Author Archives: vallen

Mysteries of Matiu Island

Tuesday, September 5th,

Today our class found ourselves on the glorious island of Matiu, or as some call it Somes island as well. Being owned by the Maori but operated by the Department of Conservation I was curious to see how these ideas came together on the island. While the previous day the rest of the group and myself went off exploring the island and interacting with its environment, today we got to see the Maori portion, or lack thereof in Matiu Island’s case and how it intersects with the environment.

A view of the island’s edges.

After our class session and some down time on the island, we got to meet with one of the rangers who provided our group with a lot more information on the Kaitiaki Plan and the Maori representation on the island, which other than the carved gate we saw at the wharf of the island was simply non-existent. From the ranger, we learned of the reason for this: despite the lower down rangers wanting to get the local Iwi’s (tribes) who owned the island involved more heavily, their efforts got consistently bogged down by the bureaucracy. The rapid turnover that takes place on the trust board that deals with Matiu Island makes things incredibly slow to move forward on the island. Furthermore, there is a lot of other Taonga (treasures) that this trust board has to deal with which take up time as well, and without proper resources to be able to address these areas, Matiu Island then lacks the proper cultural representation. Sadly this is many times a fact in democracies and with the bureaucracy, the wheels turn at a snail’s pace, and it is quite frustrating to deal with.

The carved gate to Matiu Island.

In a bit brighter spot from the lack of the Maori representation on the island, the environmental preservation and conservation programs seem to be doing quite well. The island’s had recent successes with several endangered species, including the Tuatara, a lizard native to only New Zealand, and the Kakariki, another endangered parakeet as well. Coming from what was once a barren island that was a quarantine station for Wellington and the surrounding area, now it is a verdant green island that is predator free and well protected. Though, as an environmentalist, the tree situation here was amusing and irritating; most trees aren’t from the area, or even New Zealand. I understand why this is though, back when the trees were planted, they put whatever they could get on the island, and are working on changing it now.

All in all, I was really interested in being able to explore and experience Matiu/Somes Island. I think that the island was a good look at how the Maori and Environment intersect, and the various issues relating to these themes. Also, I’m interested to see further into the government’s perspective in Wellington after getting a glimpse of it on the island. The trip out was a wonderful experience and I look forward to what Wellington will bring us in our knowledge.

–Nathan Vallejos

Nathan Vallejos

Me with the greatest of the birds: The Chicken.

Hi there! My name is Nathan and I am a current student at the University of Washington Bothell Campus, where I am working towards a degree in both Public Policy and Environmental Studies.  Along with going to school, I currently am a supervisor and trainer for Ezell’s Famous Chicken, a favorite local restaurant in Seattle. In my spare time, I like to volunteer at a homeless shelter in Downtown Seattle as a public relations and technological intern. I am super excited to be a part of this adventure and learn more about the Maori culture while I explore the wonderful country of New Zealand!

For me, this program is a way to look into how other indigenous peoples have dealt with colonization, and how they currently are represented in their country and throughout the world. New Zealand is of particular interest due to the unique way that the country’s government and native populace have addressed the issues that occurred in the past: through the Waitangi Tribunal, which hears cases where the Treaty of Waitangi was broken. I take a great interest in the Waitangi Tribunal as a potential way to address the United States own issues regarding treatment of the indigenous populations. My plans beyond college will likely lead me into a governmental agency, so I’m looking at bringing new ideas to help create policy that will be beneficial to the indigenous peoples of the United States.

Furthermore, this is an excellent travel opportunity for me to explore and experience new cultures as well. New Zealand will be the 14th country that I’ve gotten a chance to experience, and I look forward to the adventures that it will bring. I enjoy comparing and contrasting the various countries to see the cultural differences and to gain a better understanding of the world around me.

I am happy to be apart of this trip, and I am looking forward to the adventures that will be occurring on the trip!

Leaving the Bay, Arriving in Auckland

A view of the Downtown of Auckland

Sunday, August 27th,

Today we found ourselves leaving the beautiful and inspirational Bay of Islands. Being a four hour bus ride from Paihia (where we stayed) to Auckland gave me time to reflect on the vast amount of knowledge that I already learned about the Maori in the Bay of Islands.

While reflecting on the bus watching the terrain shift between rolling grasslands and mountainous pine forests, I started to  think more upon something that we got to learn only a little bit about about while we visited the Bay of Islands: the environment, particularly resource management. On the bus, I definitely noticed that vast portions of the region were grazing fields for various animals, with sheep being the most prevalent. As we learned from the various Maori marae and people we visited over the past few days, these grazing fields are not an original part of the environment. These lands were once forested abodes populated by various species like the great tree, whose sheer size allowed for the Maori to build massive canoes used to travel and go to war with other Iwi (clans). These forests, especially the large trees don’t exist anymore, and I find it disheartening to see the level of environmental destruction that has taken place in New Zealand. It may not seem like it, as these lands are a beautiful shade of green and sheep frolic around but the forests, and thus the biodiversity has left the area as well.

Upon arriving in Auckland, the extensive urbanization of the region was quite evident. It reminds me a lot of how towns and cities in the United States are built versus those in Europe: out instead of up. Despite there being over a million people in Auckland, you won’t find many large skyscrapers in the city, even in downtown. The city is built outwards, taking up a lot of space. Similar to Seattle, the city lacks large scale infrastructure for transportation other than cars, and with large scale traffic this turns into unhealthy pollution.

Notice the lack of tall buildings in Auckland

It’s hard to look at these lands and think about how much they have changed, especially for the Maori people. The forests  that used to cover their lands aren’t there anymore, and that doesn’t let the Maori carve new meeting houses, build canoes and create tools and other items of cultural significance to them. But as we’ve seen in the Bay of Islands, the Maori continue to fight on, and I plan to join them to protect our environment for future generations to enjoy.

–Nathan Vallejos