Te Tiriti and Vaxx Rates

We’re not the ones with the trust problem.

There’s a big truth in decolonization discourse that is often overlooked:

Injustice is an every day choice of colonial governments

I’m going to digress to an example here to illustrate what I mean.

The Waitangi Tribunal is the government appointed judiciary on Treaty justice. In 2014, the Crown, through the Waitangi Tribunal, formally acknowledged that Maori never ceded sovereignty. We could go through how they came to that conclusion, but just know that it was 2 years of expert historians presenting in front of the country’s best treaty experts, and further 2 years of rigorous analysis of that information, to arrive to the finding that sovereignty was never ceded.

What does that mean?

That means that Hobson never had the right to claim sovereignty by right of cession (and he certainly did not have right to claim sovereignty over Te Waipounamu, the South Island, by right of discovery).

Now keep with me – if Hobson did not have the right to claim sovereignty by right of cession, then Queen Victoria did not hold legitimate sovereignty over Aotearoa. Which means that she did not hold the rights to establish the government as the administrators of sovereign power in Aotearoa.  And here’s the rub of that, which people find so unfathomable, and apparently radical, but is completely 100% evidence based: The New Zealand government (like so many colonial governmets) is illegitimate, and is operating by application of force. They do not hold ultimate power by any just or moral means, they hold power because they have the ability to enact force upon you by the police and by the armed forces if you do not ultimately comply.

So the government acknowledged this through their own judiciary 11 years ago, but because the government has also made the recommendations of the tribunal unenforceable, it does not have to do anything about those findings, and it has chosen, every day for 11 years and running, to not do ANYTHING about that.

It has, instead, again, as many colonial governments do, chosen the route of self interest and protection of ill-gotten power, through the wielding of force.

Now I know it’s fascist-fashionable right now to claim we are living in a police-state because one cannot go to the gym or nightclub, but the truth is, Maori have been existing in a police-state for a long, long time. It is a police-state that has enforced colonial suppression of Maori self-determination.   This is a choice that those in power make every single day.

It is vitally important that people grasp this – when you want to discuss Maori distrust in Crown authority, you cannot set the start of the conversation to March 2020, and you cannot begin from the assumption that Crown authority is legitimate in the first place.

1. This means that the government has been running a very effective misinformation campaign for 170 years and is continuing to gaslight Maori about it’s denial of our right to self-determination.

2. There are numerous, numerous studies that illustrate how colonial denial of self-determination results in high mortality rates. These studies have been placed before government numerous times, including through the recent Hauora claims process. It is not a case of Maori dying early because of genetic pre-determination. It is a case of humans dying early because of oppression. If you oppressed Europeans the same way over the same number of generations, they too would die earlier, and would die.  The overarching communication is: Maori are disposable in the eyes of the Crown. Maori lives have, for a long time now, been weighed up and valued against continuation of colonial privilege (and will never outweigh it so long as the Crown holds the scales).

Source: Stage One Report of the Hauora Claim

Can you see how this logic is playing out today in the COVID response?

Given that this is a well reported scenario, it stands to reason that this was foreseeable from the outset of COVID’s arrival in Aotearoa. And that it was. Our own communities in Matakaoa and Te Whanau a Apanui  highlighted this to the Crown and where we have been able to drive our own vaccination strategies, we have done well. That right there is the demonstration that success lies in self-determination.

But this is not something we should have to fight for. It is not something that should depend on the skillsets in your community and the relationships you may be able to work with government. It is not something that should happen in pockets, and nor is it reaching its fullest potential even for those pockets, unless it happens everywhere. One of our dominant COVID response considerations right now, even with our vaccine progress, are those living outside of our region who are unvaccinated and wanting to return back home in the summer months. It’s an unfair and difficult position to be put in, and all of it was avoidable, had our treaty partnership been respected from the outset.

