Author Archives: mj4881

Bay of Plenty

11 September, 2017

After a quick stop in Auckland for the night, our group set out for the Bay of Plenty via bus early this afternoon. Our destination was the Hairini Marae, located about four hours southeast of Auckland, in Tauranga. During the long and windy bus ride, I had ample time to reflect on our journey to this point and take in the stunning landscape rolling past the windows. I realized that most our time in Aotearoa (New Zealand) is already behind us; we will be spending three nights at the marae and one more night in Auckland before the conclusion of the program. I thought about how my understanding of the issues of sovereignty, environment, and representation have evolved with each new day, along with my understanding of Maori identity and culture. I reflected about the ways I can incorporate some of the knowledge I have acquired once I return to Seattle and resume my studies of psychology and education. I talked, laughed, and slept.

The tail end of a rainbow seen during our travels from Auckland to Tauranga.

At some point during all of this, a rainbow became visible in the distance. After admiring it briefly, Racquel and I joked about finding the “pot of gold” at the end so that we could get rich. Although the exchange was not meant to be serious, I found myself reflecting on how the rainbow and the joke relate to Maori identity. When visiting with MP Meka Whaitiri at Parliament in Wellington, she informed us that out of the entirety of New Zealand that belonged to Maori before white settlers came here, only about 5 percent of the land was still under Maori control. Knowing this fact and seeing how various Iwi (tribes) interact with their land and spaces, I began to think that Hairini Marae was a “pot of gold” of sorts. Because the Maori have a deep connection with the land, and because so much of that land no longer belongs to them, places like the marae have become isolated treasures. Instead of finding gold and becoming financially rich, Maori find cultural gold and enrich their identity through connection with land. When we arrived at Hairini Marae, I knew that our class had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The Ranginui whare on Hairini Marae, where we will spend the next three nights.


(Mis)representation in Wellington

3 September 2017

After a stimulating class discussion about representation of Maori culture and identity in Aotearoa, I was itching to explore Wellington on our first full day in the city. I particularly wanted to see Te Aro Park, which according to a landmark map in our hostel, was the site of one of the largest Maori settlements in the Wellington area. Our class has had a lot of exposure to modern Maori culture and spent time on modern maraes, but I was excited to learn about what a Maori settlement looked and felt like hundreds of years ago, prior to the presence of large cities here. Racquel, David, and I bundled ourselves up in coats and hats and began our trek across town.

Te Aro Park, the former site of one of the largest Maori settlements in the Wellington area.

After 25 minutes of fighting the wind—Wellington is known as the windy city of New Zealand—we arrived at the park. The space was filled with murals and sculpture, pools of water, and small trees. However, I saw no obvious evidence of any remains of a large Maori settlement and I began to wonder whether or not I was in the correct place. After a few minutes of searching the park, the three of us found a small plaque that confirmed we had not mistaken the location, stating that the area had been settled as recently as the 1890s by as many as 200 Maori. The plaque went on to say that since then, the space had also been a Mission House, several public service stations (police, fire, and electrical), and a Turkish bath, among other things, until the park as we found it opened in 1992. The surprise between the three of us was palpable; how could a place of such important cultural heritage so often be repurposed?

The three of us went on to see and do several other things throughout the day, but I remained mentally present at Te Aro Park. I thought a lot about the park in relation to Maori representation, and the place that Maori people occupy in the overall representation of Aotearoa. In our class discussion from earlier that day, we talked about how native peoples tend to lose land and resources because they lack the power to represent their interests. In our travels across the country, we have seen and heard numerous examples of this loss of land and resources. What was a thriving Maori settlement as recently as 120 years ago, Te Aro Park—now situated between two busy streets lined with shops and restaurants—is yet another example of the constant struggle for representation and relevance that the Maori face.


— Matt

Matt Knutson

Hello! My name is Matt Knutson and I am going to be a senior at UW Seattle in the fall. I was born in Tacoma, WA and currently call Gig Harbor home while I’m not studying. Both of my parents attended UW and my younger sister just completed her freshman year there as well, so we are quite the Husky family! I am a psychology major and am also working on minors in ELS (Education, Learning, and Society) and diversity. I am also a volunteer for UW Dream Project, which works with high school students in the greater Seattle area to promote social justice and college access. During the 2017-2018 academic year, I will be a member of the 9/10th grade outreach program of the Dream Project, which specifically works with underclassmen. I am very excited to coordinate events and create material that will hopefully make a difference in student lives. After I complete my senior year, I plan to go to graduate school for Educational Psychology and would love to work as a school psychologist upon completion of that degree. I enjoy both playing and watching sports; I am a diehard Husky football fan and love the Seahawks and Mariners too. I also enjoy running and playing golf, especially with my dad, as it allows us to spend valuable time together while also doing something active and healthy. Both of my parents grew up in Bellingham, WA and many members of their family still reside there, so I consider the town my second home.

Photo of me at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.

In my studies of psychology and education, and through my time in Dream Project, I have developed a specific and unique way of viewing the world. I spend many of my days pondering social injustice and how it affects people, especially in the world of education. Many problems in the classroom stem from a lack of understanding between teacher and student, which can lead to countless negative outcomes for students who are left feeling marginalized and forgotten. I am passionate about fighting against this historical tendency, which is one of the main reasons I was so interested in this study abroad opportunity. I am so excited for the complete cultural immersion into Maori culture that will take up my next few weeks, and I cannot wait to incorporate what I learn abroad into my academic life at UW and into my future career!