The start of a haerenga
The next seven days are pretty massive for me. If all goes to plan, I will be getting my Moko Kauae on Saturday. I figured I’d do a self-reflection on my journey home and what will lead me up to this point. Sometimes looking back and seeing how far we have come is vital and important. Many times I forget to do that. Constantly I get annoyed at myself on why I’m not fluent in Te Reo? Why am I not doing more to help others? Yet here I stand, forgetting how far I’ve come in three years.
Let’s go back to 2016.
My New Years resolution was very different for 2016. I didn’t want to diet anymore, I had spent a lifetime of monitoring my weight constantly and losing nothing. I was sick of looking in the mirror and hating the face that stared back at me. I decided that I was going to embrace body positivity. If I was to spend a lifetime with this body, I really needed to like who I was. To be healthy both mentally and how I felt physically.
I read a blog post about body positivity and the start of it really was, understanding who you were. However, for me to understand who I was — I needed to understand my whakapapa. See my pākehā pāpā loved genealogy. He had traced back his whakapapa to our ancestors from England, Scotland and Ireland. I knew nothing about my māmā and her whakapapa. My Māori genealogy was a mystery.
So I sat down and wrote a blog post about who I was. There was a lot of tears and I dreamed about the culture I longed for. But for my māmā her culture held a lot of mamae for her. Me searching for who I was, I was determined not to drag that up for her. To force her to come on this journey when she was not ready to. I sat down and had a kōrero with her.
I need to know who I am, but I am determined to do this without making you go through this with me — was the gist of my conversation.
My māmā as selfless as she is just spoke words that brought tears to my eyes.
“This is your journey and you’re an adult now. You get to make your own decisions. I have taught you the values I thought were the best to live by, just stay safe,” and with that, my mother gave me permission to search for who I was.
This was the start of my whakapapa journey.
In April of that year, I decided to do Shave for a Cure. My Nanna had died of Leukemia and I figured if I was going to shave my hair off I would do it for a great cause. Thanks to Queen Olivia St Redfern I was able to raise over $3,000 for Leukemia research.
Shaving my head really helped me question what beauty was. I had no hair to hide behind. Something that as a fat woman I had often done. It made me come to grips with who I was quite quickly. Or at least to fake enough confidence to pretend like I had.
I had helped to set up WWGSD event in June of this year. To this day I still have close friends who I met at this first event and keep in touch. Especially the Māori wāhine who have helped me on my journey to this day.
In July I had a pretty jam-packed month. I went to my first Te Tiriti o Waitangi training. I remember being so visibly angry at the end of it. Especially after learning the history of Wakefield, walking down the streets of Wellington and punching the signpost. The man was a kidnapper and thief, yet we glorified him in a road sign by naming a street after him. This was the start of me starting to realise the true history of New Zealand. That for so many years the history had been hidden. I knew because I realised who I descended from.
I sat there realising that I knew, with everything in my heart, that my tipuna would not have signed te tiriti to sign over sovereignty. I didn’t know how I knew, I could just feel it in my bones, in my everything that my tipuna signed that document thinking it was the best for his people, his whānau. That he thought te tiriti would be a better life for us all.
Well, then I got angry. That I had been lied to my entire life by Government, by my education, by everyone.
I continued on my whakapapa journey, learning as much as I could from websites, social media and any books I could get my hands on. I also had my first te reo lesson. I was very excited about it.
Like all capitals excited.
Then Brenda Wallace, Hīria Te Rangi & I signed papers to form the Charity Whare Hauora at the end of July. We were pretty excited about it.
In September 2016 I sat down and wrote a blog post reflecting on my journey over the 7 months since I had started to find my Māori whakapapa. I had attended another te tiriti training and this quote from my blog really makes me tear up to this day:
In one of the training sessions I sat crying as they outlined what the impacts were and how a lot of it was what I was feeling or missing. A sense of longing for something, no connectedness to my whakapapa and a loss of language and traditions.
A small quote from 2016 me that has me smiling.
I now stand taller and stronger understanding who my ancestors are and how that has brought me here today. I will not stop hunting for information and I will make connections with extended whānau I now know exist.
Past me could not even comprehend how far I would go. How far that thirst for knowledge and information would take me. To my tīpuna guiding me into adventures, opportunities and stories. To me, who dived off the cliff into the metaphorical ocean below. Allowing myself to be engulfed in Te Ao Māori.