Colonial Economics and the Political Protection of Privilege

Last week, somewhere in the vast, windswept halls of Judith Collins’ consciousness, a penny dropped. It was a lonely penny, arguably a half-penny. It occurred, suddenly, to Judith, that Māori are interested in self-determination, and are in discussions with government about that.

Naturally, Judith flew to the press flush with indignance at this frightful revelation.

Judith threatening us with a good time.

In a remarkable demonstration of disregard for Treaty history ignorance, she stated: 

“First, is this what the Māori chiefs and [Governor William] Hobson imagined in 1840 when they agreed: we are now one people?”

(well yes, it is in fact exactly what Māori intended when they agreed to let pākeha stay, and that much has been decided upon by the Crown appointed judiciary on the matter, the Waitangi Tribunal).

“And second, is this the way New Zealanders today, in 2021, want to move forward as a society? Do we want separation of governance along ethnic lines?”

(yes please)

The fact of the matter is that Te Tiriti DID affirm tino rangatiratanga meaning ultimate authority to Māori, whilst allowing for some measure of governance by Pākeha, and that this governance was envisioned to control troublesome settlers, especially those prone to taking and selling land that was simply not theirs. That ultimate sovereignty was never ceded is no longer even in question from The Crown judiciary on the matter and has not been since 2014.

It is also a fact that a governor is not equal to a sovereign, and that Te Tiriti allowed for the Queen (through her representative) to govern, that they were very specific in their wording, and if they wanted to express ultimate sovereignty for the Queen, they would have done so – they didn’t. Ultimate power, in the language of the document that was signed, was accorded to Māori.

So like it or not, the standards by which Tangata Tiriti presence was agreed to was one that took place under the ultimate authority of Māori. The model of shared power that is causing Judith so much pain is, in fact, a generous allocation on our behalf (and is still not Tiriti justice).

Over time, that original intent, signed as the conditions upon which we would agree to share this land as home, has not been respected or honoured. In fact, the system that was intended to control troublesome settlers bent on land theft, was handed over to troublesome settlers bent on land theft, and thereby empowered the system of pākeha privilege and Māori dispossession under which the nation still exists.

Moana Jackson says it better than anyone. Ever.

This was not, however, for the sake of political power itself. It is a system that has been set up to provide economic privilege and that is why it is so difficult to unpick. Those with economic privilege are able to influence power in order to maintain and protect it, and they have done just that for multiple generations through controlling the parameters of justice and accountability of the state. It is far less a matter of ignorance, moreso a matter of self-interest.

This protection of economic privilege is why numerous important declarations on human rights, environmental rights, Indigenous rights, and migrant rights are not ever afforded the systemic muscle to hold government or corporations truly accountable.

Nevertheless, as the great US abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said: the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. For as long as there has been this system of injustice, there have been those who have fought it, across multiple fronts, using what tools we have had at our disposal. Building our cases, breaking down barriers, then passing the torch on to a new generation to continue the struggle. It has taken us a long time to reach a point in the discussion where we can even start to set our sights on true Tiriti justice, and of course there are those who will still oppose that – there has been opposition every step of the way thus far. There has always been those who frame justice for anyone else other than themselves, a personal injustice.

Before I say anything more about this apparent “injustice” of a system that provides Tiriti shaped (ie Tangata Whenua AND Tangata Tiriti) models of governance and delivery, I want to reflect a little bit more on the systems of economy and political power that have brought us to this space, so we can see clearly exactly what it is that Judith is striving to protect.

The entire global economy is based upon extraction from Indigenous lands, and non-white bodies. Systems of colonial extraction from Indigenous lands are still running today, facilitated by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation and the free trade agreements and structural adjustment programs put in place by them. These international financial institutions resulted from the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, and was incepted and shaped largely by Britain and the USA. The Bretton Woods Conference also took the failed League of Nations and progressed it as the United Nations. The result was an international financial regime and political system that protects and privileges the rights and interests of colonizing states.

Over time, as Indigenous rights have been fought for and won, and colonial injustice exposed, colonizing states and their international organizations have become very sophisticated at cloaking their imperialism. For instance, the exploitation of non-white bodies did not stop with abolition of slavery, it just morphed into incarcerated labour, indentured labour, and various forms of modern slavery like sweatshops in Asia, or Pacific fruit workers in Aotearoa, or fireworks/fabric factories in India. As we sit in the relative comfort and safety of our own homes, ordering online without due care for the origin stories of our goods, we engage a kind of socialised psychopathy to permit our comfort at the expense of others. There are oppressed hands all over the goods that we have ordered with a comfortable click, from extraction to manufacturing, packaging and transport – and largely these are not white hands. We all, all of us (myself included) live off a system that is dependent upon the brutal oppression of bodies of colour. 

The “buy back” of slaves through the British Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 embedded wealth within a generation which has created a multigenerational system of privilege, and this includes British Prime Ministers and other MPs who still live today off the privilege from the sale of their family’s slaves, a price that was being paid off by the British public, including the descendants of those slaves, as recently as 2005. Many wealthy families in Britain and Europe can trace portions of their wealth back to the slave trade or colonial oppression and brutal dispossession in one way or another. Companies like Lloyds Bank, McDonalds, Microsoft and other commonly known companies are tied into histories of slavery, and/or more contemporary cases of incarcerated labour.

Philanthropic sector and State/International Aid.

Many of these companies, and wealthy families, also offer funds for various social causes. Given the central role that extraction and exploitation of Non-White bodies and lands plays in the global economy, international banking systems, and the creation and transfer of wealth for over 600 years it is reasonable to conclude that the philanthropic sector is ridden with money that has originated off, and then been accumulated off the back of Imperial oppression. So how much of that goes back to Indigenous communities or communities of colour? Well in 2018 less that 1% of the funds from the top ten funders in the USA reached Indigenous communities, and less than 8% went to communities of colour. This issue has been made even worse by funding being poured into industries that cause direct harm to Indigenous peoples. The oil, gas and plastics sector for instance received billions of dollars of covid relief funding to supplement an industry that was failing prior to covid anyway due to mass divestment. These are industries that are well known to cause disproportionate harm to Indigenous communities and communities of colour. That’s funding that could have better gone towards struggling communities who are made COVID vulnerable by the very same colonial system that created the economic power structure that creates the need for, and resource behind, philanthropic and aid sectors in the first place.

International financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF have created conditions for their loans (which are more often than not required because of need created out of colonization) that inhibit environmental protections, human rights protections and trade justice – thereby maintaining the oppressive power dynamic set in train over 600 years ago.

The NGO Industrial Complex

The Global South is infested with NGOs that are actually based in the global north and acquire significant funding through the aforementioned economic networks to carry out work in the Global South, but not before huge portions of that money goes back into the organization in administration, infrastructure, management and even governance fees. In addition to this primary issue of funds diversion, there is also the fact that because it is not rooted in the global south to begin with, the “solutions” often sideline the communities they are meant to relieve, and unsurprisingly fail to help them. There are multiple reported instances where NGOs have avoided contributing to final solutions because that would negate their reason for being.


Aotearoa is no different to the rest of the world. We also have philanthropic groups like the Todd Foundation, one of New Zealand’s largest fracking companies, whose wealth is accumulated through Indigenous oppression, dispossession and climate abuse through continued fossil fuel extraction. Our national economy, like the global economy, is run off the back of stolen Māori land. If you were to simply return the land that was taken from us it would destabilise the NZ economy, just as Indigenous justice, worldwide, would gut the global economy. There are NGOs who are more invested in tinkering with, and describing the problems of Aotearoa (and building media profiles for themselves along the way) than taking bold action to solve it.

And then there are the industries surrounding our grief and trauma. Pākeha run women’s refuges that draw significant funds to care for the end-product of the colonial patriarchy. Privatised prisons. The incarcerated labour economy (and its sibling of hyper-incarceration) of state prisons. Pākeha social service providers that will deal with problems primarily rooted in colonial violence (but have no capacity to acknowledge or respond to that fact). Pākeha researchers of issues that primarily impact non-Pakeha. Pakeha treaty training providers. Board games about colonization. Movies that romanticize colonization and milk our trauma for dollars that fill Pākeha bank accounts.

There is a huge amount of wealth transfer that is still being carried out today, off the back of colonial harm. In some cases – this practice needs to end immediately. In others, there is, at the minimum, a requirement that they understand the gravity of drawing an income from a system which already privileges them, and accordingly immerse themselves in anti-racist, anti-colonial education and training in order to not do even further damage to the communities they are being resourced to assist.

Colonial wealth has been accumulated off the back of Indigenous dispossession, the world over. In Aotearoa, pākeha wealth has been accumulated off the back of Māori dispossession. This accumulation of pākeha wealth and Māori need has enabled the education, social ascent, and political influence of pākeha that has resulted in a political system that protects its own privilege. THAT is what we are seeing when Judith Collins yelps in pain at the mere thought of sharing power on this land. It is the pain of colonial privilege beholding justice.

If we are indeed moving towards a space of increased Māori authority right across the economic and political structures of Aotearoa – then it is a long overdue step towards justice, and there will be plenty more steps to take after that.

The Top 5 Colonial Conspiracy Theories

For all of the focus on misinformation and disinformation campaigns in the past year, there is a startling gap in the conversation that I have tried, numerous times, to fill. I’m very grateful for the feedback and uptake on last year’s article “The Rise of Māori MAGA”… but looking around at the way that people continue to erase the colonial context of misinformation, even when they themselves exist within a colonial context, speaks to just how deep down the colonial rabbithole many New Zealanders, even those who claim to be aligned with truth and integrity, really are.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am just as concerned about misinformation as the next person and its implications for public health, Māori health, and the health of our taiao is a huge worry for me. But if you think that conspiracy theories started with 1080 and 5G, think again. Māori have been subjected to disinformation campaigns since the day the Endeavour showed up on an Imperial expansion mission dressed up as a science expedition and started killing us then reporting it as an unfortunate misunderstanding (another snippet of disinformation that not only persists but is supported by the NZ government). The list of misinformation that colonial descendants have ignored, continue to ignore, and ask us to ignore is LONG – and while no doubt many of you reading this will think yourself above conspiracy theories, the fact is that most of you are playing along with at least one of the following list, right now.

