September 10, 2017
Another travel day, another exhausting day, but also another fruitful day. Today we woke up in Wellington, but will sleep in Auckland once again. The morning started out just like many others: rushed and hectic, with people scrambling to eat their breakfast and pack up their things. However, as soon as we left our hostel (The Dwellington), things calmed down and we started our voyage back to Auckland. After the shortest plane ride of my life, only 45 minutes in the air, things were beginning to look familiar again as we strolled through the Auckland airport looking for our gracious tour guide, Dr. Brad Coombes. Brad would be giving us a tour of a highly disputed piece of land historically owned by the Ngati Whatua of Orakei and known as the Orakei Block.
Downtown Auckland from the top of the Orakei Block.
Although severely unprepared for the weather, the group followed, listened, and tried not to freeze our fingers off as we meandered through the Orakei block, stopping at several notable locations. Even though every stop was stunningly beautiful it was hard to pay the views any mind, while Brad informed us of the many evils committed to gain ownership of the land we stood on. From burning down Maori villages to running Auckland’s main sewer pipe right across their beach and into their waters, ruining one of the Ngati Whatua people’s main food sources, it was clear to see that the people here had been mistreated. The pipe didn’t just poison the ocean waters right at their front door, it also decimated the swamp they called home, ruining another food source and causing unhealthy living conditions. All of this happened amidst the Crown’s highly questionable acquisition of the Ngati Whatua of Orakei land. Even though this case of blatant theft seems particularly heinous it is not too unlike many others across the globe and many we have come across in Aotearoa.
Land has been, and continues to be, one of the biggest issues faced by indigenous peoples in settler colonial countries. The wrongs committed by the governments of these countries, such as the United States and Aotearoa, damage native people more than most can even imagine. My time here has provided me with a glimpse into their daily fight standing up for their own culture, but without my participation in this course I would have no idea about the struggle of indigenous peoples. I could have travelled all over the Orakei Block and not known any of its storied history just like I’m sure happens all the time when I travel across the United States. Perhaps one of the most important ideas I’ve adopted during my time here is to think critically no matter where I am, to consider who is writing the narrative, and whether I should take it at face value. I acknowledge that these are learned skills that I did not have before coming on the program, but as I spend more time travelling around this country I can’t help but to notice how useful they are. Perhaps if more people can attempt to do the same we can help protect what little indigenous peoples have left. Standing up for them together and doing what we can to right the crimes of the past.
September 4, 2017
The day started like most on this trip. I woke to an incessant alarm and the rhythmic thud of footsteps outside my room, but that familiarity wouldn’t last long. Today we set off to Matiu/Somes Island in the Wellington Harbor. The island takes bio-security very seriously, but the ranger conducted quarantine and luggage search was much less painful than expected. Along with the quarantine the ranger informed us that the island was actually owned by a group of local Iwi (tribes) and the Department of Conservation (DOC) was just managing it under the Board of Kaitiaki. The Ranger also managed to incorporate much more Te Reo Māori (the Māori language) into his speech than I was expecting. Both of these came as pleasant surprises especially after the many examples our class has come across regarding pakēha, (non-Māori) mistreatment of Māori people.
Professor Chris Teuton walking through the waharoa on Matiu/Somes Island.
The pleasant surprises seemed to continue as we walked under a waharoa (gateway), but then I remembered the ranger mentioning that it was put up only a few months ago. This got me thinking. Maybe all these harmonious relations between the Māori and the Crown aren’t as equal as they seem, or maybe they are just recent efforts to reconcile the countless wrongs committed over centuries. As we approached the top of the island, seeing the dated western structures for the first time, I couldn’t help but notice the differences between this island and the Māori spaces we had previously visited.
After lunch the class started to wander around the island, taking in the sights and history. We learned about the Māori people’s exclusion from the island for 150 years and the Crown’s free reign during that time, leading to disrespect of the island that has been longstanding and without bounds. A few of the many wrongs include using the island as a quarantine site for both humans and animals, along with an internment camp during the World Wars. Until recently in 2009 when several local Iwi known as the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PNSBT) won a settlement and thus ownership of the island due to claims made on the Treaty of Waitangi. Despite this change made eight years ago signs of Māori culture have still been rare with pakēha influence being unmistakable. The notion that this island is truly equally managed came further into question with each turn I took on the hiking trails.
However, after speaking with a ranger stationed on Matiu/Somes Island my own ideas about the governance of the island were turned upside down. He spoke of the Kaitiaki Board who rules over several islands in the Wellington Harbor including Matiu/Somes. On this board three of the six seats belong to the PNBST, two to the DOC, and one to a member of the community. The local Iwi clearly has the board stacked in their favor, so why the lack of Māori culture and influence on the island? In short, the PNSBT does not have the capacity to manage this island along with their many other properties and interests. They also do not have the funding nor the man-power to take on a task like managing the island by themselves, so they must give some managing power to the DOC. The issues continue from there with the problems of both funding and capacity coming up time and time again between the PNBST and the Crown.
Now the Iwi of the area finally have some control over the governance of their land, but that is all. The same people that have been systematically shut out of higher education and well-paying jobs are now expected to step away from their already busy daily lives to care for a tiny island most of them have never been to. That’s a tall order for anyone and it’s nearly impossible for a family that’s already struggling to make ends meet. The Crown has finally given this group of Iwi representation, but no tools to make themselves effective, essentially killing any chance they had to restore their version of Aotearoa. While the situation may be more fair and harmonious than it appears at first glance the historic wrongs committed by the Crown are inhibiting Māori peoples to effectively use their new representative power.
A Washington boy through and through, I was born in Kirkland, Washington into a loving family of four that would shortly turn into five (my younger brother would be born 3 years later). Originally from Kent I moved to Puyallup with my family at the age of five and we’ve called that our home ever since. After graduating from Governor John R. Rogers High School in 2014, I moved to Seattle to enroll into the University of Washington, following my older brother and father before me. My original plan was to pursue a degree from the College of Engineering, but as time progressed I realized that just wasn’t what I wanted. After my freshman year I switched my intended major to business and haven’t looked back since. With the focuses of marketing and entrepreneurship, I believe that I have finally found fields that are both engaging and challenging for me.
Me feeding a kangaroo while in Sydney, Australia before the program started.
I can say with confidence that most of my fellow business majors wouldn’t be interested in a program like this, asking “Where’s the money in it?”, but that’s what makes me different. I strongly believe there is no better way to improve open-mindedness and prevent hate than with travel. Exposing one’s self to the world and its many cultures has a profound effect on any person, truly making them more tolerant and culturally-intelligent. Most of us can agree that in today’s world there are few people who need more cultural awareness than business people. It seems you can’t go a whole day without seeing news about a business doing something ignorant, and that’s where I hope I can make a difference. Throughout my college career, and throughout my life, I have tried to stay abreast on current and past social issues by taking courses and reading in my free time. When I saw this course on Sovereignty, Environment, and Representation in Aotearoa, I knew it was for me. This is just one more thing that can help me make the business world a better place. Whether we like it or not, businesses are here to stay and I hope that my experiences on this trip will help shape me into a future businessman that people will be proud of.