And in all of these cases, the government could prioritise Maori leadership of these matters today, it could prioritise treaty justice today, it could treat the mending of the relationship with urgency if it chose to, but it is not politically convenient for them to do so. And so, instead, we are told this is a Maori problem, not a colonial problem. Maori are being problematized as defiant and uncaring of society, while ignoring the fact that Maori lives have been deprioritized (for the benefit of the state) for generations, ignoring that Maori have been frontline responders since forever both for COVID and natural disasters, ignoring the fact that where Maori have taken the lead, it has borne great results. The unfairness is stinging – Te Roopu Whakakaupapa Urutā and numerous other Maori and Non-Maori health and health research organisations foresaw this, warned of this, and were sidelined by the government, and we are now being pushed into  an untenable situation: We were hobbled from the outset, forced to play catch up, and are now being told the rest of the nation will not wait for us to catch up anyway. Yet again, we are being told through policy that we are disposable in the interests of everyone else. 

The burden could be significantly alleviated today, by the Crown, but it is choosing not to, because it does not trust anyone else with power even when the sharing of that power is the basis upon which its existence rests (ie the treaty partnership). It is an every day choice that the government makes, and while it is OF COURSE urgent that Maori vaccinate, we cannot overlook the role that this broken relationship and intergenerational neglect and devaluing of Maori life plays in vaccine hesitancy, because every day, the government chooses not to treat Maori mortality and risk with the same urgency that it now demands of us.    
The fact that they are easing restrictions while Maori are still broadly under-vaccinated is a continuation of that theme.

Defence of Colonial Racism

In a tired and tiring act of privilege protection, a number of Auckland University academics published a collective letter to the editor of The Listener today. I can’t say I’m grateful for it, one is never grateful for racism, but out of the weekly (if not daily) attacks from the righteous white right, this one can at least serve as bold evidence for the endurance of white supremacy within academia and science.

I have spent a decent amount of my employed hours illustrating the role of colonialism and racism in science in order to grow a more just and robust approach to science, and in that work I encounter my fair share of gaslighting. It’s not uncommon that those I work with either believe that colonialism in science is a thing of the past, if it ever existed at all. Many believe that scientific racism cannot exist in the “hard science” of laboratories and observations. Most believe that if racism is present in science it is an aberration.

But this letter, in all of its unsolicited glory, is a true testament to how racism is harboured and fostered within New Zealand academia (as a part of a global system that also harbours and fosters racism) – it is so normalised that people can hold senior academic positions whilst holding and promoting harmful discriminatory views towards marginalised groups.

It’s a very handy example for us to illustrate the work that remains to be done within universities if it ever aspires to deserve the title of the critic and conscience of society, and the work remaining within science and academia if it ever hopes to earn the trust of marginalised communities. It’s also a helpful collection of the very weak arguments that feature in academic racism. More often than not, scientists are afraid to give voice to such positions, because of potential career implications (for, you know…. being racist). Policies of consequence for racism are necessary and just – but in the absence of anti-racism education it means that people merely suppress rather than dispel racist ideas.

So anyway, let’s have a look at this letter for the resource that it is. Without a doubt this will be an educational resource for generations to showcase the absurdity of racism, so let’s get that ball rolling.

The first thing to note is that all of these authors are white, writing about the Māori school curriculum. It’s important because positionality and critical reflection matters. None of these authors have been or will be primarily impacted by the intergenerational dispossession or denigration of Mātauranga Māori. None of them have been beneficiaries of, or will be beneficiaries of the Māori school curriculum. This of course has never halted the likes of Elizabeth Rata from attacking Māori knowledge and education systems before, and Māori scholars such as Leonie Pihama and Jenny Lee have deftly deconstructed her attacks on Māori for many years now. It’s also important because Elizabeth Rata’s use of her ex-spousal surname and her career of writing about Māori (albeit in attack mode) can sometimes mislead people into thinking she is Māori and overestimate the validity of her reckons. She is not Māori, she is pākehā, and writes for racist pākehā think tanks.

