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.
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.