Author Archives: Danni

The Journey of Sovereignty

September 8, 2017

The New Zealand Parliament Building

Today we were given a tour of parliament by Māori member of parliament Meka Whaitiri. Our tour began by entering a whare-like room, with walls adorned by wood carvings and portraits of past, historically significant Māori parliament members. We were welcomed by a traditional pōwhiri, or protocol, exchanging a song between our class and Meka. Following the welcome ceremony, we toured the speaking chambers from both past and present, ending our visit in the Māori committee chamber. We sat around the table asking Meka a variety of questions, eventually ending our afternoon over tea.

Original copy of Treaty of Waitangi

Overall, our last few days in Wellington have completely unhinged all of the preconceived beliefs I held about the state of existence for the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa. I came into this study of Māori peoples with a skewed perception that in terms of Indigenous rights, Māori were so much better off than the natives from my home country. With both the Waitangi Tribunal, a governmental entity dedicated to looking into both contemporary and historical breeches of the Treaty of Waitangi on the part of the Crown, and the illusion of fast-pace progress in the settlement processes, it would seem that while there is still so much work to be done, Māori are far advanced in their pursuit for sovereignty in comparison to Native Americans. I tread carefully, because I don’t want to give off the impression that there has been no progression at all. Time and time again I’ve been left awe-struck by the resiliency of Aotearoa’s first peoples, and their unwavering commitment to their own autonomy. I’ve been so humbled in witnessing cultural performances, speeches delivered completely in Te Reo, and the historic strength of the people.

Yet, in examining the detailed processes of how Māori must fight for sovereignty, it becomes so clear how easy it is to get caught up in a false idea that the New Zealand is edging towards a world “post” colonization. That they, unlike America, have successfully begun to amend the sins committed during colonialism. However, in understanding colonization as a process, rather than an event, it is evident that we will never truthfully live in a world rid of colonization. For this reason, it is imperative not to allow ourselves to get caught up in the idea that we’ve made strides immense enough to rectify the scars colonization has left on indigenous populations. As stated in Patricia Grace’s Potiki, “[As Indigenous peoples], we haven’t come a long way at all…  we’ve been all left out of it in the end. We’ve helped build a country… Worked in the factories, helped build the roads, helped educate its kids… We’ve committed our crimes, done our good deeds, sat in Parliament, got educated, sung our hymns, scored our ties, fought in wars, splashed our money about…”, and yet despite all of this, Indigenous peoples must continue to struggle every day to receive the rights entitled to them for centuries (93-94).

In this way, while the tour left me feeling both encouraged and frustrated, I think it revealed for me the heart of what it means to be indigenous in all parts of the world. To be indigenous is to be limited. It is being allowed an illusion of sovereignty at the cost of your autonomy not only as an individual, but as a tribe. However, it is also challenging this notion every day. It is not only seeing your limitations, but also the paths you’ll take to overcome them. Even more, in light of this, it is my hope that the Waitangi Tribunal never reaches an end. Not only because it is instrumental in dealing with contemporary breeches on the part of the crown, but also because there is no end point. Sovereignty is not a destination, but a journey. In operating under the false pretense that we’ve been ushered into an era post-colonization, we fall victim to seeing Indigenous peoples, such as the Māori, as monolithic, trapped by the notion that there is no growth left to be had. The fact of the matter is colonization will never cease to perverse our mindset, and in order for indigenous populations to continue their journeys towards sovereignty, they must be allowed the capacity and space to evolve.

— Danni

Re-Discovering the Power of Storytelling

August 31, 2017

It has been an incredible week so far. Meeting University of Auckland students, participating in their Kapahaka class, and visiting the War Memorial Museum are only some of the many great activities of the week. But my favorite event thus far has been being allowed to participate in the Tikanga Rangahau Wānanga Series, a two-day conference event held at Fale Pasifika at the University of Auckland, where Māori researchers and scholars share their knowledge and expertise concerning Māori research and its importance. I personally attended Professor Jenny Lee-Morgan’s seminar Pūrākau as Methodology, which centered around the idea of combining Pūrākau, or storytelling, with pedagogy to create dynamic, Māori based education. Ever since arriving in Aoteroa, I’ve been continually amazed by the resiliency of its Indigenous peoples. Though the lasting presence of colonization remains evident in the everyday lives of modern day Māori, the continued strength displayed by the peoples is undeniable. Over the past few days I’ve been able to reflect on how this is even possible; and the greatest commonality I’ve realized amongst the various Indigenous communities we’ve encountered is simple: the relevancy of storytelling.

The Fale Pasifika building where the conference was held.

It is unbelievable, the ability for an entire culture to survive simply in knowing it has many times before. According to Professor Lee-Morgan however, storytelling is not simply a tool for survival, but could also prove vital in classrooms and research. Utilizing Māori stories in education not only create dynamic discourse, but also provide a means for shaping research and education from a Māori worldview. One of the greatest ambitions of colonists was to destroy the Indigenous lens until the only worldview that existed was their own. In doing so, they not only robbed future Māori communities of perceiving the world as their ancestors did, but also made it nearly impossible for these oppressed people ever truly be sovereign again.

Māori have made it clear that they aren’t going to disappear, and while their strength is undeniably clear, there still remains so much room for growth. In combining education with the ever-evolving stories of their people, Māori can do so much more than survive: they can truly decolonize their minds. Thus, giving them the chance to become a truly sovereign people again, who see the world through the lens of an autonomous people, rather than a colonized one.





Danni’s Bio

Kia Ora!

My name is Danni. I’ve been a University of Washington student at the Tacoma Campus for nearly a year. I’m headed into my senior year, working towards a degree in Communications and hopefully a bright future as a journalist. For as long as I can remember I’ve dreamed of becoming a journalist. I’ve always been interested in the power of writing and the media in controlling the perceptions, opinions, and subsequently, lives of individuals. From my perspective, much of Western media has taken advantage of its influence, systemically portraying minorities such as people of color, women, and certainly indigenous peoples in a negative light, thus solidifying the oppression they face every day of their lives. Throughout my adolescence my mother always told me that if you didn’t like the way something was, do your part in trying to change it. Her words combined with my love for writing became the main motivations behind my aspiration to do my part in challenging the mainstream media’s often misleading representations, and assist in producing progressive, truthful media content.

Danni and her cat, Jasmine.

Moreover, I come from an incredibly culturally diverse background, being a descendant of black, white, Native American, and Filipino genealogies. However, despite my diversified genetic makeup, I’ve spent the majority of my life confused about where I fit in. Ever since I can remember, I’ve attempted to redefine myself in order to fit into the arbitrary definitions of what it means to be a descendant of these various identities, however to this day I’ve yet to fully understand myself and the cultures of my ancestors. This was one of the greatest motivators in my choosing this study abroad exploration in Aoteroa. I’ve always been both inspired and internally jealous of the ability and resilience of indigenous peoples, such as the Maori, to not only revitalize their cultures from its attempted decimation, but also to know so wholly who they are. Not only has it inspired me to look deeper into my own ancestry and personal connection to indigeneity, but also to further understand the plight of these systemically ignored peoples.

Thus far, I’ve been so humbled by the experiences of this trip, and the strength of the Maori people in keeping their culture alive. I’m still unsure of where I fit in the world, or who I am. But in everything I do I’m attempting to piece together my own identity, just like the countless cultures across the world attempting to do the exact same thing. I’m curious for what else this study abroad exploration has to offer, but I can’t wait to find out!


Thanks so much,


Danni Derrickson