Global warming carries particular risks for the Māori communities with which I work – although further research about the likely impact is needed. I’m completing a three-year study about Māori young people’s hopes and fears about the future and I often find myself worrying about what lies ahead for them and their children. These uncertainties tie us directly to the health of our mountains and rivers: to what Māori call Papatūānuku, or Earth Mother. They are a constant reminder of how our connections with our ancestors have been disrupted by the colonial land grab and its attendant plagues of white privilege, corporate greed and climate change.
The New Zealand Wars (1845–72) had a decisive influence over the course of the nation’s history. Yet Pākehā have not always cared to remember them in anything approaching a robust manner, engaging at different times either in elaborate myth-making that painted the wars as chivalrous and noble or, when that was no longer tenable, actively choosing to ignore them altogether.
In our part of Wellington, a growing number of young wāhine Māori were heading their own households. But they were very different households from those of their grandmothers, who raised their children while their husbands were away at war.
Because we weren’t waiting for our men to come home.
I am a Māori woman who weeps when I hear the words, Ōrākau, Rangiaowhia, Rangiriri, Meremere; this tragic roll call of almost incomprehensible pain and loss. When I drive down Great South Road to the Waikato, I imagine the beat of horse’s hooves and the tramp of soldier’s boots and I feel a catch in my throat.
Recently, during a staff-room lunch break with colleagues in my Faculty, a debate sprang up about teaching about violent histories. They had been talking about the reluctance of the New Zealand Ministry of Education to position New Zealand’s colonial history as a central component of the school curriculum. It was one of those conversations that started casually enough but ended in fiery denunciations and a string of reply-to-all emails that lasted through the afternoon. Someone had brought in a basket of feijoas† from their garden and I tucked into them as the debate unfolded at the other end of the table (I’ve published on this debate so my views are already known to my colleagues).