On “Safe” Leadership

When I first caught the news that Prime Minister Ardern had resigned, it was on a messenger thread… I’d missed the earlier message and just caught the notification on my screen of the response by a cousin – it read: “No way… Ardern is gone??”

For a brief moment I didn’t want to click on it. My gut had dropped, and my mind raced ahead as time seemed to slow down.

I thought, for a brief horrifying moment, she had been killed.

Time caught up with itself as I clicked and scrolled up to see she had resigned – but I was left with the chill of how natural my assumption was, and the simple reflection of what must mean for her.

For the record, I do agree that Jacinda Ardern has been the best Prime Minister we have had. I don’t like the role of NZ Prime Minister, because I don’t like colonial governments – and so praising her as a good Prime Minister rings somewhat hollow. I’m extremely grateful that, in the current system, we had her in charge during the early stages of the pandemic – her counterpart would have overseen much more death. I’ve critiqued her as I would any other colonial leader, and all leaders should be open to critique. However what she has been subjected to over the past few years is not critique but violent, dehumanising, depraved attacks that, when boiled down, have little to do with her decisions so much as the fact that she is a woman who is not far-right.

Today, I’ve watched the speculation around her decision (most agree it’s at least in part due to the extreme misogyny) and the natural assessment of her performance. I’ve also watched Māori social media call up various Māori MPs to step into her role. I’ve read people question “is it time?”, “is New Zealand ready for a Māori Prime Minister?”. I guess given the strength of the Labour Maori Caucus there is some logic to even considering that question.

I’m at a loss, however, to understand why on Earth anyone would assume New Zealand is ready for a Māori Prime Minister in the current climate, given how we have allowed a white woman Prime Minister to be treated.

So we are on the same page – here is what I am referring to (please watch the clip and remember this is the toned-down version):

Now imagine that, every day of your life, for years. Not getting better, only getting worse. In all of the speculation about PM Ardern’s performance, we are missing what this is saying about US. We have allowed a Prime Minister to be subjected to an unprecedented level of violent, sexist attacks. As a nation, we have collectively failed to insist upon change. Racism plays a huge role in this too – a significant number of the more violent and worrisome attackers also subscribe to the “great replacement” theory, accusing Ardern’s government of allowing for a “Maori takeover”.

The truth of the matter is, for those of us who are committed to Mana Motuhake and Tiriti justice, Ardern presented a conundrum. She is progressive enough to avert radical decolonial change (she repeatedly dismissed the value and possibility of constitutional transformation) whilst still being politically wedded to a system that is overarchingly patriarchal, capitalist and colonial in nature. In no way did she deserve the treatment she was subjected to – and that treatment is also the natural distillation of the political system she has defended for a long time. A system that prioritises protection of patriarchal colonial privilege above all else. A system that would not provide protection for women (even its own leader) against extreme misogyny –- because it is inherently misogynist itself.

So when I hear my relations calling Māori MPs up to the role of Prime Minister, I recoil. If this is how a white woman is treated in the current political climate, what do you think a Māori Prime Minister will be subjected to – even moreso, a Wāhine Māori Prime Minister? If you need further explanation – check out the  recent findings from the Disinformation Project  which has tracked Wāhine Māori as the most targeted group for online hatred within New Zealand social media. The risk of a violent act would increase exponentially (and it is already quite high).

Even though there are Māori MPs in parliament right now that undoubtedly have the goods to lead – there is no way I would ask any Māori politician to step into that role right now, in the current climate. It’s physically perilous, mentally dangerous, and politically unwise. The center-right that drifted across to Labour for the past 2 elections is being courted back by the far right, and their own ingrained, normalised misogyny is their weakspot. The current polarization of NZ politics calls for a center-right male who doesn’t (by just existing) stoke toxic white male anxiety. If I were to make a call – I’d say it’s Andrew Little’s time to shine. Two elections ago, New Zealand wanted real change (and didn’t see that in Little – although I think he has become more seasoned through his more recent portfolios). One election ago, New Zealand wanted continued protection. This election, neither of those drivers are relevant. People have had more than enough change in recent years – hence why so many are willing to take risks with their own health as a pandemic still continues around them. Voters are looking for comfort, familiarity, and a sense of “returning to normal”. For all of the tumultuous times Ardern has led New Zealand through (and arguably because of them), she cannot be synonymised with normal. Normal and familiar, within the scope of the past 500 years, is a white, Christian, thin, abled, CIShet male. For Labour, Andrew Little is the safest option for holding on to the center right voterbase, and he will be attacked for many things, but not for merely existing.

But this cannot be our aspiration. What I have described above is a consequence of a deeply sick and harmful system that needs fundamental change. Regardless of how well Little would perform, it is supremely unjust that his gender, race, ability and sexual orientation – and what that means for his safety – should be the grounds upon which we appoint a leader. Tiriti justice does not look like a Māori Prime Minister within a Westminster parliamentary system designed to strip us of our rights and undo any progress every four years. Euro-parliamentary systems (and democratic capitalism) are deeply and inherently racist and misogynist and cannot help but beget further racism and misogyny.

A Tiriti centered political system, anchored with tikanga like manaakitanga, tauritetanga, and kaitiekitanga, would look after its leaders better, as well as looking after Aotearoa better. That is where we must set our sights. That is what Tiriti justice calls us to focus upon.

Recentering Our Universe

Introductions mean a LOT for us in Te Ao Māori – we have ritualised first encounters, and getting to know each other, in sophisticated and deliberate ways which help us to honour both our difference and similarities as a grounds to moving forward. There are small jokes commonly heard in these encounters, one of which is “I’m from [small rural town] – center of the universe” and we all laugh at the irony, but also appreciate that to each person, that small town, in land and blood, is their umbilical tie to the world around which all else has grown.

