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.
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.
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.
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.
Aug 24, 2017
Our first day in Aotearoa, New Zealand, was very eventful! First thing in the morning, all fifteen of us students met up with our professors, Josh Reid and Chris Teuton, at the Waipapa Marae in Auckland. Upon arriving at the Marae, we were greeted by Aroha Harris, a high-raking Māori “speaker of women.” She was kind enough to usher us onto the Waipapa Marae to be welcomed by our Māori hosts at the University of Auckland. Our hosts made a beautiful speech welcoming us in Māori, which they also translated into English so we could understand. They then sung us a famous traditional Māori song, complete with dancing and hand gestures! In response our professor, Chris Teuton, gave a speech entirely in Māori thanking them for their hospitality! All of our hosts were very impressed. After his speech, we all sang a Māori song that we had learned together during our orientation sessions. It is also customary for guests to bring gifts when being welcomed onto a Māori marae, so we gave our hosts a bag full of special handmade jewelry and other unique gifts from back home in Seattle! After that, our gracious hosts took the time to give us a tour of their communal house, their “wharenui,” and explained to us the meanings of the beautiful carvings covering the walls. Usually, each carving represents a specific ancestor, and the carving ensures their story will be told and remembered through time, but in this marae the carvings represented the many first captains and navigators who journeyed to New Zealand from Polynesia. After the tour, they offered us coffee and breakfast with delicious homemade smoked salmon frittatas, pastries, sandwiches, and much more! They encouraged us to eat and waited for all of us to grab food first, which is customary in Māori culture before the guests and hosts can freely interact. Our incredible experience at the marae reflected the emphasis on representation through story-telling and tradition (especially hospitality) in Māori culture that we’ve been reading about for the last couple weeks!
The entrance to the sacred wharenui (communal house) at Waipapa Marae in Auckland, featuring a few members of our class and our professors, Professor Reid and Professor Teuton.
After the Marae, we schlepped our bags across town and hopped on a bus to Paihia, a small beach town in New Zealand’s scenic Bay of Islands. After the long 5-hour bus ride, we arrived at our rental house and had an amazing community dinner cooked by Professor Teuton’s wife and family, and with local foods gifted from Ms. Harris! With bellies full of food and jet-lag setting in, we decided to call it an early night in order to be ready for the next day’s adventures!
Aug. 23, 2017
Earlier today, I arrived in Auckland from Melbourne, where I did a little follow-up research on a new project I’m working on about Indigenous explorers in the Pacific, from the late-eighteenth through late-nineteenth centuries. After checking into my hotel, I made a beeline for the Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga (New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence) to go through the
Hint: Where Chris and I went before heading to Aotearoa.
boxes of koha (gifts) we shipped from Seattle – the photo to the left hints at some of what we shipped from home. We’ll need these for our põwhiri (welcoming ceremony) in the morning and at other marae we’ll be visiting over the next few weeks. Our hosts at the University of Auckland were there to greet me and help me track down one of our missing boxes.
When I walked into the offices of the centre, I spotted a copy of a conference proceedings book that contains my first post-undergrad publication. This was a paper I presented in 2005 at an Indigenous Knowledges conference in Wellington, and it was this conference that first brought me to Aotearoa. From that experience, I met many fellow scholars and Māori with whom I am still in contact… and some that I hope to see on this excursion. So, it is only fitting that this piece from the past was one of the first items I saw upon the beginning of this program. My hope is that the students have a transformational experience like I had on my first trip here.
My co-director, Chris Teuton, and I have structured an academic study abroad that examines the intersections of sovereignty, environment, and representation in Aotearoa New Zealand. These are themes in which we are keenly interested, and we hope that this appeals to our students, too. Aotearoa is an ideal place to explore these topics, and we think we have assembled a unique program that will challenge them to think critically about these and in ways that compare them to the experiences of Indigenous peoples in North America.
I am excited for tomorrow!
— Josh Reid