Author Archives: Eunice Lee

Parliament and Politics

September 8, 2017

Today Meka Whaitiri, a member in the Labour Party, warmly greeted us and gave us a tour of the Parliament. She met us in the Māori Affairs Committee Room, which is located in the main Parliament building. The room served a similar function as a Marae, and the interior was similar to a Marae as well; instead of poupou (carvings on wood panels inside the meeting house of a Marae that usually have connections to ancestral lineage), there were portraits of previous Māori politicians. We were greeted in a fashion similar to a pōwhiri (a welcome protocol): exchanging a speech and a song, followed by the hongi. I found the resemblance to a Marae protocol to be significant in regards to not only paying respect to Māori ancestors and culture, but also to empowering Māori people who are involved in politics and represent their iwi (tribe).

The Parliament buildings (the Beehive on the left, and the main building on the right)

During the tour, we were taken to the court room where new laws are passed. The room had the names of countries that New Zealand had fought in war with. Following the tour, we had morning tea with Meka and discussed more about the Parliament. It stood out to me when Meka told us that there are some Māori members of parliament (MPs) who acknowledge their Māori whakapapa (genealogy) only when it is convenient or beneficial. In doing this, the genuine motive to represent Māori interests becomes illegitimate as well as the intention to represent the whakapapa that these MPs now conveniently claim to relate to. I found it disheartening that considering how proportionally little Māori there are in parliament, these Māori MP choose to represent certain sides or issues and turn to their whakapapa almost as a last resort. With whakapapa being a significantly large part of Māori culture, relating to their genealogy when convenient seems to undermine the roots of the culture and heritage they claim to have.

We had visited The Waitangi Tribunal two days before visitign the Parliament. The Waitangi Tribunal (a government entity) looks into past and present breaches from the Crown to the Treaty of Waitangi. The members at the Waitangi Tribunal are mostly all of Māori descent. After putting in immense time and effort of looking into claims, the Tribunal produces a written report that underlines Crown breaches and highlights recommendations regarding the claims. Despite that these reports are only recommendations and are not binding results, the members are extremely dedicated to the work they are doing. They were doing work that, although would not give affected Māori peoples any compensation for the hardship caused by breaches to the Treaty, they believed would make a difference. In comparison to the certain Māori MPs that only use their Māori genealogy to benefit themselves in politics, these Māori members at the Tribunal strongly held onto their whakapapa and used that as motivation.

These visits made me reflect on how Māori sovereignty in politics can become distorted due to how power is allocated to different political and government entities. The interests of MPs often do not benefit the whole, and can lead to malpractice. On the other hand, the system of politics sheds little light onto the Māori peoples (or groups like the Waitangi Tribunal), and this creates an environment where genuine interests are not prioritized.

— Eunice

Talking with Waatea

Today we visited Radio Waatea and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Radio Waatea is a radio station that broadcasts nearly only in Māori. The station is unique in the fact that it is situated within the Marae itself. Moreover, the Auckland War Memorial Museum has many exhibits, including one that displays Māori art, weaponry, canoes and a beautiful, historic Marae. There is also a culture rich exhibit, which displays and dissects the Treaty of Waitangi. It was incredible to see the immense efforts taken to preserve Māori culture.

Waatea Radio

We were invited into the Marae, where the radio station does their broadcasting. Broadcasting in Māori is culturally significant as it prevents the language from dying and makes Māori the mainstream. This is especially true with technology can disseminate information and reach a wider audience. While talking about preserving languages, one of the broadcasters said that “the language breathes if the environment allows for it”. I thought this was extremely insightful, because to encourage more Māori to speak their native language, there needs resources and spaces that make it possible. The radio station is doing exactly that.

Following the radio station, we visited one of the classrooms. It was vibrant and full of artwork that the students had done. The students sang songs in Māori, which is another great example of creating an environment that allows for the language to breathe.

Students singing Māori songs

 

For me, the visit to the radio station stood out the most. As stated previously, it is an urban Māori radio station located on the Marae. Even more however, the Marae works to help support their local community; there is a food bank, social workers on site, an elementary (primary) school, and a support system for people who are struggling. In targeting some social issues, the Marae provides the community with positive influences.

Again, the Marae had me in awe. I was completely amazed to see that they had such a strong support system to sustain their people, their language and culture. Throughout time, Maori have been told how they can and cannot govern their people, resources, and land. Each opportunity for sovereignty has been met with limitation. However, in creating a space where Maori people can raise their kids, sustain their families, and live together as an Indigenous community, the people of the Waatea Marae have created a means for their own sovereignty and self-reliance.

–Eunice

Eunice Lee

Kia Ora!

My name is Eunice Lee. Growing up, my family moved to a new country every few years. I am a Korean American born in California. I have lived in New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, China, and the Philippines; and am currently majoring in Environmental Studies at the University of Washington.

My identity revolves around my upbringing, the culture and people of each country introduced new beliefs and perspectives that have shaped who I am. It has also influenced how I think and approach other people. Having experienced multiple countries seems to make it easier for me to connect with and understand different people. The combination of the difference experiences from each country has added layers to my identity.

My blogs will document some of my experiences here in New Zealand throughout the three weeks here. I lived in Christchurch from the ages of 4 to 8, so it has been thirteen years since I left the country. As a child, I saw New Zealand as a country with an abundance of grassland and nature. I’ve always felt a strong attachment to New Zealand and have felt intrigued and fascinated by Māori culture. I am extremely excited to be back and am looking forward to re-immersing myself into everything Aotearoa has to offer. Gaining insight and experiencing everything from a different perspective, I hope to learn in-depth about The Treaty of Waitangi, and how that impacts the Māori today in regards to land and the environment as it is a crucial element to Māori culture. As an Environmental Studies major, I am interested in laws and policies regarding land and water use. Moreover, by getting to talk to people and visiting different places, I aim to reflect on how colonization has shaped Māori identity and life.