For todays modern Maori, the choice to learn and embrace their maoritanga isnt a process that happens overnight. More often than not, there is a catalyst, a starter, someone or something that leads you to ask questions. Something that makes you ask yourself what it is to be Maori.

10299567_10152158935673722_6809860299639213845_nI can think of many people asking these questions, but where to go for answers? For an Australian-born maori (or mozzie) such as myself, the massiveness of these questions, and Te Ao Maori in general (The Maori World) can seem like a dark hole of unknown mystery. How to begin? Who to speak to? What will be expected of me?

While I would never dictate how a person should live their life, what I can share is how I am personally approaching it. From a self-proclaimed mozzie point of view. Detailing the highs and lows, the places I visit, and the people along the way. From someone that generally had a pakeha upbringing, its a complete shift in how you view the world.

Who am I to be writing this you may ask. Why keep reading? What is it about my opinions that merit your consideration? well, Im a little political, and a little crazy. I have a lot to learn and my opinions are just that – opinions. They are not gospel, they are not law. I dont aim to discredit anyone, but more to share my experiences with those who are interested. If one person reads this and decides to look into maoritanga for themselves, ill be happy. Check out my facebook page missmaorigal for more updates and information.

I should state from the start that at present I am semi-fluent in te reo so apologies in advance for any and all types of errors I may write. Obviously I will make all efforts to avoid any possible mistakes in the first place though. Not only with the language, but everything I write overall. My mother is Ngati Hari from Taumarunui, and my father is Ngapuhi from Nukutawhiti. This is my journey of discovery to find out what that means to me, Missmaorigal.

What do you do when it is your own whanau hurting you? Trampling on your mana and your wairua, over and over again?

I was asked this and similar questions as part of an exercise a classmate and I were participating in, and it got me thinking about Mana, and Wairua, because that is whats at stake here. Damaged parents raising damaged kids? Because when you damage someone else’s wairua and mana, you damage them as a whole.

While the fundamentals of maoridom cant erase the past, or magically fix your problems, I believe it can help people deal with things a little differently. What Ive learnt, is that the concept of whanau forms the basis of what it means to be maori. So how do you connect and work with your whanau if all they do is hurt each other? Especially if the majority of your whanau arent interested or even involved in the maoritanga? And as a result you become torn between the two?

How many of your whanau have turned their back on their maoritanga? leaving Aotearoa for a better life? Or, because they werent raised in that way, means they dont even consider themselves maori? My answer to that is being maori is in your blood, and whether you know it, realise it, or even accept it, you will always be maori because that is what your blood is, and blood can never be changed.

10624693_378876508936360_2783757598223953036_nBut when your own whanau are the ones bringing you down, how do you accept and maintain those values of whanau, whakawhanaungatanga, kotahitanga, and still protect your wairua and your mana from being hurt? Learning to walk away and pick your battles becomes very important I think. As well as accepting that some people cannot be helped, no matter what you do. Because when you realise that, you can also realise that maybe the best role you can play is the one that picks up the pieces. Now Ill be the first to say prevention is better than cure, but when it comes to things like this, sometimes all you can do is decide whether you want to pick up the pieces, again, and again, and again. Because in the end, thats the only decision you have control over.

Since beginning my studies, Ive also come to realise that if you are the only person in your immediate whanau learning about your maoritanga and tracing your roots, dealing with people who dont understand where, why, and how you do the things you do, is something that happens regularly.

Misunderstandings are inevitable, and from that is the possibility of arguments, hostility, and further disintegration of the whanau as a whole. So the question then becomes, how to overcome this??