So let’s go – for brevity’s sake, I’ve just grabbed what I consider to be the top 5 colonial conspiracy theories.

  1. “The Warrior Race”

It bears saying, from the outset, that anyone who can survive the multigenerational genocidal intent of European imperialism can only be described as having a fighting spirit – but the myth of the “Warrior Race” is something quite different, and bears little attention to the culpability of colonizers.

Moana Jackson outlining the origins of the “Warrior Race” myth in his now famous “Once Were Gardeners” lecture.

The notion of Indigenous people being savage warriors is not exclusive to the Aotearoa/Maori experience. Walter Raleigh famously reported back to Queen Elizabeth the first that it was a “savage and primitive race” which prevented him from bringing riches back to her from the non-existent “El Dorado” (because telling the truth, that he couldn’t find it, would mean his death). The myth of Native peoples being savage warriors both legitimized “explorer” requests for military resources as well as providing the rationale for colonization in the first place as a noble act of civilizing the globe. We’ll get further into that soon. The application of the warrior race myth to Māori is probably one of the most extreme cases, however. It is a particular fascination that relegates us to being edgy, primal curiosities whose value sits roughly equivalent to a barbaric gladiator. Hence colonial haka-fetish.

Curt Achberger on Instagram: “Our 3rd #statue is Tumatauenga the #maori God  of war! Enjoy. #exfig #3d” | God of war, Warrior drawing, Maori art

The warrior-myth was perpetrated by the colonial government to justify continued military invasions of Māori communities which were later termed the “Land Wars” but are more accurately termed as “Land Theft Wars”. Truth is, all cultures are deeply complex and multifaceted, but racist colonizers reduce native groupings into caricatures that suit their fantasies and legitimize their Imperial agenda. For Hawai’i this resulted in the fetishizing of hula, for Aotearoa it has resulted in the fetishizing of haka. The warrior-myth has become so ingrained in Aotearoa psyche that many Māori also believe it of ourselves, and in a classic trauma cycle, begin to manifest the very behaviour that we are taught belongs to us as a measure of being “authentically Māori”.

SO, in this framework, Māori are fighters, rugby players, manual labourers, bouncers, and thugs. Not scientists, horticulturalists, diplomats or designers.

This idea, once entered into a system of media, research and policy that shapes public perception and legislative responses, results in Māori being framed as poor, violent parents, incapable of even self-preservation without state oversight. It results in lower scholastic expectations and lower employment potential. It results in being many times more likely to be arrested, incarcerated, having our children removed and everything that comes with that (such as state sexual abuse, physical and psychological harm).

This is not a historical practice – the concept of Māori as a warrior race persists in current media, social discourse, policy and scientific research. Māori, of course, are well aware of our own scientific, horticultural, oratorial, artistic traditions. We are aware of the amazing birthing and child rearing traditions.

Māori grandfather with grandchildren
Takurua Tamarau with his mokopuna Leo, Alfred and Lorna Tamarau in Rūātoki. Source:

We are aware of the deep importance of hospitality, and communal awareness, and love for our land and waters – and so we have watched this particular colonial misinformation play out while the Crown disproportionately overlooks the pākeha and Crown record of child abuse and theft for over 250 years, with no concern whatsoever by our Treaty partners about its harm and lack of integrity.

Moriori - Wikipedia
Moriori whanau c1910 Image source:,_1910,_Canterbury_Museum,_2016-01-27.jpg

2. Moriori

One of the most common (and persisting) colonial conspiracy theories is that “Maori arrived and killed all of the Moriori”. This of course, is news to the Moriori who are still very much present and quite tired of being told they are extinct. In the words of Moriori legal scholar and leader Maui Solomon, the mythmaking about Moriori was deliberate and slanderous.

“According to that story, Moriori arrived  on mainland Aotearoa before Māori but were pushed out to the Chathams by later and more dominant Māori migrants arriving from Polynesia. To add a touch of colour, the mythmakers also described Moriori as red-headed and of Melanesian “stock”. Many still believe that myth today, despite many efforts by Moriori writers and Pākehā writers, too — such as Henry Skinner (writing in the 1920s) and Michael King — to set the record straight. But the myth was a powerful political weapon to justify European colonisation of New Zealand and so it stuck fast in the consciousness of Pākehā New Zealanders.”

Maui Solomon

Of course Māori, and most especially Moriori, are well aware that this extermination theory was a myth. That didn’t stop it being taught in schools up until very recently, and that doesn’t stop every day New Zealanders still throwing this piece of disinformation at Māori every chance they get in order to mitigate their own colonial guilt.

3. Colonization civilized Māori


Another common retort from those seeking to justify colonization is that, were it not for colonization, Māori would still be eating, fighting and killing each other. A few points bear mentioning here:

  1. Cannibalism was certainly still present in Europe throughout our colonial experience, including today. The global colonial project was not a charitable act to raise the consciousness of the savage world and save it from its savage self. European monarchs were partaking of human flesh and bones even as the imperial project spread out across the world.
  2. Just like everywhere else it went, colonial interference made inter-Maori conflict WORSE. Trite comments about Maori selling skulls and buying guns to kill each other off are as common and shallow as those who like to raise that there were African slave traders. In both cases, they miss the point that these practices were systematized by Western exploitation and incentivisation. Colonizer arguments commonly erase the significance of western interference – how they exploited and deliberately exacerbated inter-iwi political tensions. How they promised to spare communities from colonial invasion and extermination if they assisted in other means or provided what was requested. How the forcibly introduced systems created new levels of poverty, destitution and desperation.
  3. The colonial project itself has been brutal beyond any measure of comparison to pre-contact Maori. This fact has often been challenged by the apparent instructions of Lord Normanby that Lieutenant Hobson seek the “intelligent consent” of our ancestors to authoritarian rule by the British. The way this story is often framed is that the New Zealand Land Company was the evil commercial land-grabber, and the Crown were generously intervening to halt unbridled land loss. What is spoken of less often is that British parliamentarians had also purchased, and were selling land also through the New Zealand Land Company, and were very clear that Britain had to colonize Aotearoa in order to protect those interests.

How To Colonize: The Interest Of The Country, And The Duty Of The  Government (1842): Mangles, Ross Donnelly: 9781166149253: Books
  1. Check out British MP for Guildford, Ross Mangles, who wrote the astonishingly titled “How To Colonize: The Interest of the Country and the Duty of Government”. Mangles was, by the way, a co-director of the New Zealand Land Company whilst also a British MP. Before the ink was wet on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Maori loss of life and land accelerated. Within 50 years the Maori population dropped to less than 40% of its original size. No precolonial act was anywhere near as destructive to Maori as colonization has been. Nor was this process civilized. It included brutal murders of women, children, babies and elders. It includes two centuries of child theft and sexual assault so severe that it has permanently scarred family lines. Colonization, as a process, is about the most uncivilized behaviour this planet has seen and it continues to surround us today in the form of wealth, poverty, mortality rates, incarceration, state child theft, and continued territorial theft. Those of us on the sharp end of this experience understand that it is anything but civilized, but that does not stop others from raising it time, and time again.
  2. 4. Māori Privilege

I’m not joking when I say that barely a week goes by when I don’t see or hear some comment along the lines of “Maori are all on a gravy train” “why should Maori get special treatment” “Maori have always got their hand out”.

I’m just going to cut straight to the point: The New Zealand economy is built off the back of stolen Māori land.

New Zealand would, quite simply, NOT HAVE an economy if it were not for the millions of acres confiscated through the colonial project by nefarious means, which were then transferred across to European colonial imports to farm – which became the economic foundation of the nation. Much of that land has never been returned (once it is sold privately it is not able to be returned to Māori regardless of how unjust its theft was). From fisheries to conservation tourism – the amount of economic privilege enjoyed by everyday New Zealanders that stems from Māori dispossession is near innumerable.

I say that because there is no way the “settlement” funds transferred by the Crown comes anywhere near meeting the true, intergenerational and ongoing costs of the wealth that has been (and continues to be) transferred OUT of Māori hands. There is no way settlement payouts should be misconstrued as restitution – From 1999 to 2004, only 0.1 per cent of all government spending was for Treaty settlements. This amounted to less than 2 per cent of the real value of Māori land loss in spite of the fact that the government continued to generate enormous income from what it had taken. The government has spent nearly $1.2billion bailing out ONE COMPANY (South Canterbury Finance). Add the $1billion dollar government bailout of Air New Zealand a few years ago and you have already topped all of the government payments to every settlement for all iwi put together ($2.2billion).

Now add to that the fact that as taxpayers, Māori who have been dispossessed and oppressed are also paying the bill as compensation for their own oppression at the hands of the Crown. Some of these funds paid are not just for land theft, but for the aforementioned atrocities of rape, child theft, murder – and we are, as taxpayers, paying ourselves back on behalf of the Crown for those atrocities. Maori privilege? GTFOH.