My home is just one such of these places. Matakāoa is perched on the tip of the eastern fin of Te Ika a Māui, the great fish of Māui. Traditionally it refers to a peninsula in our region but it has come to encapsulate the collection of communities from Pōtikirua to Ōtiki, and south to Whakaangiangi. We have 16 hapū in our rohenga. Our area currently holds about 1800 people, but this swells about 4 x that size over the summer as descendants return from around the country return to connect with their umbilical center for the holidays, and regional, inter-regional, and international visitors descend upon us to enjoy our famed beaches and “wild, remote” environment. I’ve written a number of times how this becomes a problem for us in the context of a pandemic, because we have limited health infrastructure, and long after people have packed up and gone home where they have access to pharmacies, emergency services like paramedics, GPs and hospitals – we remain here dealing with the fallout of their visit, but without the health safety net to assist us.

If there is a trauma incident, we have no paramedics. Ambulance transfers can take up to 5-6 hours or more. If you need medicine, you need to wait for the next courier (ie you need to order it before 1pm or wait for the next day/Monday). Access to a GP is not a given, nor is access to a vaccine or PCR test. Secondary services (dialysis, physiotherapy, chemotherapy) are the same 3-4 hour drive away. It’s difficult to convey exactly what it’s like to have this as the norm. Most who visit here don’t really understand what its like until they have a very sick child at 10pm, or a severe accident, and there is nobody to come and help them.

When I listen the discourse on remote, isolated, rural communities, there are some common assumptions in the subtext – one being that our difficulties are borne out of our geographic location. What I don’t see much appreciation of is the fact that the very notion of being “isolated” is imperialist in nature. One must ask: isolated from whom? From where? An isolated community on the fringe of somewhere depends entirely upon someone defining where an infrastructural center is, so who gets to make that decision, and in whose interests is that decision made?

If you turn the years back to pre-colonization – the various communities of Matakāoa were anything but neglected, because they were anything but remote or isolated, and this is because Aotearoa had not arranged itself according to an imperialist paradigm that centralises power and decisionmaking. Decision-making was localised, the management of resources was centered around that resource, and the intergenerational strengthening of the relationship between person and place ensured that the management enhanced with every generation. As one generation passed on all they knew about their river to the next generation, and taught them all of the science and skills in how to care about it, the next generation, living on the river, would grow that science and those skills, continue the observation and care (upon which their own existence and comfort depended), and through these means, the science remained relevant, contextual, and robust. Science, within this context, supports abundance. While people marvel at the strength of Indigenous science in caring for biodiversity and abundance, what they often miss is that it is a very predictable and natural result of an extended relationship and interdependence upon their traditional territories. What they also often neglect to discuss, is the fundamental political reality that the theft of Indigenous lands and waters, and the refusal to return stolen Indigenous lands and waters is not just a crime against the people, but also against the environment.

Before colonization arrived, we were not dependent upon a regional center to provide us with medicine, or skilled medical staff, or transport to care. We cared for each other, and our environment and it in turn provided for us. We were the center of our own universe. We were not dependent upon Wellington to provide us with funding or to include us in decisionmaking about our river or coastline. Power was distributed much more broadly, much more efficiently, and in a more localised fashion.

So what has this process of centralising power meant for communities like mine? In an imperial paradigm, the remote regions are treated as extraction zones. A Doctrine of Discovery mentality legitimises exploitation of the remote regions, for the benefit of the center. Each center in turn, contributes to the next-greater center until you reach the power-hubs of Empire (hint, these aren’t in the southern hemisphere). Think I’m being dramatic? Not too long ago I sat in an environmental commission hearing and listened to the council describe the characteristic of a small area nearby as being one of “extraction”. When I asked what they meant by that, they stared blankly at me like I should know and then explained that all rural sites are considered an extraction zone because we are not in the city or suburbs. I found this assumption (and it’s apparent normality to everyone in the hearing) deeply disturbing. Rural communities have been subjugated without consent as sites of exploitation for the benefit of selected centers. Geo-positioned into subservient roles because someone, at some point, determined that Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne) would be the regional center upon which we depend. Our classification as an extraction zone functions within the resource management system to justify the continued exploitation of our waterways, soils, and coastline for the benefit of empire.

It’s not just environmental exploitation that shapes our reality, but social exploitation as well. Power and decisionmaking is accompanied by infrastructure, it comes with other supportive jobs and industries. It comes with training and education – so when power and decisionmaking is centralised all of the infrastructure that surrounds power and decisionmaking also becomes centralised. Not only do places like Matakaoa then become powerless extraction zones, but the dominant income is medium to low, often involves further exploitation, and is manual in nature (which means higher risk of injury). When the average income is below the poverty line, and utility services like plumbing or electricians are more expensive (because they too are centralised and charge for travel), housing is going to be poor. When the dominant jobs in a region are manual and high-risk, and housing is poor, people are more often injured or sick, so the demand for health services is greater and more complex, but guess what – health services are centralised, too. So not only is the need greater, but the access to care is significantly lesser. It’s hardly surprising that young families who want better health care or employment prospects opt to move to the cities. When funding and infrastructure is determined by population base, it so often discounts the role colonialism has in the re-distribution of populations, and so on it rolls with roading, energy and communications infrastructure being centered around urban locations, and these same vital systems being severely neglected for rural isolated regions.

State highway 35 has been in this state for over 40 years now, often flooded, and not the kind of road you want to drive in the dark for hours during an emergency.