My personal way of dealing with this is to simply say, learn your maoritanga with me, and we can both be on the same page. Of course I realise this is wishful thinking and rather headstrong, but I figure there are worse names to be called. Ive been told by one particular family member (a few times) not to post on facebook in te reo maori because she cant understand what im saying. Now in her defense she is an Australian who married into the family and lives in Australia so I understand why she is saying it. But the fact remains that the reo and the maoritanga are a part of me and so if I was to start compromising on that, I would be compromising away who I am fundamentally, and that goes against everything being maori means to me. The best I could do in this case, is to say that if I do post in te reo, I will also include an English translation (if I remember and if I dont, well then I don’t) As the saying goes, you cant please everyone all the time.

As I write this, Im at an unveiling. For those who dont know, I’m talking about the unveiling of a headstone.

This is a rather large affair too so Im paying as much attention as I can to the protocols and procedures that are happening. Listening to the waiata tautoko (supporting songs/chants that are sung after speeches) is really good because I can understand bits and pieces of them, as well as the whaikorero/speeches themselves. In the space of an hour we had about three different groups of manuhiri arrive so picking up on the subtle differences is when you start to realise how much you think you know, and how much you have to learn.

This particular unveiling is at the whanau marae, which has a flag related to the kingitanga flying at the gate. Today its at half-maste because we are having the unveiling, but I also noticed there is a second flag flying which I havent seen before. I was looking at it and it got me thinking about all this changing the NZ flag business. Personally, I think changing the NZ flag is nothing but a waste of time. Some believe that changing the flag will make it easier for the TPPA to be put into effect also, which is something that I definitely do NOT want. This makes me even more determined to leave the flag as it is. If you dont know what the TPPA is, look into it. Worst case scenario, if the TPPA does come into effect, you wont be able to grow your own gardens, you wont be able to have hangi, and there will be a special type of police force created to enforce that. My theory though, is if you are going to change the flag, why not the anthem? Why not a lot of the laws relating to maori sovereignty? Te tiriti o Waitangi? Why not use it as an opportunity to look at how we operate as a country and ensure our own values are in line with what we want?

With Christmas and the end of the year around the corner, Ive begun asking myself what I want for myself for next year.

What values am I going to represent? I know Ill definitely be studying te reo thats for sure. Im at the point where if I dont push myself into actively speaking in te reo, I wont get any better at it. The problem though is I have 1 person I could korero to on a daily basis, and she lives on the other side of town, not long started a new job, and has three kids. Despite that though she is still willing to do what she can to help me because we are whanau J Lastly if you missed the last time I mentioned, I have recently become an admin of He Maori Ahau: I am Maori on facebook, so if you havent heard of that page, head over and check it out. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed.

#Missmaorigal

  • Erika Te Hiwi

    Nga mihi Missmaorigirl, to you in your hikoi – brings to mind a whakatauki which I treasure and you might also: M?ku e ringiringi ki aku roimata nga ara e ahu ana ki te k?inga I will water with my tears the trails that lead to home.

    You raise some important questions in your post which deserve and hopefully promote necessary discussions. I wanted to add to that korero that, from my perspective, while the actions of others can damage our wairua, it is not possible for someone to trample OUR mana. Who’s mana does it reflect on when someone behaves abusively or appallingly to you? Only their own. We can only damage our own mana in our actions toward others. Conversely, our mana can only be increased by what we do FOR others. And I don’t just mean our own whanau (that’s a given). People who are spoken of as having mana have generally acted in a way that increases, or attempts to increase, the wellbeing of others. There is no other way. If you compare that with a Westernised/Pakeha worldview; you reach aggrandizement with your own individual success (job, home(s), bank balance), then the sophistication of Te Ao Maori begins to become clear. In every aspect of Maori protocol absolute centrality is given to relationships. Not ‘who are you, and what do you do?’ but ‘to whom (whanau, hapu, iwi) and what (maunga, awa, moana) are you connected/related’. So back to mana – if I hurt you I damage my own mana; if I awhi/manaaki you I enhance it. So you don’t need to protect your mana from anyone, but yourself. It is a beautiful philosophy – take pride in that aspect of your ancestry as you make your journey home 🙂