Kia Mataara Pt3 – Addressing the Risks to Mana Motuhake

Welcome to part 3 of my Waitangi 2023 series which considers the current risks to our Mana Motuhake movement. In Part one, I reflected upon the uptick in performative gestures and part-measures by the Crown, and our own permissiveness that allows it. Part two reflected upon the shift in white supremacy, how it co-opts the language of struggle, and how its reach is now super-charged by the internet.

For part 3, I will be focussing on our solutions – because all of these issues can, at times, seem insurmountable, but we are not without tools, strengths and strategies.

  1. WĀNANGA – we need to learn about white supremacy – it’s full history from the Doctrine of Discovery’s inception right through to today, and in particular the shifts that the white supremacist movement have undertaken through the various generations. The conventional means of fighting white supremacy aren’t enough anymore – we need to learn about online tactics, and how to counter them. This report is a very informative analysis on online white supremacy. Once you learn about how the Doctrine of Discovery embedded white supremacy within our political and economic systems in order to protect privilege it will become much clearer why the current political system is not equipped to deal with white extremism.

Recommended viewing: Web of Chaos, Fire and Fury
Recommended reading: Maranga Mai report on the impact of colonisation, racism and white supremacy on tangata whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand.

White Crusade: How to Prevent Right-Wing Extremists from Exploiting the Internet

  • OBSERVE – Keep a close eye on what is happening in the USA/Canada far right movements – as I mentioned in part 2 the far right movement has globalised in a much more effective way than social justice movements have, and the far right in New Zealand is bankrolled by and influenced by the US/Canada. Counterspin is financed by Steve Bannon. The Freedom Convoy was directly drawn from the Canadian Freedom Convoy. The Wellington protests drew from the US Washington Riots. The NZ Proud Boys are connected to the USA Proud Boys. The National Rifle Association sends their representatives all around the world to influence gun laws. As we saw in Fire and Fury, the far right likes to use Aotearoa-New Zealand as a kind of social-experiment site, but its also true that observing the far right in the US/Canada can provide us with early warning signs of what might be attempted here.  Recommended viewing: Fire and Fury, How to Sell a Massacre

Recommended reading: The Disinformation Project reports. Keep up to date with them, it’s pretty much a weather report for social disruption (and we’re in a climate crisis there too). The Debunking Handbook provides the current science for how to “debunk” (ie disprove) misinformation. White Crusade: How to Prevent Right-Wing Extremists from Exploiting the Internet is another important and informative security report out of the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

  • LOCALISE – Centralised approaches leave massive gaps at the community level, and these gaps are capitalised upon by online movements who are extremely sophisticated at providing an illusion of belonging. The only thing they can’t compete with is when your sense of belonging relates to a group that can knock on the door and have real-life interactions with you. We have grassroots work to do to embed the mana motuhake movement at the community level through resources, workshops, and a community of support.

    Recommended reading:
    Matike Mai Aotearoa sets out a vision for a JUST Aotearoa that secures Mana Motuhake.
  • STRATEGISE – Social media is still being largely treated as a casual pastime, digital noticeboard or annoying distraction rather than the most powerful current means of social control. In addition to wananga on the Doctrine of Discovery, we need to upskill ourselves in social media and the warning signs of incoming misinformation trends. If you have community Facebook pages (for your marae, for your township, for your hapū or rugby team or kapa haka roopu), engage the page administrators in a kōrero about keeping it a safe space, and what good moderation looks like. You might not agree about how to approach it at first but be open to the conversation growing over time, and be patient. If you can have open communication channels with the admins of your local online communities, then it’s far easier to minimise harm and reduce the chance of that group being infiltrated by external forces/ideas. Offer workshops or open discussions with parents about social media management for them and their kids. A lot of parents are interested in online safety for their kids but are not sure how to go about it. This is also particularly pertinent learning for the mental health workforce and for whanau supporting someone with mental health challenges, as mental health challenges can correlate to social isolation, which makes for attractive radicalisation targets. We also need to strategise, at a local level, how to support each other in the event of online bullying, we need to develop online tikanga at a community and whanau level, and share these tikanga within our whanau.