Is this experience of rurality the same all over the country? No – in fact some of the wealthiest communities in Aotearoa are rural farming communities. Farming stolen land, taken from Indigenous hands many generations ago, and exploited for material gain. Unsurprisingly, these are the families who often have intergenerational access to regional power through seats at council. Councils around the country started off as roading authorities, existing to enable access for landgrabbers to farm Maori land from the late 1800s, and since then they have been largely dominated by these interests. Consequently the bylaws, processes, decisions and plans coming out of these councils have benefited that same demographic. Rurality is very much racialised, and the economic realities faced by a young Māori family trying to stay on their family land in Te Araroa is incomparable to that of a wealthy pakeha farming family in Te Awamutu – yet somehow I often find myself at the same table with them when it comes to discussing rural health.

The redesign of our health system in Aotearoa has recognised the need for a rural health care strategy – and we have yet to hear anything about what that strategy entails, but if it hopes to account for our own nation’s history of injustice, it must take into account that rurality is deeply racialised, that we are not inherently remote but made that way by colonization, and it must deliberately aim to return power back into the hands of those who have been treated as second-class sites of exploitation, for too long.

Colonial Power, Mana Wāhine and the Doctrine of Christian Discovery

“Have your day in the sun to deny us our right, because the Doctrine of Discovery is long over. Long gone.”

These words by Dame Naida Glavish pulled the issue of religious racism into the spotlight this month as she called out the mayor of Kaipara for refusing to allow karakia in the council chambers to start their meeting. While some have been working for years to grow awareness about the Doctrine of Discovery and its role in shaping Aotearoa, the response to this matter, and to these words in particular, betrayed just how far we have to go as a nation in understanding this concept.


For those that need a quick run-down on exactly what the Doctrine of Discovery is: here, here and here are a few links. In a nutshell, the Doctrine of Discovery is a set of religious laws that granted entitlement to European monarchs to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands and enslave them for their own profit and privilege. Over centuries, those legal entitlements had whole economies and political systems built around them – until it eventually became a global economic and political meta-system that we all live under. It manifests in different ways around the world, but there are some core tenets which are consistent everywhere: Indigenous land is the rightful property of colonizers; Colonization is God’s work (ergo is good and just); Indigenous people can and should be contained and controlled; People who are non-Christian and non-European are lesser than European Christians; Profit is more important than human rights – are just a few of these tenets that have come to influence and shape our world.

Over the years I’ve learnt and shared about the Doctrine of Discovery, the issue of religion has always been one of the most sensitive aspects. Many, if not most of our people have been Christianized to varying degrees, and it’s difficult for people to reconcile the role of the church in colonization with their love and commitment to Christianity. While I don’t consider it my job to take that reconciliation journey for them, what I can say is this: it seems to me, that the bare minimum a good Christian can do, is sit with the truth of this story and contemplate what the Christian role should be in bringing justice to it.
So with that said – let’s delve a little deeper into the role of Christianity and the Doctrine of Discovery. After all – it’s the best time of year for Christianised society to be talking about sacredness, hope, and doing the right thing.

The full name of the Doctrine of Discovery is the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, and that’s probably a good place to start for illustrating how central Christianity is to this matter. Its abridgement speaks to the fact that while it started off as a Christian project (borne out of the Crusades and the longstanding war waged upon Islam by Christianity), the truth was largely because at the time of its inception, religion was the dominant vessel for transacting power. Over the following centuries, however, it has evolved to take on numerous other faces and forms – science, politics, social philosophy, International law, economy and business have all grown around the concepts codified within the Doctrine of Discovery – so reducing it to a Christian concept ignored these centuries of evolution. That said – Christian supremacy certainly still sits at the heart of the Doctrine, and still remains an injustice unresolved between the church and those who have been impacted – hence why Indigenous nations are still today calling for the Vatican to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery.


If you look to the text of the papal laws that constitute the Doctrine of Discovery, it is very clear that Non-Christians are framed as enemies of Christ, and that their conversion to the Euro-Christian empire, their dispossession for the benefit of the Euro-Christian empire, and their enslavement for the profit of the Euro-Christian empire was not just permitted, but was deemed a righteous Christian duty. The entire premise of the Debates of Valladolid, a series of arguments called for by King Charles of Spain (also the Holy Roman Empire) wrestled with the righteousness of waging war upon Indigenous peoples who refused conversion to Christianity. The parameters of that debate were that:

a) Indigenous peoples were inhuman and it is the Euro-Christian duty to smite them in the name of Christ or
b) Indigenous peoples are human, but lesser humans (like women or children) and should be given every opportunity to convert to Christ.

But Euro-Christianity did not just feature as a driver of the Doctrine of Discovery – it was also a powerful tool for establishing domination over Indigenous peoples. In the debates of Valladolid we can see that what is, literally, undebatable, is the assumed supremacy of Christianity. This is again referred to through El Requieremiento, the document read out by conquistadors as they arrived to invade Indigenous lands:

Of all these nations God our Lord gave charge to one man, called St. Peter, that he should be Lord and Superior of all the men in the world, that all should obey him, and that he should be the head of the whole Human Race, wherever men should live, and under whatever law, sect, or belief they should be; and he gave him the world for his kingdom and jurisdiction.

And he commanded him to place his seat in Rome, as the spot most fitting to rule the world from; but also he permitted him to have his seat in any other part of the world, and to judge and govern all Christians, Moors, Jews, Gentiles, and all other Sects.

El Requieremiento

Euro-Christian supremacy was utilised to both justify violence upon resistant Indigenous nations as well as to coerce Indigenous peoples into believing that the ultimate power rested with the Euro-Christian God, and the universal order determined by their God which fell first to the Pope, and his Church, and the various monarchs who administered his laws.

