Understanding the Māori universe

“The Māori world is, in fact, a Māori universe with all of the subtleties, idiosyncrasies and nuances of any culture." — Keri Opai, author of 'Tikanga: An introduction to te ao Māori'.

What I’ve learned this year

“When Māori are used as political football, someone has to make the tackles, and that’s what we try to do.” — Moana Maniapoto reflecting on the role of her award-winning current affairs TV programme, Te Ao with Moana.

Fighting Poison

“The story of SWAP (Sawmill Workers Against Poisons) is more than the terrible and the tragic. It’s also about racism, class issues, and a kind of leadership that’s so often ignored and underestimated.” — Catherine Delahunty.

Sometimes just a chat is enough

“Don’t feel you have to finish reading this article. There will be no great wisdom at the end. If suicide has touched your life, and in reading this you find yourself treading dark territory again, please pull out.” — James Nokise.

The heroes in our whānau

“The private heroes among our friends and family won’t save the world by their personal courage, but their presence in our lives give us the chance to save our humanity.” — Tainui Stephens.

Becoming Tangata Tiriti

“How does that maunga in Aotearoa that you’ve claimed to be ‘toku maunga’ become your mountain? And what gives you the right to claim that river as yours? It’s not ancestry. It’s not an inherited story. So, what is it?” — Catherine Delahunty.

Calling out hatred

“We have to make a noise about the bullshit, the bigotry, the terminally foolish, the wilfully ignorant. The dangerous.” — Tainui Stephens.

Mark Solomon: On leadership and life

"The Crown reckoned full redress was worth around $12 to $15 billion. Our advisers thought it was closer to $20 billion. We settled for $170 million — a lot less, but it allowed Ngāi Tahu to move forward, to rebuild." — Mark Solomon.

‘I never got to go home’

“My parents' dream of a better life collided with the cultural ignorance of mainstream New Zealand in the 1950s onwards.” — Fa'amoana Luafutu, who told his story of institutional abuse to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care.

‘We’re gonna need a whole new everything’

“It occurred to me as we drove around Westport that you might feel private about flood damage. We looked at the piles of rubbish, carpet, toys and clothing and we said we would hate to have strangers looking at our sodden mess.” — Becky Manawatu.

Farewell to a woman of fire

“Like the Hawaiian atua Pele, portrayed as a goddess of volcanoes and fire, Haunani-Kay Trask could be volcanic in her thinking and writing, a lava flow of protest.” — Kennedy Warne.

Chronic Kaupapa Fatigue

“I’ve known many individuals who grew old before their time because of the energy they expended, and the risks they took with their health or their domestic happiness, all to be able to serve a vital kaupapa that uplifted the wellbeing of the people.” — Tainui Stephens.

Policing the Dawn Raids

“The attitudes of the special squads which had been formed to do this work was appalling. The latent racism, usually judiciously concealed, was blatant and paraded for all to see, with constant talk of ‘getting the coconuts’.” — Tā Kim Workman.

Thursdays with Georgie

“Georgie had a way of asking questions that would make those in power squirm. 'Where are the women?' 'Where are the Māori?' Then she would do something to answer them.” — Adam Gifford on Dame Georgina Kirby, who died last month.

A maker of stories

“Each night, there will be a sentence or a paragraph that moves me, sometimes causing tears to flow. It happens whenever I read Patricia Grace.” — Kennedy Warne on one of the country's most beloved writers.

When Pākehā are not in charge

“A lot more of our people are beginning to realise that social change led by Indigenous wisdom is about how we organise and how we treat each other, as well as what we’re fighting for.” – Catherine Delahunty.

Return to Ōtata

“We were here to get to know the place — and let the place know us.” — Kennedy Warne remembers a day on Ōtata Island with a group of rangatahi.

Remembering Richard Nunns

“He looked more Pākeha than any Pākehā I knew . . . But his was a life deeply immersed in te ao Māori. He was one of the best taonga puoro players in the world. A leading force behind their revival.” — Moana Maniapoto on Richard Nunns.

Truth, lies, and stereotypes

“Stereotypes affect, and infect, all of us — including those of us who suffer because of them. They don’t just live in the heads of those who use them to hammer us, but in ours as well.” — Shelley Burne-Field.

Our stories about Cook

“Our stories of Cook need to explain why we need a Māori Health Authority and why such a thing isn’t apartheid or racist. Our stories of Cook need to provide ways for people on city councils to understand why there is such a broad call for Māori wards.” — Alice Te Punga Somerville.

Things have to change

“For two weeks, my co-parenting partner and my daughter and I lived out of a car. It was just the worst feeling you could imagine.” — Apanui Koopu, on how MSD decisions made things worse for him and his whānau.

Flies in milk

“The reason this female ancestor of mine is a mystery is simple. She was either Indian or what was then called Eurasian.” — Catherine Delahunty.

The Māori mascot

“The rangatahi Māori interns were like mascots. We were there to entice funding bodies into handing over more money.”