Recommended Reading: How to Be a Woman Online: Surviving Abuse and Harassment, and How to Fight Back by Nina Jankowicz (yes it’s about misogynist attacks but there is a LOT of good information about social media attacks, and how to protect yourself and your loved ones from them).

  • SOCIALISE – This is in my opinion our strongest tool – *ACTUAL* community. The people you go to work with, the people you cook alongside with in the wharekai, the people you play rugby with or go to the RSA with. Every day we validate truth offline – it might be around the staff table during our breaks as we discuss what we saw online or on the news last night, or it might be on the marae atea as a topical whai kōrero, or in the changing rooms after a game, or it might be from your community radio station. But it’s from people you know, and with whom you share a sense of identity and community. If we utilise these spaces to intentionally build our sense of community, and utilise these relationships to engage in discussions about our health, or our taiao, or other issues, we close the information vacuums that misinformation needs in order to operate, and we take the air out of the online misinformation sails which are necessary for the Endeavour of far right recruitment. What we have found with this approach, is that the new information needs to be made relevant to the local context. It’s a hard sell to make one of us in Rangitukia care about the plight of polar bears and melting polar caps…. But we know very well what the Waiapu looks like in flood, and that is the climate change conversation we need to have. Similarly we need to ground discussions about vaccines, about masks, about water rights and co-governance in contexts that are LOCALLY relevant in order to get local engagement, and to take a collective local position that is based upon real relationships and real factors, not misinformation and online manipulation.

I hope this all helps – if you look at these solutions, the approaches are the antithesis of imperialism – as power networks, they are devolutionary, redistributive, and decentralised, and that is exactly what is needed to support social cohesion, because it’s a colonial fiction that cohesion comes from rigidly centralised power structures –social cohesion grows from the grassroots up, not from the top down.

Kia kaha tātou, we got this.

Kia Mataara – Assessing the Risks to Mana Motuhake Pt 2 – The Far Right and Its Attempted Subversion of Mana Motuhake

This is part two of a three part Waitangi series of reflections on risks to our mana motuhake movement. In part one, I looked at the risk posed by the uptick in performative gestures by this government without any real commitment to transformative change. In this part, I’ll be reflecting upon the risks posed by white supremacists, and the far right.

Possibly one of the most jarring aspects of the far right movement in Aotearoa in the past few years is the co-option of Maori into the movement. I’ve written about the rise of “Māori MAGA” before and since then a number of us have watched with great concern while more of our whānau became aligned with what is ultimately very dangerous mindsets.

What should be very clear now is that the groundwork for co-option of Māori into the far right movement has been set by the institutions of government, media and science themselves – for each of those institutions have their own history rooted in the Doctrine of Discovery, all of those institutions have visited significant harm upon Maori throughout the process of colonization and all of them have yet to really reckon with that history. The drivers for the dissolution of society are different – For Indigenous and the disenfranchised, the driver to dissolve government stems from the longstanding failure to secure real justice and the clear lack of regard for our human rights.

For the far right, the drive to dissolve government stems from the fact that governments have become too progressive. The far right seek to undo the progress made on civil and Indigenous rights, and wind the clock back to when white supremacy was well entrenched and normalised. Of course, it would be unhelpful for them to frame it as such – it’s much more helpful for the far right to focus on the shared interest of dissolving government.

Importantly, white supremacist movements understand that the dissolution of government must play out on their terms, to enable their vision of installing their own power structures. Of course, the work on constitutional transformation and the Matike Mai report – which considers how a government that is centered upon Te Tiriti and He Whakaputanga o Nu Tireni might look – has been underway for over a decade now, and presents a clear threat to the far right promise of political reform. For these reasons, constitutional transformation (particularly through the He Puapua Report) is consistently attacked by the far-right conspiracy front. For those who have been aware of these discussions over the past decade, it’s farcical that conspiracy movements think they have uncovered some great secret – when John Key’s National government funded a nationwide conversation on constitutional reform, Matike Mai Aotearoa is freely downloadable online and has been for many years, and the 252 hui around the country that led to the report were anything but secret. Still – the pretence that they have access to secret information is one of their favourite recruitment devices so they will continue to larp as spies and detectives.

