Reflecting on Being Indigenous – Peoples Born of and With Our Lands! In Solidarity!

Speech delivered by Dr Mera Penehira on May 1st 2015 “Stop the forced closure of Aboriginal communities” rally held in Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland).

 … And so we continue to fight for our land, our sea, our rivers, and our birds our children our mothers and fathers. It is a fight to retain them in OUR kaitiakitanga ( in OUR protection), to MAINTAIN them and glorify them as they soooo deserve and as has been done for many generations before US.

 I was recently asked if I would be prepared to put my baby on the line in battle for the land and forced to consider fully my real life politics, my preparedness for battle of a different nature than I am familiar with in everyday speak… WE come of land and people who have fought to still be here. The battles have cost lives; the battles have maintained and retained the life and kaitiakitanga (PROTECTION) of our mother Papatūānuku.

 My response back to the woman who asked the question of life or death of my baby for the land, was to rephrase the question …‘Would I be prepared to put my mother on the line in battle for my baby, OR would I see the death of my mother for the life of my baby?’


The land is OUR mother, she is US, she is OUR baby and to lose Papuatanuku (OUR land) is to ultimately lose all. To lose what is present, past and future. And so my answer is yes, I would fight. YES WE WILL FIGHT … WE WILL fight for OUR babies and WE WILL FIGHT FOR OUR MOTHERS AND GRANDMOTHERS. Because UNDERSTAND THIS: to save Papatūānuku MOTHER EARTH … IS to save pēpi, OUR BABIES and FUTURE GENERATIONS . Would I lose my baby for my mother by choice? Never! “Ko tou uri ka whai mai i ou koutou tapuwae” (our offspring follow in our footsteps). What point is the land if there is no one to walk on her? What point is a mother without children? What point is the battle when those for whom we fight no longer exist? And as I wrote this piece I was reminded of the words of someone else’s rhyme … ‘not to fight is to commit suicide’. We pick up our arms and we fight these battles because we are on a battlefield, whether we like it or not we have been born here in this time that often requires us to be warriors. It is our responsibility to our land, it is our life and we are grateful for her in every respect.

This work we do, this gathering we are all now a part of … It is about: HEART, MIND, BODY and SOUL! From generations before, from lifetimes before … FOREVER we as Indigenous peoples have been a part of our sacred lands, not just connected … WE ARE BORN OF THESE LANDS! TANGATA WHENUA! WE ARE THE LAND AND SHE IS US!

SHAME Australia! To dare try and break this bond!

SHAME Australia! To dare ignore the rights of Indigenous peoples!

SHAME Australia! To dare lay your police physical brutality and abuse on Indigenous peoples!

We Maori stand in solidarity today with our brothers and sisters across the ocean of Te Tai o Rehua!

We stand in solidarity with all of our relations across the globe presently fighting for the protection of their ancestral lands.

Navigating across the ocean of Te Moana Nui a Kiwa … We can this evening, congratulate Kanaka Maoli in Hawaii who stand strong to protect Mauna Kea, and who today witnessed the significant back down of the Office of Hawaiian affairs … who now as a direct result of the Protect Mauna Kea actions, have rescinded their original support for the building of a Thirty Metre Telescope on Mauna Kea. Sovereignty! Rangatiratanga! Although not the FULL endorsement of ‘opposition’ that the people have clearly voted for as is required, it is still a significant move in that direction, and does signal clearly an achievement of the people’s voice, mana and commitment.

Returning closer to home … WHITE AUSTRALIA … YOU DO HAVE A BLACK HISTORY. WE ARE here today to ensure, that this history WILL NOT include the forced closure of Aboriginal communities. We are here to stop cultural genocide. We are here in solidarity for the protection of ancestral lands!

Tihei mouri ora! Tihei mouri tangata! Tihei mouri whenua!

Dr Mera Penehira
Dr Mera Penehira

Dr Mera Penehira

Ngati Raukawa ki Otaki; Rangitaane; NgaiTeRangi

Director Postgraduate and Lecturer

Te Puna Wananga

University of Auckland

Why should Māori support a free and independent West Papua?

Māori and Pacific women raising fists and the Morning Star to support a free and independent West Papua
Māori and Pacific women raising fists and the Morning Star to support a free and independent West Papua

On 01 December Māori and Pacific women claimed busy intersections on Auckland’s Queen Street to stand shoulder to shoulder in a circle and raise our fists. In this stance we encircled the Morning Star flag as our brown sisterhood salute to support a free and independent West Papua (photo above).

On this day in 2004 activist Filep Karma led the raising of the Morning Star in Jayapura and received a 15 year prison sentence. So we raised our flag and our fists 15 times across three Queen Street intersections to symbolise those lost years. We as indigenous Pacific women in Aotearoa felt the responsibility to do what others have lost their freedom for.

I was proud to support this initiative of the visionary Samoan writer, teacher and community activist Leilani Salesa. Leilani collaborated with West Papua Action Auckland (WPPA) and we would not have worked without their support crew handing out pamphlets and interacting with crowd responses to us.

