Just Another Excuse to Bash Maori: A Reply to Alan Duff

At the bare minimum the NZ Herald seems committed to ensuring that uninformed opinion continues to be presented as some form of factual reporting, at the very worst they actually believe the conservative unfounded diatribe that is presented weekly by Alan Duff in his column. Either way, the Herald has been consistent in showing a lack of commitment to providing informed discussion that would contribute to making Aotearoa a better place.

Each column written by Alan Duff is yet another repetitive Once Were Warriors theme. We continually get themes of: Once Were Losers, Once Were Whingers, Once Were Drop Outs… the list goes on and within it the themes continue to reflect what is in fact Alan Duff’s inability to grasp the fundamental underpinning issues of the impact of colonisation, and how that has specific and particular consequences for Indigenous Nations. This is somewhat ironic, given that the position Duff takes in virtually every column is a reflection of those impacts, and are reflected constantly as the justification for Māori people being bashed by him on regular basis.  Perhaps it is because Mr Duff has never taken to the time to seek out pathways for understanding his own self hatred and the hegemony of that. Hegemony, being the internalisation of self hatred, and the internalisation of the belief that to be successful in this society is to act, write, speak and live as the reflection of your coloniser (The definition is provided here as the column indicates that Mr Duff has difficulty with such terms as hegemony, colonisation and imperialist arrogance – all of which are states of being that are reflected in Mr Duffs column).

Alan Duff tells us that we are ‘whingers’ and that colonisation is ‘just an excuse’.  He contends that many countries have undergone significant violence and have recovered. So lets look at the list he provides to substantiate his claim that colonisation does not have an historical trauma impact.
The British took over India and ruled them with an iron fist. China’s last invasion by Japan was in 1938 and one example of hideous Japanese acts was sons forced to rape mothers, fathers to rape daughters. According to some, the hands of the 23,000 people who worked building the Taj Mahal had their hands cut off so the palace could never be recreated. Virtually every country in Europe has known invasion and suffered violent oppression for decades, even centuries. Hungary has suffered countless invasions from foreign hordes. More recently, under communism, a brutal secret police ruled the country and in the 1950s one in 15 male adults was imprisoned for supposed crimes against the state. (Alan Duff NZHerald August 9 ).

The key fact that Mr Duff fails to highlight is that all of these countries have had their lands and sovereignty returned to them. All have been able to reconnect to their lands and to reconstitute their approaches to dealing with critical issues that arise from the trauma experienced. All have their language intact, all can live their cultural ways. These examples and the assertion that virtually every country in Europe has been invaded highlights the point that Alan Duff has no understanding  as to how invasion by colonising forces upon Indigenous Peoples impacts both in those historical moments and inter-generationally when our lands are stolen, when our rights to live as Indigenous Peoples is forcibly removed through physical, cultural, social and spiritual violence, where Indigenous Nations are murdered for defending their lands, waters and people, where forced closures and forced removals disconnect generations from their land, language and culture. The impacts is not only well known within Indigenous communities but they are well evidenced through generations.

The deficit and limited views of Alan Duff provide more fodder for an already overfeed racist machinery. His column is full of opinionated ignorant statements that do nothing to provide constructive ways of moving beyond the impact of historical trauma events, rather he chooses to demean those that do seek to find innovative and culturally grounded ways to deal with the issues that our people are facing, both for the benefit of Māori and for the benefit of Aotearoa more generally. Rather than taking an opportunity to discuss with our people how we can explore the issues Alan Duff supports the establishment to close down the debate around colonisation and its impacts. He wrote in this weeks column

“Our Maori political leaders tell us it’s all right to whinge about our poverty. But never do they urge us to go into business. A Maori university lecturer recently excused our appalling rate of murdering children as a result of cultural devastation. Excuse me?…” (Alan Duff NZHerald August 9 )

“What “cultural devastation” is this excuse-mongering Maori academic talking about?”
(Alan Duff NZHerald August 9 )

Yes I confess, the “excuse mongering Maori academic” he is referring to is me.  I have been called worse things.  And while I am not at all concerned about the insults, as Alan Duffs opinion means nothing to the majority of Maori who are involved in seeking ways to heal with our people, what I do find deeply disturbing is the attack by Alan Duff on Professor Ranginui Walker after his recent passing.

I find the attack on Professor Walker to be abysmal and disgusting behaviour, which emphasizes Alan Duff’s lack of fortitude. It seems paradoxical that in the column Duff appears to be completely ignorant to the exceptional and transformative work undertaken by Professor Walkers in his lifetime. Duff in his typical ignorant arrogance writes:
“The late Ranginui Walker was a master of the gripe. The language he used was Pakeha academic-speak, words like hegemony, colonisation, imperialist arrogance. He didn’t actually say or do anything to advance Maori people.”

