Author Archives: Aleila Alefaio

The Te Taiwhakaea: Treaty Settlement Stories project

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Kia ora!

We came back from Matiu/Somes Island early this afternoon. After settling back into our hostels at the Dwellington, we had the privilege of meeting Leanne Tamaki with the Treaty Settlements Stories project.

The Te Taiwhakaea: Treaty Settlement Stories is a project developed by Manatu Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The ministry identified this project to be important and historically significant. This project “will produce a comprehensive account of recent history of Treaty of Waitangi settlements from all perspectives.”

(From left to right) Treaty Settlement Story Team Members Anaru Dalziel, Hine Parata-Walker, Leanne Tamaki, and Lynette Townshend

Their plan is to collaborate with leading historians, other Ministries, research institutions, and universities to bring forth the stories of iwi and hapu (maori people and family). The project aims to produce multimedia and multiplatform publications accessible to the mass population that will amplify the unheard voices and silenced stories of Maori people in regards to the treaty settlement. One of the slides that Leanne shared with us was a statement from former Prime Minister “…we absolutely must teach an honest history of the settlement period… that’s the only way you can get acceptance of what still has to be done to correct some of those errors in the past.” One of the objectives of this project is to better inform the Maori people about the treaty – Maori people know a little about the treaty but don’t completely understand what exactly happened or the details of it. The content of this project can be used in public education and contribute to a better informed and understanding New Zealand public. The tragedy for New Zealand was not only having their land unfairly confiscated but also that they had no idea.


I found this project empowering and of vital importance to the people of New Zealand – it is absolutely necessary for them to recognize the errors of their history and hear the voices of Maori people in regard to the treaty settlement. I wasn’t surprised to learn that a project like this was rising – this is a land of resilient indigenous people. The objectives of the Te Taiwhakaea: Treaty Settlement Stories project intersects with our course’s themes of sovereignty and representation – it creates space where the team can produce and control content that will project the voices and stories of from all perspectives, educate their youth of their true history, and distribute information that will reach the mass population. With this project, they are able to represent all voices of their people that were unheard.

Te Taiwhakaea Treaty Settlement Stories Project team with UW class!

– Aleila Alefaio


Last Thoughts: Education and Maori Culture

September 1, 2017

Today is our last day in Auckland before we head to Wellington for the next week and it’s a free day! Everyone is out exploring and shopping, but I wanted to use this post to really think about my experience here in Auckland. As a student of Polynesian descent, I was intrigued with how the Maori culture intertwined with the education here in Aotearoa.

We had the privilege of getting a glimpse of the classroom setting at both the University level and the elementary level. I was touched and emotional to see students getting their education while also closely in touch with the roots of their culture. We visited Waatea Elementary School and there were kids whose age ranged anywhere between five and twelve. They were all in blue uniforms and came from all Oceanic backgrounds: Samoa, Tonga, Maori, and Hawai’i. We walked into a classroom and I was excited to see things written on the board in Maori. The kids had their projects and assignments up around the classroom written in both English and Maori. As we got settled in after their recess time, we were welcomed with Maori songs sung by the children and teachers! It was beautiful – I could feel the pride in the children’s voices, pride in who they were and where they came from.

Waatea Elementary School students

This week, we also had the privilege to join a Kapahaka Stage 2 class at the University of Auckland and watch them practice. This three-hour practice consisted of singing, chanting, poi ball dancing, and a haka. We were welcomed by students of all different kind of backgrounds but were united by sharing the love of the Maori culture. Students were full of energy – smiling and laughing the whole time during practice. They were eager to help us with the words, dance moves, and share the love of their culture. The boys of my class were taught a haka and the girls were able to learn how to handle poi balls. The students


University of Auckland Students — practicing poi ball dance

The relationship between education and Maori culture in Auckland stood out the most to me. I loved that Maori students and educators are creating space for their youth and younger generations to get their education, learn who they are, and where they came from. This intersects with our course theme sovereignty – the Maori people use their space to control the content of their education and give their students space to learn about the roots of their culture and people.

-Aleila Alefaio

Aleila Alefaio

Kia ora! Talofa! Malo ni! My name is Aleila Melita Alefaio. I come from a family of Samoan and Tokelauan descent. I am a senior at the University of Washington studying Medical Anthropology & Global Health. 

I am currently president of the legacy group called Polynesian Student Alliance, which is an organization that serves to spread Polynesian culture awareness, voice the presence of an active and lively Pacific Islander community, and outreach and recruit Pacific Islander students for higher education. I am also part of a research group called Research Family made up of students of Oceanic background that uses their identities to connect with outside communities and decolonize cultural objects at the Burke Museum. I am a student researcher and assistant at Haborview Medical Center in the Global Health Department and Division of Medicine – Allergy & Infectious Disease Department. Much of my work involves intensive research and working with youth in the Pacific Islander community.

I grew up in an affluent predominantly Caucasian area and found myself struggling with my identity. There was a constant battle between embracing my own culture and assimilating to the American culture. I was fortunate to find an empowering group of Pacific Islanders at the UW who helped me find who I was.

This is my first study abroad trip — I found this trip to Aotearoa a perfect opportunity to learn more about my people, my brothers and sisters of Oceania, and myself. I also saw this trip as perfect opportunity to build a relationship between students at the University of Auckland and the University of Washington. With my field of study, leadership roles, and this trip to Aotearoa, I hope to project the voices of Pacific Islanders and empower future generations to reach for higher education while staying connected to the roots of our cultures.