My Weekend in Waitangi and Embracing my Whakapapa
It was only two weeks after my induction into the Asia New Zealand Leadership Network that I was flying to Whangarei for the Te Ao Maori Hui with nearly 70 other inspiring individuals. The opportunity to apply to attend this hui came only a few days after I received my acceptance letter, and when I saw that the hui was going to be an opportunity to connect with Te Ao Māori I was overwhelmed with emotions. I always knew I was Maori but with very little physical signs other than I tan well in the summer, you wouldn’t have a clue that I was. But I was raised Pakeha and had no real contact to any whanau who were connected with our iwi or practised Tikanga, so it was hard to identify as a New Zealand Maori. I had always had a hunger to learn more about my Whakapapa where I was from and always felt as though there was a part of me that was missing. But knowing that there was a reason my dad was raised pakeha in Christchurch, I always felt guilty exploring it or that I was breaking the rules doing so. More about my personal whanau to come.
The planning of the hui was a collaborated effort by the Asia New Zealand Foundation and Te Kāhui Māori (Māori members of the network). There were so many amazing workshops facilitated by incredible people and speakers. I have not been able to mention them all here today as it would be an essay of a blog post and I want people to read it. However, I want to thank everyone involved in this experience. I will be forever grateful and never forget my weekend in Waitangi.
It began on the 7th of June with a Pōwhiri where we were welcomed onto the marae, Te Tii Waitangi. Just walking onto the marae I got all the feels. This was the first time I had ever been on a marae and to be walking onto such significant ground for New Zealand’s history it is an experience I will never forget. Once we had sat down in the marae we were welcomed by Ngati Kawa Taituha. There we a lot of speeches in Te Reo Maori. I could only understand one or two words and straight away hated that I didn't know the language, I felt guilty and like I was another ignorant member of society. Although I couldn’t understand anything, I could feel the emotion, the warm welcoming we were receiving. We did sing a few different Waiata (songs) and I was able to participate. The powhiri ended with a line up of Tangata Whenua (the hosts) and we were to go along and hongi. This was my first ever hongi too. It all went well and after a morning of firsts, I was ready for lunch.
After lunch, we walked to the Treaty Grounds. We were taken on a tour by the knowledgeable and comedic Ngati Kawa. We learnt how the treaty was signed, how promises were broken, about the years before and after the signing, and more about this special location. We finished the tour at the meeting house, built in 1940. Six local Maori performed traditional dances and songs for us. Their final song, they explained, was the haka performed on the 6th February 1940 by the 28th Maori Battalion for the opening of the Te Whare Runanga. It was really special and made me think of my Grandad, Albert Manihera Rangitekawahu Duder he fought in World War II. It was an emotional haka and I walked back out of the meeting house and began reminiscing about my grandad. He passed away in 2001 and I was only 10, so I never was old enough to ask the right questions, there is so much I would love to talk to him about now.
From that point on I started to talk to other members of the network, Te Kāhui Māori, to look for some guidance about where to go next. I wanted to learn more, I wanted to know everything about my family and the history of my tribe. Well, that night back at the marae we explored our whakapapa. I discovered what iwi (tribe) I belong to, Ngati Kahungunu, where our marae is (Wairarapa - Papawai) and went back 6 generations to find Te Manihera Rangitakaiwaho who was Paramount Chief South Wairarapa (pictured below). This process was very eye-opening and such an amazing experience. I also found out that my great-grandad died in World War I in Athens, Greece. I found out that my Grandad and Great Grandmother, Ruth Manihera (pictured below) were born in Greytown and are buried right by Papawai, our marae.
During this part of the Hui, we also learnt about each other's whakapapa and it was an amazing experience to learn about the other people around me and their families. It was emotional and brought us together as a group of young New Zealanders. That night we all slept on the marae which brought us even closer together and was again an experience I had never had before.
The next morning we woke up nice and early to help in the Whare Kai (kitchen) and were able to catch the sunrise. It was definitely a time for reflection and I sat there processing what I had learnt and felt the day before. I was ready to learn more, the first day had been about the past but today was about Te Ao Maori today. We were privileged to be invited to sit on the Tangata Whenua side of the meeting house for the Powhiri. There was an overwhelming amount of emotion during this powhiri. Sitting on that side meant we were now whanau we were part of this marae and it was an amazing experience. After singing a few waiata 100 x better than the first day I was feeling ready to learn.
Our first speaker session topic was Maori Today: Thought leadership on the role of Maori in New Zealand 2019. We heard from three amazing Maori doing incredible things in New Zealand. Nikora Ngaropo who is an animator who has worked on Avatar and the Avengers! He founded Young Animators to create a platform to inspire digital literacy in rangatahi (young Maori) through animation. Kaye Maree Dunn spoke to us about her work in social enterprise and its role in community development.
We also heard from Stacey Morrison who spoke about the role of Te Reo in New Zealand. Stacey is a Maori language champion, broadcaster, has published books in the Maori language, a kiwi celebrity, is raising three Maori-speaking children! However, she spoke about how she was originally not proud of being Maori. She spoke about her father's generation who had the worldview: "`I'm either going to be Maori or I'm going to be successful'. She now believes that more and more people need to learn Te Reo and connect with Maori history, their whakapapa and pronounce Maori words correctly!
