‘Matariki ahunga nui! Matariki tāpuapua!’
‘Matariki provider of plentiful food. Matariki the rainy season’
At the time of writing, we are very close to the winter solstice, which is celebrated on the shortest day of the year. Tama-nui-te-rā is beginning his final embrace with Hine Takurua, and planning the long journey back to Hine Raumati. Te Iwa o Matariki, which is commonly celebrated in contemporary times as the Māori New Year is also about to make its appearance much easier to see. A time of renewal and celebration, where we remember those things that have come to pass, and embrace our future desires.
Very recently my whānau and I attended a tangihanga that in hindsight demonstrated the continuing consequences and impacts of colonisation.
Colonisation in this instance, refers to Māori loss of sovereignty, which eventually paved the way for political, spiritual, economic, social and psychological domination. Whilst the impacts from loss of land, loss of power, loss of language and culture continues to prove devastating for Māori, the intergenerational impacts are further highlighted by low levels of participation and achievement in education and economic well-being. As well as over representation in negative areas such as imprisonment rates.
Due to this, my husband and I have spent the last 25 years revitalising the Māori language and traditional practices within our whānau. Our three tamariki are first language Māori speakers, and now there are three of us that are Te Aho Matua practitioners, with our eldest daughter currently teaching Pūtaiao in the wharekura section of our local kura kaupapa Māori. Our middle child is enrolled in Te Aho Tātairangi, a Māori-medium Bachelor of Education degree offered at Massey University. Our 10 year old speaks only te reo Māori to us all.
Our language reclamation journey took courage, resilience, stamina but most importantly, a huge leap of faith. Our decision to do so was based more on instinctive collective understandings, or the desire to be part of a Māori speaking movement, as opposed to a well thought out, foolproof plan. I think as far as succession plans go, we are very close to ticking off phase 2 in our whakarauora reo strategy, a language revitalisation plan that utilises theories and strategies from Kura Whakarauora Reo.
Our plan includes Māori language classes to our direct whānau as well as making safe spaces for the partners of our tamariki, who might not speak Māori, but have come into a household where approx 90% te reo Māori is spoken. Add to this the knowledge that we are very close to finishing our very first waka taurua build, and you may get an inkling of how hard my husband and I, as well as a strong collective of many Māori speaking whānau, have had to work to get here.
‘……one of the many trying to save our beautiful language and traditions from the continued onslaught of colonisation…..’
This is our reality now, but 25 years ago, we had a simple desire, and that was that our children’s first language be te reo Māori. In my head, I had consciously thought about the fact that I would become one of the many trying to save our beautiful language and traditions from the continued onslaught of colonisation, a demanding and enduring responsibility. However, in my heart I had confirmed the absolute importance of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, how they shape my identity and psyche, to make me who I am.
Yet, through all my struggles and efforts to create a te reo Māori only household, to become a Māori-medium educator, to practise as a kaupapa Māori researcher and Te Aho Matua practitioner; attending this tangihanga clearly emphasised how far we have to go. It also reiterated the continued struggle of Māori to differentiate between modern expectations of what it is to be Māori, and a Māori of the marae.
To be clear, my husband and I both consider ourselves people of the marae and modern-day Māori. As such, we returned as quickly as we both were able to this tangihanga, made simpler as we work within Te Arareo Māori, the Māori-medium division of Tātai Aho Rau, CORE Education. While tangihanga leave was very easily arranged for my husband and I, this was not the case for many of our whānau who couldn’t get time off work to attend.
On arrival, it quickly became evident that we would have to lead in the front, or on the paepae. There were no kaikaranga, and the pae kaikōrero was also slim for the picking. These are honorable positions held upon the marae but in some areas there are so few kaikaranga and kaikōrero to fill them.
‘….continued impact that colonisation has on our people and our ability to carry out expected kawa and tikanga at necessary times….’
I make this statement to highlight the continued impact that colonisation has on our people and our ability to carry out expected kawa and tikanga at necessary times. It also exemplifies the honour and support of those who did their best to maintain kawa and tikanga throughout the duration of the tangihanga process.
Further intoning the desperate need for:
- more te reo Māori within the curriculum, as well as,
- additional free and easily accessible, good quality te reo Māori classes for those interested
- increased culturally responsive pedagogy, (culturally sustainable pedagogy) within English-medium
- more readily available Decolonistion – Treaty of Waitangi workshops for educators.
Throughout the duration of the tangihanga, we were constantly having to explain to the whānau some of our Māori practices, and why we do what we do. Explaining to a parent about the necessity of making sure your tamaiti isn’t running up and down the marae ātea during a pōwhiri seems like such a trivial concern. Until you become aware of the underlying ‘tikanga’ associated to this, a conversation for another day.
This was only one very small example of some of the tikanga infractions that continued to happen throughout the tangihanga, which left me bereft to think that in this day and age, there are still so many of our whānau whose experience has been influenced by the fact that they have been denied the right to understanding their own tikanga. If our whānau aren’t aware, how high are the chances that tamariki within these whānau aren’t aware, and eventually their tamariki mokopuna? Yet again, this consequence rests solely on the continued onslaught of colonisation.