  • 5. The Government is legitimate

Yep saved the best for last. Of all the ways in which Te Tiriti o Waitangi was violated in the years after its signing, the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852, passed in Britain, in which it absolved itself of its Treaty responsibilities WITHOUT agreement from Māori co-signatories, was without a doubt the most destructive. The New Zealand Constitution Act which set up NZ parliament had absolutely no just grounds to do so. The document signed by over 500 of the 530 signatures was Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which allowed for a governor and the protective capacity of the British Crown – but ultimate authority remained with Maori. The New Zealand government’s OWN treaty judiciary has looked at this issue and concluded that Maori never ceded sovereignty.

Let’s go over that again.

The New Zealand government has itself concluded that Maori never ceded sovereignty.

That means that the New Zealand government was acting outside of the law when it set itself up.

And even though it’s been acknowledged by the government, it’s never ever been acted upon. It is carrying on, in a delusional state, making laws as if it is legal, governing Māori as if it is legitimate, spending public funds as if it has a legal mandate to do so. It does not, and this is the largest, most impactful disinformation campaign that Maori have been faced with for 168 years now.

And every step of the way it has been upheld by the media and legitimized by colonial science (and still is). Small wonder then that Māori have such little faith in these systems – our very survival has depended upon us challenging them.

It is, in fact, a cheek for any one of those sectors to expect Māori to trust them considering their role in unfairly vilifying Māori while obscuring or ignoring Crown villainy. The Crown itself still does not trust Māori to determine our own future, to the point where it continues to wield its own illegitimate authority over us, nor does it trust us with direct access to information in a crisis (like COVID). When Helen Clarke’s Labour government carried out the largest landgrab of modern times (a move she recently said she has no regrets over and would do again) – they did so off the back of a vicious misinformation campaign that suggested Māori would lock everyday New Zealanders away from the beaches. It was a completely nonsensical premise that had no basis in fact as Māori had previously held the shoreline without doing anything of the kind up to that point (while plenty of pākeha beachfront properties and businesses fenced off access), but nevertheless the Foreshore and Seabed debate was rife with the suggestion (both from government AND in media, and from the general public) that Māori could not be trusted to allow New Zealanders to access the beach. Think about that next time you want to discuss Māori having trust issues.

So every time I hear people snidely insult QAnon believers, or conspiracy theorists, I can’t help but hear the colonial self-interest in their tone. It’s only one form of misinformation that most colonial commentators are concerned with right now, and their failure to broaden the conversation to include the ongoing mis and disinformation of colonial governments undermines their own commitment to truth, and integrity.  When I look at you wanting to discuss misinformation, standing on colonized ground, and ignoring the colonial context – you just look, to me, like you’re down a rabbithole of your own.

Can Māori Be Racist?

So there is a suggestion that I have heard numerous times of late, on social media and in general – that only white people can be racist.

It popped up in last year’s elections, it pops up often in social media spats, it popped up last month when I watched a disturbing series of online pile-ons upon a white individual for some innocuous statement she made about a café. I’ve seen it utilized to permit some horrid behaviour and I’m often tagged into these scenarios with the expectation that I will confirm someone’s apparent diplomatic immunity from being racist.

I won’t, and it’s probably overdue that we talk about why.

Anti-whiteness is not a commonly held conversation (outside of white nationalism) because if a white person tries to talk about it, it comes across as defensive fragility… and non-white folk, in my observation, either don’t see it as an issue, or they see it as work that is primarily benefitting white people – therefore it either does not help in anti-racism work, or that it does not meet the same priority as supporting non-white communities to deal with their experiences of racism.

I, too, prefer my own energy to be spent on helping my own communities, and prefer good Tangata Tiriti to work with educating their own colleagues in this space about confronting how race and privilege descends down to them, and what to do about that.

But that is precisely why I am taking time out for this issue – because some of the LEADING critical race theorists are very clear about this:

If we are saying that ONLY those who are a) white and b) at the very top of the societal power structure can be racist, this will delay our collective journey to being anti-racist.

It will inhibit our ability to address lateral racism.

It will inhibit our ability to deracialize white minds.

It will inhibit our dismantlement of racial hierarchies.

It will, ultimately, manifest as oppression against brown folk.

And that is why we need to talk about it – because it will, in the end, impact on our own communities anyway.

So you want to talk about race in tech with Ijeoma Oluo | TechCrunch

Critical race theorist Ijeoma Oluo discusses racism as follows:

 “there are two dominant forms of racism. 1) Racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race and 2) Racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power.

In taking this definition, some people like to suggest that non-white people therefore cannot be racist because they have no power in the system.

Yet that is not true. Non-white people can hold power in this system, and in holding that power, they can also perpetuate harm along racialized lines.

The Book Show #1664 - Ibram X. Kendi | WAMC

In Ibram X Kendi’s book “How to be an AntiRacist” he uses the example of Barack Obama, who rose to be one of the most powerful national leaders in the world. You cannot say he was powerless. While in that seat, he drove policies that increased racial inequities. He drove policies that cost lives, along racial lines. Obama appointed famously racist white policy makers into his administration where they developed and delivered abominably racist policies. One of them is quoted as saying:

“A given amount of health-impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”

Lawrence Summers

There is also the case of Ken Blackwell, who, as a black secretary of state for Ohio, developed policies that deliberately suppressed black voters in order to favour George Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign – and Judge Clarence Thomas who doubled the number of dismissals of cases of racial discrimination within the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Professor of Black Studies Kehinde Andrews speaks at length about Candace Owens and her insidious anti-black rhetoric in support of US conservatism.

Kehinde Andrews speaking on Candace Owens and the issue of “The Psychosis of Whiteness”.

Want a more local example? Shane Jones, while in power, sought to establish policies that would directly undermine the inherited rights of Māori to their customary fisheries and protection of their marine estate – insulting their intelligence along the way. Winston Peters thought it funny to quip “two Wongs don’t make a white” in criticizing Asian land ownership in Aotearoa. The Māori Party sought to blame immigrants for the housing crisis during the 2020 electoral campaign in a way that placed refugee communities (already victims of global racism) directly, and unnecessarily, in the crosshairs.

Shane Jones gives Ngāti Whare $6m to grow millions of native trees |
Shane Jones targetted Māori fisheries estates and when they stood up to protect themselves, resorted to purile insults of their leaders.

Māori MP Paula Bennett, while in office as Minister for Social Development, drove policies that negatively targeted Māori and Pacific families while ignoring the same issues in pakeha families. She is Māori. She held power within this system. She used that power in a way that drove racial inequity. It’s simply not true to say that only white people can be racist. There are numerous Non-White MPs who have held office in this country – and while in office have driven policies that have perpetuated harm along racialized lines.

Next question is, can people of colour be racist towards white people?

Well, we have already established that non-white people can be racist towards each other – they can do this individually, and they can do this through policies and manipulation of the relative power that they hold. Racism can be delivered down, and it can be delivered across… can it be delivered up?

As Oluo notes, the first definition of racism (that it is any act of prejudice because of ones race) reduces discussions of racism down to a battle for the hearts and minds of individual racists, and misses the point that individual acts of racism are a part of a larger system. In short – if you only ever address it as individual acts, you will never overcome it, because you will fail to address the system that indoctrinates racists in the first place. We must address this at a systemic level.

So within that definition – no, racism cannot be delivered “up”. More often than not, anti-white statements are considered “racial prejudice” which are excusable by virtue of the fact that it lacks the systemic power to make it relevant or problematic.

There is a BUT, however, and here it is:

If you want to define racism through power analysis – you must also consider that racial prejudice against white folk reaffirms racial hierarchies and racist power systems. An anti-racist future is one where there IS NO racial hierarchy – not one where either 1) A racialised minority is at the top of the racial hierarchy or 2) A racialized minority is permitted to hit UP against whoever is at the top of the racial hierarchy.

Kendi puts it best:

“Anti-White racist ideas are usually a reflexive reaction to White racism. Anti-White racism is indeed the hate that hate produced, attractive to the victims of White racism. And yet racist power thrives on anti-White racist ideas—more hatred only makes their power greater. When Black people recoil from White racism and concentrate their hatred on everyday White people… they are not fighting racist power or racist policymakers. In losing focus on racist power, they fail to challenge anti-Black racist policies, which means those policies are more likely to flourish. Going after White people instead of racist power prolongs the policies harming Black life. In the end, anti-White racist ideas, in taking some or all of the focus off racist power, become anti-Black. In the end, hating White people becomes hating Black people.

Prof Ibram X. Kendi

You will notice, dear reader, that Professor Kendi does not at all shy away from the term “Anti-White racism”. He does not specify it as prejudice, he is focused more on the system that takes Black lives and forging ahead to an anti-racist future.

The pathway to this anti-future necessitates frank discussions about privilege, power, and fragility. It requires us to see racism as, in Kendi’s words, “a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas.” So it requires us to deracialize our policies, and the minds that create those policies, through anti-racist action, thought, and education.

The suggestion that Māori are completely powerless, or that people of colour are completely powerless, stems from a racist idea (and in fact can be traced back to racist policies). It is not antiracist.

The suggestion that only White people can be racist, and that white people will only ever be racist within that system, erases all forms of allyship and condemns white minds to never being able to deracialize. It is not antiracist.

The suggestion that Māori can never be racist erases the harm that we can do with the limited access to power that we have in our own lands. It will never enable us to address how we have utilized relative power against each other, against wahine Maori, and against other marginalized groups. IMPORTANTLY – it will never enable us to explore how this behaviour supports a racially hierarchical system that we will never (and should never want to) reach the top of. It will inhibit us from bringing that racially hierarchical system down and growing an antiracist future for our children.

Too often, what’s been apparent in people tagging me into their online racism debates is that it appears to be about their own aversion to see themselves as capable of a racist act – because they, too, see racism as a permanent personal slur, a fixed characteristic (reserved only for whites) rather than an act that is informed by a system of racial hierarchy. They, too, are ironically focussed on themselves as an individual rather than focussing on the system.