This was not just about the uplifting of Christianity, though. The project was deliberate and forceful in its debasement of Indigenous faith systems. In the seminal text “From a Native Daughter”, Haunani Kay-Trask laid a powerful foundation for our understanding of the inter-dependency of cultural debasement and colonial domination over lands and people: in order to exploit land and people, one must first assert a right of domination over them, and there is no more profound a way to do this than to diminish them spiritually. If you can assert that their god means nothing, then their universal order means nothing – spiritually they become terra nullius and as we know – any “blank space” is then able to be claimed, occupied and “righteously” colonized. If you are no longer sacred, and nothing you hold is sacred, then there is no consequence for abusing your rights. There is nothing that cannot be done to you, or taken from you, by those who ultimately sit above you in the universal order.

The de-sanctifying of Indigenous culture is a core feature of the Doctrine of Discovery and is a well-known military strategy. Importantly, this has held dire consequences for Indigenous women and children, as they are considered in many Indigenous cultures to carry spiritual roles pertaining to the creation of future generations and the continuation of culture. The direct attacks upon women and children by colonizing forces communicated that in the colonial mindset, nothing of the Indigenous world was held sacred, and there was no line that would not be crossed in the assertion of Euro-Christian dominance.

This belief is the underpinning value upon which the devaluing of Indigenous women’s lives, and theft and abuse of Indigenous children was built, which still manifests today as disproportionate and unacceptable numbers of missing, beaten, raped, and murdered Indigenous women; and State-stolen and State-abused Indigenous children. Indeed, the targeting of women and children by European colonizers in acts of violent debasement are some of the most disturbing and upsetting records to read by early missionaries such as Bartolome De Las Casas who accompanied conquistadors as they set about applying the Doctrine of Discovery in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Importantly – many of these conquistadors were actually just poor soldiers, who then went on to establish themselves as encomenderos – essentially, settler farmers who held political power over the Indigenous lands that they stole, and farmed. This pattern is mirrored in Aotearoa where poor English, Scottish and Irish colonial soldiers, also guilty for directly attacking Maori women and children in their pursuit of Maori land, illegitimately claimed the right to establish political systems at national and regional levels that further enabled the colonial project.

Source: https://fb.watch/hEI6lsiXYm/

For these reasons, it was singularly powerful that a wāhine Māori councillor Pera Paniora took her stand against an older pakeha Mayor – the quintessential colonial “settler” archetype who has always dominated regional government (and in this case who predictably opposes co-governance and water-reforms). For these reasons, it was profoundly powerful that respected champion of Te Reo Maori Dame Naida Glavish continued her championship by calling out the Mayor’s racism, and supporting Pera, and by framing this as an application of the Doctrine of Discovery.

A Note for Our Rangatahi Resistance

My heart broke a little this morning – I received a DM from a rangatahi I’ve known for some time now, and they were feeling very down. The usual burden of climate anxiety, layered with the emotional legacy of covid, and now the rise in racist hatred is taking its toll on so many, and we are about to enter into an electoral year – which we all know comes with its own levels of brutality – with depleted reserves. For you, my friend, and for all of our rangatahi, I wanted to say:

I know things are hard right now. I know it all seems insurmountable at times.

The world you are being handed is one in turmoil, with an uncertain future.

Truth be told – this trajectory of peril has been set for some time now, but never before were we able to access proof of that peril, expose it, and speak out to it, as we have been now, and it is taking a lot of work – much of which you too will have to bear. I wish it wasn’t so, I wish we could have taken care of so much more, but nevertheless I take heart that we have progressed enough to make the extreme right very, very anxious – and it’s important to understand that the global rise of the right, with all their hate and violence, is a direct reaction to social rights progress over many generations now – resulting in you, and the powerhouse you are.

Whenever you hear them speak nostalgically about the “good old days” – they are always referring to the wind back of social justice – the days before the marginalised had a voice, the days before we had diverse representation in media, parliament and other sites of power, the days before we valued equity and human rights for all. All of the social justice progress of the past seven decades: Civil rights, Indigenous rights, Migrant Rights, environmental rights, Disabled rights, Queer rights, Fat rights are exactly what stoke extreme right anxiety. Violence and hate are simply their most base instincts in their fight to survive.

The white supremacist structure is broad (it has, after all, been built over 500 years). At one end of the spectrum you have centrist power-mongers who passively protect and maintain colonial privilege whilst presenting as benign allies. At the other, you have white identity extremists who hold less structural power but are often the loudest, most offensive, hateful and violent. Don’t let the latter distract you from the former – focus on the sites of accountable power, and continue to articulate, with all your beautiful, passionate, eloquent, powerful voices, what true justice looks, sounds, and feels like. Remind those sites of accountable power that it is their responsibility to deal with the violent and hateful extremities of their own colonial political ideologies.

A dear frontline sister once said to me: The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when your abuser knows you are going to leave. Never before have we made it more clear to our abuser that we don’t need them, don’t want them, and are well equipped to do without them. This is exactly why the right is raging in its ugliest form yet.

As many great leaders have said – the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. That is not to say it will cosmically take us there without work, but rather that the the human spirit is indomitable – it can never rest in oppression, nor the truth rest in darkness – both will find, or fight their way inevitably to the light.

The work put in by previous generations to fight for Tiriti justice and education, for reo, tikanga, matauranga, and taiao, has provided us with the cultural, intellectual and political confidence to stand our ground, and has made YOU the scariest damn nightmare the right has ever had to behold.

We now have a new resistance generation, culturally grounded, with the tools of eloquence, political awareness, and righteous determination – ready to pick up this struggle, and take it to new heights. Use the gifts they secured for you to balance your decolonization with reindigenisation – don’t forget to bathe the wounds of your battles with the colonizer, in the soothing waters of our taonga, our karakia, our wananga, our taiao, our waiata, puoro, reo and matauranga. It will renew you to continue the journey, until it’s time for you, too, to pass on the torch.