I cannot get upset with our whānau who have not been taught our Māori language or traditions. But I can fight the rippling tide of colonisation that seeks to drown our collective Māori voice. I can continue to teach our young ākonga Māori about our reo, our tikanga, our histories, and to become critically aware of the continued effects of colonisation. So many have done these very things and continue to do this and more. The loss of tikanga is but a small consequence on the scale of inequity, especially considered alongside the recent Oranga Tamariki fiasco. Yet many injustices continue to occur on many fronts as shown by the following statistics.
As of March 2019, Māori make up 51.3% of the prison population (Department of Corrections, 2019) and 32.7% of Māori smoke tobacco (Cancer Society, 2019). They continue to have lower rates of school completion and much higher rates of unemployment. They are more likely to earn a personal income less than $10,000, receive income support, live in households without telecommunications which includes internet access, rent accommodation and live in crowded households (Ministry of Health, 2013).
Diabetes among Māori is about twice that of non-Māori (Ministry of Health, 2013). Whilst they are three times more likely to be admitted to hospital for asthma (Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, 2018). Māori adults continue to have higher cancer registration rates, with Māori cancer mortality rates being 1.5 times higher than non-Māori. They are also twice as likely than non-Māori to die from cardiovascular disease and ischaemic heart disease (Heart Research Institute New Zealand).
Finally, Māori suicide rates are twice as high than non-Māori.
These results are the continued effects and impact of colonisation, a historical trauma that is statistically repeated worldwide in every indigenous corner of the world, where colonisation was part of their collective experience.
More importantly when reflecting on my tamariki, these statistics could potentially mean they have:
- a 50 percent chance of being imprisoned
- a low chance at completing school and being employed
- a higher chance of dying from cancer, a cardiovascular disease, or committing suicide.
Statistics are especially terrifying when you are the target audience.
‘……….help break the continuing effects of colonisation…..’
I implore our educators everywhere to help break the continuing effects of colonisation for Māori and:
- pronounce my name correctly, let me know that you respect me
- help me learn about my histories, strengthen my identity
- show me pathways to learn my language and traditions, care about my culture
- let me see myself reflected in my classrooms and schools, grow my sense of belonging
- further encourage my sense of belonging, stregthen my ability to learn.
If you are not willing to be part of the solution, then you remain part of the problem.
At this time of year, close to the rise of Matariki, I have begun to reflect on goals that I have achieved. We are a whānau kōrero Māori, everywhere we go, nationally and internationally. We bathe in the beauty of this reality, and enjoy the fruits from our years of hardship and struggle. We have faced critics who often told us that speaking te reo Māori would get us nowhere, and to leave our Māoritanga at the door every time we left home.
In my lifetime, I would like to see the Māori language, traditions and practices, alongside the learning of our Aotearoa, New Zealand histories become compulsory components of the New Zealand Curriculum. These conversations might not be easy, in fact they will be confronting for many. However, they are necessary to assist our tamariki to become critically aware about our shared histories, our culture, and our identity.
As Tuia Encounters 250 approaches, perhaps we, as a nation, have reached a level of maturity for such tension fraught discussions to be brought to light. Perhaps.
|Hine Raumati||Summer Maidern|
|Hine Takurua||Winter Maiden|
|Karanga||To Call, Formal Call|
|Kawa||Ceremony or set of rituals|
|Kura Kaupapa Māori||Māori Language Immersion School|
|Marae ātea||Courtyard, public forum|
|Pono||Truth, honesty, sincere|
|Tangihanga||Funeral, Rights for the dead|
|Te reo Māori||The Māori Language|
|Te reo Māori me ōna tikanga||The Māori Language and Customs|
|Tika||Correct, just, fair, right|
|Waka Taurua||Double hulled, small sailing vessel|
|Whānau||Family, primary economic unit in traditional times|
|Wharekura||House of Learning|
Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand (2018). Retrieved 2019: https://www.asthmafoundation.org.nz/research/key-statistics
Cancer Society (2019). Māori and Cancer. Retrieved 2019; https://central-districts.cancernz.org.nz/reducing-cancer-risk/what-you-can-do/smoking-and-cancer/smoking-and-cancer/maori-and-smoking/
Department of Corrections (2019). Māori and Prison Statistics. Retrieved, 2019; https://www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/research_and_statistics/quarterly_prison_statistics.html
Heart Research Institute New Zealand (2019). Heart Disease in the Māori Community. Retrieved from:
Kura Whakarauora. (2019). Kura Whakarauora. Retrieved from http://www.kurawhakarauora.co.nz/
Ministry of Health (2013). Māori Health Statistics 2013. Retrieved, 2019: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/populations/maori-health/tatau-kahukura-maori-health-statistics/nga-awe-o-te-hauora-socioeconomic-determinants-health/socioeconomic-indicators
Paki, R. (2019). TUIA ENCOUNTERS 250. Retrieved from https://www.tuia250.nz/
Reid, M. (2019). New Zealand’s own ‘stolen generation’: The babies taken by Oranga Tamariki. Retrieved from https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/113395638/new-zealands-own-stolen-generation-the-babies-taken-by-oranga-tamariki
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (2019). Te Tokoiwa a Matariki. Retrieved (2019) https://www.twoa.ac.nz/Pages/Te-Iwa-o-Matariki?sc_lang=en