As a Māori woman concerned with indigenous truth for Aotearoa and the world, learning about the plight of West Papua is a personal responsibility. It is part of the same responsibility we have to stand with indigenous peoples everywhere in our campaigns for self-determination over our lands and peoples. Indigenous people are not isolated groups fighting for better control over their small part of the struggling world. All together we are weaving a new global fabric. Our strive for indigenous vision is strengthened by the criss-cross stitch of other indigenous nations.

For some the hegemony has strangled solidarity out of us. When our own are in a hard place, living in poverty, on the street and fighting for an inch of dignity it may be have been too hard to see a group of brown women standing up for peoples living in a whole different land.
“Fuck this shit what about our own fucken independence first!” was the cry coming from one or two who are living in that very hard place on Sunday morning. I get that. It made me sad, but I get that. Lots more needs to happen to support those very people on the streets to be in a better place. But I know that this reaction is not limited to our homeless. Some Māori still need to be convinced that there is any worth in supporting human rights and social justice for anyone else while our own hapū have yet to have our independence fully affirmed.  But the Pacific women performers and the Pākeha and tauiwi people in our support group are the very ones who stand alongside Tangata Whenua in our own struggles. And I agree that any fight for social justice must begin with support for our own tino rangatiratanga. Thankfully the mislaid reactions to us did not deter our focussed, poised and dignified group of women and our support group. We kept marching silently but powerfully down the street to our next intersection for our fisted flag-raise.

So we absolutely need to do right by our own people urgently and remain vigilant in that. Part of that is to draw on the strength of our indigenous relations around the world fighting for the same things we are. As Māori we can stand with other activists and groups to let West Papua know we hear them. Hapū and Iwi around Aotearoa have long since been resisting Crown destruction of their territories and we know this will intensify as the neoliberal terrorism steps up around here. We already need the global support in this and we need to give global support to others. Some of us are in that privileged place where we can be a voice, raise our resistance fists, block a road or write a blog in the global uprising. I always say that those of us who can – must.

And also we must because it is hard to get traction with media on this issue. Leilani was painfully thorough in her promotion and sent the media release to all the right places. No one came with their tv cameras which was a shame because it was definitely a visual spectacle. You can see amazing photos from our generous photographer Tanu here.

Currently West Papua is under effective Indonesian control. West Papuan people are constantly terrorised by the Indonesian military, paramilitary police and intelligence agencies. Journalists and humanitarian workers are excluded or their movements are tightly restricted. For a credible insight into the background and the realities of this oppression please see Keith Locke’s blog here. Keith is a long time campaigner on the West Papuan situation and was in the support group on the day.

West Papua Action Auckland (WPPA) remind us how New Zealand is complicit in some of the human rights abuses that happen in West Papua. New Zealand also plays a role in massive environmental destruction of West Papua. The people there deserve their unspoiled lands the same way we are protesting to protect ours. Again this is where the global demand for environmental protections ensures that Māori care about what else is happening in the world. I encourage people to join the WPPA mailing list by emailing as they offer practical ideas for us all to support an independent West Papua.

So on the morning of Sunday 01 December we gathered at the Waharoa (the big carved archway) on Aotea Square built by Selwyn Muru. We left from that point and marched single file behind the Morning Star stopping at Queen Street intersections for our performance intervention. After our street theatre we marched back to the Selwyn’s Waharoa hence completing our circle of action. Being part of this has raised my awareness and leaves me with the responsibility to better support our Te Wharepora Hou member Sina Brown-Davis who is a passionate West Papua expert for our group.

West Papua independence Queen Street line Dec 2013

Please also see the blog here from Ema Tavola one of our Pacific women in the performance group.

Ngā mihi tautoko ki a koutou ngā iwi taketake o te whenua West Papua. Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.

Papua Merdeka!

Women Power – Episode 1 including Marama Davidson

Hosted by Catriona MacLennan – feminist and lawyer.

Tania Pouwhare and Sabrina Muck speak at the beginning about where Aotearoa needs to do more work towards equality for women and other gender issues.

Marama Davidson speaks from 14:00 about the lack of Maori women’s voices in mainstream media and politics.

Māori women’s voices in politics – protecting our environment and our people

Marama with Dame Nganeko Minhinnick (middle) and Mary-ann Harris at Nganeko's investiture ceremony.
Marama with Dame Nganeko Minhinnick (middle) and
Mary-ann Harris at Nganeko’s investiture ceremony.

“Today I am a Māori woman carving out a space to reflect on our unique relationship with Papatūānuku and our roles as kaitiaki and defenders of our lands, seas and people. This discussion throws a light on how the voices of wāhine are held in certain political arenas and what this means for Aotearoa as we ponder our economic, social, environmental and cultural future.”

Read the full blog here.

Marama Davidson on State spying laws – Auckland Town Hall public meeting to Stop the GCSB

Marama Davidson gives an overview of colonial abuse of State spying and surveillance and was one of 12 speakers in a Coalition to Stop the GCSB Bill. Her speech starts at 53 minutes here1184824_637422929614022_1705681326_n.