Stacey's talk was something I strongly related to. I had heard a very similar story from my dad about my grandads views. He thought that if we were raised Maori or had Maori names we wouldn’t be successful. When my mum and dad named my brother James Wayne Manihera Duder, my grandad cried. Not happy tears because James had been named in honour of him but because he thought to give my brother this middle name would be a burden to him and his success.
We also heard from Maori leader, ex-cabinet minister and current CEO of Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Hon Te Ururoa Flavell. He spoke to us about The Opportunity and challenges for Maori in Asia. He did heavily focus on similar points to Stacy. About how important it is to embrace the Maori language, pronounce place names and names correctly. He spoke to us about the Treaty settlements and how they are not just about money, but about reclaiming cultural, spiritual and educational opportunities that were stripped from Maori when the treaty was signed. He said that New Zealand Pakeha need to learn about the Maori history and embrace this history that is a part of them. You do not need to go to Waitangi to do this. It is in your own backyard. He encouraged people to contact their local iwi or marae and visit with an open mind, feel their hearts and understand each other. Of course, you can also sign up to learn Te Reo through the free courses at Te Wananga o Aotearoa.
We are a multicultural country but we were built on a bicultural foundation. However, we have for too long continued to let the Maori culture be pushed out of our day-to-day New Zealand. Many New Zealanders could not answer the question “What is New Zealand's culture” are we just number 8 wire? Fish and chips? Pavlova? All Blacks and Lord of the Rings? When we are in our own country so many of us never embrace our Maori history, we butcher Maori words and put Maori people into a box. However, as soon as we are overseas we will happily start saying Kia Ora, get a koru tattoo, bust out a haka, or start singing Poi E. We need to stop the systematic racism that exists here in New Zealand. There is a reason that Maori are at the wrong end of many of our statistic in New Zealand. A good start would be to learn and educate yourself about the history and understand the Maori people. And we seriously need to stop mispronouncing Maori words and Maori names. Just think how annoying it is when someone pronounces your name wrong or even for those of you out there who get very angry with bad grammar (sorry about this article) but why do you not get up and arms about it when someone says MAARRIIII instead of Maori. Te Ururoa challenged me to start correcting people and I am going to. And if someone asks me why I pronounce it like that, my answer will be “because its FUCKEN CORRECT”. ( I need to thank Byron for that gem). I have also enrolled in a level one Te Reo course!
On Saturday we had the official goodbye and the end of our stay at the marae. Again this was an incredibly emotional part of the trip. When we sat back down again to hear the speeches, I could pick up a few more words this time and again felt the warm goodbye. We were told to leave here and use the knowledge we had gained, and to “love the people”. We got to a part where the guests are invited to say something. Anyone could get up and address the Tangata Whenua and express their thanks. After a few people got up and said some very heartfelt and words of gratitude. I decided that I was never going to get another chance to tell these people that their hospitality and warm welcome to their marae had been a life-changing experience for me. Unfortunately, as soon as I stood up and walked over to address them, I felt the tears pouring out of me. I got a few words out but I think my tears said it all.
We then moved out of the marae and over to a hotel. We were treated to an amazing meal and another speaker session where we heard from to wahine entrepreneurs, Kiri Nathan and Kohi Woodman who are taking on the world of fashion and discussed the struggles of being a Maori designer. We asked how we could help, and as a fellow entrepreneur myself, it didn’t surprise me when their answer was “Buy our stuff!” so go check them out here, Kiri Nathan and Indigenous ASF.
The final day we spent talking about the future and what we can do now. I have decided that I will learn Te Reo, I will visit my iwi and learn more about Maori history. I will be forever starting my public talks with my pepeha, I will correct people when they say a Maori world wrong and I will make sure I am not mispronouncing them either! We are the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network, we will travel and work in and with Asia, I believe having a better understanding of our Maori history and culture we will better represent NZ In these countries.
The weekend was incredible. It was eye-opening, an emotional rollercoaster and has helped me begin my journey into learning more about my Whakapapa, to contribute to my iwi, Ngati Kahungunu and visit my marae, Papawai in Greytown. Over the weekend I heard many of the speakers say something along the lines of, it is not your fault where we are today but it is now your choice what you do about it. I encourage you all to read and watch the below resources to give you some background and insight into the Treaty and then look into your own Whakapapa. Nō hea koe? Where are you from? (Where are your ancestors from? Before they came to New Zealand) Ko wai koe? Whakapapa (what is your genealogy going back four generations: You – Parents – Grandparents – Great-grandparents) Who in your line first moved to New Zealand? This was a great place to start for me and I think it will be for you too!
Thanks for reading!
Below are some readings and online resources that were recommended to us by the Kāhui for background and insight.
2. Interview with Moana Jackson on sovereignty, Treaty etc: https://natlib.govt.nz/he-tohu/korero/interview-with-moana-jackson
3. Speech by Sir Eddie Durie: http://www.firstfound.org/speech_given_by_eddie_durie_at_w.htm
4. Lecture notes from Annette Sykes touching on our identity, sovereignty, history and political direction: http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1011/Annette_Sykes_Lecture_2010.pdf
5. Articles by Moana Maniapoto on contemporary Māori issues published on e-tangata are superb. Here’s is a random example: https://e-tangata.co.nz/comment-and-analysis/the-racism-that-too-few-of-the-privileged-can-see/