I have said racist things, and thought racist thoughts… and it’s my ownership of that, my commitment to change, and my faith that the system can also change that makes me anti-racist.

Mauri ora.


Imperialism Must Die

Drawn by D. P. Dodd & others who were on the spot. Engraved by T. Cook 20 November 1784 Hawaiian Crowd numbers correct. Cook had grossly underestimated the Island population & the force of multitude aroused. Source:

Today, in Hawai’i in 1779, the imperialist known as James Cook was put to death. Across our moana, numerous communities celebrate this day, known in Hawai’i as Hauʻoli Lā Hoʻomake iā Kapena Kuke, (Happy Death of Captain Cook day). Of course much to the disdain of colonial descendants, who consider these celebrations macabre and, according to them, distasteful.

Before we go much further into this discussion, there are a few facts that bear remembering:

  1. Cook was a serial killer of Indigenous peoples. He murdered natives right throughout the Pacific: in Tahiti, in Tonga, in Aotearoa, in Australia, in Hawai’i. He would have continued to kill us had he been given further opportunity. How do we know this? Well accounts of the day before he was killed detail his orders and comments to his crew.

    Naval Lieutenant James King recounted Cook’s orders “that the behaviour of the Indians would at last oblige him to use force, for that they must not, he said, imagine they have gaind an advantage over us’.

Translation: Better a dead native than one who thinks above their station.

Think that was out of character for Cook? Nope – his journals are dotted with this sentiment – that regular shows of deadly force are necessary to remind natives of European supremacy. Ten years earlier, he had used this same justification for firing into a fishing vessel full of unarmed women, men and youth… killing all but the three young men whom he abducted. That evening he reflected in his journal:

“I am aware that the most humane men who have not experienced things of this nature will cencure my conduct in fireing upon the people in this boat, nor do I my self think that the reason I had for seizing upon her will att all justify me, but when we was once a long side of them we must either have stud to be knockd on the head or else retire and let them gone off in triumph and this last they would of course have attributed to their own bravery and our timourousness”

TRANSLATION Better a dead native than a native who thinks himself superior to us.

Throughout his three journeys were multiple instances where he took native lives for the mere reason of demonstrating white supremacy. He clearly felt that his duty to expand the British Empire included entitlement to take native lives. Cook did not invent that entitlement – it was in his orders, it was a part of his training (his naval mentor in his first overseas posting was Jeffery Amherst who was famed for purposeful infection of Mohawk communities through smallpox-laden blankets and was a self-confessed fan of the “Conquistador method” – hunting down and killing natives with dogs). In fact the very catalyst for Cook’s demise was the arrival of the news that his men on the other side of the bay had fired upon the locals, killing another Ali’i (just the latest in a string of deaths at the hands of Cook’s crew, and at Cook’s orders) – at the same time as Cook was attempting to abduct Ali’i Kalaniopu’u. The taking of native lives was expressly legitimised for imperial expansionists, dating all the way back to the 15th century where it was legally codified in the Doctrine of Discovery.

This, of course, is just the direct murders – they are in addition to the many more Indigenous lives lost through infection (both through handing out influenza-infected kerchiefs and through sexually transmitted diseases), through land theft or through injuries sustained through torture.

Which brings us to the second point: Now that we have established taking Indigenous lives was not a mishap but a form of modus operandi… now that we know it was an official and indoctrinated entitlement of his profession – we can reasonably deduce that he would have continued to take native lives in the pursuit of Imperial expansion – because our moana ancestors would most certainly have continued to resist his continued violations.

Simply put – Had Cook not been killed, he would have gone on to kill more of my ancestors.

And so today, we celebrate our ancestor’s resilience, we celebrate our survival, for in spite of all the efforts of the colonial imperial war machine WE ARE STILL HERE.

Indeed, in celebrating Imperial death – we celebrate LIFE.

We celebrate the halting of someone who had clear designs on Indigenous property and Indigenous bodies.

We celebrate all Indigenous women – we celebrate wahine Moana, like Kānekapōlei, wife of Kalaniopu’u, who had the foresight to warn her husband, and call her sons out of the vessel where they would have again been held captive like so many others abducted by Cook in his journeys. Because of Kānekapōlei, Kalaniopu’u survived, her sons survived. We celebrate the sacredness of Indigenous women and children who were all impacted, and are still impacted, by military imperialism and the sexual violence that comes with it – and colonial entitlement to our bodily territories, land territories and water territories.

We celebrate INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE in all its forms.

Plaque marking where Cook met Indigenous justice. Kealakekua Bay, Hawai’inui

We celebrate the overturning of white supremacy. Because in spite of Cook’s arrogance about his own superiority – he was ultimately met with Indigenous justice. This is an important reflection for us all today, fighting for our lands, our waters, our lives and that of our descendants at the hands of economic imperialists, who carry the same arrogant entitlement to the lands, waters and lives of others.

Today is a day for us to remember that Imperialism cannot be excused, cannot be legitimised, and cannot exist in the same space as human rights. Whether it be economic or military (or a combination of the two) – In order to honour life, Imperialism must die.

Like a Rat at the Nest: The Constant Defence Demanded of Indigenous Peoples

Space Invaders by Kiowa Chocktaw artist Steven Paul Judd.

There is an analogy I have often heard over the years of working with Indigenous brothers and sisters around the world in issues of conservation: The first and worst invasive species are the two legged sort. Like a rat at the nest of a native bird, the colonizer will come back at all hours, every day, constantly wearing you down until you give up and let it have its way.

For the non-Indigenous mind, reading this, I don’t think it’s easily understood just how very draining it is for us to protect our language, keep our whanau together, keep our children in our homes, keep our men and women out of the colonial injustice system, secure adequate healthcare, protect our customs, and always, always, protect our territories from the onslaught of colonial grabbery. Not only are new fires being set alight every day, but the fires we have put out keep coming back to life again, and again, and again, as well.

It steals time, heartbeats, and patience away from us. It steals the energy that we would otherwise be pouring into our own aspirations. The entitlement to the time and energy of Maori communities is staggering – with each group, person or organization thinking they are the exception, that it’s everyone else who is the problem but not them. Here is one example – just one, but a particularly potent example:

May be an image of 1 person
Wharekahika community coming together to hear the proposal in 2017. Image credit: Ani Pahuru-Huriwai

In our community of Wharekahika, the TerraFermah group have been trying to push through a logging port for four years. This comes after decades of other attempts to build a port, all of which have been opposed. Initially, when approaches were made to the local iwi in 2016, the iwi authority was warm to the idea of a feasibility study. Problem is… mana moana rests with the hapu. When the hapu called the iwi to meet with them in 2017 there were stern questions asked about why the concept was even being entertained without discussions with the hapu. After a long discussion where many of the local community expressed their continued opposition to the port, it was eventually agreed upon that a pre-feasibility study would be allowed, so that any opposition was made from an informed space.

Wharekahika local leadership, whanau, youth and kaumātua, again saying we do not want a port. Source:

The next community meeting happened ten months later, the pre-feasibility report was shaping up and the port was looking a lot more expensive, with far greater ecological impacts than what had initially been proposed. The report proposed removing the seawall in order to cut costs, but this significantly increased the risk of an event where the vessels could crash and lose or discharge fuel into the bay and along the coastline. The feasibility report itself cost in the vicinity of three hundred thousand dollars, and included Cultural/geo-physical/logistics. It appeared that the Terrafermah group had, in addition to approaching the iwi, also approached Eastland Port and the sense from the community was that Terrafermah’s approach was becoming aggressive and predatory. Again the community came together to discuss the issue, air grievances and express their reservations, taking into account all of the research that had been done. A number pointed out that we are not anti-development but that a port simply does not fit with the community’s economic aspirations. Rail was one of the other infrastructural options put forward by the community for a feasibility report. The community response: too expensive both in terms of money and cost to the environment, and not a part of our own community aspirations.

Now keep in mind that every time a meeting is called, we need to call upon our elders, call families out of their homes and away from their own pursuits, we go through all of the protocols and expend mental and emotional energy dealing with what is being put before us – all the while aware that if we do not, the decisions are always made FOR us, and most often in ways that cause us harm. It’s an economic and regulatory system that has been developed to favour anyone with development agendas and ignore the rights of local hapu and the environment. Between each of these hui are also phone calls and smaller meetings so that the hapu can keep abreast of people who are insisting on developing plans for our property. All of this unresourced, all of it taking up time and energy of local people who are simply trying to preserve their own property for their own aspirations.

Our youth are very clear – their future does not feature a port. Source:

Ok so where are we up to – meeting number three, August 2018. Again, the community came out in force to engage in the discussion, with over 150 present. By this point, Rural Development Minister Shane Jones had been talking extensively in the media about his support for the port, and rather insultingly about hapu opposition. The pre-feasibility report that had been agreed to by the hapu was never provided TO hapu. It was again, however reiterated that without the hapū support, the port would not go ahead, and at this meeting, again, the sentiment was clear: No Port. Again, the whanau suggested that alternative measures such as rail be explored. In this meeting, as in the last, there were numerous concerns raised by both iwi and hapu about the practices of Dave Fermah and his business, TerraFermah, in how they were approaching this issue. Locals started a petition to demonstrate their opposition, which gathered over eight thousand signatures. Signs were erected around the township to make it clear that a port was not welcome.

Fourth hui, about a month later, the community again reconvened to discuss and vote on the matter. More tension. More emotional and intellectual energy. More debates. Still no pre-feasibility study had been presented, and again the hapu made their sentiments clear: No port, and no further support for a full feasibility study. In the words of Maori Committee Chair at the time, over the 11 years previous there had been at least 5 approaches to develop a port at that location, each time met with stern opposition from the community. Again, the community were at pains to make clear that we are not anti-development but that our own economic goals simply did not align with a port. The community outlined 13 reasons for their opposition which was communicated to the Iwi authority in detail, and at the time also pointed out that the process had been painfully time consuming for the local community. The pre-feasibility report was eventually provided, but it was nevertheless made clear that the issue, as far as the community was concerned, was closed.