The Coalition to Stop the GCSB Bill organised a powerful line-up of speakers for this public meeting in front of a packed Auckland Town Hall (over 1600 people) and tens of thousands of online viewers — each speaker explaining why this GCSB Bill is bad for our country.

Speakers in order are:

Dr Rodney Harrison QC (lawyer)
Kim Dotcom (the most high profile victim of illegal GCSB spying)
Jon Stephenson (journalist and war correspondent)
Seeby Woodhouse (Founder of Orcon ISP and 2004 NZ Young Entrepreneur of the Year)
Helen Kelly (CTU President)
Professor Jane Kelsey (Law Faculty Auckland University)
Marama Davidson (Social Justice advocate and political commentator)
David Shearer (Labour Party Leader)
Russel Norman (Green Party Leader)
Winston Peters (NZ First leader)
Hone Harawira (Mana Party Leader)
Nicky Hagar (investigative journalist)

Maori control over Maori frameworks – Why I advocate strongly for Kaupapa Maori

Dr Leonie Pihama
Dr Leonie Pihama

Was asked recently why I advocate so strongly for Kaupapa Maori and for Maori control over Maori frameworks. The question has also been asked recently by a Pakeha academic around who gets to determine the boundaries for kaupapa Maori? It’s simple. We do. For the past 200 years the majority  of our land has been stolen or taken through the use of foreign systems, structures & definitions, our language, culture, knowledge, practices and structures have been systematically subjucated, attacked and denied. Our voices and acts of struggle against oppression have, and continue to be actively targeted and suppressed in order to protect the interests of those who have benefited from such actions. All that we have now we have fought for. All that we have held within ourselves we have struggled for. For 200 years we have lived with other peoples definitions of who we are and what is our place on our own land. It is our time to take that space. It is our right to define ourselves, our struggles, our kaupapa, our frameworks. That does not mean we do not need or want allies, it means we do not want to be defined by others who do not know or feel what it means to live as Maori in Aotearoa. Those who work as allies in that struggle know that is the case and work to challenge the systems that continue to deny fundamental rights. It is no secret that many of those I am fortunate to work with advocate Kaupapa Maori is defined and controlled by Maori. That has been clearly articulated for many years. Until there is significant change in the power relationships in this country that way of being can not and should not change. 200 years of others theorising and researching ON us has brought little change in the colonial inequalities that exist. So why would we want that to continue? That’s a more critical question. The answer again is simple. We don’t.

Dr Leonie Pihama (Te Atiawa, Ngati Mahanga, Nga Mahanga a Tairi)

Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day (Bikini Day) 01 March 2013

33822-apNo te parau tia, no te parau mau, no te tiamaraa, e tu, e tu – For justice, for truth and for independence, wake up, stand up !

Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day (‘Bikini’ Day), 1 March, marks the anniversary of the US ‘Bravo’ nuclear bomb detonation at Bikini Atoll in 1954. The explosion gouged out a crater more than 200 feet deep and a mile across, melting huge quantities of coral which were sucked up into the atmosphere together with vast volumes of seawater. The resulting fallout caused widespread contamination in the Pacific.

The people in the Marshall Islands, and elsewhere in the Pacific, were used as human guinea pigs in an obscene racist experiment to ‘progress’ the insane pursuit of nuclear weapons supremacy.

Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day is a day to remember that the arrogant colonialist mindset which allowed, indeed encouraged, the horror mentioned above continues today and that the Pacific remains neither nuclear free nor independent. Today we acknowledge and remember those who have suffered and died in the struggle for independence around the Pacific; those who have opposed colonisation in its many forms and paid for their opposition with their health and life; and those who have suffered and died as a result of the nuclear weapons states’ use of the Pacific for nuclear experimentation, uranium mining, nuclear weapons testing and nuclear waste dumping.

We remember  France  as a brutal coloniser of Te Ao Maohi (Tahiti) carried out a total of 193 nuclear tests  from 1966 to 1996. On  Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day we remember that the arrogant colonialist mindset which allowed and, indeed encouraged, the horror mentioned above . Today  the Pacific remains neither nuclear free nor independent.

Earlier this month the Pacific governments of Tuvalu, Nauru and the Solomon Islands supported moves to re-inscribe Maohi Nui into the United Nations’ decolonization list.This followed a resolution of the Melanesian Spearhead group in Nadi last year to support self-determination in the French territory.

France, Australia and New Zealand are opposed to the move.  Today we ask  the government of New Zealand why did they endorse the Declaration of the rights of Indigenous Peoples when they are opposed to the Self determination of the Indigenous peoples of Tahiti ? The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly states and affirms that Indigenous Peoples have the to self-determination, to  their lands and territories, to  their cultural identities, to self-representation and to their unique values and beliefs ‘

For too long Maohi Nui ( Tahiti)  has been fighting for her freedom and it’s time we, as a Pacific family, stand up with a united voice to offer our support.”It is critical that we see the connections so that we  as Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific  can continue to support each other across Te Moana nui a Kiwa, the Great Sea of Kiwa, and know that we are not alone in these struggles.

(Te Wharepora Hou wahine collective.)