Such a statement is an absurdity. It highlights even further that Alan Duff and his column have no substance and that such a view is absolutely incongruous to our experience of the incredible contribution made by Professor Walker.

Professor Ranginui Walker always dispensed of Alan Duff in debates. Duff was never able to hold his ground with him. Ranginui was a grounded, culturally knowledgeable, historian, connected to his whanau, hapu and iwi, who did exceptional research and worked endlessly for our people in multiple ways.  He could run intellectual circles around people like Alan Duff without effort. Such an attack by Duff now on Ranginui Walker is an act of cowardice.

Given such an appalling attack on Professor Ranginui Walker by Duff,  it is fitting that it is Professor Walkers words that positions these types of attacks in context.  Professor Walker wrote over 20 years ago that,
“[t]o the Māori, Duff is irrelevant. He does not rate in the Māori world because he is not part of the people’s struggle for emancipation and social advancement (Eat Your Heart Out Alan Duff, Metro 145, July 1993, p.137)”

It appears that in regards to Mr Duffs lack of contribution to the “emancipation and social advancement of Maori” nothing much has changed. There is no contribution.  The only people who validate the uneducated and unqualified views put by Mr Duff is the NZHerald and their more conservative audience.

I am, like Professor Walker regularly highlighted, concerned that our work, which is informed by many years of research and cultural based research and practice, can be represented as ‘whinging’. The impact of colonisation and historical trauma for Indigenous Peoples is well researched, deeply evidenced and daily experienced by our people. It is not ‘whinging’, it is not about hating white people, it is not about ‘having a gripe’, nor is it about excusing behaviours that are as equally unacceptable to our people as they are to others. It is about understanding that until we resolve historical injustices in ways that are about affirming our place as tangata whenua; until monocultural institutional racist practices and policies are removed; until our people gain a sense of reconnection with land, language, culture and a true sense of connectedness to who we are, these issues will remain. That, Mr Duff is a much more informed and active approach than your opinion that we should just ‘stop whinging’. As for the article, it would have been more appropriately titled, ‘Another excuse to Bash Maori’ by Alan Duff as it certainly did not foster aspiration.

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#handsoffaboriginalkids: In Solidarity

Over the past two weeks we have been honoured to be hosted by the Jumbunna Research Institute at UTS.  This collaboration is a part of the strengthening of the relationships between Māori and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders communities and researchers committing to working in ways that affirm an intention of tino rangatiratanga and self-determination for Indigenous Nations.   We have worked together exploring and sharing Indigenous research aspirations and approaches to our work.

During the past few days we have been reminded of, seen and heard of the horrific experiences and the abuses against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on their own lands. We take a position as Māori who are guests here on the lands of the Gadigal People in Sydney to bear witness and to inform our own people of the atrocities that continue against the Indigenous Peoples of this land.

Today we stood in Solidarity at the Emergency Rally at the Town Hall. Organisers of the rally released the following statement:

Emergency rally – justice for the children tortured in Don Dale and all prisons
Sack the NT Government, sack the guards – lay charges now
Stop stealing children – build communities not prisons
Self-determination now!
The video footage on Four Corners of Aboriginal children being tortured in Don Dale correction centre have shocked the country. But this is the tip of the iceberg of the racist ‘child protection’ and prison systems that subject Aboriginal children to institutionalised child abuse across the continent on a daily basis.
Malcolm Turnbull and Adam Giles have announced a Royal Commission into the centre – but their own racist Intervention and “tough on crime” policies systematically breach the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC).
Countless inquiries have already been done. We already know the facts of this case. We demand justice immediately. The prison guards responsible must be sacked and charged. So too should the NT Government who have consistently demonised and criminalised Aboriginal children and bear ultimate responsibility for this abuse. Minister Scullion also must be sacked.
Across Australia, Black children make up 50 per cent of the prison system. More children are being forcibly removed today than at any point in Australian history – taken from their families and put into foster care or prison cells.
This emergency rally will demand an end to the incarceration of children and self-determination for Aboriginal people. We need to build on the outrage and take forward the ongoing struggles against the racist police, prison and ‘child protection’ systems. #BlackLivesMatter #BuildCommunitiesNotPrisons

                                                                                                                                     

The detention and torture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth was highlighted this week on the ABC Four Corners Programme (http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2016/07/25/4504895.htm ).

