Tag Archives: Aotearoa

Kia ora Aotearoa!

The group at Hairini Marae with our host Josh.

September 14th, 2017

Our time in Aotearoa came to an end on Thursday evening at Uncle’s Man Malaysia restaurant where we had out last community dinner. The day started off with goodbyes to Hairini Marae as we left to pile into our last long bus ride.

We stopped in town for quick breakfast and a farewell to the pier, the never opened stores, and the library with free wifi. Four lovely hours later, in Auckland, all us students made our way to the hostel where we would spend our last night in bunk beds with each other.

At 6pm, Kiwi time, we sat down for a dinner Professor Josh had been eagerly waiting for. We laughed at inside jokes as we enjoyed the delicious food of our last meal as a group. We wrapped up the evening with a much-deserved Koha (gift) to both Josh and Chris for all that they had put into the program. Us students couldn’t be more grateful for all their hard work. A third Koha was given to Raquel West in appreciation for leading us in song during every Pōwhiri. Showing her love, Racquel gifted the group back with friendship bracelets, it was utterly clear that we were no longer just peers. Everyone was merry and a bit nostalgic as we parted ways after dinner, forever weaved together from our time in Aotearoa.

Words cannot fully showcase the appreciation of the group for all the hospitality, adventures and knowledge learned on this trip. The numerous people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting have completely made the program. The places we visited stained our minds with incredible views and histories. The way Maori peoples are continuing to proudly live out their culture in various ways was beautiful to encounter. Thanks to everyone, we have left Aotearoa with our thoughts bombing, horizons expanded and memories full.

– Birdie Harvey

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.


Chilling Weather and Chilling History

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.


Parliament and Politics

September 8, 2017

Today Meka Whaitiri, a member in the Labour Party, warmly greeted us and gave us a tour of the Parliament. She met us in the Māori Affairs Committee Room, which is located in the main Parliament building. The room served a similar function as a Marae, and the interior was similar to a Marae as well; instead of poupou (carvings on wood panels inside the meeting house of a Marae that usually have connections to ancestral lineage), there were portraits of previous Māori politicians. We were greeted in a fashion similar to a pōwhiri (a welcome protocol): exchanging a speech and a song, followed by the hongi. I found the resemblance to a Marae protocol to be significant in regards to not only paying respect to Māori ancestors and culture, but also to empowering Māori people who are involved in politics and represent their iwi (tribe).

The Parliament buildings (the Beehive on the left, and the main building on the right)

During the tour, we were taken to the court room where new laws are passed. The room had the names of countries that New Zealand had fought in war with. Following the tour, we had morning tea with Meka and discussed more about the Parliament. It stood out to me when Meka told us that there are some Māori members of parliament (MPs) who acknowledge their Māori whakapapa (genealogy) only when it is convenient or beneficial. In doing this, the genuine motive to represent Māori interests becomes illegitimate as well as the intention to represent the whakapapa that these MPs now conveniently claim to relate to. I found it disheartening that considering how proportionally little Māori there are in parliament, these Māori MP choose to represent certain sides or issues and turn to their whakapapa almost as a last resort. With whakapapa being a significantly large part of Māori culture, relating to their genealogy when convenient seems to undermine the roots of the culture and heritage they claim to have.

We had visited The Waitangi Tribunal two days before visitign the Parliament. The Waitangi Tribunal (a government entity) looks into past and present breaches from the Crown to the Treaty of Waitangi. The members at the Waitangi Tribunal are mostly all of Māori descent. After putting in immense time and effort of looking into claims, the Tribunal produces a written report that underlines Crown breaches and highlights recommendations regarding the claims. Despite that these reports are only recommendations and are not binding results, the members are extremely dedicated to the work they are doing. They were doing work that, although would not give affected Māori peoples any compensation for the hardship caused by breaches to the Treaty, they believed would make a difference. In comparison to the certain Māori MPs that only use their Māori genealogy to benefit themselves in politics, these Māori members at the Tribunal strongly held onto their whakapapa and used that as motivation.

These visits made me reflect on how Māori sovereignty in politics can become distorted due to how power is allocated to different political and government entities. The interests of MPs often do not benefit the whole, and can lead to malpractice. On the other hand, the system of politics sheds little light onto the Māori peoples (or groups like the Waitangi Tribunal), and this creates an environment where genuine interests are not prioritized.

— Eunice

The Journey of Sovereignty

September 8, 2017

The New Zealand Parliament Building

Today we were given a tour of parliament by Māori member of parliament Meka Whaitiri. Our tour began by entering a whare-like room, with walls adorned by wood carvings and portraits of past, historically significant Māori parliament members. We were welcomed by a traditional pōwhiri, or protocol, exchanging a song between our class and Meka. Following the welcome ceremony, we toured the speaking chambers from both past and present, ending our visit in the Māori committee chamber. We sat around the table asking Meka a variety of questions, eventually ending our afternoon over tea.

Original copy of Treaty of Waitangi

Overall, our last few days in Wellington have completely unhinged all of the preconceived beliefs I held about the state of existence for the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa. I came into this study of Māori peoples with a skewed perception that in terms of Indigenous rights, Māori were so much better off than the natives from my home country. With both the Waitangi Tribunal, a governmental entity dedicated to looking into both contemporary and historical breeches of the Treaty of Waitangi on the part of the Crown, and the illusion of fast-pace progress in the settlement processes, it would seem that while there is still so much work to be done, Māori are far advanced in their pursuit for sovereignty in comparison to Native Americans. I tread carefully, because I don’t want to give off the impression that there has been no progression at all. Time and time again I’ve been left awe-struck by the resiliency of Aotearoa’s first peoples, and their unwavering commitment to their own autonomy. I’ve been so humbled in witnessing cultural performances, speeches delivered completely in Te Reo, and the historic strength of the people.