I know when that happens you will have achieved wonderful things. When I think of what previous resistance generations had at their disposal, and what they have been able to achieve – and I look before me at the quality and strength of our rangatahi movement – I’m filled with hope.

So please, never lose heart. It’s ok to rest, it’s ok to take a breather, in fact you must – because the struggle is intergenerational. But never lose heart – it is precisely the success of our movement that drives colonial anxiety. We have come a long way, and whatever others may say – we are winning.

Kia kaha tonu ra. xxx

Stone In My Shoe – The Poem

Composed for all of my Indigenous relations. We got this.

I have a stone in my shoe
and I can’t walk straight
and I’m sick to my gut
perhaps it’s something I never ate
perhaps it was the taro
held in leathery hands,
that guided me here through old seas to new lands
held in her belly, a gift from Hawaiiki
the taste upon my ancestral tongue,
that would have been a reminder
of their continuity in me

I have a stone in my shoe
And I can’t go on
I hear you say
you want to fix me
with a solution never meant for me
formaldehyde fixed versions of me
forlorn, pickled, measured
sitting on shelves
objectified, observed, preserved
in your solution
crafted by Kant, Locke and Descartes
but did you stop to think
that maybe you’re in this belljar with me

And sure, looking out through this crystalline colonial curvature
these self described bearers of enlightenment
may have all the answers
like breeding us out of existence
with theories of blood quantum
that reduce me to a walking pie chart
like the question of whether I’m even human
coming down to the colour of my skin
The Enlightenment Period was made to lighten you, period.

Darwin 1872:

“when civilised nations come into contact with barbarians the struggle is short… new vices are highly destructive… those who are most susceptible to its destructive influence are gradually weeded out , and so it may be with the evil effects from spiritous liquors as well as with the unconquerably strong taste for them shown by so many savages.”

So hear me out, it’s wild, savage even, I know
but maybe the problem isn’t me
Maybe I’m a native, grown perfectly poor
in a garden of weeds
maybe my toxicity is the fruit of the same seeds
planted by colonial universities
and we keep getting told:
“We’ll deal with that later…”
“Don’t play the race card”
“Don’t look back”
“Just walk on”
“Just walk on”
But my brother just walked off the edge
And I ain’t takin another step
Cause I got a damn stone in my shoe

Stop looking at me like I’m the problem waiting to be solved
Like my land was waiting to be sold
Like my ancestors were waiting to be vanquished
Like their children were waiting for colonial mischief
Like we ain’t already had 500 years of being told we are the problem
some kind of dark manifest destiny
existing for you to come save me
awaiting enlightenment by European philosophies
rooted in a Doctrine of Discovery
created to legitimise slavery
a tool to erase our native divinity

De Zurara 1450:

“And so the native African lot was now quite the contrary of what had once been… in that at home they lived like beasts, without any custom of reasonable being – for they had no knowledge of bread or wine, or shoe or cloth and only knew how to live in bestial sloth.
But as soon as they came to this land, and men gave them prepared food, their bellies began to swell, and for a time they were ill, until they were accustomed to the nature of the country, but some of them were so made that they were not able to endure it and died, but as Christians… they were very loyal and obedient servants, without malice.”

Yeah, maybe it was something I ate
Or maybe it was the lies that they fed
to retain me as a loyal and obedient servant
to the colonial economy
to contain me
in a box shaped like a reserve
a land block
a prison cell
a hospital ward
a movie screen

Preserved, in your formaldehyde solution
at that exact moment of invasion
forever exotic,
forever subdued,
forever subjected
to a colonial gaze
Not your dusky southsea maiden
Not your lovely hula hands
Not your savage haka peepshow
Did you know
that cultural appropriation
of our Moana was initiated in
the brothels of London
and we’ve existed within Euro-maginations
from then, til now
as sexually available commodities
there to be taken as they please
our ancestress deities
from our collective memory
But I hear her calling me
Calling me to sing her back
To say her name
To chant her words again
It’s time.

I got a stone in my shoe [stones]
and maybe that stone is you
and maybe we need to heal together
you, me, and our mother
She who has carried all ancestral truth through time
Let us share that truth
Like taro upon our tongues
Weeding out the colonially cultivated self-blame
Take what has been dismembered
and Re-member ourselves with the cadence of ancestral prayer
let the tonal salve of Hineraukatauri seek out the pain of generations
and draw it from your marrow
back into the belly
of she who holds us all
let’s resculpt
let’s renew
let’s radically rejoice in who we are
and who we have always been destined to be
seeds of chiefs
sown in the belly
of gods
the sum total of the interwoven love of thousands
Ara mai anō Hineteiwaiwa!
Ara mai anō Hinerauwhārangi!
Ara mai anō Kēkerewai!

It’s time to re-imagine
our full rematriation
to our waters
our lands
our plans
for joyous, thriving futures
defy colonial timelines and expectations
and surrender now to the pull of Hina mother moon
aligning our cycles to rhythmic tides and familial migrations
and listen, feel, see, sense the present
with our whole beings
to make sense of the universe again.
and reset our trajectory, here, now
on our own terms
in our own time
and re-emerge
proud, whole, marked, healed and healing
stepping into our roles as good ancestors
continuing their stories
and starting ours afresh
for nothing is ever lost
in this neverending series of new beginnings

Let us offer ceremony back
To what has been taken for granted
With each breath honour the inhalation of sky father,
Again, becoming one, with Earth Mother
In a constant cycle of life, within you
Each breath a gift of their reunion
Remelding the negative and positive
Within your whare wananga
As oxygen, blood, and flesh
Ranginui, Wainui, Papa-tu-a-nuku

Offer thanks
to sacred water
who carries Sky Father aloft to his love
A cooling nourishment for your inner eco-system
clearing the way for your righteous voice
to reach the sun
Salving joints that have borne the weight of injustice for too long
Presaturating your fully weeded garden
for the replanting of native medicine
cleansing our bodies
our minds
our spirits
beckoning us internally
to the external water cycles that connect
and land
Tuia i runga
Tuia i raro
Tuia i roto
Tuia i waho
Tuia te here tangata
Ka rongo te pō
Ka rongo te ao
Above, below, within, without
Becoming one
Becoming whole
Becoming present
Tihei Mauri Ora.