Where politicians here quickly moved to voice their ‘shock’ at this treatment, it is clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, families and advocates have been raising these issues, and there has been  little if any meaningful response or action taken to protect the young Indigenous people held in these detention centres. ABC themselves have documented for over 2 years issues at the centre. For example the following stories have run on ABC since August 2014

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-23/darwin-youth-detention-centre-investigated-by-police/6796988

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-16/eleventh-escape-don-dale-as-elferink-tells-story-of-abuse/6548096

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-22/teens-tear-gassed-in-prison-clash/5690908

So for politicians and bureaucrats to voice ‘shock’ seems, at the very least, to be a deeply dishonest response to what is clearly State funded acts of abuse on the Indigenous children of this land.

It was highlighted today that the 339 recommendations of the Royal Commission on Deaths in Custody remain largely unimplemented, (http://www.alrm.org.au/information/General%20Information/Royal%20Commission%20into%20Aboriginal%20Deaths%20in%20Custody.pdf )

and that the number of murders in custody of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has increased in huge numbers since the Royal Commission.  In September 2015,the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (WA)  (http://www.deathsincustody.org.au/ ) issued a press release with the following statement :

NOT GETTING BETTER: ABORIGINAL DEATHS IN CUSTODY ON THE INCREASE: JOHN PAT MEMORIAL DAY COMMEMORATES ALL DEATHS IN CUSTODY

ABORIGINAL DEATHS IN CUSTODY in Western Australia have increased in the last year, the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee notes in the lead-up to John Pat Memorial Day on 28 September.

“We know of at least seven deaths in custody that have occurred since last year’s John Pat Memorial Day,” said Marc Newhouse, chair of DICWC, adding that the number would be higher once all deaths during police operations were included. “Four of these deaths were of Aboriginal people.”

Newhouse also noted that five of the seven deaths in custody had occurred in the last four months.

Speakers on the memorial day include the Reverend Sealin Garlett, members of the Watch Committee and Shaun Harris, uncle of Ms Dhu, who died in a lock-up in Port Hedland last August.

The memorial will remember not only John Pat, but all those who have died in custody. The Watch Committee is also calling for an immediate reduction in the number of women imprisoned at overcrowded Bandyup Women’s Prison, and for a movement of decarceration in response to increasing rates of imprisonment in WA. and plans to build yet more prisons in WA.”

“Last October the premier pledged to reduce Aboriginal incarceration in our state, yet no action has been taken,” Newhouse said. “Instead we have seen the passing of further the mandatory sentencing laws and plans to build yet more prisons in WA.”

John Pat was just 16 years old when he died in custody on 28 September 1983 at Roebourne police station. He was beaten to death by five drunk off-duty police officers. The outcry over his death led to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The majority of its 339 recommendations remain unimplemented or abandoned. Since the Royal Commission there have been more deaths in custody than recommendations.

                                                                                                                                            

As Māori women, as Indigenous mothers, as Indigenous grandmothers, as Indigenous Peoples, it is essential that we raise awareness of these acts of abuse and terror against our Indigenous relatives on this land. The stories shared at the rally were deeply saddening, and equally enraging. The pain of this ongoing act of ethnocide and genocide against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is experienced every day across this country. Families, communities, nations experience the forced removal of children from their families, the denial of fundamental human rights, the imprisonisation of children and adults across the country in extremely disproportionate numbers, the abuse and torture in prisons and detention centres and the murder of their people in custody.

Te Wharepora Hou call on our people, both in Aotearoa and those that live on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands, to voice our outrage at these acts of genocide against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders children,  families,  communities, elders and ancestors, and to stand in solidarity with our relations to bring a change to these racist, oppressive acts.

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An Open Letter to Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa: Hold the Pekapeka Block

Tena koutou katoa e nga whanaunga,

Nga mihi Puanga ki a koutou.

Over the past few weeks I have become increasingly concerned at the deal that is being supported with the NPDC by Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa. I wanted to share my concerns directly with you and I will also be sharing more widely through a range of mediums that reach Te Atiawa whanau.

In looking through the material I am yet to see or hear any meaningful reason why Te Atiawa would agree to the NPDC deal related to the Pekapeka Block. The rationale given appears to be one of a ‘this is the best we will get’ scenario which in my view, and that of our whanau, is an inadequate rationale for supporting a deal that clearly works against the best interests of the whanau, hapu and iwi of Te Atiawa.

While at home last week I talked to my mother about the block next to our whanau. As many of you will know the Pihama whanau have lived on Browne street since the late 1950’s. That property remains with our whanau. We have paid lease on that whenua for near 50 years. My father struggled to raise his whanau on our own lands while paying leasehold to those that confiscated the Pekapeka block. It was a painful experience to watch that struggle year after year and to see the impact of the trauma of that historical oppression on him and his siblings.

