New Zealand are engaging in bilateral visits.
She thanked former premier William Lai, Premier Su Tseng-chang and the Council of Indigenous Peoples for their support of the project.
“The exchanges between Taiwan and New Zealand have come under relentless Chinese pressure, but blood ties cannot be severed so easily,” Kolas said.
They should be brave and show the world their nation’s Aboriginal culture, she told the teens.