Consultation document from 2019 again trying to re-engage over the zombie-port that just. won’t. die.

Again, in 2019 Shane Jones started up with media suggestions of a port at Wharekahika, at a similar time, Gisborne District Council started floating communications about a “blue highway” that would include a port at Wharekahika or Te Araroa. Cue meeting number five, with council and members of the local community who were rightfully outraged that 1. They were revisiting this issue and had evidently invested time and energy into the matter and 2. Were consulting broadly across the region for an issue that required hapu approval, and did not have it. Council staff were made aware in no uncertain terms that a port was NOT welcome in Wharekahika, that our economic aspirations were for non-extractive economies that invested in our people and a healthy environment, and to cease any further consultation with the broader region about a port in Wharekahika.

Undeterred, however, Terrafermah again returned in 2020 with further aggressive tactics. This time, Dave Fermah engaged a consultant named Tom Garlick to circulate letters around the community stating that he would donate money to the local schools and hospital, and that because he had addressed some of the reasons for opposition outlined in the letter of 2018 to our Iwi Authority, that the matter could now be re-approached. Not only had he done this, but he had gone to the extraordinary lengths of establishing a trust in the name of our community (The Matakaoa Community Trust) of which he was the sole trustee (living in Freemans Bay Auckland).

Cue community meeting number six, where the community sought confirmation from the schools and health board about their involvement with what we were now calling the zombie port. Both schools and the health board roundly rejected the offer of sponsorship, as it was clearly not in the interests of the community. In fact, at the time of sending the letters out, Dave Fermah had not even bothered with the consent of these groups for his proposed sponsorship. As if this was not distressing enough for the community – he went to the even more extraordinary lengths of establishing a website for the port that is riddled with assumptions, misdirection and straightup falsehoods.

A letter of complaint and continued opposition was registered with the Iwi Authority, who again reiterated their support of the hapu position against a port. Shane Jones, again, took the opportunity to attack the hapu through the media. His parting shot, before being ejected from parliament in the 2020 elections, was to allocate $45million towards the development of the port in literal spite of local opposition.

And now, in recent weeks, we have again heard that the port is being reconsidered, this time at the behest of Minister Grant Robertson’s office – who apparently don’t feel that the community have been clear enough in our opposition, and would like us to gather in yet another meeting to make our position clear. Six minuted meetings. Numerous media releases. A 8000 signature strong petition.

Of course, again – they have not yet come to the hapu, but rather have engaged with other groups in Gisborne (that being the Iwi and Council). The community is completely exasperated with the issue, we have met over, and over again. We have debated. We have seen the research. The process has been literally exhaustive, and the no is an informed no.

At this point – it is harassment. A colonial level of entitlement to people’s time and energy. It’s a troubling disregard for our non-consent,  and an assumption of supreme authority over our own territory, in addition to an abuse of Crown privilege and resources. We are not resourced, and have not been resourced, to continue to meet, and debate, and oppose this issue. We are not resourced to write to media, and the Iwi, and the council, and whoever else government sends to us. We are trying to pursue our own economic aspirations as a community, but between this, and all of the other frontlines we are expected to engage upon, we are exhausted. And this, this is the reality of living as Indigenous peoples in colonized times – just the act of living uninterrupted in our territories requires INORDINATE amounts of reactive energy. Energy we would rather be putting towards our children, our families, our own dreams and other pressing issues like climate resilience and the restoration of our coastal fisheries and forests that have already been depleted by the Crown.

So here we are again, saying NO to a port. Invest in exploring rail. Invest in non-extractive economies. And for Treaty’s sake – respect our NO when we say it.

Sexual Violence and The Doctrine of Discovery

CONTENT WARNING: Sexual violence and rape of women, youth and children.

This piece was written after a late night chatting with my dear relation Mereana Pitman who has been working in the prevention of family violence and sexual violence for over 40 years, and about the same period of time campaigning for, and educating on, Treaty justice. These are our combined reflections upon the role of the Doctrine of Discovery and sexual violence.

It is, perhaps, a mark of the year that 2020 has been that the creation of a new ministerial portfolio for the prevention of family and sexual violence sailed past the bluffs of the election media without barely a mention.  Aotearoa has some of the highest rates of family and sexual violence, and it is a cornerstone issue – it impacts upon multiple other spaces of mental health, the rights of women, youth and children, crime and incarceration to name just a few. It is a cornerstone issue in the social ecology – and while its impacts upon Māori communities are distinct it should not be understood as a Māori problem. It is, in no small measure, a colonization problem, and like all stories of colonization it requires a thorough understanding of the history of sexual violence in a colonial context. Here are just a few important considerations for us to keep in mind in considering the role of sexual violence within a colonial state:

América: James van der Straet
The Discovery of America, Jan van der Straet, 1575

Sexual violence is a tool of conquest and colonization.

We should, first, understand sexual violence as a primal act of domination that features across species, and certainly across cultures. It is used to punish, humiliate and destroy, and has been used as a tool of war, conquest and domination for as long as war, conquest and domination has existed. We then, must understand imperial expansion as acts of war, domination and conquest, and colonialism as the maintenance of domination. For nations that have undergone colonisation, sexual violence is one of the many tools that has been used to establish and maintain domination – and it has been an extremely effective one.

The Doctrine of (Christian) Discovery is an international legal and social concept which created sets of entitlements for European monarchs to expand their empires throughout the world. In the words of the papal laws, these entitlements included the right to:

invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens [Muslim] and pagans [Non-christians] and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property […] and to reduce their persons into perpetual servitude.

Dum Diversas

It’s important to note that even though these laws are ostensibly about the right to claim land, the first rights accorded are the rights to “invade, search out, capture and subjugate” Saracen and pagan people, followed by the right to then take their property, including their lands. This comes as no surprise within the context that these earliest of papal bulls were primarily aimed at establishing a slave trade.

However, within a very short period subsequent papal laws then expanded the entitlements both in scope of the geography (moving from the right to invade and claim West Africa, to the right to invade and claim the “New World”) and in provisions (increasing, and clarifying, what could be taken and done).

Under the likes of Christopher Columbus and Francisco Pizarro, the application of the Doctrine of Discovery utilised sexual violence from the very outset. One of the documents utilised in the process of applying the Doctrine of Discovery was called El Requierimiento. It was read out as a proclamation of discovery to the natives of the lands being claimed (of course it was never understood, and was in many cases read as a formality upon sighting the land, just before invading it and waging war upon the natives of that land). It reads as follows (emphasis added):

“… We shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses; we shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their Highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us.”

El Requierimiento

Here we see, in the tools of the Doctrine, the explicit entitlement towards women and children, the intention to make war in all ways possible, to “do all the mischief and damage that we can”, and importantly, that all blame for this will be upon the victims themselves. Unsurprisingly, the mischief described consistently involved sexual assault. Franciscan monk Bartolome De Las Casas recorded the events in his journal regarding Columbus’s invasion of Haiti:

“This was the first land in the New World to be destroyed and depopulated by the Christians, and here they began their subjection of the women and children, taking them away from the Indians to use them and ill use them…. And some of the Indians concealed their foods while others concealed their wives and children and still others fled to the mountains to avoid the terrible transactions of the Christians… They behaved with such temerity and shamelessness that the most powerful ruler of the islands had to see his own wife raped by a Christian officer.”

De Las Casas

Bartolomé de las Casas y su Brevísima Relación de las Destrucción de las  Indias | Ruma de papeles

Further accounts are provided by crew members of the orders given to rape women, and in the instances of crew such as Miguel Cuneo, where native women were “gifted” by Columbus and subsequently raped. Sexual trafficking and sexual violence against women, children and youth featured throughout what became known as the “Age of Discovery” (better termed the Age of Genocide). It featured in the voyages of Magellan, of Pizarro (and indeed all conquistadors), and of James Cook.

A chilling but important blog piece on colonial rape as a tool of colonial conquest. (TW)

In the case of the British colonization of India, not only was the colonial rape of Indian women widespread, but colonial laws were adopted which placed a heavy standard of evidence upon rape victims only for cases where the accused was a British officer.

AND SO – The history of colonization must include the employment of sexual violence and trafficking as a tool of domination and conquest, and conversely the history of sexual violence must include its specific use against Indigenous peoples as a part of the colonial project.

Sexual violence is intended to strip the sacred

Sexual violence is a form of consumption, and so, in consuming you, it attempts to desanctify you, making you not only property, but consumed, defiled and defecated property. In making you non-sacred this legitimizes the entitlement to take whatever is required of you, because you do not matter. It is the most powerful expression of you not mattering, along with extinguishing your life.

The whare tangata (womb) is seen as a sacred repository for Hine, in the form of Hineteiwaiwa, who oversees the female reproductive cycles. It is the space where the divine and human come together. It is a portal for souls to enter this world. The assault upon this aspect of our sacredness is one intended against not only the victim, but the line which continues through her. Sexual violation and commodification of Indigenous women is also associated to their hypersexualisation and subsequent cultural appropriation. The “Dusky Pacific Maiden”, and “Squaw” tropes are two examples of of how the Indigenous feminine is hypersexualised, commodified and consumed for colonial entertainment, through literature, through porn, and through costumes. Today, still, the true story of Pocahontas which obscures and erases colonial rape is made all the worse by the continued commodification and hypersexualising of her story and image, primarily through the likes of Disney, which then drives subsequent hypersexualised costuming every single Halloween.