Having talked within our whanau over the past two weeks I have downloaded the history of sale for the property in Browne street. That is next to our whanau home. One would expect it to be leasehold but it is not. It was sold as freehold in the 1980s and then sold again in 2004. The price being half the valuation price. The question is how did this happen? and how has it happened for many sections around that area? Has Te Kotahitanga investigated or being provided with the history of those now freehold properties? I would be interested in seeing any documentation you may have for other similar properties that have been moved from leasehold to freehold as that indicates that for a number of years the council have actually been enabling this process to happen to select individuals within Waitara, and I understand have in some cases returned leasehold sections to the Housing corporation for the development of State housing. If indeed this is the case then there is even more grounds for Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa to put a hold on this current process and to re-negotiate the terms of the agreement.

In the work we are doing as a part of investigating Historical trauma and the impact on our people there is vast amounts of evidence that indicates that historical trauma events of colonisation create a context of wounding our people. Native healer and scholars Eduardo Duran and Bonnie Duran refer to this as a ‘soul wound’. Soul wounds that are not healed are passed through our whakapapa, they impact on every part of being Maori, of being Te Atiawa, they create a context where within te ira tangata the pain memories of our tupuna are passed intergenerationally. That is the impact on whanau in Waitara. That is what needs to be healed. The issue of what is happening with the Pekapeka block is not solely one of land ownership or economics, it is one of needing meaningful and enduring pathways of social justice to heal those soul wounds.

As I look at the maps of the blocks on the council documentation the name ‘Pekapeka’ does not appear. Referring to this block only as Endowment lease-lands removes an understanding of the history of land theft, the acts of colonial oppression, the imposition of colonial rule, the impact of the associated historical trauma upon generations of Te Atiawa descendants. This process of not naming the whenua is a means by which the council can then present the ‘lease lands’ as if they are just any other block of land. But this is not just any other block. This is the Pekapeka block and the name is significant within our history.

It is my view as a researcher in this area that the current deal will not only remove our ability as Te Atiawa to receive social justice, it will also further embed the pain of the historical spiritual and cultural wounds that our people carry as a result of the invasion of our lands and oppression of our peoples. As the representative body of our people you are the only ones at this point who can stop this process and return us to a pathway of meaningful negotations that will be about social justice and healing. I am happy to korero more with you and to also be a part of working through processes of seeking pathways of healing for us all as Te Atiawa whanau, hapu and iwi.

nākū noā
nā Leonie

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The Maori Party Sellout State Housing

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 10.58.20 pm.png  Materoa Kanuta decorates the wall of her state house with photographic memories from the 50 years she and her family have lived there.

 

A total of 1/3 of all Maori live in state homes. These homes for decades have provided Maori with a place to bring up their children  and care for their elders. These state homes have ensured that generations have been able to thrive because they have shelter. I grew up in a state house at 66 Idlewild Avenue, Mangere. Before the disastrous impact of Rodger Douglas’s & Ruth Richardson’s economic fundamentalism, Mangere was a close knit and vibrant suburb of Auckland. We lived, worked and played together, our homes were always open to each other, we shared the best and worst of times, we cared for each other, we were a community.

The Tamaki Housing Group warned us years ago that the policy of transferring houses to community housing providers was set to fail, because the private market has never been able to provide healthy and affordable housing for low-income families.

A clear example of this is what’s happening in Auckland’s eastern suburbs. This is not community revitalisation but state-led gentrification and privatisation where the government provides valuable land to private developers.

Over the preceding years the National government have simply turned off the tap of public investment in public housing through a combination of cuts and controls, with state support increasingly diverted into private home ownership and the private rental sector.The privatisation of housing has played a particularly key role in neoliberalism, wresting the supply of shelter – a basic human need and right – out of the public welfare system and firmly back into the precarious, commodified world of competitive markets, property speculation and self-provision.

The Maori Party’s recent support of the sell off of state housing is privatisation by stealth.They conflate management by an elite minority of Maori with Tino Rangatiratanga. The Maori Party once again are used as a Trojan horse for privatisation.

Morgan Godfery notes that “It is worth touching on iwi authorities as market models with an indigenous flavour. In the push for development iwi have embraced the neo liberal model. They also want to play a part in the privatisation agenda of the current government (e.g. private prisons, PPP etc…). It appears to me that iwi authorities have rationalised such goals by adopting the ‘trickle down’ philosophy. They seem to reason that Maori participation in the neo liberal experiment will result in indirect ‘trickle down’ benefits for ordinary Maori despite the trickle down theory been rather discredited.”

Newly enriched Iwi leaders are on a shopping spree for state assets and state contracts for services and they are being used by National to promote privatisation across the entire economy. It’s clear that since the Maori Party privileges the Maori Iwi elite over the needs of majority of the Maori, working class Maori who will be disadvantaged.

To secure the Maori Party’s support for a piece of legislation,  the government increasingly does deals with the Maori Party and Iwi leaders to provide political cover for right-wing politicians driving community destroying policies. This was clearly evidenced when the bill went to vote the Maori Party weren’t even in the debating chamber and had given their proxy votes to the National Party.


