Tag Archives: Indigenous Knowledge

Māori Representation in WWI

September 9, 2017

A larger-than-life display of a kiwi soldier fighting in the Gallipoli battle during WWI.

Our first free day in Wellington consisted of rest and time exploring the city! The day before, we visited the famous Te Papa museum and got a special back of the house tour of their “Mana Whenua” exhibit, which loosely translates to “authority of the land.” The Mana Whenua exhibit was one of many in the expansive museum, so we decided to come back the next day and explore the rest, especially since it’s free! One place we hadn’t checked out was the Gallipoli exhibition. Gallipoli was a battle during World War I where New Zealand helped other Allied forces invade the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. Sadly, the campaign ended with over 2,500 casualties on the New Zealand side. Despite the tragedy, the Gallipoli battle was very important as not only one of New Zealand’s first major steps in cultivating a sense of national identity, but also as the first battle where Māori and pākehā, or foreign settlers, fought together. In the exhibit, there was a large section detailing Māori involvement in the battle through The Māori Contingent, an all Māori battalion, which landed in Gallipoli in July of 1915. The display described how important Māori involvement was in the battle, earning them the respect and admiration of British and pākehā troops. But it also stated that many have overlooked their involvement historically. Seeing this reminded me of the fact that many modern treaty settlement claims being assessed by the Waitangi Tribunal are related to the health issues of Māori veterans involved in World War I and the Vietnam War. For context, the Waitangi Tribunal is a group of people tasked with hearing Māori claims of Treaty of Waitangi violations by European settlers. Part of the treaty claimed that Māori would gain the same rights and liberties as British citizens. However, after coming home from war many Māori soldiers were not given the same treatment as the pākehā veterans. Today, the grievances of Māori veterans, especially relating to PTSD, are finally being heard and settlements are being advocated for by the Waitangi Tribunal. Learning about the Tribunals current efforts and seeing the Māori Contingent soldiers receive recognition in the Gallipoli exhibit has made me hopeful that Māori veterans will be rightfully compensated for their service in the near the future.


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

First Day in Aotearoa

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!

— Nikki


Pre-Program Thoughts

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