Does Disney's Pocahontas Do More Harm Than Good? - The Atlantic

Furthermore, the rape of children in particular is a stripping of sacred innocence that feeds a colonial compulsion to acquire all that can possibly be acquired of a people. Nowhere is sacred when even the innocence of children can be taken. As we have seen in the cases of children taken and then abused through the state system both in Aotearoa, in Australia and on Great Turtle Island, the deep, psychological and spiritual damage that is done through sexual violence passes on intergenerationally, and after the first instance, the colonial perpetrator becomes the Indigenous vector.

AND SO – healing sexual violence necessitates spiritual healing.

Sexual violence is synonymous with environmental violence.

As outline above, sexual violence is a powerful tool to facilitate the taking of land. Making you insignificant is an important step in the legitimizing of the theft and abuse of your land and waters. In particular, the aforementioned assault upon the womb is one which, with its many associations to sacred land and waters, extends to the entitlement to own, and abuse, the natural Indigenous world. This is not only historical but also contemporary, and is further evidenced in the correlation between oil pipelines and missing and murdered Indigenous women on Great Turtle Island (insert maps).

As pointed out by Dr. Dawn Memee Harvard, Native Women’s Association of Canada in her United Nations submission:

A 2014 report by the ILO estimated that 21 million individuals are being trafficked for sex or labor globally per year and showed that sexual violence and trafficking is exponentially higher near points of extraction and worker camps, or “man camps” than it is in locales of similar population.    Destructive, resource-intensive, and often forced practices of mineral extraction are primary ways that colonialist conquest and genocide continue today, through simultaneous violence against the land and against indigenous peoples, disproportionately affecting women and girls.  

Dr. Dawn Memee Harvard

Indeed, at Standing Rock, at the Alberta Tar Sands, in Peru, parts of Africa and around the world, environmental exploitation is synonymous with gender based violence. In all of these places, historically and in a contemporary sense, Indigenous peoples are subjected to sexual and gender based violence as a response to their efforts to return and protect their Indigenous territories.

Map of major oil pipelines in the USA/Canada
Map of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in USA/Canada

AND SO – sexual violence and gender based violence must be further understood as a precursor and facilitator of environmental harm that disproportionately impacts Indigenous peoples. Environmental colonialism must also be understood as an issue which increases the likelihood of sexual and gender based violence against Indigenous communities.

Sexual violence dispossesses/displaces us of our bodily, emotional, spiritual territories.

It is a commonly seen consequence of sexual violence that survivors disconnect themselves from their bodies/emotions/spiritual selves in order to survive. This displacement can remain lifelong, and can then lead to behaviour that is symptomatic of the heart, mind, soul, body and collective being displaced from each other. This is particularly true of children who are nowhere near equipped to be able to deal with the trauma of sexual violence.

Their pathological selves are disconnected from community, through the shame associated with sexual trauma. The shame of being defiled. The shame of sexual dysfunction. All of these things drive victims of intergenerational sexual trauma away from the community. In some cases, the community finds it easier to ignore what is happening, or attack the victim, than deal with the sexual violence itself, and in other cases it is the victim who perceives the shame and never raises it to the community.

Hurt people hurt people. Our patriarchal, heteronormative, Christian society does not allow for deep discourse on sexuality. Where all sex is seen as a sin, open intergenerational discussions about sex are limited and consequently our ability to differentiate between natural, healthy sex and sexual violence is also limited. It vilifies the intergenerational vectors of sexual violence, forcing them underground, away from healing, so that the harm continues in our communities. The depth and scale of trauma created by sexual violence, coupled with the lack of effective support, underpins the “state-care” to prison pipeline and is consequently linked to a wide range of harmful outcomes for individuals, whanau and communities.

AND SO – healing sexual trauma in Maori communities necessitates processes that reconnect us to our physical, emotional, spiritual and communal selves. It needs to be connected to our work on suicide and addiction, and understood as a major contributor to hyper-incarceration. It further requires a range of healing approaches both for victims and vectors of intergenerational sexual trauma, as well as their communities.

Sexual violence has promulgated through Maori communities at the hands of the Crown.

There are two significant sites of our colonial history that have contributed to sexual assault within Māori communities: warfare and “state care“. Over 100,000 children were placed into state care in just 40 years, with the rate of Māori being between 50% and 90% depending on the year, and the region. Abuse in state care is rife, and reports indicate the the vast majority of that abuse that has occurred also happens to Māori.

In consideration of these numbers, one simply cannot overstate the impact of what we can safely term the mass-rape of Māori children by the state. Moana Jackson says “you cannot take a young man in a prison cell and look at him separately from the experience of colonization”. The same can be said of sexual trauma in Māori communities. We simply cannot look at it in isolation of the experience of colonization and the utilization of sexual assault as a tool of colonization both to us, and through us.

Militarism and sexual assault goes hand in hand. It is a part of the oldest military strategies. If we understand the “Age of Discovery” as a series of war crimes, invasions of Indigenous nations – then we can see that the same tactics were employed as military strategies. It occurred in Africa under Dum Diversas. It occurred in Haiti under Columbus. It occurred in Aotearoa at the hands of Cook’s crew. It occurred in Aotearoa as a tool of the land wars, at Rangiaowhia, at Parihaka, at Maungapōhatu. Our tipuna were further exposed to wartime sexual violence in the battlefields of Europe and North Africa during World War 2, and in Vietnam. It occurs, still in Afghanistan. Sexual violence has occurred, and continues to occur, throughout the Pacific in and around the military bases. Sexual trafficking, forced prostitution, sexual assaults, all spike around military bases. Essentially, where there is war, there is sexual violence.

Our tipuna came back from war broken, and hurt men. Men who had been exposed to wartime sexual violence. Men who were offered little more than alcohol or drugs to numb the trauma of what they experienced. Addicted, traumatized, hurt, and then planted back into our communities where the hurt became intergenerational.

AND SO – sexual assault within Māori communities must be understood as a legacy of colonization.

Colonial Sexual Trauma is Capitalised Upon by the Colonialism Industrial Complex
Just as there is a poverty industrial complex and a nonprofit industrial complex – colonialism also exists, itself, as an industrial complex. Many billions of dollars is spent on the social fallout of sexual trauma, through Corrections, through counselling services, through social service providers, through Oranga Tamariki, through women’s refuge…. and the vast majority of the funding either cycles back through the State, or is paid out to pākeha social service providers. Numerous studies and experts have concluded that the subsequent services are not geared for Māori, and fail to provide the appropriate healing required for spiritual, physical, emotional, and communal wellness.

One doesn’t have to impugn the motives of the individuals and nonprofits working in this industry to observe that, in the aggregate, they consistently behave like other industries: working closely with elected officials and government agencies to preserve the government funding that supports their work. The result is ingrained inertia that makes it harder to shift resources to programs that could provide better outcomes and do so more efficiently.

Daniel Stid, Washington Post

When you look at how the complex is facilitated, through relationships of privilege and social opportunities that are built out of a background of education and qualifications that are also acquired through socio-economic privilege, it is easy to see how easily pākeha turn a profit from the colonial harm visited upon Māori. This is not uncommon within the framework of the Doctrine of Discovery, where the extraction from Indigenous peoples and their territories underwrites the global imperial economic complex.

AND SO – Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery within the sexual violence-social work sector means primarily resourcing Māori services to provide multi-level healing services from the colonial legacy of sexual violence.

What’s Required From Tangata Tiriti

From Te Ao with Moana – excellent episode on Non-Māori allies. Link here.

For many reasons today I was thinking about a hui I was at some time ago with some researchers who had come to ask our community if they could do some work with us. We were discussing intellectual property and my Aunt said something that has stuck with me over the years since:

“Stop trying to be Maori, I don’t need you to be Maori – I’ve got that covered. I need you to be a good treaty partner”.

Now, I’m blessed to know quite a few wonderful Tangata Tiriti, some of them have been so for decades in fact. A number of qualities occurred to me today about what I expect to see in a good Tangata Tiriti. Let me say before we go any further – this is not an exhaustive list, it doesn’t shortcut the work Tangata Tiriti have to do to figure out their responsibilities. I’ve been asked a few times “What do Maori want” – its a rude and reductive question, and not one that I recommend anyone ask… because WE are not the problem and what we WANT is not the point. The real question to be asked is – what does justice demand of us? And what follows are just a few things that justice requires of Tangata Tiriti.