Politicians have figured it’s harder to attack the dismantling of social assets and the sale of state assets when Maori ( albeit an elite minority) are the beneficiaries.

Paula Bennett stands in the house defending a bill that will give her and Bill English, the deputy prime minister, absolute unfettered powers to do any deal they like with whomever they like on any terms and conditions in relation to the privatisation of state housing and this is what the Māori Party and Marama Fox are trying to spin and dress up as Tino Rangatiratanga.

That is not Tino Rangatiratanga . Supporting an unprecedented transfer of power into two Minister’s hands, who can then privatise state assets – is not tino rangatiratanga. The Maori party has become brown wash for a very nasty neoliberal agenda from the National government.

Crown created entities are NOT Iwi ; they are not representative of the vast majority of Maori . Maori who have been discarded by the neoliberal agenda have never benefited by the Maori Party repackaging of their flimsy and symbolic gains from the national government as “Tino Rangatiratanga”.

We now see the Marama Fox parroting the National Governments anti state and anti welfare rhetoric in relation to state housing, ”I come with some frustration at those who want to deride the name of the Maori Party because we dare to have an independent voice,” she said. “This is not a vote for a wholesale sell-off of the housing stock. For us, this is a vote of rangitiratanga.”

“Iwi had asked the Maori Party to back the bill so they could get into the social housing market, she said. “Housing New Zealand has done an appalling job of looking after our people, and [iwi] believe they can do it better.” she says.

This is a return to the ACT-style thinking of the ’80s and ’90s. It essentially says ‘government bad, market good’. It says it’s not only OK but good for private companies to profit from housing the country’s most vulnerable, even though logic suggests that it will push up costs. It is red meat for the right and goes down the ideological path Key has been so eager to distance himself from as a ‘post-politics’ politician.

We were clearly warned about this agenda by the kuia and the communities in Glen Innes that fought hard to retain their homes in their community . We have the examples of the complete failure of the privatisation of state/social housing in England and Scotland as a malign exercise in privatisation by stealth, designed to cheat the poor out of decent housing.

“We must recommit our time, energy, and resources to this mission, deconstructing the class interests behind government policy, following and exposing their societal effects, highlighting the perspectives of people feeling the sharp end of neoliberalisation processes, and working collaboratively with campaigns and social movements to resist injustice and formulate alternatives” (Neoliberal housing policy – time for a critical re-appraisal)

Our People are suffering and struggling, while a few have benefited from limited gains. The majority of our people are still the disenfranchised and disinherited, the discarded of the neo-liberal agenda. We are in the midst of a housing crisis, there is a huge increase in homeless whanau  living in cars, garages and overcrowding the homes of friends and family.

Maori at the bottom of the heap are getting bashed. The social conditions for Maori have worsened under John Key .The Maori Party’s version of Tino rangatiratanga is all about empowering a small corporate elite, and treating the rest of us as a sacrifice zone for the worst excesses of neoliberalism.

The Maori Party’s continued support of the National government has directly lead to the social conditions of our people are going backwards. This is a fact. Their support of the privatisation of State Housing is unforgivable and is a serious political misjudgment, one in which they will pay for in electoral oblivion next year.

Sina Brown-Davis

Te Roroa, Te Uriohau, Fale Ula, Vava’u

 

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Colonial naming reproduces Historical Trauma

Today I read a post that the Novotel in Taranaki has been named the Novotel New Plymouth Hobson with the restaurant called ‘The Governor’. I was immediately sickened by the lack of any sensitivity or thought for the impact of such naming on our people.

Naming is important. Name carry memories, names carry meaning, names carry history. The hotel sits on Hobson street and the owners of the Novotel have chosen to not only reproduce that in their naming of the hotel but to add more insult to our people through the naming of their restaurant.

This follows from the New Plymouth District council decision to name new streets in Waitara after a developers family and denying hapū the ability to name the streets.
http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/regional/296341/developer’s-name-for-new-subdivision-trumps-hapu’s

The impact of the decision was strongly voiced by Howie Tamati, and supported by the Mayor Andrew Judd, to the Taranaki Daily News:

