I love words, and so I missed them somewhat this week. The air left my lungs when he walked out of our room, to join the mountains, oceans, and stars. Inaccessible and irreplaceable.
Kati ra e hika, te takoto i raro ra, he uea ake ra ka he to manawa…
Te Moananui a Kiwa Kauwhakatuakina Jackson.
Named after a hero who gave his life to protect his people from racist extremists. Named after an arbiter of peace who scaled heights to negotiate the terms of engagement. Every so often, there comes a leader whose skill, intellect, and compassion challenges us all to be our greatest version of ourselves, to fulfil the wildest dreams of our ancestors, to pave righteous paths for our mokopuna… a leader of hearts, and minds, who speaks truth with such integrity that it lands effortlessly within you, and compels you to listen.
Ka titiro ki uta ra ki Hikurangi maunga, ko te puke tena, i whakatauki ai a Porourangi e
Ka rukuruku a Te Rangitawaea i ona pueru e…
In losing them to this world, and in losing our ability to turn to them for their sage advice, to listen for their guidance, we are left bereft, cut adrift upon tides of colonial malintent and circumstance. I have read all the beautiful words offered online as those of us who love him sought to come to terms with the loss of someone who none of us are ready to let go of.
Ka mamae hoki ra te tini o te tangata, ka mamae hoki ra ki a tama na tu
Ka takitahi koa nga kaihautu o te waka o Porourangi
Ka areare koa puangai i tona rua
Like you all, I’ve struggled, and even these paragraphs are interspersed with bouts of wailing. Tears are sacred – from the time of Rangi and Papa they have taken center stage in our stories. The first karanga, our Aunties taught us, was a karanga tangi. It was the tangi of Papatuanuku for Ranginui. It drew forth the sacred tears of Ranginui to help soothe and heal her in her pain.
It’s not been easy to share these past few days – almost like it would be another relinquishment that I’m not ready for, but expression is a part of who we are, as Moana so often reminded us, in our multi-dimensionality. Tangihia, tangihia, tangihia e te motu.
Taku hiahia e i
Kia ora tonu koe hei karanga i o iwi
Ka tutu o rongo ki nga mana katoa
Ko tama i te mania, ko tama i te paheke…
And once the tears are shed, the songs are sung, and the words lay woven articulately across the marae atea, all that is left to do, is pursue the goals we shared with him, and the vision of justice for our people, with the tools he has left for us. These tools of compassion, of peace, of intellect and integrity, of unwavering belief in ourselves, our ancestors and our descendants.
Ka ngaro koe e hika ki te po, aue
Ko nga iwi katoa e aue mai ra
Ka nui taku aroha, na.
So now that is said, and sung, I’m going to share, with you, some of the gifts left for me in my time with Moana. As so many have already shared, Moana left you feeling like you were capable of anything, and the most important person in the room. So often he would enquire about every day matters: maara tips, how my children were doing at kura, whether I was looking after myself, what latest recipe had I discovered. I enjoyed immensely that we could pivot so easily from such topics to matters of national and international gravity, and consider them each, turning the kaupapa over under a lens of Arundhati Roy, or George Manuel, or Haunani Kay Trask. He asked for my input on matters that I really didn’t feel qualified to answer, but he cared for my perspective and it made me feel important, and making us feel important, because we genuinely were, all of us, important to him, was one of his most beautiful gifts.
Keep our people safe
I was in New York, at the inaugural United Nations Oceans Conference, with my cousin-brothers Tawhana Chadwick and Raihania Tipoki, and sister Pauline Harris. We were navigating hallways, and offices, and backroom meetings and dignatory forums, to attempt to present a petition, endorsed unanimously by over 80 of our iwi hapu and marae, and signed by a further 28 thousand New Zealanders, asking the Norwegian government to remove their state owned oil company StatOil from our coastline where it was prospecting. As the days passed and it became clear they were avoiding us, the printed pages started to weigh heavy in my bag. We had crowdfunded our way there. There was no way we could return home without presenting the voice of our people. I was not prepared to fail in that task but I had run out of options and the only thing I could come up with was to cross the main floor while they were speaking (which would have probably gotten us kicked out). I hadn’t slept, it was our last day, and I called Moana at some crazy hour, in a panic, blubbing that I wished he was there, and asking him what he thought I should do.
He listened patiently to my ramble, and then said: “Although I wish I could be closer to support you, I don’t really miss that place, it’s full of pitfalls and traps. But I do believe everyone is put where they are for a reason, and for whatever reason, your tipuna have put you there, not me. They’ve given you all the right tools to deal with that situation, and I believe that when the time comes, you will know the right thing to do. All I would ask of you, is that whatever you do, you keep our people safe.”
