Author Archives: tgmyers

A look back on the state of Matiu/Somes Island in 2017

September 6, 2017

This morning we woke up to a chorus of trees whipping in an intense breeze. The wind was so strong it dominated not only the conversation, but most aspects of the first half of the day. The whole group bundled up and headed down to the docks. I was very grateful for the hospitality that was shown to us by the people there, and the opportunity to spend two nights on such a special place. As we walked one last time through the Maori wood-carved gate that serves as Matiu/Somes entrance, I could not help but look back on how the history of the island has shaped the landscape we were able to take in. There is a dichotomy here, between the Department of Conservation’s efforts in environmental action and the Maori people’s history here. The power of decision making lies with the DoC, a body of the crown, but they operate under the guise of respect for the Maori culture on land they lost to the crown years ago. While on the island I took a walk through the building that was used to ensure the animals coming in to the island were disease free. Seeing the pens where the animals stayed before being shipped to the mainland was nothing short of haunting, an up close reminder of the long story Matiu/Somes has to tell. This building is not going anywhere anytime soon, it’s concrete walls housing metal machines leave a permanent scar on an otherwise beautiful piece of land. All that stands on the island to represent the Maori is a simple carved gate, the entrance to the island. So as we braved 40+ mph winds by the dock it became tough to see where the balance on this island lays currently. Clearly there is more Maori influence here than 50 years ago but is it enough? Is it even close to enough? Only one thing I can claim for sure, is that no one can take away the views this island gave us those two days.

-Tyler Myers

A panorama of the Matiu/Somes Island lighthouse looking out on Wellington Bay.

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Aug. 25, 2017

After a morning full of coffee and laughs, our team was excited and focused for our guided trip around the Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi and Waitangi Treaty Grounds. At 9:30AM we arrived at the facilities, and immediately walked ourselves around the museum portion while we waited for the tour to begin at 10:00. I was immediately struck by how impressive the museum was set up, a mesh between technology that creates an interactive component to the exhibits with breathtaking artifacts that together paint a vivid picture of the Māori people’s history between them and the English navigators in this Bay of Islands area of New Zealand.

When 10:00 hit, our team assembled back outside the museum where we each got a handheld radio with an earpiece. The moment I put in my earpiece, I hear “they call me the creeper” followed by a spooky ghost noise which echoed around my brain, this was the first of many top shelf jokes from our guide. The museum was surround by trees which completely blocked the back half of the grounds, so when our tour guide took us through to an expansive outdoor area I was blown away. He told us about how where we were marked the first interactions between the Māori and the English, as we approached a wooden ship that topped 75 feet in length. In between classic wise-cracks our guide taught us about how the Māori went about attempting to figure out what intentions were of these English men on enormous ships despite language gaps and obvious cultural differences. Up a short hill sat a flagpole with three different flags basking in the sun of the beautiful day we were given. Each flag was used at some point for New Zealand through its early years, including the United Tribes flag which to this day holds high importance especially to the northern Maori tribes. We were told an awesome story of a Maori chief who cut down the same Crown flagpole three times in a row, as tensions were rising he promised not to do it anymore, so he returned to that flagpole and ordered one of his men to cut it down on his behalf for a fourth time.

The Flagpole at Waitangi treaty Grounds

Then, it was our turn first hand to see what an interaction would look like between an English group and the natives of Aotearoa. This experience was located in the Waitangi Marae, which was located right next to the flagpole. As we approached the building a Māori woman greeted us outside with instructions for us so we could follow the traditional code of contact for a meeting between two tribes that have yet to meet each other yet. I volunteered myself for the role of ‘chief’ for our group, without really knowing what I was getting myself into, and ended up having so much fun being a part of what felt like a very real ceremony of our two groups. After an impressive warrior display of skill and power, a Māori solider offered a four leafed plant to us as a sign that they come in peace. He placed the leaf on the ground and to accept their offering, and indicate that our group came in peace, I approached the offering, bent down and picked it up. We were then led inside where I was given an opportunity to acknowledge their ancestors and thank them for the glimpse that they gave us into their history. This was followed by an unbelievable performance of art and war, woven in with descriptions of the history behind each of the tools they put on display for us. Participating in that ceremony was an incredible experience, if you get a chance to take on the chief role at this fantastic Marae I highly recommend you do!

Myself and the Maori warrior who offered me the symbol of peace in the form of the leaf in my hand. His eyes and tongue are representative of intimidation and letting the opposite tribe know the strength and fearlessness of their own iwi.

The entire experience from the Museum, to the tour, and then to the performance was top notch and one I will not be forgetting. I have to say a huge thank you to all of the people involved for being not only informative but extremely kind and fun the full time of our tour there. The only thing hard to believe was that all of the things we got to do their only took up about half of our day! We then departed for lunch as we had to prepare for our stay in the Roma Marae that same evening. 10/10, amazing day.

-Tyler Myers




Tyler Myers

University of Washington class of 2018, majoring in Environmental Science and Resource Management. I attended Wellesley High School just outside of Boston and graduated from Mountain View High School.

During my time as an undergraduate student at the University of Washington I have been lucky enough to participate in two different environmental research projects. The summer of 2016 I worked on sites across Oregon and Washington gathering data on the regeneration of trees from plots where they were harvested for commercial use. My junior year I worked in similar vein, studying the difference in carbon content between harvested an unharvested forest soil samples from Washington and Brazil in UW’s Biogeochemistry Laboratory. The health of our planet is an issue that I care about deeply, and it is impossible to look at the Earth’s condition without acknowledging humanity’s impact on it. This study abroad program paints a vivid picture of how industrialization and gentrification effects the landscape of beautiful Aotearoa, New Zealand and I am beyond excited to be a part of it.

Dana, Nikki and I sitting the remaining stump from a massive kauri tree during our tour of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.