But Councillor Howie Tamati said not using the names put forward by the hapu would be a big mistake.
He said a number of the roads in Waitara, such as McLean St and Craycroft St, were named after soldiers and officers involved in the confiscation of Maori land over 100 years ago.
“The names of the streets in Waitara are a constant source of pain and of grievance of what happened when the lands of Waitara were confiscated,” he said.
Tamati said it was important in terms of history to get it right.
“Waitara’s been stood upon by the boot of the crown, and we’ve just been through a process that heals those wounds.
“For the Waitara community board and Waitara district councillors to then go and change that and actually dominate that I think is really, really disappointing. You should know better.”
Mayor Andrew Judd agreed with Tamati.
“You may sit here and think ‘what’s in the name of a road?’ Clearly it means a hang of a lot,” he said.
“This isn’t just family names, this is historic names for pa sites for goodness sake.”
Using the Maori names would send “a strong message back there that we are addressing some of these wrongs”, he said.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/74377344/New-Waitara-roads-to-take-colonial-names

Being raised in Waitara, every day we were surrounded by streets named after the colonial militia and colonial governors who instigated and led the invasion of our lands. We were raised on the Pekapeka block. Everyday street signs remind us of those who forcibly removed our ancestors from our lands, those who invaded and occupied our lands, those who killed and imprisoned our people, who placed our men in chains and imprisoned them in Otago, who led the militia that raped our tupuna wahine.

What the owners of the Novotel New Plymouth Hobson, and the New Plymouth District Council fail to understand is the depth of the insult and offense being perpetrated through the continued privileging of colonial names over and above those of hapū.

For many of our people the history of Waitara can still be felt in the land and air. The historical trauma of that history has been carried by generations of whānau, hapū and iwi of Taranaki. The pain and struggle of a colonial past, of war and raupatu can be felt. The consequences of the colonial invasion of Taranaki is borne daily by many. Colonisation has not only meant the alienation of our lands, people, language and culture but the processes of colonisation have meant an active disruption of our landscapes, our whānau, hapū and iwi structures, our-selves. Much of the knowledge of these acts have been kept out of the hands of the majority of people in this country. The violence of colonisation has been largely invisibilised. One way of doing that is the renaming of the land to render its history invisible.

In a catalogue for an exhibition, at the Govett Brewster Art Gallery, titled ‘The Nervous System’ I wrote the following reflection:

I was born and raised in Taranaki.
I have lived under the korowai of the Maunga and have experienced the awe of seeing Taranaki stand firmly on the landscape, defining the geography in a way that we who live under his shadow nay never achieve.
I have lived alongside the awa and the Moana. Known them in their strength and beauty. Known them in their provision of kai, before they were poisoned.
I have lived on land that was taken from my people and watched as my parents struggled to ‘pay the rent’ on land that was rightfully ours.
I was schooled alongside Owae Whaitara, the marae that stands above the township. We walked through and around that space every day and were never schooled within its bounds. It was an ‘out of bounds’ area.
I learnt of a history of this land that told us of Cook and Tasman and Browne. And I knew these names because they named the streets upon which I walked. They named my world.
Waitara.
I was told we were all the same. New Zealanders/National identity/Kiwi/Egalitarian/National identity/One New Zealand/One identity.
But I knew that to be Maori wasn’ t the same. And I see now why we were never to know who we were. Identity had to be controlled. So the system could be maintained. As without the system the “Nation” would be fragmented.
And we would be left with a Nervous System.

Historical trauma is reproduced in many ways in our current context. The naming of hotels and streets after colonial forces and denying our people the right to name our lands is one of those processes. Historical trauma is defined by Professor Karina Walters as follows:
When I am talking about historical trauma I am talking about massive cataclysmic events that target a collective. I am not talking about single event discriminatory experiences that’s between one or two people but a whole group of people or community that is targeted. In our communities we talk about how this trauma is transmitted over generations so I may not have experienced the Trail of Tears, my great grandparents did so therefore what aspects of that trauma do I still carry in my history to this day…. One of the things that’s really hard to distinguish around historical trauma research is how we think about historical trauma as a factor. Some people talk about historical trauma as an ideological factor, as a causal factor, so we look at thinks like historically traumatic events causing poor health outcomes. Other folks talk about historical trauma itself as an actual outcome in terms of things like historical trauma response or a Native specific ways of manifesting what I call colonial trauma response and I will talk a bit more about that, historical trauma can also be conceptualized as a mechanism or a pathway by which trauma is transmitted. (Walters 2010)

In Taranaki, whānau, hapū and iwi have continued to experience the devastating effects of those, and ongoing, acts of colonial violence. As the Waitangi Tribunal report states ‘If peace is more than the absence of war’, Taranaki has never been at peace.

Having more streets and more hotels being named in ways that reinforce the colonial invasion of Taranaki adds yet another layer of pain and trauma, that will mean that for yet another generation Taranaki will not know peace.