  1. Be tau (at peace) with your position. You need to be able to speak frankly about the process of colonization that created the space for you to be here in Aotearoa.  Not ridden with guilt, and not trying to explain it or evade it, but ready to respond to the legacy of that story. Be aware of your own privilege that has descended down to you by virtue of that process. Even in describing your own class, gender, ability or sexuality based oppression, you should know how the legacy of colonization influences your experience of that oppression.
  2. Respect boundaries. So much space has been taken from us, so primarily you need to respect our boundaries where we lay them down. Don’t argue with us when we insist on our own spaces. Don’t make it about your hurt feelings, or your need for inclusion.  Don’t paint it as divisive. If you are mourning the space we have just reclaimed for ourselves, be comforted by the fact that pretty much the entire rest of the world is either yours, or shared with you. We require safe spaces to speak, just us. That will also require you to self identify and self vacate at times. Be proactive. Read the room. Remove yourself out of consideration for the space we need to safely continue a conversation.
  3. Be prepared to make sacrifice. If you understand the story of privilege that has shaped Aotearoa you will understand there has been a mass transfer of power. Justice cannot be restored without addressing the power imbalance. 
    If you are only interested in discussing the past but not responding to it, then you are of no use to the process of restoring justice, and I do have to question whether you are really adverse to racism and the benefits you enjoy from it.
    This will mean learning the art of saying no. No to sitting on panels on Indigenous issues. No to occupying roles and positions where you are paid to impart (and judge) Indigenous knowledge. No to opportunities where systemic failings allow you to accept funding to lead Indigenous projects. 
  4. There will be many spaces where your voice will be valued. Speaking to your fellow pākeha about being good Tangata Tiriti. Discussing what it means to be pākeha. Dispelling fear of decolonization. There is a perverse situation right now where pakeha do not want to do the work on themselves, but they DO want to do the work of telling Maori how to be Maori. Because the system supports this kind of behaviour, you wind up with Maori supplementing the workload, and spending way too much time teaching pakeha about their Tiriti responsibilities, rather than working with our own (which we’d much rather do). There is an important space for Tangata Tiriti right now, and it’s not teaching Maori – it’s working with each other on how to reckon with the historical injustice of their establishment, and what to DO about that, now.
  5. Stand with us for our language rights, for our health rights, for the rights of our children and women and stop perceiving Indigenous rights abuses as an Indigenous problem, rather than a colonial inevitability. 
  6. Benchmark the discomfort of your decolonization experience against that of our colonization experience, every time you want to ask us to wait. Read here for a brief insight into what Māori have undergone, and undergo, awaiting justice.
  7. Understand that learning our content and knowing our experience are two different things. For this reason we do want you to learn, and lead, your own karakia and waiata… But that does not equate to permission to explain our own culture to us. Remember, boundaries. Learning the reo is not your get out of Treaty free card.
  8. Don’t expect us to know everything about Te Ao Māori or have our own identity journey sorted out for you. Colonization has made, and is still making a mess of our identity, and our relationships, and that is difficult enough without having to explain ourselves to you. Especially when you have yet to do the hard work on your own identity as pakeha. 
  9. Nothing is automatically a 2 way street. I, for instance, can talk frankly about what a good Tangata Tiriti looks like. Tangata Tiriti cannot tell me what being a “good” Tangata Whenua is. This requires you to learn well beyond Treaty/Tiriti articles, or provisions, or principles. Privilege. Power. Bias. Racism. Learn how these operate in the context of Tiriti justice and you will get a better idea of how to navigate relationships as a Tangata Tiriti beyond the very flawed “anti-racism means treating everyone the same” fallacy.
  10. Don’t expect backpats or thankyous. You may get them (in fact you probably will – it’s another product of our colonial experience that pakeha are thanked and recognized for doing Tiriti justice work much more than Māori), but it’s important you realise that justice work is as much for yourself as it is for anyone else. It’s self-improvement, and improvement of your children’s future. You’re not doing me favours that you aren’t also doing yourself.

Ten seems like a good space to stop.

TANGATA TIRITI – if you ever feel tempted to ask that question, please instead come to this page and reset your journey with yourself.

CUZZIES – you get that dumbass question, just flick them this link. Merry whatever.

Dear Stuff

I want to let you know, I get it. I get how hard it is to not print racist Sam from Linden and bigoted Barrie from Island Bay

And what’s a little racial supremacy premised on blatant falsehoods between treaty partners, anyway?

So lets not call it a mistake (even though it was not just morally but patently factually wrong)

I mean, I don’t want to create intense tension, and I get your great intentions, so lets bite back any mention the racist misinformation dripping from the hands of your publication…

I get it, oh do I get how hard it will be for you to make good on your apology.

Not the kind of world splitting hard that comes with having your child taken for the crime of being a taken child.

No, not that kind of hard.

But it will be frustrating for you.

Not 180 years of saying the same thing over and over and over and over again and being expected to play along with a perverse charade of any interest in justice kind of frustrating.

Not the watching everyone around you die early from fatigue related illnesses because they have spent every last breath pointing the obvious out to you kind of frustration.


But you will click your heavy tongue and sigh a lot and gaze out the window of your 7th floor Willis Street office and wonder just how long this will take.

Which won’t be the same kind of waiting for, like, a home for you and your children because your landlord hiked the rent beyond minimum wage which was never a living wage anyway but that’s not the first or only way you’ll get told to not-live, today.

It’s not, like, waiting for Pharmac to approve life saving medication and wondering if you will outlive the process of them discussing whether to approve a cure for something that doesn’t quite affect enough White people yet.

Not that kind of waiting.

But you will definitely flick those heavily lacquered, impossibly shiny nails and there will be many tsktsks.

It’s going to be hard work, you know…. facing up to racism is not easy.

Not working two jobs to keep that roof over your head and buy another short life pair of school shoes because you can never quite reach the flash long lasting investment pair for Bub, only to open the paper to see a cartoon of you portrayed as a dole bludging bad parent.

Not that kind of hard work, no.

But there will be many hui.

Not really the same as when you have to meet 20 different times with 20 different faces of the crown in a never-ending Groundhog Day that essentially boils down to you saying another version of please, for the love of all that’s sacred… stop. finding new ways. to kill us.

It’s not really comparable to that, but it will take a lot of time, and you will have to figure a lot out for yourself, you know. Not like, how to feed your family this week, and not like, how to stop your son from killing himself like his best friend did.

But it will challenge you.

Not like a University Professor challenging your right to be there, and not like a police officer stopping and challenging you for no good reason.

More like, challenge you to really think about who you are and how you got here. Except without the cultural shame of having your language stripped from you and being a third generation manufactured outcome of assimilation, not knowing your pepeha let alone your whakapapa and staring red faced at your boss who insists you lead the room in karakia.

It won’t be like that, and it will be thankless.

Not having your entire economic base ripped away from you to form the basis of the national economy but being called a freeloader for even pointing that out kind of thankless – but you get my drift.

It’s tiring my dear.

Not bone tired, thousand yard stare tired, battle weary, heart-sore and, soul bruised tired from seeing your people kicked while they’re down, yet again. Not the gut-sigh kinda tired of the Maori journalist having to read the same racist rant again for the thousandth time even though its been disproven even tho it dehumanises her in a way that you will never have to go through even though you just said sorry for this shit last week, not that tired. Not the kind of tired that robs your children of a parent because you have to choose between giving them today or fighting for their tomorrow. Not that kind of tired

But I promise you will be ok, in fact you will be better for this, in the end.

Which will be, most likely, about 12 years later than mine.

What DOES Wāhine Māori Leadership Look Like?

Reflecting back on this year, I’ve been asked a lot about the role of Wāhine. More than other years, and perhaps, in reflection, it’s in times of adversity that we all start to question what are our roles, and how do we value each other.

It has not been a difficult question to answer, for the most part. During lockdown, it was easy to see that in the vast majority of cases, Wāhine were leading the community safety checkpoints, protecting families and elders where police resources just couldn’t extend. In the marae, Wāhine were organising and packing our food parcels. Online, Wāhine were leading innovative education programs. As always, in times of upheaval, Wāhine have stepped up, instinctively – not waiting for permission or guidance, but just doing what needs to be done, for the greater good.

During our elections, here in Tairawhiti, we were spoilt for Wāhine leadership. Elizabeth Kerekere, Meredith Akuhata-Brown, Kiritapu Allen, Meka Whaitiri, Heather Te Au-Skipworth were all fine candidates who held strong track records of leadership in different ways for our region.

Candidates committed to te reo – The Gisborne Herald
L-R: Meredith Akuhata-Brown, Tracey Tapsell, Kiritapu Allen, Elizabeth Kerekere, Heather Te Au-Skipworth, Meka Whaitiri

And once the votes were tallied it was revealed that Debbie Ngarewa-Packer would enter parliament, alongside Rawiri Waititi, marking the return of the Māori Party into parliament. This past week the nation was put back in their seats by her maiden speech – a term which, with its inferences of youth and inexperience, completely underserves her searing account of the historical injustice meted out by that house. A notice, delivered directly into the belly of the beast, that her service in that space would stand for no less than a complete reckoning, and power shift.

The nation was rightfully moved, both her and Rawiri Waititi’s statements reminded us all of exactly what can be said in the absence of general party constraints.

In the Greens, Marama Davidson moved into the role of Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, as well as the Associate Minister of Housing with Responsibility for Homelessness. My heart smiles when I consider this, as she is the one minister whom a number of us have seen sit and hang out with our homeless, on the street, and share her meal with them, and treat them with dignity, call them by their names because she knew them and they, her – at all times of the day or night, without a camera in sight. In two areas where we fair amongst the worst in the OECD, the work before her will be significant and I believe nobody could do this like she will.

In the Labour Party, we have seen Wāhine Māori ascend into pivotal ministerial roles – Kiritapu Allen is our new Conservation Minister. Her boots-on-the-ground approach to serving her East Coast electorate will no doubt serve her well in what is a deeply contentious role, supporting the care and restoration of our precious natural heritage that is, in many spaces, facing imminent, permanent, loss.

Importantly, we saw Nanaia Mahuta ascend into the coveted role of Foreign Affairs Minister, the first time that seat has been held by a Wāhine Māori – and she has committed to bringing her perspectives as a Wāhine Māori to her role, and she certainly has the illustrious diplomatic heritage to do just that.

It is a fascinating time for Wāhine Māori leadership in parliament – which makes it an important time for us to consider – what does Wāhine Māori leadership LOOK like as a leadership model?

For just as Indigenous leadership means so much more than a particular ethnicity and job title – so too does this mean so much more than being a Wāhine Māori in a leadership role. We don’t have to look far for examples of women in history that have upheld the patriarchy, of Māori who have upheld Imperialism, or indeed of Wāhine Māori who have upheld both.

So what DOES Wāhine Māori leadership look like in its own right, then? This is probably something we could run an entire conference on (and that would be a pretty amazing conference to go to) – every woman would have her own response to it and I feel like I could write all day, but today I just want to explore three fundamental areas: change, relationships, and healing.