I’m going to be honest, I was annoyed. I wanted a “go to level xx in this building and find office xx and say ABC” answer but of course that’s not how Moana worked. I sat with his answer for a while, and then went into the cuzzies’ room, and we prayed. We called upon our ancestors to help us, we asked for clarity and the opening of pathways. About an hour later, as we arrived at the UN, we were invited to speak in a side event later that day, and the Norwegian govt agreed to attend it, and formally accept and acknowledge the petition. We finally handed it over in the final hour of the UN meeting, and about four hours before our flight left. Statoil never returned to Te Ikaroa to continue their prospecting, and eventually they surrendered their permit. That advice from Moana, in particular, has resonated over the years, again and again. First and foremost, we must always keep our people safe.
Remember na wai te he. Remember who did this to our people
Ok this one, I think, was one of those tailored pieces of advice that was really Mo telling me what part of myself I needed to work on, because he offered it up randomly, and frequently. I’m still working on it. It would come with a story about how annoyed he and his brother Syd was at some of their own relations, who, they felt, had betrayed our people. Syd had wanted to call it out in front of everyone but his mother, present at the time, forbade it. When Moana asked her later why she did, she said: “Just remember who did this to our people”. Now this advice, he offered to me way too many times, and way too randomly, to be anything other than a lesson he considered I needed (and so beautifully consistent that he offered it in a way that owned his own learnings in that context). It’s a story I’ve come back to, and the few times I’ve reigned my own indignant disappointment in, it’s usually in remembrance of this.
We are all mokopuna
This was not a lesson for me so much, but a beautiful way that Moana reflected upon the diversity within Te Ao Maori. There were times when we spoke at length about those who were marginalised in multiple ways, either because they are takatāpui, ira whakawhiti, tangata whaikaha, or some other reason. Moana was always respectful in learning the right terminology, but also, often, reminded us all that in every case, it was also correct to call them mokopuna.
Remember the legacy of those before us
It’s easy to get swept up in the injustice and drama of some of our international forums. There have been so many times I have seen new attendees arrive to the United Nations, full of hope, and then watch as they slowly come to see the same machinations of oppression play themselves out in that space. It can be deeply disheartening, and a lot to deal with when you have constructed an ideal of justice in your head. Moana relieved me of that idea very early on, before I attended my first meeting I asked him what it’s like and he said: “Well, you know how our people get when dealing with the Crown”, I replied: “Yes” and he said, “Well, it’s like that, but with 193 Crowns”. It made me not want to go. But he also reminded me of the incredible work that has gone into forging our voice in that space, work carried by himself, by Nganeko Minhinnick, by papas before us like Hanara Reedy, and Wiremu Ratana. All of them, generation after generation, have fought for the right to have our voice in that space, with all of its flaws, so that we can articulate for ourselves what justice looks like, and hold them to account in their own halls. Regardless of how we feel about these spaces and the dynamics within them, we must always remember that we are one part of a much larger story, carrying, in our time, a legacy that was forged well before us, and we must care for it so that it may be passed on.
Don’t ever lose sight of the goal
There are so, so, SO many sleights of hand played before us as Māori, that look deceptively like mana motuhake, and many of them function more to drain our energy, and create a mirage within which we mistakenly rest, rather than getting us closer to the goal. The goal is, has always been, and must always be uncompromised self-determination, and we must believe in ourselves to both achieve and maintain that. We can never be free, nor can we ever evade mamae or hara, while we remain under colonial authority, because colonisation is an inherently dehumanising and harmful process. As Noam Chomsky points out:
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”
Similarly, the smart way to keep Maori colonized, is to strictly limit the parameters of acceptable self-determination, but allow for very lively debate and solutions within that spectrum… but while the ultimate authority is wielded by others, we are not, and will never be free. This must always be the standard by which we judge our pathway back to mana motuhake, and this must uncompromisingly be the measure of tino rangatiratanga. I cannot think of a more important legacy for us to remain steadfast on, for Moana and ourselves, than the uncompromising pursuit of our people’s freedom from colonial rule.
There are many more gifts that can be shared, but that seems enough for now. All of our love to you Hatea, Di, and all of Moana’s mokopuna whom he loved so dearly, and whose mention made him shine, without fail, every single time, and that joy was infectious.
He would often ring me after I published a piece to discuss it, and I will miss that. I will miss you so much, Moana. You are loved by your people, you have been an incredible mokopuna, whanaunga, mentor, friend, leader, and you will continue to lead with these million and more wananga gems, placed in our skies like guiding stars.
Moe mai ra, my dear friend.
**Kati ra e hika is a waiata tangi, composed originally as a longer waiata by Te Rangiuia and known as “He tangi na Rangiuia mō tana tamaiti, mo Tūterangiwhaitiri” and then recomposed a number of times, most notably for the mourning of Moananui a Kiwa Ngarimu VC, whom Moana Jackson was named after.**