“Disturbing misunderstandings of science”
So after raising concerns about the NCEA changes to the Māori school curriculum, the authors cite the proposed changes, which address issues of eurocentrism and scientific domination, as evidence of “disturbing misunderstandings of science” throughout science funding and policy that encourage mistrust in science as a discipline. The statement that “science is universal, not necessarily western european” wilfully and conveniently ignores that there are well-acknowledged limits to any notion of universality. This is a cheap attempt to corral science under colonialism. Scientific methods and philosophy are anything but universal. The authors know this because in spite of trying to apply the universal ideal, they still acknowledge that there are variations in approaches and prescribed validity.

Science is also not confined to method and philosophy. Like all other social institutions, science has its own power structure and it has developed power hierarchies over time precisely because of its involvement in the global colonial project. When I refer to knowledge systems I mean research, education, academia, scientific practice and publications, the evaluation and funding of science, the access to science and the legitimacy of science and its relationship to policy and government. It is a complex structure, the history of which is rooted in a period called The Enlightenment. The Enlightenment period, as the foundation of modern intellectual theory, was overseen by scientists and philosophers who were investors and clients of the slave trade and Imperial dispossession of Indigenous territories the world over, and their work supported those practices. Enlightenment period “research” topics and hypotheses included how to whip an African most effectively, that Indigenous brains were smaller than European brains (making them less intelligent), and that Africans were only slightly more evolved than monkeys. Many of these philosophers and scientists are still upheld and taught in scientific theory today. The power structures that have privileged Europeans economically over time, are the same power structures that have privileged European knowledge systems over time, and just as the economic power and privilege of these events endure today, so too does the privilege and power within the science sector still endure today. The authors cite Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, Greece, and “medieval Islam” as one-time contributors to science, which was then developed by Europe, USA, and a “strong presence” by Asia.

I’m gonna give that it’s own paragraph so we can consider that again, and keep in mind this is written by people who TEACH scientists.

The authors suggest that Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, Greece and “medieval Islam” contributed to this singular science tradition, and it was THEN developed by Europe, the USA, and sometimes Asia.

The authors have also, presumably wilfully, ignored the role Eurocentric science has played in dispossessing those same peoples of their cultural artefacts because of the racist position, based on racist science, that they were not advanced enough to care for their own artefacts. A racist presumption that still endures in arguments against their repatriation today.

“Science itself does not colonize. It has been used to aid colonisation”
Well it’s hardly a revelation that it takes people to colonise. This is rather akin to the National Rifle Association mantra “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.

If it makes it easier for you to understand, Liz, Kendall & Co:
Science itself is not being regulated. The people who carry it out are.

The next apparent attempt to defend the intrinsic good of science comes in the form of:

“Science is helping us battle worldwide crises such as covid, global warming, carbon pollution, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation”
No Lizendall, GOOD SCIENCE has helped us battle worldwide crises. Crap science has hindered our efforts in those places. Crap science has denied climate change. Crap science has sought to justify further extraction from the environment. Crap scientists have contributed to COVID denial and vaccine hesitation.

Good science in all of the above cases supports science that is (at a minimum) inclusive of, relevant to and accessible to the local context. In Aotearoa, that local context is unavoidably Māori.

And inspite of the authors’ incredibly patronising attitude towards Indigenous knowledge, it’s actually Indigenous science and practice that is the reason behind 80% of the world’s biodiversity being in Indigenous territories, and Indigenous managed forests outperforming all others in carbon sequestration. Indigenous communities have the longest standing record in biodiversity management, and after those thousands of years of success, in just a few short centuries of European domination we are facing an existential crisis.

So in fact, it’s more accurate to say that Indigenous science systems far outstrip Eurocentric science systems in combatting environmental degradation (which is also a major contributor to the formation of pandemics and inhibits successful COVID responses). Which brings us to the next gem…

“The future of our world and species cannot afford mistrust of science”

Look, Lizendallobarthoglas, if you really want to deal with mistrust in science then here are two great ways to do that:

  1. Deal with white supremacy in science. People don’t trust science because it’s been dominated by elitist tossers for centuries. Ahem.

