Fig. 1 Te Moana a Taokahu, Kuirau Park, Rotorua
To craft a curriculum
For the last five years I have had the privilege of working as a curriculum designer, armed with Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (partnership document to the New Zealand Curriculum) in one hand, and the voices of whānau in the other. Together with the school, we work to craft a curriculum that resonates with the voice and aspiration of whānau (including students, parents or caregivers, hapu, and iwi). At each school I enter bearing my personalised kākahu woven together with whakapapa (genealogical ties), reo (Māori and English), tikanga (my values and ways of doing things), and wairua (my sense of belonging and knowing). It is a humbling position. The role requires dancing between expert and amateur, worker and/or observer, and reflective practitioner or assertive advisor. At the heart of the work is the child, a future leader of the iwi. To design, craft, and shape a curriculum that leaves whānau in no doubt about what it means to achieve as Māori, feel success as Māori, and to know, do, and be as Māori in their eyes, is my role. Easy to roll off the tongue, and a challenge to create, but it is rewarding to give voice to mana whenua and the whānau.
The act of humbling oneself
Fig.2 Hikoi at Makawe
Hūmārie – the act of humbling oneself so that your importance is minimised and the status of another elevated.
As a facilitator, to be hūmārie is crucial. It is an unselfish act of invitation to view the world through a lens not of my own making or interpretation, but to experience it through whānau eyes. Hūmārie allows openness to the known and unknown, the seen and unseen, the visible context and the invisible message – I see you, I hear you, I know you. At the heart of all teaching and learning decisions is the child – ko te pūtake o te ako, ko te tamaiti. My act of ‘hūmārie, to mingle with the presence of their tupuna is the ultimate recognition that I can pay deference to a cultural lens other than my own.
A kākahu fashioned by heritage and tribal prestige
Fig.3 Hikoi at Makawe
Hūmārie allows one to embrace a child’s whakapapa, his or her reo, his or her tikanga, his or her wairua. It is an understanding that each person comes wearing his or her own kākahu fashioned by heritage and tribal prestige. At the same time, it leaves a layer untouched that can then be feathered by the pride of those I work with in my role as facilitator, teacher, guide, learner, advisor. I wear humility on the inside as my constant tour guide to realise whānau aspirations for schooling, not through policy and practice as my first encounter, but touched by iwi memory and a strong sense of belonging. If my culture counts to me, then my act of hūmārie (humility) will show that theirs counts, too.
Fig.2. View from Pukeroa towards Ngongotaha maunga
Cultural location is the pivotal factor in creating a culturally responsive curriculum that resonates with the localised voice of iwi. With your cloak of hūmārie you listen to the wind’s whispers, the bird songs and follow the flow of the waterways to their source in waiata. Here is the sacral nature of environment. Location derived from the reo of the people, identity borne of environmental features and significant places that resound in ancestral exploits, all serving to immortalise placental belonging – tangata whenua – people born of the land. Pivotal to location are three pātai (questions):
- nō hea? (where are you from?)
- nā wai? (whom do you represent?)
- ko wai? (from whose waters were you born from?).
Each school bears their own kākahu resplendent in the feathers of story, people, places, events and a language that honours those who have mana over the land. Our role requires us to work collaboratively to weave the story of past, present and future in to a carefully crafted, collaboratively constructed curriculum. Why? Because this curriculum should exemplify the iwi and the tamariki who represent it. At every setting one common theme reverberates– a sense of belonging, identity, language and culture are at the heart of Māori student success.
Ngotea te wai o te kākahi
Ngotea te wai o te kākahi – draw nourishment from the nectars of kākahi. A saying used by Ngāti Whakaue reminding us no matter where we may be in the world, home is where the kākahi lies. The kākahi are my GPS to home. Ko Whakaue te tangata. Ko Rotorua nui a-Kahumatamomoe te moana. Whakaue is my descendant ancestor. Lake Rotorua named for Kahumatamomoe, another eponymous ancestor whom I can lay claim to in my geneology.
You see, for me, the real business of cultural location is to shift teaching and learning to a model that truly enables whānau to become confident, connected and contextually welcome in the learning environment. Cultural location has the assumption that by being grounded in your own identity, language and culture, this then means that you are on an equal par to take a walk in another’s footsteps. As I sit here writing, I am saddened by the news of a relative’s passing. As the mamae (hurt) settles I can almost hear our kaikaranga calling him on to the marae for one last time.
Haere wairua mai ra e tama i runga i ō mātā waka, haeremai, haeremai, haeremai. Haeremai rā i runga i tō marae a Paratehoata-Te Kohea e, ki roto i te ahuru mōwai o Te Noho a Pū, e hika e…haeremai, haeremai, haeremai rā.
To our son, return to us now and bring with you all your ancestral connections so we may mourn as one. We call you home for one last time on to your ancestral marae, Paratehoata-Te Kohea. Our ancestor Tunohopu calls to shelter you within his warm embrace. Oh esteemed one, we salute you, we welcome you, we, your iwi, receive you with open arms.
I can hear our kaikaranga calling him on to the marae for the last time, the cry ancient, reaching across time to join together the spiritual and physical worlds in one space, the words woven as a spiritual cloak around him and his grieving whānau.
These words may seem out of place in this post yet your ingenuousness to its message is what counts for the culture I bring to meet with yours. Your openness to my voice laden with legacy and tradition is the one response that my heart will recognise, that my soul will rise to, that my being will open to as a mokopuna of iwi. By knowing the stories, significant tribal places, songs and words that express my tribal identity within the karanga, you can then immerse yourself in my world in a meaningful way.
As a facilitator, you bring your expertise to help weave their world into a distinctive curriculum reflective of the haukainga (home people) and cognisant of their needs.
Consider this as an approach to cultural location
So, if you want your curriculum culturally located within iwi story, here’s a few points you may want to consider, or that can affirm the great work you have already done:
Humble yourself to listen to authentic whānau voice from kaumatua, kuia, whānau, ākonga
Return to the bosom of their songs, stories, significant places, marae, maunga, awa/moana
Do an environmental scan of iwi, place, documentation, stories, know your curriculum document
Neither expert or amateur, offer your kete of skills to potentialise their aspirations for schooling
Use reo ā-tīnana, reo ā-wairua, reo ā-waha, reo ā-rongo, reo ā-ngakau, reo ā-iwi to express it
“Ko te iwi te kura” The school is the iwi – Te Whānau a Apanui saying shared by Nehu Gage, 2012
E: ‘Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini’
My strengths come not as an individual but working as a collective
Tukua mai ki a piri, tukua mai ki a tata
kia eke mai ki runga i te paepae poto a Houmaitawhiti!
Welcome to my world.
Fig.6 View of Muruika
Fig.7 View to Mokaia