Author Archives: bruecher


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

During our class visit to Rotorua we spent our whole day at Te Puia and the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute. As we toured the facilities it was interesting to learn how different groups of people play a variety of roles in sustaining the campus. The arts institute is a government-sponsored education center for Māori students that gets all its funding from the public through tourism that’s woven into the site. Similar to the Polynesian Culture Center on O’ahu’s North Shore, the tours make their way through a staged village enclosure. One benefit of this is the ability to showcase the work of past students of many generations in Te Puia’s buildings. Some of the rooms in the school where students were actively producing work were open to walk through as well. A classmate and I both had mixed feelings about this setup because for the surface value it felt very “touristy” and took away from the privacy of the students. However we both thought that from a perspective of someone outside of the Māori community it could be a very informative way to be introduced to common themes and values of the culture. As long as Māori are the agents of the operations at the center, they can determine what the comfort level for showcasing their culture can be.

The work room in the whakairo (carving) school

Carol, our guide for the day, was very passionate about the parts of campus she showed to us. As our class toured through the boardwalk with the views of the hot springs and mud pools, she talked about the pā (village) in proximity to the campus. The pā used to be open to the public to walk through but the families who live there grew uncomfortable with the behavior of certain visitors who would overstep into residencies. She shared her hope for a future where the gates could be unlocked again so visitors could walk through. This is because the presence and representation of the local community is something Carol saw as vital to the understanding of the natural features, not just the view itself. In the summer when the weather is nicer, the children from the pā families can be seen swimming in the geothermal pool closest to their home. Carol says that tourists see this and get confused because they’re not used to witnessing the presence of local Māori interacting with the nearby environment. I think it’s interesting that to an average visitor of Te Puia it may make more sense to see Māori of all different iwi working in the “authentic” decorated village center than the local hapu members maintaining relationally with the resources they’ve been close to for generations. It makes me think about how our class is looking at representation and environment. Te Puia’s setup offers a strong example for the values built into Māori material culture, but it is harder to see how people are part of an environment when the natural world is built around purely for speculation.

View of a geyser and the pool that pā families swim in

Overall our day at Te Puia was full off great conversations and stories, and it was interesting getting to learn about the unique setup with the school integrated into the tourism site.

Te Puia:


Indigenous Involvement in Institutions

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Our class’s time spent in Wellington has given us a view into the roles Māori have in the major institutions based here. Our visits on Thursday, September 7 included the Waitangi Tribunal office, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, and a meeting with Justice Joe Williams. A major theme that occurred in our conversations with our hosts was the different ways Māori represent their culture and community in the colonial spaces they have worked their way into.

From our morning meeting with the Waitangi Tribunal we had the privilege of hearing about all the different steps in the settlement process from team members of many responsibilities. The tribunal is a committee that was established in 1975 to uphold the word of the Treaty of Waitangi in making recommendations to the Land Court in how to settle Māori land cases. One of the employees we talked to says she started off with her business degree wanting to focus on entrepreneur work, but found herself instead at the Waitangi Tribunal office. She said that she is thankful to be involved because she ended up with an outlet for her education that benefits the Māori community.

When our class arrived later at Te Papa, we were greeted by Senior Curator Māori, Puawai Cairns. The tour started with a discussion in the wharenui (Te Hau-ki-Tūranga) and ended up in the archives of taonga Māori, the cultural treasures that are now under the museums’s care. We learned about not only material culture but the wisdom and value within, the meaning in the language of taonga, the protocols around them, and how the museum and communities interact. Highlighting the complicated relationships the museum has built with its heritage communities helped us understand the goal that the Māori team there had for future interactions. Puawai explained her role as both an indigenous person and a curator. “Sometimes I have to wear the museum hat, sometimes the Māori hat,” she explained, “the Māori hat always wins.” By working our way into institutions that are founded upon the reframing of our heritages and narratives, it is vital for native people to rewrite the rules and make spaces for our cultural framework.

Examples of the tradition and revitalization of waka hourua (voyaging canoes) in Aotearoa

When our class wrapped up the day with a visit to the High Court, Justice Joe Williams was very passionate in his conversation. He drew out a brief history of colonization in Aotearoa and how it has affected the demographics of Māori as well as their treatment by the many systems. When describing momentum that was built by Māori empowerment in the last century he said “we needed to institutionalize that energy,” hence the foundation of programs like the Waitangi Tribunal. The concept of building cultural values and community efforts into the same systems that have caused the issues to arise is a strong example of how to work within a system to change for the better. Justice Williams did look at the different layers of outcomes more critically and acknowledged the drawbacks of every strategy. However the overall message he gave our class is that the Māori community may not have any guarantee of improvement with each new effort dreamed up but at least they have the foresight to try and pave their own future.

“Māori are just like Hawaiians, but cold” -Justice Joe Williams

When we think of the role that museums, governments, and laws have played in settler colonialism often times what is capitalized on is what has been taken away. The role of indigenous communities in these institutions has been one of exclusion and witnessing unequal relations, and seeing how our values are not compatible with the processes that go on daily. However seeing the work of the Māori professionals in Wellington showed our class what can be accomplished if a community continues to fight from both outside and within the very institutions that have held our people back.

-Kamaka’ike Bruecher


Kamaka’ike Bruecher

Aloha mai kākou, o Kamaka‘ike koʻu inoa. Hello, my name is Kamaka‘ike. I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. I am of Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiian), Cantonese, and German heritage.

This fall quarter I will be beginning my third year at University of Washington, Seattle campus. I am currently working towards my Bachelor of Arts. My majors are Public Health and Medical Anthropology & Global Health. I am going into my second term as Vice President of External Affairs for the Polynesian Student Alliance on campus. I am currently employed as a student ambassador of Multicultural Outreach & Recruitment and a student assistant for Intellectual House. I am also a student researcher for the Research Family, a Pacific Islander research group based at the Burke Museum. Our work includes using our resources at the museum to educate our campus and each other about our cultures, as well as use our position in higher education to support our local Islander diasporas. It is important for us to help better museums’ treatment of heritage communities of the objects it houses as well as bring our communities in to maintain relationships to objects.

I am thankful to be a part of this study abroad experience because it connects back to the kind of work I hope to do within my own community. As Pacific Island cultures, the Māori community has many similarities to Hawaiians. Due to our common heritage, our cultures share many aspects and values. Our colonial experiences also have many parallels. It is important that communities share with and draw ideas from each other so we can best strengthen our respective efforts. During this journey I hope to learn more about Māori culture, environmental policies, and community efforts. My main passion is agricultural and environmental work, so I am looking forward to learning from my relations on this topic. I look forward to the adventures, lessons, experiences, and connections to come on this beautiful, vast indigenous land.

Holding my uncle’s
chicken in Kāne’ohe, O’ahu