(aku mihi ki a: Karlo Mila, Rachael Rakena, Moana Jackson, Haunani K Trask, Diana and Mark Kopua)

Glossary of a Tired Native

So after years of constantly making words up (because English isn’t expansive enough to describe its own f**kery) I’ve decided to bring a number of “isms” together and compile a little glossary:

Indigiphile: n. person who fetishizes Indigenous culture, most often white new age/hippy folk but especially those with exploitative intentions (haka workshops in Germany for middle-class white folk; white”shaman” healers etc)

Frag-ally: n. people whose allyship falls apart as soon as they need to critically examine their own behaviour, or not center themselves. Also tend to act up if you refuse to hold their hand on their journey or be their public brown endorser.

Flagophile: n. colonizer who loves beating themselves up publicly for being a bad, bad colonizer rather than changing their behaviour and have little to no regard for how their self-flagellation & demands for attention are also a waste of our time & energy.

I demand you all watch while I repent!

Colonielle: n. Female colonizer. Extremely venomous. Avoid at all costs.

Bekhi: n. Becky (basic white girl without a clue), but new age. Often marked with a dreamcatcher tattoo, wants a moko kauwae SO BAD, wears a lot of tassels, bindis, and partial to claiming Indigenous spirit guides.


Coloni-splaining: (v) When colonizers explain colonization (and what should be done about it) to Indigenous people. Quite often with theories they pulled outta their colon.

A colonisplain onion – a colonisplain gif from the most coloni-splainy animated film from the most coloni-splainy media corp.

Compulsive Unimaginative Non-Solution Disorder [CUND]: n. incontrollable compulsion to develop the most boring self-serving solutions to problems we never said we had in the 1st place & then trap us in “cundsultation” meetings asking what we think even though we all know that approach sucks.

What they want it to be like
What it’s actually like

Ancestral-planing: (v) Indigenous dissociative technique employed when stuck in a room with a coloni-splainer or anyone with a bad case of CUND. Usually begins with wondering what’s for lunch, then eyes glaze over, sounds turn into blah blah blah background noise and your spirit goes off to more interesting places.

Take me away ancestors….

Bro-moter: n. Cuzzies that act as colonial wing-men, enthusiastically introducing colonial businessmen and NGOs to native communities. You’ll generally find them online defending colonielles & colonizers (including tone-policing Indigenous critique).

Euro-magination: (n) the part of pakeha minds which creates make believe worlds where everyone has wifi, iwi are all rich, Maori all get free University education, wāhine Māori want your attention and need your opinion etc etc

Asstorian: (n) Ahistorical historian. Fond of starting history at convenient points which erase the colonial f**kery leading up to an event. Also usually (but not exclusively) Tory historians.

Colon-eyes: (n) A way of looking at the world which glazes right over non-White voices & rights in the here & now so you can continue to gleefully extract from & exploit them. Example (click to enlarge):

*This will be a living post, and as new forms of fkery evolve, and new words come to light, I’ll be adding them here.

White Feminism in the Age of Roe vs Wade

I’ve been watching the fallout from the overturn of Roe vs Wade with I guess what could be described as a slightly jaded interest. Not because I don’t care about bodily autonomy, of course I do, but because whenever “women’s rights” issues boil to the surface in the United States, it inevitably exposes itself as actually being about “white women’s rights” even though it impacts Indigenous, Brown, Black, and Migrant communities first and worst. It’s a sad fact that for the most part, we have to wait for a matter to impact upon white women’s rights before they will take a stand.

In considering the recent overturn of Roe vs Wade, and what that means for us in Aotearoa, and what it will take to keep us safe from these forces, we have to be very clear about what those forces are: Right-wing, Euro-Christian fundamentalism. It is inherently racist, misogynist, and patriarchal. It is the scaffolding for colonialism, and it holds strong, nationalistic political influence both in United States and here in Aotearoa-New Zealand. This same imperialist patriarchy, however, is also the context within which European women have forged their own success and this struggle can be characterised as one where they have rallied against patriarchal oppression of their own rights, whilst simultaneously leveraging off the racist oppression of non-white communities.

There has been some rather weak suggestions (unsurprisingly from white men) that we have nothing to worry about here in Aotearoa, that the infringement of women’s rights like what we are now seeing in the USA could never happen here.

I can tell you here and now, that women’s rights in Aotearoa are absolutely at risk, from exactly the same forces that have resulted in the overturn of Roe vs Wade.

And if you don’t like hearing that then you really won’t like what’s coming next:

It’s likely to get much, much worse, both over there and here.

You may have seen this clip before, it’s an important and powerful one, and it would help to watch again, in this context.

It’s full of king-hit truths, but the most important words for me, in this clip are the following from Jocelyn Wabana Lahtail:

“You haven’t even started your healing journey yet”

Jocelyn Wabana-lahtail

Healing journeys start with truth, and the primary truth that must be faced here is that coloniellism (ie white feminism) CANNOT ultimately oppose patriarchy, because it is a subset of patriarchy.  This primary truth is expanded upon by the following three themes, which can function as stepping stones in our healing journey for what a truly feminist position should be, for Aotearoa and elsewhere.