Everything I have been taught about Wāhine scripts us to initiate, and navigate change. We are the doorways into this world. A woman’s cry is the first thing you hear coming into the world, and it is what helps to lift the spirit from the body when you leave. You enter under the auspices of Hineteiwaiwa, you leave into the embrace of Hinenuitepō. Our bodies are constantly shifting and changing, along with the lunar cycle. Ceremonially, our karanga opens channels for ancestors to join us in our gatherings. We can shift a space from sacred, to accessible, and back again. The power of women helped to prepare our fighters for battle, and played an important role in safely reintegrating them back to the community. For this reason, in our customary carved art, you will most often see women carved on spaces that function to transition someone from one state to another. Over the door lintel of an ancestral house, or along the side strakes of a waka taua (war canoe). It is fair to say that we were not only acknowledged for our dominion over transition, but celebrated for it.

lintel | British Museum
Tairāwhiti pare, c1800

This aspect of Wāhine Māori leadership is particularly pertinent for us now, for multiple reasons. Times are always changing, and while I don’t favour the word unprecedented, certainly our current generation has never faced such existential crises as climate change, and COVID-19. These issues both call upon us to facilitate radical change to our societal functions at a local, national and most importantly global space. Both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are traceable as consequences of patriarchal imperialism. We will not overcome them by preserving the patriarchal imperialist structure. It will take the distinctive Wāhine Māori leadership trait of navigating change to facilitate the radical shifts required of our political and economic systems, for us to survive.

It is estimated that in the coming decade, water scarcity could displace over 700 million people, and this will only get worse. Water cycles are becoming increasingly disrupted, and the impacts of this cannot be overstated. As the irreplacable basis for crops, food systems, sanitation, basic health – it really is life. It is, in particular, a realm of life that women also hold dominion over. We are the original bearers of the most sacred of waters. We are the first oceans of life. Every person on this planet has been nourished within the saline waters of woman. Aquacide is a fundamental assault on human rights, on women’s rights, on childrens rights, on the rights of the unborn and the rights of the planet and for all these reasons, Wāhine Māori leadership is necessarily characterised by opposing the commodification, commercialisation, and pollution of waters.

It is a common misconception that internationalism is a virtue of colonialism, one of the “gifts” bestowed upon, apparently, backwards and insular Indigenous peoples. Yet 3000 years before Europeans even knew the Pacific was here, my ancestors were crisscrossing this ocean, establishing themselves from Samoa to Rapanui and beyond, gathering together to teach and learn at Taputapuatea, intermarrying, establishing trade relationships and forging moana dynasties. And do you know who it was that was forging those relationships, and navigating those seas, and negotiating those trade deals? Wāhine. Our moana history is resplendent with Wāhine leadership across all of those arenas. Many colonial anthropologists famously cut these roles from their own accounts, either unable to comprehend them, or finding them too unpalatable to record. These are usually the same ones that have tried to diminish our own superior voyaging and scientific expertise. Yes our own genealogies speak to the matrilineal descent of mana whenua. While our whale riding ancestor Paikea is rightfully remembered and celebrated in song, haka and art – it was his wife Huturangi who held the mana over vast tracts of Te Tairawhiti through her own illustrious genealogy. Interestingly, Huturangi travelled to Aotearoa inutero, carried in the womb of her mother Araiara on board the waka Nukutere, captained by her father Whiro (known in Hawai’i as Hilo). Araiara herself also land here on Te Ika a Maui, and thus we know that Araiara herself was a voyager, moving between Te Tairāwhiti and, amongst other places, Hawai’inui.

I raise this now because I have spent a lot of time thinking about our relationship with Hawai’inui. Hawaikinui. An ancestral homeland with which my home Tairawhiti holds an intertwined destiny. A counterpoint in a story that started with our Atua, and includes Maui, and Araiara and Whiro, and also includes Te Maro, and James Cook, and Kalaniopu’u, and now includes RIMPAC, Pohaukuloa, and the HMNZS Manawanui.

Please do read this excellent piece by Dr. Emalani Case on NZ participation in RIMPAC.

There are multiple relationships that call for reconfiguration right now but most definitely our moana nations are, from a Wāhine Māori standpoint, most urgent. Our relationships across Te Moananui a Kiwa exist across genealogical, ecological, economic, linguistic, cultural, as well as geographic dimensions.
This region, so ironically called “The Pacific” by imperial expansionists, ironically sits within a fraught geopolitical context of North Korea and China on one seaboard, and the USA/Canada on the other. For hundreds of years now, colonising powers have strategically positioned themselves throughout our ocean continent, so that now we now reside as a series of tactical targets on a much larger chessboard. In the center, we have Hawai’inui, home to multiple military zones, where the US military bomb sacred sites every single day, and where, every few years, the world’s largest naval war game program (RIMPAC) plays out involving naval crews and vessels from multiple nations. It, too, largely revolves around blowing up moana spaces, a process that wreaks ecological, cultural, and spiritual devastation – and this year, during a global pandemic, against all pleas, the NZ government still sent a naval research, the HMNZS Manawanui, to participate in the war games.

Upon returning, it moved to its new home port of Tūranganui a Kiwa, with no consultation or invite. 250 years after a Crown naval research vessel, the Endeavour, arrived uninvited on our shores captained by James Cook, in the face of a year of saying that they had listened to our pain, the Crown sent another naval research vessel to station itself, again uninvited, on our shores. 240 years after our relations on Hawai’inui put pay to the naval invasions of our moana region, Aotearoa are still sending invaders their way. It appears our homes of Hawai’inui and Tūranganui a Kiwa are intertwined across time in a cyclical, ominous relationship.

All of this of course exists across the broader backdrop of Pacific militarism – an issue inextricably tied into human and ecological rights abuses. An issue that places so many of us at threat, through military testing, through sexual slave trade, through sexual assaults, through tactical targeting, and all, largely, in the interests of colonial powers.

Again, Wāhine Māori leadership cannot serve to maintain the patriarchal status quo. The state military is the most extreme and overt manifestation of imperialist might and we must always question: why, and for whom? Why must our military forces participate in exercises that so flagrantly ignores Indigenous and environmental rights? Whom does that serve? Whom does that ignore? Whom does that privilege? Wāhine Māori leadership cannot stand at once for wāhine and Indigenous ideals, whilst contributing to imperial militarism. If we cannot call upon our Wāhine Māori scripting for forging change to make a stand against this, in our own moana, it begs the question, what do we stand for, and where do we stand for it.

Our planet, our ecosystems, our people need healing. We are in the middle of the largest human health crisis in living memory. It is easy to forget this, here in Aotearoa while COVID rages overseas worse than ever before, but we are not safe yet. Economically and socially, we are staring down a very turbulent immediate future and it will require great navigators of change, it will require the fostering of relationships, it will require community cohesion, and it will require a lot of healing, for a long time. The trauma of this period will be long lasting and multi-dimensional. It will require divergent thinking and proactive leadership. It will require the kind of healing leadership that Wāhine are famous for: just doing what needs to be done.

At the base of my skull I have a rugged scar, a reminder of this characteristic carried by my own mother, who, after I fell backwards through a plate glass window at the age of 4, scooped me up, rushed me to the bathroom, cleaned the wound, plucking the glass out, and sewed up the wound. So many times (like the recent checkpoints) I have seen how Wāhine Māori have instinctively seen what needs to be done, and simply go about doing it. So I want to finish on this small, but powerful story. A couple of weeks ago our own community was torn apart by a quadruple tragedy. I won’t go into the specifics, but it was the kind of tragedy that could irreparably rend a community in two. I was heartbroken for my community, and heartbroken for my own whanau too who had, at the same time, lost my young cousin to suicide. The loss in our small community was so profound, I wondered what could be done to help. They say that it is in our darkest hour is when people shine the brightest, and it was during this time that I saw some of the most incredible Wāhine leadership rise to the surface. My relation, Ani Pahuru-Huriwai, called for counsellors, for artists, for tohunga tā moko, for massage therapists and storytellers and they came, and for nearly two weeks they made themselves available to our community, children, friends, parents, teachers, to receive healing, to join in ceremony or to just sit and listen. When I finally returned home, she held ceremony with me as well to help with my own healing. I have never seen community-wide healing rolled out before, and while much healing still remains, what I saw happening over that week left me in complete awe and reverence for the healing that Wāhine leadership can bring.

I have heard so many times this year “we want to change, but it’s a slow ship to turn”. What I’ve come to see is that the ship will turn as fast as the person at the helm wants to turn it. The only thing standing in the way of radical change are those who seek to preserve the patriarchal, imperialist structures that we have become accustomed to. If you are not going to seriously consider what is it about your leadership that is distinctively Wāhine Māori, then how can you rest assured you are not simply propping up the patriarchy? If you are not interested in using your innate, hereditary scripting to call in the radical change that is required for future generations, for sacred waters both fresh and marine, for whakapapa, for relationships and for the whenua, then what does the whare tangata stand for?

We are in interesting times, times of great challenges, times for radical hope. In spite of the pervasive presence of colonialism, the strategic positioning of Wāhine Māori in pivotal roles in parliament provides us with crucial potential. Furthermore, the uncompromising political leadership of Wāhine Māori, Wāhine Moana leaders outside of parliament, in local, national and international spaces such as Margaret Mutu, Annette Sykes, Dayle Takitimu, Julia Whaipooti, Ani Pahuru-Huriwai and Emalani Case provide us with important compass points to remind us of exactly how we can wield our passion and commitment as Wāhine Māori to bring exactly what is needed forth, for our people, right now, kia ora ai te mauri tangata, me te mauri taiao.

Mauri ora.