31 year old Shiloh Ratima (centre) pictured with her siblings Cheyenne and Diego is on a journey back to te ao Māori. (Photo supplied)

In a year of political attacks on Māori progress and ambition, Kiingi Tuuheitia had some simple advice for taking back power: “Just be Māori, all day, every day.” In this series, we talk to Māori around the country about how they’re going about doing that.

 

Nō hea koe? Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, Ngāi Te Rangikoianake. Born and raised in Hastings.

Name, age, pronouns: Shiloh Ratima, 31, she/her.

Currently living in: Heretaunga, in Hastings.

Mahi: I’m a student, working toward becoming a social worker. 

My passions include: Playing netball, reading, journalling, being creative and expressing myself through painting and baking. Spending quality time with whānau and my two tamariki: Grayson, who’s 10, and Thea, who’s 7. Being an active parent in their schooling and sports events.

My favourite thing about being Māori is: Having a sense of belonging.

One thing I wish more tauiwi (non-Māori) knew about Māori is: That not all Māori were raised in te ao Māori, and some of us are still finding our way back to our roots.

One thing from te ao Māori I wish I could do but haven’t yet is: Fluently speak my own reo. I’ve done a few online classes through Piki Te Hauora, and I bought one of Scotty Morrison’s Māori Made Easy books as well as Hēmi Kelly’s Māori Phrase a Day. Plus, I pick up bits and pieces here and there.

My most embarrassing moment in te ao Māori was: During my aunty’s poroporoaki, I was approached and asked if I could be the kaikōrero for my whānau, but I had to politely decline. I felt inadequate and embarrassed that I wasn’t able to speak on behalf of my family, because I didn’t know how to.

My proudest moments are: Any time I get to watch my son and daughter connect to their culture through school, or listening to them sing waiata I didn’t even know they knew.

A particularly memorable time I got told off was: Indirectly, but during an uncle’s funeral service, a relation got up to speak and he touched on how younger generations have lost their reo. And he said it while looking specifically at me and another family member. Because of that, I carried a bit of guilt for a while over not knowing simple phrases. But I’m reaffirming to myself that I’m not to blame.

But a memorable time I got a pat on the back was: When a kaumātua commented on how our kids have been raised, and how they hold a lot of the old values, like how respectful they are. It was during a tangihanga. We were part of the whānau pani (bereaved family) and had to be in the wharenui at a certain time, but my son had taken off, so we had to go looking for him. We eventually found him helping in the kitchen because, as he put it: “I got bored, so I went and asked if they wanted help in the kitchen.”

My role models in te ao Māori are: Hard to single out. But when I watch any of our kaumātua, rangatahi and rangatira step into their Māoritanga at important occasions or even just in conversation — their confidence, mana and pride has a gravitational pull that I wish I exhibited, and which motivates me. It’s especially beautiful hearing our tamariki speak their own reo. It always gives me a sense of pride.

Shiloh and her whānau. (Photo supplied)

In the past month . . .

I’ve tried to embody or nurture my Māoritanga by: 1) Always saying karakia as a whānau before kai. 2) Expanding my vocab in te reo and using new kupu I’ve learned in some of my conversations. This month, I’ve been using kura (school) and te wā ako (learning time) with my kids. Usually, it’s something like: “How was kura?” Or: “Did you do te wā ako today?” Even though our kids are used to hearing these words, it’s about me getting more comfortable speaking te reo in general. 3) Singing waiata with my kids. Lately, it’s been songs like “Purea Nei” andTūtira Mai Ngā Iwi”.

One thing I saw in the news or online that brought me joy or hope was: Seeing our people come together for the nationwide activation. That gave me hope and made me feel pride in what all of us stand for. Even though I wasn’t able to be a part of it, my wairua was there with them. Also, just the power of the internet and socials in general, being able to reach masses of tāngata whenua to make an event like that happen.

Something I bought, found or received was: A heru (hair comb) and some earrings. They were an unexpected gift from my younger brother. I was heavily involved in his upbringing. Mum was all about her mahi because she believed that providing for us was what mattered most, rather than just being around. So when I was about 19, my brother and sister came to live with me for a few years, and I spent every bit of my student allowance on making sure they had everything they needed. But I also made sure to cater to all their emotional needs and show up for things like parent-teacher interviews. So I think maybe the gift was a way for him to thank me for being the mother figure he never knew he needed growing up.

Something new I learned was: That a fantail is not just associated with death and bad luck but can also be a sign of good news.

Something I watched, read or listened to was:  Rawiri Waititi discussing the issues around Section 7AA. It was touched on briefly during a social worker agency day I was privileged to attend.

A time I practised tikanga Māori in a Pākehā space was: Teaching my kids that when they go into someone else’s whare as well as our own, they need to take their shoes off before entering. I was taught that it’s disrespectful to bring the dirt in from outside and walk it around in your own home, let alone someone else’s.

Shiloh’s tamariki, Thea Jade age 7, and Grayson age 10. (Photo supplied)

Connection, wairua, and hope

Growing up, my connection to ao Māori was: Non-existent. My dad taught us that learning Māori and being Māori wouldn’t get us far in life. So instead, we were conditioned and groomed to dress, speak, and act a certain way: to live in the way of the white man, because that was the only way we were going to survive in this world.

My connection over time has: Grown, and is still growing. I remember once, I was watching kapa haka and I mentioned to my friend how it made me feel, but that I couldn’t put that feeling into words. She said: “Your reo is singing to your mauri, because it already knows you.” I’ll never forget that, because at that moment, I felt more connected to my culture than ever before. Whenever I hear our reo, the feeling grows even more.

When politicians or others attack Māori, my reaction is: Initially, to get angry. But then the rationalisation kicks in, and the anger leads me to become invested in learning more about what’s going on.

I protect and nourish my wairua by: Fully submerging in the moana, cleansing my tinana and my home, talking to my spirit guides, and grounding myself in places that I feel recharge me.

The form of resistance that gives me the most hope is: Seeing our tamariki embrace te ao Māori.

In my lifetime, I hope my mokopuna: Won’t always have to keep fighting for the things our ancestors fought for and that we’re still fighting for now.

A whakataukī or piece of advice I’d give to other Māori on this journey is: You are Māori enough. It’s something I’ve heard over the years, but I never truly knew what it meant until a few years ago, when I started my journey to reconnect with te ao Māori. That journey began with a Māori leadership programme I took through work, where a big focus was getting us to see our own self-worth within te ao Māori. Part of that was researching my pepeha, which encouraged more connections, more conversations, and more questions, and that helped diminish the negative thoughts that had stopped me from reconnecting back to my taha Māori.

Shiloh and her younger brother Diego. (Photo supplied)

If you’d like to take part in this series, please fill out the questionnaire, and feel free to share the form with others too!

Made possible through the Public Interest Journalism Fund

E-Tangata, 2024

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