1. Women’s healthcare has grown out of a racist, misogynist, BIGOTED history

J. Marion Sims, lauded as the “father of modern gynaecology” carried out his surgical experiments on the bodies of enslaved black women, with no anaesthesia. Of course being enslaved, they had no bodily autonomy but this did not matter to white women of the time, many of whom had their own slaves, many of whom offered up these women to be butchered in the first place, and when movement for women’s political rights, which would of course be the precursor to their bodily rights, swept through the United States it was to the exclusion of Black, Brown and Native sisters. This was no different in Aotearoa – just as black suffragettes were refused membership by their white counterparts in the US South, so too were wahine mau moko kauwae refused membership of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, headed by suffragette Kate Sheppard here in Aotearoa.

If you look at the states where Roe vs Wade’s overturn will have the greatest immediate impact, unsurprisingly its the states that are also the most violent towards Black, Indigenous and other non-white people AND towards trans and nonbinary folk as well.

Map showing states that will restrict or ban abortion now that Roe Vs Wade is overturned, highlighting midwest and southern states, and West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania
Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/data-graphics/map-23-states-ban-abortion-post-roe-america-rcna27081

Map that correlates Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in the United States with fracking sites in the United States, showing concentrations of MMIW in the Mid-West and Southern States, with further concentrations around Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio.
Source: Joseph, A. S. (2021). A Modern Trail of Tears: The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Crisis in the US. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 79, 102136. doi:10.1016/j.jflm.2021.102136
Map detailing the least safe states for Gender Identity Policy, highlighting the midwest and southern states, along with West Virginia and Ohio.
Source: https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps

That’s not a coincidence. Bodily autonomy and safety has been denied for centuries in these spaces, from the same forces which we are encountering now in the overturn of Roe vs Wade. The only difference is that now, it’s happening to CIS white women, as well.

In the 1970s the birthrate of native children in the United States was more than halved through the practice of forced sterilization at the hands of the state. At its worst point, over 25% of native women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 44 had been forcefully sterilized. These procedures were not always carried out properly, resulting in complications like ectopic pregnancies, requiring further procedures – however those subsequent procedures were not funded by the government, resulting in pain, injury and death for many native women. This may be the first time you are hearing about this: that is likely because it did not happen to white women, it happened to native women.

Likewise here in Aotearoa, Maori were forcefully sterilized through the 1920s as a part of legislation aimed at removing the physically, mentally and intellectually unfit members of NZ society. While the policies were not explicitly aimed at Maori, the colonial determinants of who was deemed “unfit” meant that Maori were disproportionately featured in those groups – in much the same way as how discriminatory policies against gangs and beneficiaries become code for anti-Maori policy.

If you think this is relegated to history and no longer a matter of concern, consider that:

  • In 2019 a for-profit ICE detention centre forced sterilization procedures on immigrant women.
  • In 2012 the then Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett publicly endorsed the court-ordering of beneficiaries to not have children, and the enforcement of “compulsory lifelong contraception”.

Medical schools in the USA have a brutal, violent and racist history that includes, of course, racist colonial assumptions about our bodies, minds and rights, but extends through to the theft of Black and Native corpses for experimentation and teaching. Biased medical education and policy is not constrained by borders. The racist assumptions of medical education in the UK and USA was taught directly to those who developed medical education here in Aotearoa and also developed health policies here in Aotearoa, and unsurprisingly this resulted in racial disparity in our own health system.

For all of these reasons, it’s been disheartening, to say the least, to watch Wahine Maori MPs be targeted for their votes in relation to abortion legislation. I have not spoken with them, I can’t expand upon their media statements nor am I saying I agreed with their votes, but the recent attacks upon them have come across as tone-deaf and distinctly colonielle, with little to no acknowledgement of the racialised dimensions of this issue. It’s certainly perverse that this matter should result in Wahine Maori again being targeted.

The racist history of women’s healthcare still persists today in the following ways:

Racial disproportion in maternal suicide
The Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee (PMMRC) is an independent committee that reviews the deaths of babies and mothers in New Zealand. They have put out 14 annual reports, on the causes of death and near death events for babies and mothers. Every year, the greatest cause of death for pregnant mothers is suicide, and every year, Maori are disproportionately represented in this tragic statistic, representing 57% of suicides in New Zealand during pregnancy or within six weeks of birth as well as being over-represented in the other causes of maternal morbidity such as severe blood loss during birth, and are less likely to receive life saving treatment from clinicians in such a scenario.

Excerpt from the Perinatal Maternal Mortality Review Committee showing highest cause of maternal death as suicide. Source: https://www.hqsc.govt.nz/resources/resource-library/fourteenth-annual-report-of-the-perinatal-and-maternal-mortality-review-committee-te-purongo-a-tau-tekau-ma-wha-o-te-komiti-arotake-mate-pepi-mate-whaea-hoki/

Racial disproportion in treatment of breast cancer
Wahine Maori are less likely to access screening services, less likely to be referred on for chemotherapy, less likely to have satisfactory care, and are significantly less likely than non-Maori women to receive their cancer treatment within international guidelines

The very beautiful and greatly missed Wiki Mulholland, incredible wahine Maori advocate for access to life saving breast cancer treatment. Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/the-house/audio/2018686554/petitioning-parliament-for-breast-cancer-treatments

Racial disproportion in resuscitation of Maori babies
Again, looking at the PMMRC reports you will see that year after year Maori babies that are born prematurely or suffer birth complications and require resuscitation are less likely to be resuscitated than pakeha babies.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/14/us/abortion-rights-march.html

2. Lack of access to abortions is a distinct issue for Indigenous, Black, Brown, and Migrant Women

There is no doubt at all that the overturn of Roe vs Wade will impact upon Indigenous, Brown, Black and Migrant communities first and worst. Racist misogyny within police and justice sectors means these groups are less likely to have sexual assaults against them fully investigated, which makes them more attractive targets and they are consequently much more likely to be sexually assaulted. We are less likely to have access to appropriate sexual and reproductive education resources, which leads to less empowered and supported decision making around when, and with whom and how we share our bodies, and all of this leads to a higher likelihood of unintended pregnancies (Maori are, again, disproportionately represented in abortion services). In the USA, Black women are five times more likely to utilise abortion services. Our First Nations sisters are the most likely to be sexually assaulted yet, for decades before Roe vs Wade was overturned, federal law has forbidden Health Service Clinics on reservations from carrying out abortions. There have been no marches, no global campaigns, no international solidarity for the limitations upon Native women’s health rights.