One of the narrative tools used to recruit Māori into the far right draws from Western storytelling methods which construct one-dimensional binaries of good and evil. Within these binaries, those who are constructed as villains are denied any form of humanity, and a happy ending can only come with the downfall of the villain. The dehumanising of our perceived opposition is a dangerous premise for violence and denial of human rights. When the far right position themselves as the victims, and suggest that they are “under siege”, it can trigger, at a very deep level, our own intergenerational trauma as a people whose way of life has actually been under siege for 254 years, and we can think we have something to identify with.

The “great replacement” conspiracy theory can also interact with our own internalised racism, a legacy left in our hearts and minds by the Doctrine of Discovery, and trigger our own xenophobia towards other racially marginalised groups. When pākehā speak of great replacement – they do that with the privilege of not being seen as immigrants, or descendants of immigrants, themselves. When pākeha speak of great replacement, they have a media and education machine behind them which reiterates that they are the default, never the “other”. Raising the great replacement theory is much more likely to stoke Māori trauma about being replaced on our own land, than lead to us considering the root of that trauma itself.

The involvement of the new age and capitalist wellness industries further confuse our communities, because they present themselves as being progressive (when in fact they are often also capitalist extractors). We can also layer upon this confusion the practice of “pointing to the mirror” – seen way in which white supremacist and neonazi movements utilise nazi and Nuremberg imagery in their attacks, casting their opponents as nazis and threatening them with hanging… all while either wearing swastika or standing alongside others who do. It is not an approach built on logic (and in fact confusion and disarray is also a goal in itself) but rather a deliberate strategy of emotionally manipulating the masses in order to build your movement.

While antiracism as a concept and movement is over 2 generations deep – there are now new elements to the far right political scape that have super-charged it, and chief amongst those is the advent of the internet. Through the internet and in particular social media, the far right have been able to rapidly recruit in an unprecedented fashion, utilising the reach of the internet to warp the minds of the disenfranchised. Internet security analysts have noted:

“The internet has become the most important tool of right wing extremists to spread propaganda, plan events, recruit, finance and communicate”.

Indeed it has already been evidenced that right wing extremist groups have become global in nature, and New Zealand’s right wing community is bankrolled from the USA/Canada, and there is a mimicry and trial relationship between our nations where what happens over in the USA/Canada will be mimicked here, and the USA/Canada far right groups also utilise New Zealand as a kind of social experimentation site.

They have successfully infiltrated non-extreme sites and online communities for recruitment and radicalisation purposes, and court people across to their conversations using universally condemned notions such as child sexual abuse but then gradually link that to their broader conspiracies – and in this way the far right are building the critical mass necessary to mainstream white supremacist ideas.

So the mana motuhake movement needs to understand internet and social media dynamics and how to combat them (I will be talking about our solutions in the next essay). In addition to this, of course, is the direct harassment and the threats received by online racists towards Māori leaders, Māori technicians, Māori activists, Māori academics and Wāhine Māori , the brutality of which is completely uncalled for and reminds us of the depraved extent to which white supremacy will extend itself, where neither women, nor children, nor families are safe.

Collectively, the co-option of our own struggles; the triggering of our trauma and recruitment of our own people into their movement; the super-charging effect of the internet; the reach of social media; and the brutality and degradedness of the white supremacist online bullies have all delivered a chilling effect upon the mana motuhake movement. The very notion of hikoi has been sullied by the 2022 Wellington protests, and people who would have previously engaged in perfectly legitimate discussions on our rights or constitutional transformation now veer away from it for fear of being misaligned with violent conspiracy theorists. Others simply will not take the risk of their families being targeted, and who can blame them?

The clear articulation of our rights struggle is what is necessary here – the story of the Doctrine of Discovery and its connections to the far right as well as its connection to our current government. From that shared understanding of how a global injustice was brought to our shores and remains here, can we then clearly articulate our own whakapapa within this story – from He Whakaputanga o Nu Tireni, through to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and onwards throughout time to our mana motuhake movement of today. Kia kaha tātou katoa

Kia Mataara – Assessing the Risks to Mana Motuhake Pt 1 – Performativity and Permissiveness

This Waitangi week I wrote three pieces that reflected upon the areas I believe we most need to focus on for our pursuit of Tiriti justice in Aotearoa. They are three short form pieces, and are all based upon recent developments of our political landscape which threaten to derail our progress towards mana motuhake. The first of these is the uptick in liberal performative gestures, and the permissiveness of Te Ao Māori which allows it.

