Taiwanese hope for better relationship with their indigenous people

By Kawe Roes

A contingent of representatives funded by the Taiwanese government has met with indigenous cultures around the world in a bid to help them build a stronger relationship with their own tangata whenua.  Today they visited Māori Television.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Culture and Heritage has sponsored 13 groups to travel the world and learn from indigenous cultures, including Māori.

Leo Chang, Taiwanese Vice-Consul to New Zealand says, "This team here, what is special is they are Han [Chinese], they don't belong to the indigenous people of Taiwan, they are like the Han people or the like Pākehā here, So they want to know how New Zealanders interact with Māori and how they can bring that experience back to Taiwan."

Wuzong Tai, of the indigenous Taiwanese Makato tribe, says the indigenous people of Taiwan have faced such strong oppression, many don't mention their iwi.

"We have a stigma.  We don't tell other peoples where we come from, which tribe I come from.  I even know some people who hesitate to be indigenous.  They correct their own pronunciation to make them sound less indigenous, which is really sad.  That's why I've come here, to learn, to try and find, maybe we can learn from the Māori people."

While the Taiwanese president has apologised to the indigenous people of Taiwan, they know there is a long road ahead to mend the relationship.

Han Ju is a descendant of the Han People of China, who colonised the indigenous people of Taiwan.  She says it's important for her to know the story of their first people and how to connect with them better.

"They [had] taken away, forced to live in the mountains and nowadays the government wants to make it up but ... many of the lands of the indigenous people are still under control of the government and they really want to take it back because their home is affected by the industry on their lands.  So, I think that's the main problem in Taiwan right now."

Many hurdles remain for equality in Taiwan but it is hoped initiatives like this will build understanding.