Abortion services, like much of the maternal health care system in Aotearoa, are structured around sets of assumptions about women’s minds and bodies and those assumptions are, unsurprisingly, white and middle class. I have, first hand, witnessed young, scared Maori women being shepherded towards abortion services not because the people around them wanted the Mama to make the best health decision for her, but because they held deeply racist ideas about that woman’s ability to parent, or even right to parent. Yes we should have access to these services, but that access should be safe from racist influences.

Ok so we’ve established that the current issue of women’s health rights sorely needs decolonizing in order to succeed  because of 1. The history of women’s healthcare is rooted in racist misogyny and 2. Lack of access to abortion services is a distinct and disproportionately greater issue for non-white women and so here’s the third reason:

3. Colonielles have RIDDEN colonialism throughout history and is a subset of colonial patriarchy.

Coloniellism (or white feminism) has consistently chosen colonial power over solidarity with BBI women and non-men for a long time, this is evidenced by both the lack of vocal solidarity with Native Women as successive governments failed to halt their continued abduction and murders, as well as the lack of accountability for the way in which colonielles weaponise their colonial privilege against BBI women and non-men and their families (eg false accusations, racist harassment, and false victimhood).

Colonielles have not only ridden colonialism throughout history, throwing their Black, Brown, Indigenous and Migrant sisters into the furnace of their colonial steam engines, but they have then gone on to claim credit for the progress of women’s rights around the world. So let me be clear on this:

Coloniellism (white feminism) has NEVER recouped what has been taken from Indigenous, Black, Brown and Migrant sisters through the process of colonisation.

Before colonialism/coloniellism came along, my tipuna wahine were political powerhouses and substantial landowners. While women were banned from education in Europe, Wahine Maori ran their own sacred schools of learning that held equal footing with all others. Well before misogynist Christian domination removed female bodily autonomy, including the right of wahine to end a pregnancy, abortion was practiced by tipuna wahine and respected as their decision, which is just one of the reasons why so much land was passed down through female lines, particularly in Tairawhiti. While European women were considered chattels, our tipuna wahine were military strategists, commanding defence of mana whenua and mana tangata. While European women still struggled for constitutional power, tipuna wahine were being recorded permanently in history through art and geography as eponymous ancestors of entire dynasties, wielding political agency that their European counterparts could only dream of. White feminism has never been able to restore our pre-colonial levels of political power, nor would I expect it to, because the political power of wahine Maori is a much larger threat to colonial patriarchy and the colonielle power it supports.

There are further, important differences between white women feminist causes and that of marginalised women. White women feminism has, throughout history, rested on political and economic parity with their husbands and brothers. This in itself is a reflection of the colonial privilege enjoyed by white women, because hyper-incarceration of their husbands and sons, excessive police violence and targeting of their husbands and sons, and the forced removal of their children from their homes did not feature strongly enough in the lives of white women to feature in their rights campaigns. Indeed, white women feature across history not as allies in the fight against hyper-incarceration of our own brothers and husbands, but as drivers of further incarceration.

Indigenous, Black, Brown, and Migrant feminism must necessarily address and include our broader community because these very racialised experiences inevitably fall on our shoulders, too. Yet where are our white sisters when we stand up to Oranga Tamariki? Where are our white sisters when we protest the closure of a kohanga reo? Where are our white sisters when we call for an end to racist hyperincarceration?

Lawyer Julia Whaipooti calling upon the United Nations Permanent Forum to recognise the injustice of hyperincarceration of Maori in Aotearoa. Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/405435/government-urged-to-cede-power-to-maori-justice-advocates

For all of these reasons, standing for non-white women’s rights necessitates standing for Native, Black, Brown and Migrant rights in general, which we have yet to see from the colonielles in our midst (and currently dominating the space).

So I will say it again: Colonielles have nowhere near the requisite moral capital to halt the march of colonial patriarchy. Both colonielles and their colonizer husbands and brothers, still need to undertake their own healing journey and confront their own violent ideologies, a step which colonielles in particular are loathe to do, because they are addicted to their roles as damsels in distress, as victims of the system that they actually suckle off. The time that they are wasting in confronting these uncomfortable truths allows the white supremacist patriarchy to grow stronger every day.

The inimitable Sina Brown-Davis, wahine Māori/Pasifika activist who has led and supported grassroots justice movements for 3 decades, carrying on the legacy of leaders like Syd Jackson. A force of nature.

So what to do about all of this? Understand that the power of women on this land existed well before colonizer men and women arrived. Understand that it is literally soaked into the soil under your feet, flowing along riverbeds, surging along our coastlines. Acknowledge that Indigenous, Black, Brown, Migrant women have led political resistance without, and often in spite of colonielle presence for generations. Center the rights of Indigenous, Black, Brown, and Migrant women and non-men in all of your calls for justice. Understand how it intersects with oppression of our LGBTQI+ community, particularly of trans/irawhiti whanau, how it intersects with ableism and other forms of discrimination. Learn the art of radical decentering. Cede space, join the call for decolonization, and educate yourself.

That is what true feminism looks like in 2022.

Puangarua, Haka Ngahau a Rohe, Taitokerau Credit: Whakaata Maori