Honouring Protectors

As Aotearoa has settled into the time of Hineraumati and we are experiencing some unusually hot summer days I have been reflecting on what the future may be for our tamariki and mokopuna as climate change and the warming of the oceans around us bring new challenges to us all. We are without doubt in a time of transition. A question we all need to ask is, what is our contribution to the care and protection of Papatūānuku, of Tangaroa, of Hinemoana, of our maunga, awa, whenua, ngahere, kararehe. As the summer, the time of Hineraumati and Tanerore emerges with more intensity each day, this is an important time to make some key choices around how we can each live in ways that support their sustenance and wellbeing.

For all in Aotearoa, enjoy this time of Hineraumati and Tane Rore and in doing so take time to support those whānau, hapū, iwi and communities that are fighting the good fight against the deep sea drilling abuse of the seas that surround us and which nurture all those living within its depths. We have much to do to ensure the wellbeing of this earth and the oceans that surround our lands. We have much to be grateful for to those that have taken the lead time and time again to protect Papatūānuku for present and future generations and who in doing so have been at the cutting edge of what it means to take on the might of colonial forces.

This year we have been graced with the power of those who have shared their stories and strength from Indigenous nations around the globe to inspire and motivate us here. I have been honoured during 2017 in Aotearoa to be a part of the hosting of our indigenous relations – Pua Case, Hāwane Rios, Nahko Bear, Sylvia McAdam, Glenn Morris, Debra Harry, Tracy Bear, Steve Newcomb, Larissa Behrendt, Jason DeSantolo, Jamee Mahealani Miller, Joanne Archibald, Tessa Evans-Campbell, Karina Walters, Michelle Johnson-Jennings, Derek Jennings (and the whānau, Koii, Alayah, Ahni & Iaya) and many others that have attended events and made connections across the seas. In the connections and sharing with these relations we have come to know more about each other and in doing so more about ourselves.

The links between Indigenous nations are critical to ensuring that our understandings of the world that we are in remain both connected and open. That is not to deny the essential focus on our own desire here in Aotearoa for te reo Māori (Māori language), for mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), for tikanga Māori (Māori values, practices and protocols), as it is these specific and local ways of being Maori that define who we are within wider Indigenous contexts. It is in that exact strength of knowing who we are that we are more able to know our place within the wider Indigenous world. It is in our strength of being Māori that we are able to locate our understanding of being a part of an Indigenous whānau and the expectations, obligations and responsibilites that we have to all of our relatives.

I want to acknowledge at this time the resistance and strength of many movements that have worked to challenge injustice in many sites, in particular – Idle No More, who as a movement led by Indigenous women has sparked a fire within many of us for the past five years; Black Lives Matter who led by Black women continues to challenge the racism and white privilege that marginalises, oppresses and kills so many Black, Indigenous and People of Colour across Turtle Island and beyond; our elder relations of Hawaii that stand in protection of Mauna Kea and in doing so stand for all of our ancestral mountains and lands; Standing Rock Sioux who inspire Indigenous Peoples and allies across the world to be true to our belief that we are both the descendants of and protectors of this great Earth and all that live alongside us. To all those that struggle against colonial imperialist heteronormative patriachal capitalist oppresssion in all its forms, we see you, we hear you, we support you, we stand with you, we are you.

This year has also brought with it a much needed change in government for us in Aotearoa and we now look forward to seeing what making ‘a change’ really means. Many of our people remain distrusting of a Labour government, and rightfully so given our experiences of the imposition of neoliberalism in the 80s at the hands of a Labour government, and the impact of the colonial confiscation of the Foreshore and Seabed in 2005 again at the hands of a Labour government. When Marama Fox stated after the elections that our people had returned “like a beaten wife to the abuser who has abused our people over and over again” I was surprised at the uproar. As she was not wrong. It is clear that since the imposition of the colonial government in Aotearoa that the State itself has been the most significant abuser of Māori people. That applies not only to Labour, but to all governments that imposed and continue to reproduce colonial rule, including the National government of the past nine years. So it is not, in my view, that our people returned to Labour, it is that we continue to trust in a system that was established to dispossess our people and has continued to do so for over 200 years. Until we see real change, until we see constitutional change, until we see a focus on honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, rather than “settling” Treaty claims we will continue to experience the abuses of the State. So, there is much to be done if we are to see real and meaningful change. For Maori people, we live daily with the impact of historical trauma events. It is embedded in our ancestral memory. We have no choice but to tell our stories, to tell our histories, to understand the ways in which our ancestors struggled so that future generations would survive, so that we would be here to have this conversation. The telling of our stories, the sharing and teaching of our histories, the teaching of te reo and tikanga across all sites is key to having meaningful conversations about what future we want for this country and how we will transform the unequal and unjust power relationships that exist in order to get there.

The question is whether this coalition is willing and courageous enough to do it. It also means not repeating the same old same old of the past. It is about doing things differently. It is about asking the right questions in order to get answers that will inform meaningful and transformative change. It means seeking advice from those that are willing to give innovative and enduring reflection around how we can move from the domination of neoliberalism and reinvigorate collective responsibility where we will enhance and support the development of an Aotearoa that is honourable in its relationships between its Treaty partners, where one partner does not continue to deny its role in an oppressive history, where te reo and tikanga Māori are affirmed as the Indigenous ways of being in this country and where successive governments stop running away from a history that needs to be told in order for any healing to take place.

Kia hora te marino,
Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana,
Kia tere te karohirohi i mua i tō huarahi
May calm be widespread,
May the ocean glisten like greenstone,
May the shimmer of summer dance across your path.

Mā ngā atua koutou e manaaki, e tiaki, i tēnei wā o Hineraumati.

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