  2. And secondly – deal with the right wing white supremacists that dominate science deniers. You know like Trump who slashed science funding (along with health and environmental funding) and ran his campaign on disinformation tactics, like his mates Johnson and Bolsonaro. Overarchingly overseas it has been white supremacist leaders who have denied science and fostered populations of science deniers under their watch. Similarly it’s pākehā-led lobby groups that are leading the resistance to evidence based policy on the environment and health.

But I think we all know by now this isn’t actually about science.

That becomes startlingly clear in the following paragraph, which really is the pinnacle of this Mt Cleese masterpiece….

“Indigenous knowledge is critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture and local practices, and plays key roles in management and policy. However, in the discovery of empirical, universal truths, it falls far short of what we can define as science itself.”


So…. in 1500BC, while ancient Europeans were still dipping their toes in the duck pond of the Mediterranean, and some 3000 years before they even knew of our existence, Māori ancestors were somehow navigating, mapping, and observing the largest water body on earth…. without science.

They somehow managed to develop their own medical disciplines, their own aquacultural and horticultural technological innovations, their own calendrical systems and incredibly sophisticated celestial tracking systems…. without science.

Angela Davis says it best

The most basic premise of knowledge systems is that knowledge is produced by science. To acknowledge knowledge requires you to acknowledge the science that created it.

Because we’ve by now abandoned all reason, we finally have a contextual home for the final statement that respecting Mātauranga Māori is “patronising”: That home being the land of Dr Seuss.

Actual footage of a Kendall Clements lecture

Unless, of course, we accept the aforementioned suggestion that this isn’t actually a defence of science in the first place.

The authors, in their desperation to protect their own privilege, comfort and relevance have ultimately defeated themselves, and exposed their letter for what it is, not actually a defence of science at all, but a defence of colonial racism.

This post will also be forwarded to Auckland University. If you would also like to write to Auckland University about this letter, here are some UoA leadership addresses for you:
Provost: v.linton@auckland.ac.nz
VC: vice-chancellor@auckland.ac.nz
PVC Māori: tk.hoskins@auckland.ac.nz
PVC Pacific: d.salesa@auckland.ac.nz

Don’t just do it for racism, do it for good science.

And please feel free to download and share this gif along with those addresses:

Addendum: I have heard it whispered that one of the authors (not Rata) “has Māori ancestry” and if that is true I certainly stand corrected that that person is most definitely an example of the impacts of intergenerational dispossession of Mātauranga Māori.

The Callous Rhetoric of the NZ Right, and the Risk it Poses to Māori.

Judith Collins, Paul Goldsmith, Simeon Brown and David Seymour have all recently utilised racist political tactics that have contributed towards an increasingly unsafe space for Māori.

In the past 2 years, Aotearoa has had to face up to an ugly truth about its race relations. An ugly, violent truth. While the default of many was to declare that “this isn’t us”, many others, Māori in particular, understood that as a nation-state borne out of brutal colonial dispossession, maintained with the threat of state violence over our heads, over our children’s heads, over our whanau heads…. this has always been us.

Marama Davidson: If I'm going to be labelled radical, I'm fine with that |  The Spinoff

With the presence of Marama Davidson as the co-leader of the Greens in a cooperation agreement with Labour, and the renewed presence of the Māori Party in the cross benches, there has been a significant level of pressure upon the Labour Party from all sides to respond to racial issues and advance the interests of Māori. And while there remains a lot of work still to do (particularly in relation to justice, corrections, and Oranga Tamariki), there have been some remarkable developments in the past year -of note: Māori wards; a separate Māori health authority; a boost in funding for Te Reo Māori, Māori housing and Māori media; and the implementation of the Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (an initiative started by Minister Mahuta in the previous term and continued into this term, resulting in the He Puapua Report).

New Zealand: Book pulled after author criticises Maori tattoo - BBC News

None of these steps should be misconstrued as privilege or favour. They are necessary steps to address the ongoing harm that results from Māori living in a colonial system. Nor will they be enough to address the harm that has been delivered over so many successive generations across every spectrum of our lived experience. There is not one aspect of our lives that has escaped the harm of colonialism, and we cannot fix, in one or even two terms, what has been put in place over 180 years.