Dr Leonie Pihama (Te Atiawa, Ngāti Māhanga, Ngā Māhanga a Tairi)

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Poi, Mau Rākau and the Impact of Colonial Thinking

There has been much debate, uproar about, and defense of, the recently released rules for the 2016 Kura Tuarua kapa haka nationals. The Committee has made a significant change to the rules in announcing that there will be a change in marking the aggregate section of the kapa haka competition. It is noted, in the new 2016 rules, under the Judged Disciplines:
51. Aggregate Section: Only the marks of the following items will be counted in the Aggregate Section for Co-ed Groups:
• Te Reo Māori
• Whakaeke
• Waiata/koroua/Mōteatea
• Waiata-a-ringa
• Poi
• Haka
• Whakawātea

Aggregate Section : Only the marks of the following items will be counted in the Aggregate Section for Single Sex Female Groups:
• Te Reo Māori
• Whakaeke
• Waiata/koroua/Mōteatea
• Waiata-a-ringa
• Poi
• Haka Wahine
• Whakawātea

Aggregate Section : Only the marks of the following items will be counted in the Aggregate Section for Single Sex Male Groups:
• Te Reo Māori
• Whakaeke
• Waiata/koroua/Mōteatea
• Waiata-a-ringa
• Mau Rākau
• Haka
• Whakawātea

The underlying assumptions for the marking rules are clearly premised upon a notion that ‘poi is for girls and mau rākau is for boys’. Sadly, I thought we had fought and won this internalised colonial thinking battle some 30 years ago.

I recall close friends who attended Auckland Girls Grammar talking about the early struggle to have the haka component of their brackets recognised and marked. It was a struggle and it was one worth having as it led to a greater understanding of both mana wahine and mana tane. What we are seeing now with rules that reposition poi and mau rākau as gendered areas of performance is a re-emergence of colonial gender ideas that have no place within Te Ao Māori, let alone within the kapa haka performances of our secondary schools.

There seems to be a range of justifications (some would call excuses) for the re-embedding of such colonial thinking into secondary school kapa haka. Some reports indicate a belief that it will encourage single sex schools to collaborate more in terms of kapa haka. This is interesting in that it denies that some whanau choose single sex schooling pathways for their children for exactly that reason – they are single sex schools. There are many and diverse reasons for that. So to hear some advocate that a way of dealing with the rules is to collaborate, which means to bring schools together to compete, then places that decision outside of those whose actual decision it is to make. What is just as concerning, in fact, is that these rules have emerged after the schools have already been selected for the nationals. So even if they wanted to combine to get around this rule they can’t. Equally, it needs to be highlighted that a number of single sex schools have in the past combined, and some currently continue to do that. The choice to do so should be with those whānau, and not be influenced by imposed gendered restrictions.

We have also seen comments that the committee undertook the process for the changes in line with their constitution. Where there are deep concerns in regards to the lack of meaningful engagement within the regions it appears clear that the committee voted for this change. Many of our people find the fact that those who are in a position to support kapa haka, and it’s place in supporting and inspiring our rangatahi ,have so taken an approach that both restricts specific forms of participation and denies the right of all of our people to utilise both poi and mau rākau.

The decision is a clear example of the internalisation and imposition of colonial thinking and practices. It is well known that both poi and mau rākau have been traditionally, and in contemporary contexts, used by both men and women. There have been, at times, issues in regards to how kapa haka competition rules have redefined the use of those taonga that have been gifted to us from our tupuna. Such redefinitions have often been grounded in misconceptions of who did what within traditional Māori society and in particular the roles and status of wahine and tane.

This is just one more example of the depth of which colonisation has pervaded our thinking and practices. In many ways it doesn’t matter who the committee members are as another group may have also made that decision. What is critical to the discussion is the power of colonial ideologies to influence how we make decisions about and within ourselves as Māori organisations.

The question needs to be asked about not only who made this decision and how it was made, but more critically we need to ask ourselves, how did this conversation ever make it to the table in the first place? How can a discussion that leads to the restriction of Māori boys doing poi and Māori girls doing mau rākau ever be raised in this time?

We need to ask how can that discussion be had in the light of the exceptionally powerful performances of many of our National groups where our wahine excel in mau rākau and our tane in poi. There are many many examples of that and yet there seems to be a huge chasm in regards to what happens on a Te Matatini stage (both regional and national) and what this committee is saying can happen on a secondary school kapa haka stage. And we need to ask why we would even want to do this? Who benefits from imposing such restrictions? and more importantly, who benefits from imposing restrictions that are based within colonial thinking?  It is most certain that collectively our people do not benefit from such actions.

Did the committee miss the great performance of Manutaki when both wahine and tane did the poi? Have the committee missed the power of wahine and tane together in wero as a part of Te Whare Tū Taua? Or the many kapa haka rōpu where our wahine have shown their strength with weaponry? Did the committee miss the power of the wāhine of Ngāti Waewae who laid the wero to the Waitangi Tribunal at Arahura marae?

