Māori return to Nuu-chah-nulth territory, exchanging culture and a story of distant relations | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Māori return to Nuu-chah-nulth territory, exchanging culture and a story of distant relations

Port Alberni, BC

A group of Māori people have returned to Nuu-chah-nulth territory, in the first cultural exchange between the two Indigenous groups since the 1990s.

On Thursday, June 13 the visitors entered the Hupacasath House of Gathering in Port Alberni, calling out in their ancestral language. The 11 Māori were then treated to a series of performances by Nuu-chah-nulth groups, while a dinner of salmon was cooking outside on traditional cedar sticks over a fire.

Visiting Vancouver Island for over a week, their time on the West Coast begins with a youth symposium at the House of Gathering, scheduled June 14-16 with festivities beginning today at 5:30 p.m. Planned over the three days are a series of cultural celebrations, meals and workshops on the traditional practices of Nuu-chah-nulth and Māori peoples, both of whom have a coastal Pacific heritage.

The Māori group has been brought to Vancouver Island by Ticmup, a cultural group that includes Hesquiaht carver Tim Paul. The artist brought a totem pole he made for the closing of the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Aukland, New Zealand, at which time he heard stories from the Māori locals that matched an element of Nuu-chah-nulth oral history.

Many years ago, long before contact with Europeans, three Māori men came in a canoe to the shores of Ehattesaht territory. After remaining with the tribe for three years, with Nuu-chah-nulth wives and two newly built dugout canoes the trio of Māori seafarers set out to return home.

“The Māori came to live with us. This is oral history from such a long time ago,” said Ehattesaht member Ernie Smith before the audience at the June 13 event. “We know this story is real because I actually had my DNA done. In my DNA it shows that I have a bunch of Māori relatives.”

Smith noted that one of the current visitors is linked to his DNA profile.

“We’re actually really closely related. Her mother shows on my profile as my fourth cousin,” he said. “After all these years, we’re all connected one way or another.”

More to come…

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