Nevertheless, what we are seeing is that with every step closer towards Tiriti justice, Aotearoa becomes increasingly unsafe for Māori as white supremacists conflate equity with anti-whiteness and Māori privilege. Most notably, the online space has become considerably unsafe. A 2018 study by JustSpeak found that Maori accounted for 33% of all online harassment in Aotearoa. This spikes every time we progress towards Tiriti justice, and in particular internet security experts have noted that there has been an increase in harassment, threats and risk towards Māori over the past year.

This has tested the mechanisms designed to provide online protection, such as the The Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA) and Netsafe, who are legislated to give effect to the HDCA. What we have seen is that the current regulatory regime falls short of protecting Māori from digital harassment, particularly online campaigns geared to bring about violent hate crime against Māori.

By the time the petition was launched to Lee Williams’ employer, he had amassed 440 clips of racist vitriol on his channel which targeted Muslim, Chinese and whānau Māori. Many of these clips had been reported to Youtube and NetSafe, but were unsuccessful in having them taken down. Consequently, these marginalised groups were left subjected to defamation, ridicule, threats, derision and a growing level of risk as Williams called upon “ordinary New Zealanders” to rise up against what he framed as an invasion, takeover and the stripping of nationalist (white) rights. The targetting of Māori increased significantly from May 2 with little to no response from relevant authorities and a mixed response from social media platforms.

Whereas white supremacist groups in the 80s would have remained isolated and manageable, internet technology have allowed them to scale up, connect to other groups internationally, provide mutual support and incite each other into acts of violence.

Netsafe, and New Zealand Police, were unable to halt the content which functions as a system of online radicalization, and the social media platforms simply were not inclined enact accountability – and so when it was clear that Lee Williams was also making videos from his workplace in his uniform, we appealed to his employers to enact accountability, and nearly 7,500 New Zealanders have so far agreed.

Consequence is an interesting concept that also does not escape racial determination. For those who are accustomed to race-based entitlement, consequence feels like injustice.

Deplatforming Lee Williams will, of course, not solve the problem in and of itself, but it has shone a light on the growing risk against Māori, coupled with clear gaps in Police, Netsafe, NZ Secret Service, and multiple other agencies’ abilities to avoid that risk. Māori are over-represented as victims of online harassment. Māori are also over represented in crimes that are linked to race, and in 2018 the Ministry of Justice reported that 20% of all offending was linked to discrimination, 75% of sexually violent offending was also linked to discrimination.

Māori in particular are at increased risk of a hate crime and digital harassment in spite of New Zealand government’s protective mechanisms, and the reasons for that are manifold, here are a few:

1. Racism against Māori is normalized and systemized.

If you look up the history of race based hate crime in Aotearoa, you will find that the first crime considered under that category occurred in 1905 – the murder of Joe Kum Yung by Lionel Terry. Not the murder of Te Maro or the many other Maori killed by Cook and his crew, not the massacres of innocents at Rangiaowhia or Rangiriri, or the many, many other Māori who were slaughtered wholesale by colonial invaders in pursuit of land. This is not minimize the gravity of anti-Asian racism, or any form of xenophobic racism, but to highlight that race based hate crimes against Māori are legitimized as collateral in the colonial process (a fact that stems from the Doctrine of Discovery).

The “ism” in racism relates to the systemising of a practice. When we talk about colonialism we are referring to the way in which colonial ideas exist in systems that create harm. When we talk about sexism we are discussing how sexist ideas exist in systems that create harm. When we talk about racism we are talking about how racist ideas exist within systems that create harm. Racism exists in individuals but it is powered by social systems. Social systems are built from social policies, and so systemic (and institutionalised) racism exists because of racist social policies. Government is responsible for policy in Aotearoa and it has been shaping racist policy and legislation in Aotearoa since its creation in 1852. Because of this, racism against Māori is soaked into the social fabric of Aotearoa at an individual and systemic level.