Within our own whakapapa kōrero we know that neither poi nor mau rākau were gender specific. Early Pākehā arrivals to Aotearoa have also documented that poi was one of a range of Māori games to support physical development. Online the organisation Rangatahi tū Rangatahi provide an overview of a range of such games.

http://www.r2r.org.nz/games-activities-maori-youth/poi-toa.html

The Kura Tuarua Kapa Haka committee decision is effectively a move backwards at least 30 years in terms of many attempts to decolonise the dominance of western colonial thinking. The fact that it can even have been made raises a range of concerns in terms of how the roles and practices of our tupuna are reconstructed in ways that undermine movements for social justice in regards to gender relationships. Where some may see this issue as only one of kapa haka, it is without doubt much greater than that as it reflects a belief system and sets of assumptions that continue to create contexts of oppressive behaviours in that these beliefs are not about our tikanga, but are about colonial views that have become embedded within Māori society.

The broader issue is that of colonial hegemony. That is, the internalisation of colonial beliefs and practices to the point that we as Māori begin to see those ways of being as traditional and a part of who we are. Such internalisation has been instrumental in the disruption of traditional understandings about ourselves and each other as wahine and tane Māori. The issue of single sex boys schools not being marked for the poi is the flip side of earlier experiences of single sex girls schools such as Auckland Girls Grammar being denied marks for doing the haka. What that tells us is that the fundamental views of gender that colonisation imposed upon our world remain alive and well, and even more steadfast in that they are now enacted and implemented by ourselves upon our own people.

So what we are seeing in these new kapa haka rules is not new. It is a continuance of generations of colonial gendered thinking that dominates the western colonised context within which we find ourselves. To work against these types of impositions we need to challenge the fundamental beliefs that underpin them and seek to create pathways that are reflective of our tikanga and which provide healthy and sustainable ways for us to be with each other and to affirm the mana of both our wahine and our tane in ways that will ensure the wellbeing of all within Te Ao Māori.

The least that can be done is that this decision be reversed and that such gendered shortsightness not be enabled within any context, least of all in ways that deny opportunities and experiences of our tamariki and mokopuna.

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Invasion Day Aotearoa Solidarity

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He karanga tenei ki nga hau e wha

Hei tautoko i te iwi Moemoea no Ahiterairia.

Na te mahi whakaware o te Kawanatanga me nga Kaporeihana e whai putea
ana e whai raupatu ana, kei te noho whakawhuia nga tangata whenua

He pouri tenei ahuatanga me kaati ra

Ko te tohenga ma ratou  te iwi Moemoea ki te whai i ou ratou ake tino
rangatiratanga kia hapaitia e ratou te mana motuhake kia kaha ake kia whawhai tonu

na reira

Tautoko atu a wairua, a hinengaro, a tinana hoki

Kaati noa ra, ko tenei te wa ki te tu rangatira, tu kotahi i te kawau maro, o tenei kaupapa

 

The 26th of January marks 228 years since the arrival of the First fleet in Australia. This heralded the British invasion of that continent and the ensuing genocide against Aboriginal peoples.

The invasion of Aboriginal lands was illegal under international law at the time of the arrival of the First Fleet. This invasion involved the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and theft of Aboriginal homelands.

The current contempt and lack of respect, rights, Treaty and third world conditions that Indigenous peoples face in Australia is an International Shame.

Like New Zealand, Canada, and the USA, Australia is a colonial settler state, based on invasion, dispossession and colonisation.

For Indigenous Australians, the 26 of January will be dedicated to protest the ongoing effects of colonialism and call for sovereignty, treaty and social justice.

There are protests taking place in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra.

Tangata whenua of Aotearoa are proud to stand in solidarity with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters and will be assembling at midday outside the Australian consulate at 186-194 Quay st Auckland, New Zealand.

Vanessa Ross, Bunjalung says “ I’ve never used the term “Australia Day” to me it’s always been “Invasion Day” and personally, it should mean a day of reflection and acknowledgement of the True, Real history, not some idealistic fabrication of white mans theft of nations among many other atrocities.”

Today we mourn the declaration of Australia as terra nullius. We remember all those who have died in massacres, and were dispossessed of their land and homes, those were denied their humanity, who were shackled, beaten, sent to prison camps, and made to live in reserves. We mourn those who have died in the resistance.

In solidarity we mourn the affects of genocide and colonisation which persists to this day.

Regardless of who is the PM of Australia all threats to Aboriginal culture and livelihood still remain.

We will not be pacified with bogus corporate-backed constitutional recognition that fails to respect and honour Aboriginal sovereignty.

It’s time for all Indigenous peoples all over the Pacific to unite and turn the tide against genocide, for ancestry and future generations.

Always was, always will be Aboriginal land !

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