Yet, in examining the detailed processes of how Māori must fight for sovereignty, it becomes so clear how easy it is to get caught up in a false idea that the New Zealand is edging towards a world “post” colonization. That they, unlike America, have successfully begun to amend the sins committed during colonialism. However, in understanding colonization as a process, rather than an event, it is evident that we will never truthfully live in a world rid of colonization. For this reason, it is imperative not to allow ourselves to get caught up in the idea that we’ve made strides immense enough to rectify the scars colonization has left on indigenous populations. As stated in Patricia Grace’s Potiki, “[As Indigenous peoples], we haven’t come a long way at all…  we’ve been all left out of it in the end. We’ve helped build a country… Worked in the factories, helped build the roads, helped educate its kids… We’ve committed our crimes, done our good deeds, sat in Parliament, got educated, sung our hymns, scored our ties, fought in wars, splashed our money about…”, and yet despite all of this, Indigenous peoples must continue to struggle every day to receive the rights entitled to them for centuries (93-94).

In this way, while the tour left me feeling both encouraged and frustrated, I think it revealed for me the heart of what it means to be indigenous in all parts of the world. To be indigenous is to be limited. It is being allowed an illusion of sovereignty at the cost of your autonomy not only as an individual, but as a tribe. However, it is also challenging this notion every day. It is not only seeing your limitations, but also the paths you’ll take to overcome them. Even more, in light of this, it is my hope that the Waitangi Tribunal never reaches an end. Not only because it is instrumental in dealing with contemporary breeches on the part of the crown, but also because there is no end point. Sovereignty is not a destination, but a journey. In operating under the false pretense that we’ve been ushered into an era post-colonization, we fall victim to seeing Indigenous peoples, such as the Māori, as monolithic, trapped by the notion that there is no growth left to be had. The fact of the matter is colonization will never cease to perverse our mindset, and in order for indigenous populations to continue their journeys towards sovereignty, they must be allowed the capacity and space to evolve.

— Danni

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


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

(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

Learning Māori Identity

August 30, 2017

On Wednesday our group had the opportunity to participate in the first of a two-day conference workshop, held at Fale Pacifika, University of Auckland. Earlier in the week, each student signed up for one workshop to attend on Wednesday or Thursday. Students chose a conference workshop from a variety of topics ranging from Māori Storytelling to Socioeconomic Impacts of Māori People. Those of us that did not attended a Wednesday conference workshop began our day at 3:30 in the classroom.

In class we created working definitions for two important terms: sovereignty and settler colonization. We discussed the controversial concept of native sovereignty and analyzed the vulnerability of certain types of sovereignty to colonizing forces. We defined the term settler colonization resulting in a comparison of settler versus extractive colonization. Similarities and differences between these two types of colonization highlighted the specific affects settler colonization has on the society and culture of native, rather then their resources.

After wrapping up our class discussion we headed to an evening event with speakers Linda Tuhiwai Smith and Moana Jackson. Both speakers gave personal anecdotes to convey ideas of Māori representation and sovereignty. Jackson emphasized the act of drawing on old knowledge to create new ideas and described the importance of taking the past to enhance and shape the future. He stressed the need for confidence in communities to tell and share Māori identity, so outsiders don’t have the chance to superimpose their own perspectives and ideas onto Māori culture. Linda Tuhiwai Smith closed the workshop by sharing short poetic stories to explain what “drives” her as a person. Both speakers acknowledged everything the Māori people do as political because almost every Māori conflict falls back to the Treaty of Waitangi. Māori lives and struggles revolve on components of the Treaty such as land, rights and sense of space that connect back to Maori representation.


Talking with Waatea

Today we visited Radio Waatea and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Radio Waatea is a radio station that broadcasts nearly only in Māori. The station is unique in the fact that it is situated within the Marae itself. Moreover, the Auckland War Memorial Museum has many exhibits, including one that displays Māori art, weaponry, canoes and a beautiful, historic Marae. There is also a culture rich exhibit, which displays and dissects the Treaty of Waitangi. It was incredible to see the immense efforts taken to preserve Māori culture.

Waatea Radio

We were invited into the Marae, where the radio station does their broadcasting. Broadcasting in Māori is culturally significant as it prevents the language from dying and makes Māori the mainstream. This is especially true with technology can disseminate information and reach a wider audience. While talking about preserving languages, one of the broadcasters said that “the language breathes if the environment allows for it”. I thought this was extremely insightful, because to encourage more Māori to speak their native language, there needs resources and spaces that make it possible. The radio station is doing exactly that.

Following the radio station, we visited one of the classrooms. It was vibrant and full of artwork that the students had done. The students sang songs in Māori, which is another great example of creating an environment that allows for the language to breathe.

Students singing Māori songs


For me, the visit to the radio station stood out the most. As stated previously, it is an urban Māori radio station located on the Marae. Even more however, the Marae works to help support their local community; there is a food bank, social workers on site, an elementary (primary) school, and a support system for people who are struggling. In targeting some social issues, the Marae provides the community with positive influences.

Again, the Marae had me in awe. I was completely amazed to see that they had such a strong support system to sustain their people, their language and culture. Throughout time, Maori have been told how they can and cannot govern their people, resources, and land. Each opportunity for sovereignty has been met with limitation. However, in creating a space where Maori people can raise their kids, sustain their families, and live together as an Indigenous community, the people of the Waatea Marae have created a means for their own sovereignty and self-reliance.