2. Māori have been procedurally underrepresented in the development of the Christchurch Call, Harmful Digital Communications Act, the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, the impending 2021 Counter Terrorism Act,  the impending Counter-Terrorism Act, and other legislation like the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Amendment Bill (which updates the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 to allow for urgent prevention and mitigation of harms caused by objectionable publications). Māori are further underrepresented within the critical decision-making roles of organisations tasked to administer and enforce this legislation like NetSafe, Internet NZ, the Classification Office, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and NZSIS. Consequently there is a poor level of appreciation for how the acts impact upon Māori, in addition to racism being largely understood within a xenophobic framing rather than colonial racism which is distinct in its intent, impact and embedding within the state system.

3. Colonial racism against Māori is underpinned by economic interests and buttressed by an international colonial white supremacist infrastructure.

New Zealand’s economy is built off the back of abused Māori rights. Stolen Māori land and water has underwritten the farming sector, the horticulture and viticulture sector, the energy sector, the tourism sector, fisheries, forestry – simply put, returning what has been stolen would have catastrophic consequences for New Zealand’s very colonial economy. This is also the case in other colonized nations, many of whom are only too happy to collude with neo-imperial forces such as the US military to police apparent invasive crimes elsewhere whilst ignoring their own. Internationally renowned scholars and economists have acknowledged that the world’s global economy is built from two major injustices – black enslavement and Indigenous dispossession. Full restorative justice would cause global economic instability and an unprecedented shift in global power structures. Power protects itself, and so the white supremacist colonial machine works not only domestically, but also internationally to protect its political and economic interests. For an insight into how this works I thoroughly recommend the following documentary. In fact…. this really is an important documentary for understanding the nature of interconnected white supremacist organisations and conservative political parties.

4. Racism against Māori pays politically as well as economically.

Colonizers are haunted by a fear of themselves. By this I mean the Great Replacement Theory that white supremacist content creators (both in parliament and online) invoke is a projection of what they have done. The greatest replacement project carried out was that of European Imperialism and this is an internal demon that many colonial descendants simply cannot chase off, and are loathe to be reminded of. This is a fear and aversion that politicians realise they can reliably tap into for votes, and they tap that fear by suggesting that Māori are being accorded extra privileges, that other non-white groups are “taking over”, and that all of this will happen in a way that abuses non-white rights.

From left to right: Modi, Johnson, Trump, Bolsonaro.

It is this final point that is critical for us to understand and address. Around the world, in the UK under Johnson, in the USA under Trump, in Brazil under Bolsonaro, in India under Modi we have seen that where conservative racists are given a platform, racism is emboldened and increases throughout the nation, resulting in more racist hate crimes and more racist harassment. White supremacists have been tapping this fear and undermining democratic processes around the world, and marginalized communities have been paying the price. What we saw last year in the Black Lives Matter marches were populations that have had enough. They’ve had enough because they have tried, time and time again, to use the official channels to address rights abuses and all of the protective mechanisms amount to nothing – not because they are unnecessary, but because even when these protections are championed by progressive politicians they come up against white supremacist elements within government who attack those protections and support as being anti-white. In this way, marginalised communities are walked by their governments into race-based hate crimes like the Charleston massacre, committed by Dylan Roof who was radicalized by online content.

Aotearoa is no different and while the government has made some notable attempts to curb online hate, we are still not safe (especially, as we’ve already discussed, Māori) – and the truth of the matter is that, under this form of government, we will continue to be used as political fodder and that will result in us continuing to be subjected to racist threats, racist systems and racist violence.


While different parties present varying levels of threat to Māori wellbeing, what we have seen over, and over again, is a pattern of political behaviour where conservatives tap into the aforementioned fear in voter bases, and centrist parties then lean to the right in their policies and speak in order to retain their votes. Racist political rhetoric (both domestic and internationally) has been the backdrop for the Foreshore and Seabed Act, for the Urewera Raids, and now we are seeing another peak in racist rhetoric as the backdrop to the attempts to block important rights progressions such as Māori Wards, the establishment of the Māori Health Authority, and the implementation of The Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This has arguably been the most powerfully popular Labour government Aotearoa has seen, in no small part due to its success at avoiding the COVID death rates seen overseas and it is keenly aware that it must hold on to the votes that were leant to it from traditionally conservative voters (which was indicated in Prime Minister Ardern’s 2020 victory speech).