This doesn’t make us less

“We can be Māori and reo-less at the same time. It’s not ideal — especially in the hidden places we never talk about — but we can keep our heads held high. This doesn’t make us less.” — Shelley Burne-Field.

Rejecting the System

“We don’t need to try to shape ourselves to fit Pālagi measures of success. Because we will never win, if we just play by those rules.” — Dahlia Malaeulu.

The Dawn Raids of 1974

“No one was safe. The police just went to addresses where they knew Tongans lived, maybe tipped off by a disgruntled neighbour. And the checks were indiscriminate.” — Joris de Bres.

Underground History

“We learned of the arrests from frightened kids who came into our classrooms, wide-eyed and anxious. They talked about special police squads raiding homes and workplaces.” — Professor Welby Ings, on being a teacher during the Dawn Raids era.

Tripping over Te Tiriti

“Much of our practice is repeatedly addressing the resistance to well-documented facts. Some people just can’t believe that they have been spun a toxic yarn about our history.” — Catherine Delahunty

‘I follow the trail of blood’

“In these fields, the tūpuna lie where they fell in the swamps or in unmarked graves hastily dug by survivors, with the dead piled up around them. I swear I can sometimes hear their voices.” — Joanna Kidman.

Memories from the Mahia Peninsula

“I was very sick with pleurisy and wasn’t expected to live. But Tangitangi, a woman from Ruatorea, wouldn’t give up on me and sucked the fluid out of my congested lungs through my nostrils — giving me life.” — Derek Fox.

The big beats of history

“The thing about the big beats of history is that they’re often signs or reminders that we must now reimagine the society we live in. Momentous history requires momentous change.” — Tainui Stephens.

Lost in translation

“There’s often been a gulf between our multilingual Pasifika and Māori students and their teachers, who are mostly middle-class English-speaking Pākehā.” — Kim Meredith.

Telling Niue climate change stories in Niue ways

"In the age of climate change, it cannot be clearer that when Indigenous people don’t have control in the relationship they have with their land and bodies of water, ultimately the health of the planet is put at risk." — Jess Pasisi.

Will it end with us?

“In her mind, the real tragedy of her story wasn’t what happened to her. The tragedy was that her story wasn’t unique. The tragedy was that stories like hers invariably involved Māori children as the protagationists.”

The beauty and the violence

“This is the way it was for us. The two sides of our lives. The beauty and the violence; the richness and the poverty; the love and the hate. Everything, but nothing.” — Stan Walker, in his new book 'Impossible — My Story'.

The grind of racism

“Racism is wearisome. Literally tiring. It does not create a pearl after years of grinding. It creates sickness, fear, anxiety, sadness, resentment, and worry.” — Shelley Burne-Field.

Not all of us find our way home

“From the outside, my life looked positively magical. But this perfectly curated image that I had crafted on social media, hid the reality of what life was really like for me abroad.” — Patrick Thomsen.

This Pākehā life

“I decided to enrol in an immersion course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, in South Auckland. My friends were impressed, commending me for my ‘bravery’.” — Alison Jones in her new book 'This Pākehā Life: An Unsettled Memoir'.

Finding my way home

"The people I once loved 11 years ago had changed. They had experienced their own joys, growth, traumas and regressions. Distance had grown between many of us." — Seuta'afili Dr Patrick Thomsen on coming "home".

I am doing this for our seas

"The lack of white settlers in the Moana doesn’t mean that colonisation didn’t happen. Instead, corporate colonisation meant that corporates extracted natural resources and labour." — Tulia Thompson.

Peace, love and happiness

“Adults submitted work to a group of adults. Everyone presumed they were there, not to have their genius confirmed to them, but to become better writers.” — Becky Manawatu.

History demands a personal reckoning

“You can’t be Pākehā and believe that you’re not personally responsible for the colonial oppression of Indigenous peoples. No matter who your ancestors are.” — Leah Bell.

That funeral director from TV

"I was a whāngai kid — a pretty common practice used by Māori families to make sure their children are brought up okay." — Francis Tipene, in an extract from 'Life as a Casketeer'.

The story of Olsen Filipaina

"To see Olsen play the game of rugby league at Leichhardt Oval was to witness a one-man wrecking ball. It was unprecedented for a man of his size to be fast enough and have the skills to play in the backline." — Patrick Skene, from 'The Big O'.

The gift we gave ourselves

“Are these proposed changes the gift that we wish to give to the future generation of Sāmoans?” — Moeata Keil on the controversial changes to Sāmoa's constitution.

The colonial problem

“The origins of the racism that is tearing the United States apart has deep parallels with New Zealand, and the origins are the same.” — Aaron Smale.

The centre is where we belong

“I realised my only ticket back into the area was to line some landlord’s pocket with 40 percent of my income and take one of four bedrooms in a rundown flat on Sussex St (his 12th property, fyi).” — Litia Tuiburelevu.

Oh Canada!

“Canadians are inclined to point to racism as something that exists in the USA. ‘We are not the USA!’” — Tainui Stephens.