If the New Zealand government really punches above its weight at anything, it’s performativity. Over recent decades the Crown has refined, to a fine art, the practice of performative gestures that don’t really amount to anything transformative. This includes siloed reforms which are under-resourced and regularly drop terminology like “mana motuhake” whilst still leaving ultimate power in the hands of the Crown. The fact that they are siloed means that even the most progressive of the reforms will inevitably butt up against other sectors who are far from ready to take that step – for instance, the health sector reforms will struggle to achieve wellbeing for Māori whilst Māori are still being disproportionately incarcerated and dispossessed of our own children through institutionalised racism within the Ministry of Justice and Oranga Tamariki. Even when the intention is bold, and benevolent, rarely is it met with the systemic force or resourcing to support that intention reaching its fullest potential.

Performativity also includes giving buildings and public agencies Māori names, yet still not equitably sharing power or even securing pay parity within those same agencies and buildings, and further includes the targeted resourcing of Māori cultural optics (eg extravagant launches with roopu kapa haka or waka hourua presence) for spaces or entities that offer no material benefits or systemic transformation for Māori people. We see this where the government tries to “solve” racism by investing in cultural promotion and education, but refuse to embed education about racialised privilege, white supremacy or the harms of colonialism (as found in critical race theory).

As much as we may wish to point the finger at the Crown and call this yet another example of colonial mal-intent – all of these empty or part-gestures depend upon Māori endorsement in order to be effective. Our own permissiveness as ceremony holders, as performance or visual artists and as leaders, is critical for the government’s ability to continue with performative acts which at best offer scant progression, and at worst take us off course entirely. Perhaps it is conscious mal-intent, but we cannot overlook the fact that the governmental system we live with – the system which provides the policies that shape our lived experiences – was borne out of an intent to dispossess Māori, and that fact has never really been reckoned with by this government.

A vital component in combatting this phenomena is an understanding of the economics of colonialism, democratic capitalism, and how global market forces, crafted out of a history of colonial empires, seduce us into thinking that representation and financial success within colonial structures equals liberation and advancement. Mengzhu Fu and Dr Mahdis Azarmandi write eloquently here from a Tangata Tiriti perspective about the way in which cultural platitudes can be a distraction from where energy needs to be directed.

This is particularly pertinent for the issue of constitutional transformation. This government understands what it is, understands the discussion, understands how it relates to Tiriti justice – but it has repeatedly evaded doing anything about it. Ex-Prime Minister Ardern predicted it would happen in her lifetime, but not in her government. The current Prime Minister has yet to comment on constitutional transformation, but given he is clearly focussed upon clawing back the centre right drift to National and ACT, it’s doubtful he will be effusive.

So we are clear: this government’s constitutional framework is an unavoidable source of institutional racism with deadly consequences for Māori. If you need the connections drawn for you – I would recommend you read the recommendations of the Maranga Mai Report on The impact of colonisation, racism and white supremacy on tangata whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand – and in particular the chapter on health. We now know and have the scientific data to support that racism is an *independent* predictor of early, avoidable death for racialised minorities including Māori. When we delay constitutional transformation, we are condemning Te Ao Māori to higher death rates – and a raft of other horrid social and economic outcomes that would never be acceptable for white populations. We have to be unrelenting, and uncompromising, in our pursuit of constitutional transformation and no longer accept and enable performative gestures that distract us from this goal.

Tangata Tiriti must underpin their support of Tiriti justice by centering the importance of constitutional transformation – for you cannot pretend to be an ally whilst also tolerating a system that disproportionately kills those you purport to be an ally to.

On “Safe” Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recentering Our Universe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial Power, Mana Wāhine and the Doctrine of Christian Discovery

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

El Requieremiento

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

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

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

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

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


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

A Note for Our Rangatahi Resistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kia kaha tonu ra. xxx

Stone In My Shoe – The Poem

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

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

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

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

Darwin 1872:

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

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

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

De Zurara 1450:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glossary of a Tired Native

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

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

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

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

I demand you all watch while I repent!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Take me away ancestors….

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

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

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

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

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