Integrating Maori Perspective

Our trip to New Zealand was intended to be a family vacation with a hoped-for opportunity to explore climate change with the Maori. We had little knowledge of their activities before-hand. What transpired was far beyond our expectations.

Peta Ruha, a Maori psychiatric nurse was six months pregnant when she visited us in Shiprock New Mexico in 1998.. She gifted us with a Maori carving, shared some of her experiences including a nine day trek across the South Island of New Zealand. She felt like a family member after only a short visit. We attempted to locate her before traveling to New Zealand but were unable to do so. After arriving in New Zealand we contacted her on Easter Monday. Yes, she had remembered her visit to Shiprock, yes she had a 17-year-old daughter and yes she wanted to see us; beginning a whirlwind of connections.

The next morning we met Peta’s coworkers in Kawerau. Just after we were welcomed at the marae Mataatua, “The House That Came Home”. The marae is a place for meetings, welcoming ceremonies, funerals, weddings, and the place for teaching. In 1875 Mataatua was opened. In 1879, the New Zealand government, dismantled the building and carvings and it was shipped to Sydney Australia, and then on to London England for display. After it was dismantled and stored for close to 100 years. In 1996 it was returned home, restored restructured to its original beauty and reopened in September 17, 2011.We took off our shoes and were welcomed into Mataatua by Peta and Kapua.  Peta sang a welcoming song and we reciprocated with a Navajo song as a response.  It was such an honor as it represented an official welcoming to Maori land culture and people. 

Shortly after, Peta arranged for me to have a traditional Romiromi massage in Opotiki at Huia Healing Center.  Rmoiromi: a deep tissue massage and a Wairua, cleansing. This was far beyond any other form of massage I have experienced. I was privileged to have two healers Renee Miller and her mother. During the massage they connected with my ancestors, identified blocks and suggested I needed to communicate by simplifying my writings. The result would be important on a worldwide scale.  They had known nothing about me prior to this massage. I left to go to the beach feeling relieved, comfortable and relaxed and committed to the big picture project. I was instructed to go to the Opotiki beach to walk in the South Pacific waters.

That evening we were invited for a traditional Maori feast of mussels, oysters, crawfish, salads, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and finished with Pavlova. We enjoyed the semi tropical gardens around the house and  were delighted to meet Peta’s family.

The next morning we went to the Indigenous Maori college, Awanuiarangi. We gave a brief presentation to first-year students in the Maori nursing program. Mary shared her talk on empowering indigenous women that she had given at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.  Nicole, our 23 year old daughter talked about the Indigenous youth conference and Indigenous art while Hope, our 17 year old daughter shared some of athletic experiences playing on a Canadian Indigenous soccer team.  I talked about treatment of trauma and its relationship to climate change. The students were very attentive and were able to relate through Maori nature-based teachings. I was amazed at how many spoke their Maori language. 

That afternoon we went to Te Urutaumatua. I had heard of the Tuhoe, one of the Maori Nations of around 45,000 that refused to sign a treaty with the British Crown in the 1800s. They had retained their right to self -governance and recently in March 2013 signed an agreement with the New Zealand government to that affect.. Although they have only been a governing entity for a few years they had already constructed what they called "a living building." It was a center of pride, unity and presence. It was fully sustainable, solar powered, collecting rain, recycling waste waters, growing food, and designed to withstand earthquakes. It is amazing to me that this Maori tribe can be so progressive after listening to the recent Republican debate in the US.

The Tuhoe had taken the lead, independently, concerned about the land, the sky, and the water to do what they could do within their realm of jurisdiction. I thought if only we could all follow suit and do what we each could do instead of waiting for other countries to act.

The Tuhoe had created a department of bio-diversity with four unit managers to look after four sections of the tribal land. Their goal is to be sustainable and respect Mother Earth and Father Sky and the waters that sustain them. While there I had the opportunity of meeting Mona Andrews, and Kapua Teua nephew who proudly showed us around the building and talked about their tribal goals and plans for the future. This way of talking and being was also reflected in conversations with Esther and Peta. The next morning we had a real opportunity to blend Navajo aesthetics with the Maori art form. Moko Reneti, sat with Nicole and Hope to design a Ta Moko, tattoo, combining the Navajo art forms that Nicole had already designed  Moko Reneti spent the next six hours creating the images for the two Ta Mokos. 

We not only had a wonderful experience with the Maori, but we saw them putting into action what we need to do around the world. It reinforced for me how much impact we can all have if we each created at our local level, something meaningful. This can be done with aesthetics, cooperation, and in such a way as to move us into the future.  This is not a burden but an opportunity to create something meaningful, beautiful, and within the realm of nature.