We owe so much to Huirangi

“Huirangi met every test of his strength, courage, integrity and leadership to secure the rights of future generations to the language of his tipuna.” — Andrew Robb on Huirangi Waikerepuru.

What will our rangatahi inherit?

"If I was a teenager today, I’d be anxious about the world I’m about to inherit. A job, a home, a family, clean air, and fresh water are well on their way to becoming luxuries." — Tainui Stephens.

It shifts, it changes

“Our world is changing so fast that many of last century’s realities are today not just irrelevant but even non-existent.” — Kennedy Warne.

Farewelling Tallulah

“I’m sad to see our Little Miss slide listlessly into a final acceptance that her magnificent animal frame is on its last legs. She writes the last page of that Ngāruawāhia chapter of my life.” — Tainui Stephens farewells a dear friend.

The Anniversaries of our Amnesia

“I’m starting to understand that amnesia may well be one of the main organising principles of colonisation. A selective forgetting is an important part of how power maintains its privileges.” — vivian Hutchinson.

Leaving home

“In the memory, there is just my mum, standing on the verandah, smiling, waving. I was annoyed she wasn’t crying.” — Becky Manawatu on leaving home.

The iceberg below the surface

“The people who have marched before me, who have occupied spaces before me: their feet taking steps for change, their bodies on the line, their voices hoarse with conviction . . . they are the iceberg below the surface.”

Hearing the ocean speak

“We have come here to speak about protection of the ocean. We come in the planet’s most uncertain hours to sing a redemptive tune. And what is it we are protecting the ocean against? Regrettably, us.”

The one place I felt safe

“I did not want to go home. Because I knew that when I went home someone was going to be angry, someone was going to fight, and someone was going to get hurt.”

Ihumātao feels like how I wish Auckland felt

“I can’t think of a time I’ve been in such a mixed group. There is a vibe of considerateness, gentleness. People are careful with the kids, and with each other. If you make eye contact, people say 'Kia ora', even if you don’t say it first.”

Witi Ihimaera: A writer’s memoir

“You must continue your education, son, I don’t want you to be a servant to anyone, man or woman, Māori or Pākehā. Your father and I didn’t raise you to help us on the farm.”  

The problem with white saviours

“There was an imbalance — visually, strategically, and hierarchically. White people on top, founding, leading, paying. Indigenous people beneath, benefiting, smiling, grateful.”

A taniwha in the city

Te Routu o Ureia is not the only site in Heritage New Zealand’s official list that has a taniwha connection. But it is the only site that carries a taniwha’s name.

Hemi at Hiruhārama

James K Baxter’s Jerusalem Daybook “had woken something, disrupted something, in my placid Pākehā existence. Like the water tank in Baxter’s story, bullet holes were appearing in the walls of assumption and belief.” — Kennedy Warne.

The singing island

“There is no airstrip. To get to Takū, you book a passage on the supply ship — if it's sailing. Last year, not a single ship visit was made. Cut off from outside supplies, the islanders relied entirely on their traditional food sources: fish, coconut and occasional taro."

Merata — a son’s tribute

“My hunger for the past came out of a need to process my own grief, rather than a desire to study the history.” — Hepi Mita, on making a film about his mum, Merata.

The history I wasn’t taught

The 150th anniversaries of several brutal events in our local and national history has prompted Ernie Barrington to dip into the history books — to remember “episodes that call out to be remembered and not to be airbrushed away”.

Maria: A Love Story

“Maria Thompson became a part of the Jackson household after my son’s grandmother, June, found her on the streets and took her home. She stayed for over three decades.”

Still more stories to tell

"I seek home in others’ hearts, and ask their permission to write of it. I look for aroha in their stories, for it is love that helps light things up when darkness threatens."

The Unforgiven

"The big challenge is how we as whānau and communities confront this terrible darkness, this sad duality that creates such a tragic legacy. There is no quick fix. It requires an open and honest conversation.”—Moana Maniapoto

Steven Adams: When Dad got sick

"It was 10 o’clock at night and this massive family was crying and then laughing and then crying and laughing again. I don’t know if it’s a brown thing, but if you’re not laughing at the hospital, no matter what the situation, you’re doing it wrong."

‘I’m still a mum, aren’t I?’

"We were the last mothers of that generation. The last to go through before the cradle-to-grave welfare state came crashing down around us. After that, single mothers were further stigmatised — and life got much harder."

My story, my shame, is tragically common

“The #MeToo movement hasn’t flowed through our Pacific communities as publicly as it has elsewhere. I think a big part of that is that the ones who’ve hurt us are our family. So outing our assaulter hurts us in new ways, and brings back the old pain.”

One tough mother

Remembering the mother of the nation, Whina Cooper — a tough, uncompromising mother who understood the power of protest and the political fray.

‘He’s the one who came home’

“The same courage that saw us move back to Tauranga Moana after an absence of many generations is needed again to take this next step. To finally be invested completely in the whenua of our ancestors. Our branch of the Bidois whānau will have a foothold again.”


E-Tangata is an online Sunday magazine specialising in stories that reflect the experiences of Māori and Pasifika in Aotearoa.


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