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

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Language Revitalization and Cultural Continuity

By Anna Huard, 2nd year MDP student

Anna with students from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o
 As an Indigenous woman, I am passionate about the tactics and tools Indigenous groups adopt to promote language revitalization and cultural continuity. By engaging with the Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti (a Māori immersion school from grades K – 6), I was able to gain insight to Māori ways of life. I was introduced to the Principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti, Tiahuia Kawe-Small, through the University of Otago. 

The greatest learning experience I have gained during my time spent at the Kura is being able to hear directly from the students why being fluent in te reo Māori is so important. The most striking observation I found was how confident the Māori students are when communicating with others (students, staff and guests, alike). These students uphold such a strong sense of identity that their sense of belonging is not put into question. I found this to be substantially different from Canadian Indigenous children, where the majority of our youth are raised without the knowledge that their cultures are relevant.

I also worked with the organizing committee coordinator with the Matariki Indigenous Peoples’ Program, which was a two-week extensive program on Māori sustainable development. The University of Otago hosted several university students and professors (including some from their own institution) from around the world, such as Dartmouth (U.S.), Durham (UK), Queens (Canada), and Western Australia. These days were long but incredibly rewarding. We took tours to maraes and museums, listened to knowledge keepers and academics, as well as engaged in meaningful conversations on how we could all learn from each other. 

I wish to thank Dr. Poia Rewi, the Dean of Te Tumu (School of Māori, Pacific, and Indigenous Studies), at the University of Otago, who was incredibly accommodating and supportive. Te Tumu is doing amazing work for Indigenous development and has no intention of slowing down their progress.

At a marae on the first day of the Matariki Indigenous Peoples' Program

Friday, 30 September 2016

The journey is long but every step counts!

By Aliraza Alidina

My placement at the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg has officially ended but the project I am working on will take a while to get completed. 

Following up on the report published by the Immigration Partnership Winnipeg in April 2015 titled “Creating inter-cultural understanding: Relationship between Urban Indigenous Communities and Immigrant and Refugee Newcomers in Winnipeg’s inner-city” authored by Muuxi Adam, I am working on a report that will outline different organizations in the settlement sector who are engaged in initiatives regarding Newcomer Indigenous relations. I am interested to know how the initiatives have been designed, what elements have been incorporated, the expected goals, challenges faced, next steps and the way forward. 

The report by Muuxi Adam – which was based on focus groups of about 88 participants from each of the Indigenous and Newcomer communities and facilitated by Jackie Hogue – included important recommendations such as the following:

  • Indigenous leaders should be given a role in the orientation of newcomers, specifically in the welcoming process
  • There needs to be more programs and workshops that can stimulate awareness about the cultures of both communities
  • There needs to be partnerships between Indigenous serving organizations and Newcomer serving organizations
  • There is a necessity to create programs that specifically cater to the youth segment

An interesting theme that has subtly emerged – though not extensively at all – from the literature on ‘Newcomer Indigenous relations’ is on the role that ‘cultural brokers’ can play in smoothly bridging relationships particularly for the youth. I first heard about this term from Dr. Jan Stewart of the Faculty of Education at the University of Winnipeg. Cultural brokers include a wide range of activities that not only facilitate interaction between different groups, but also create greater understanding. In many cases, these brokers can produce an effective change. The cultural brokers that have shown to be very effective in different parts of the world are sports and creative arts (drawings, photography, digital projects, cultural exhibitions, etc.). Through these activities youth develop self-esteem, self-advocacy skills and most importantly understanding and relating to each other in an often intimate and experiential way. 

This is an important area which I think is very relevant to the project that I am working on. In my opinion, this has not received enough attention in the literature on Newcomer/Indigenous relations. In fact, some of the good initiatives in Winnipeg do include cultural brokers (though often not acknowledged as such); however the use of cultural brokers is not much mentioned in policy recommendations. There is also some indication that some of these cultural brokers can play an important role in the healing process from an Indigenous perspective. Giving importance to ceremonies, circle talks, and interactive dialogues has a lot of potential.

There is much more that I would have loved to engage in, but it’s beyond the scope of this project. Maybe for another time! I can mention a few areas here though: international student’s orientation, citizenship tests, citizenship oath, language tests, country guide, and overseas orientation initiatives.
There is certainly a long way to go. For that reason, the conversation has to carry on.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

On Oneness – O’ahu, Hawai’i

By Jasmin Winter, soon-to-be 2nd year MDP student 

Although my tan may already be beginning to fade, my memories from this summer certainly won’t any time soon. I can honestly say that the transformative nature of the time I spent in Hawai’i merits the cheesiness of that opening sentence. 

In three months I went through the process of first adapting to and then striving to understand Honolulu and Hawai’i to the best of my ability. I learned so much from the team at We Are Oceania and my friends in Honolulu about Hawai’i, the Pacific, and new ways of looking at the world at large. The challenges and experiences that I encountered this summer also taught me a lot about myself, my values, and my priorities. 

The We Are Oceania 'ohana
In the weeks since I wrote my first blog post, my role at WAO shifted incrementally. After completing a digital storytelling project about the cultural importance and relevancy of basket weaving, I was asked to create more educational, informational videos regarding migration, health care, and tax systems and processes. My projects changed in tandem with the advent of WAO’s deadline to become an independent charity. By the end of my placement, WAO’s parent organization had yet to decide if they wanted to continue the mentoring relationship that had been established, and WAO has therefore not met this goal. Although tensions rose during this transition period, I would not have wanted to do my placement at any other time, because I grew that much closer to the team at WAO and felt genuinely invested in their success. In this way, my placement is not really ending even though I have left Hawai’i. The expression “A hui hou” means “Goodbye, until we meet again,” and I will definitely be keeping up my relationship with WAO until I can physically return. 

The final product of the basket weaving workshop
There’s a lot of talk about “culture shock” when going to a new city or country, but this trip is the first that I have taken where I have felt a sense of shock coming home. Although I have always been very analytical about Canada, having this experience in Hawai’i as a direct comparison has further widened my perspective, shedding new light on both positive and negative aspects of the place that I have come back to.

The piece of insight that I think most resonated with me is the distinction between “oneness” and “sameness,” which, when intersected with the nuances between “equality” and “equity,” teaches the need to be open about engaging with multiculturalism or any inter-group dynamic through the understanding, not the dismissal, of differences. Oneness acknowledges the importance of history, heritage, and traditional knowledge, and helps us paint a much more complex picture of humanity and society.

I am really excited to begin the new school year with this, and everything about this summer in mind.