The chips are again down, and the predictable mode of throwing Māori under the bus is again at play, with numerous National and ACT MPs seeking to pull their votes back with the tried and true method of invoking fear and distrust. The only difference from previous years is that social media now has the power to supercharge the negative rhetoric and create online communities of support for racist groups who would have been much more isolated in previous years.

We can comfortably predict that it will place internal pressure upon the Labour Party to both curb pro-Maori policy, and may well also limit the protection of Maori in this increasingly hostile environment.

The worst part is, this will continue to be the pattern, for this and every electoral term. We will continue to swing back and forth from Labour to National, and with each political cycle our rights, and Treaty justice, will continue to be a political football, with real Maori lives at stake. Judith Collins, Simeon Brown, Paul Goldsmith, all understand very well that they are throwing Māori under the bus to appeal to racist colonial fears. They understand that their rhetoric is picked up outside of parliament, and emboldens racists, in fact that is their hope – that the racists will be emboldened to swing more people to vote for the right. Māori lives are not just collateral in this equation, they are the fodder.

Within this adversarial political system, Labour will always be pressured to appeal to racist conservative voters in order to retain power (which can only ever be temporary before the pendulum swings back again). Nor is this only about Labour and National – the adversarial nature of politics means every party, and I mean EVERY party, will continue to make calculated sacrifices in order to appeal to voters. Ultimately, this arrangement will continue to place our human rights at risk, and will continue to prolong and thwart the journey towards Treaty justice, social justice and climate justice.

Around the world, callous, conservative right wing political ideologies have resulted in the very worst, most tragic COVID death rates.

While the rights of Māori faced by white supremacist threats sits at the forefront of this conversation, it is not only our lives and human rights at risk. Conservative and far right forces prioritise profits over everything – countries under far-right conservative governments such as the UK, USA (under Trump), Hungary, India and Brazil have all suffered devastatingly high COVID mortality rates. They deprioritize vital initiatives to curb climate change and prefer hyper militarization over conflict de-escalation. While the rise of the right is a global phenomena, we in Aotearoa have a unique and powerful tool in Te Tiriti o Waitangi to curb its most harmful impacts at a local level – but it cannot be achieved under the current political system. A national task force that specifically focusses upon white supremacist threats against Māori is a good start, but this must also be accompanied with reviews of the HDCA, NetSafe, and InternetNZ, bringing NZ hate speech laws into alignment with UN standards on hate speech, and report on the contribution of parliamentary speaking rules to online and real life racist harassment, amongst other measures.

Ultimately, though, much more fundamental shifts need to take place to secure safety for Māori on our own lands and online. Under the current parliamentary system, racism in parliament will continue to proliferate, it will continue to result in harm towards Māori, it will continue to stymie our progress towards Tiriti justice, and the best hope for a nation that values human rights and protects its most at-risk communities is to progress, swiftly, to a new political system that centers Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

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 set the scene for the transition of a forum for international relations from the League of Nations to 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: https://teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/26329/maori-grandfather-with-grandchildren

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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moriori#/media/File:Chatham_Islands_photo,_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

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1389142/British-royalty-dined-human-flesh-dont-worry-300-years-ago.html

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: Amazon.com: 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 |  Stuff.co.nz
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: https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2019/02/14/how-foolish-rumour-hawaiians-ate-cook-began

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.
Source: http://www.stevenpauljuddart.com/assets/39-spaceinvaders.jpg

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:

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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: https://www.teaomaori.news/leave-your-ideas-north-hicks-bay-whanau-say-shane-jones

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: http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/local-news/20180827/hicks-bay-will-decide/

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.