Tuesday, 11 October 2016

“Let’s Have a Cup of Tea”

By Vanessa Tait, 2nd year MDP student

The analogy of a cup of tea really resonates with my journey in Aotearoa (New Zealand).  Each time you would be asked "let’s go for a cuppa" or "would you like a cup of tea?" meant that there was going to be some knowledge exchange, a Hui (meeting/workshop) would take place, a story told or an opportunity to share your stories, knowledge and teachings. It was a moment of cross cultural learning from one Indigenous group to another. 

As I travelled through the many different places: Ngaruawahia / Hopuhopu, Auckland, Waireinga/Bridal Veil Falls, Ragland Beach, Rotorura, Taneautua (Ruatoki Marae - Tūhoe Iwi), Whanganui, Hobbiton, Otorohanga – kiwi house and local museum, and many other places along the way; I was amazed at the beauty of the landscape, the water and the people that I crossed paths with.

The valuable aspects of this experience were the importance of whaanau (family) and language, being proud of who you are as an Indigenous person, and meeting many amazing Maori who truly welcomed me and embraced my presence. I am inspired by the vision of the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development and I take home with me the desire to hopefully one day have a building and a place of learning for the Indigenous peoples and communities in my region.  It was amazing meeting the many people that walked through the doors of the College and hearing about their stories, research, goals and aspirations. The College provides a safe space to come together and learn from one another.  

 I would like to acknowledge Sir Robert Mahuta and the ancestors of this territory, the journey to Aotearoa had a true purpose and with their visions, dreams and teachings still alive in this sacred place it truly was a journey to remember.

Whaanau in Aotearoa

Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai (L) and Vee (R)

An inspiration, role model, and Maori scholar, Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai, was my mentor who took me under her wing and showed me so much in my short time in Aotearoa.  Sarah-Jane welcomed me into her whaanau and took me for a visit to meet them in Taneautua.  This was an amazing experience and I will never forget so many people. Manawa, who brings such love to this whaanau and to me. Aunty Ami and Uncle Tim, my caregivers at the College, shared many stories, taught me many things, and made me feel at home. Jube definitely was my greatest teacher, he shared so much knowledge and we had many cups of tea together exchanging many stories. Cuz Ruby and her whaanau shared so much knowledge, teachings and even a few adventures. Amy and her two children were such a joy to be around and our trips together will forever be remembered.  The College, whaanau and staff; each and every one of them were a part of my journey and shared so much with me.  I felt welcomed and embraced.  Whaanau is important and welcoming others to your family circle is amazing.  No matter where they come from there is always room for another in the house, there is no such thing as a nuclear family there.

Trip to Whanganui

Trip to Whanganui
We had the opportunity to travel to Whanganui by way of a 6.5 hour bus ride through hills and mountains, following the river (awa).  Many great moments were had while visiting Whakauae Research for Maori Health and Development and their amazing circle of women.  It was refreshing to see how they worked, prayed, sang and had a feed together. The togetherness and the community spirit is truly a wonderful thing to experience and observe. I had the opportunity to share the bear song with them at the whakatau (welcoming and introductions) that began our journeys there. We had the opportunity to go on the waka on the Whanganui River (Awa) with four of the ladies. Grateful for this experience, I was able to share a prayer and offering of tobacco with them to the awa when we had completed our paddling journey.  This was such an honour to share this moment with them, as my grandmothers and traditional women teachers have taught me to always give thanks to the water, the life blood of Mother Earth.

Research and Project
Journey in Aotearoa - Beautiful
With the Waikato Raupatu River Trust, I researched and worked on a framework for Indigenous tourism development for Indigenous peoples and communities. It utilized an Indigenous social enterprise approach that incorporates the “quadruple bottom line” to guide the process forward that is holistic in nature and involves the community.  In order to explain the Indigenous Tourism Framework, I used three Canadian First Nations case studies, the Gitga’at Nation (West), Mi’kmaw Nation (East) and Northern Quebec Cree, to give insight and identify themes that could be found within the quadruple bottom line. The document identified potential goals and factors for tourism development and provided some recommendations, next steps and a possible path forward. 

Finally, these words resonate with me “be proud of who you are and tell your story” - this is what I hold in my heart. My journey and experience in Aotearoa really shed light on this statement because the Maori are amazing, sovereign, strong, and inspiring people and this field placement had a purpose and it was not just an academic one, but one of spirit and of understanding the gifts we have as Indigenous people. There was so much more to this journey, which I will share with you over a cup of tea.

Ekosi, Vee

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