Saturday, 18 June 2016

Building Relationships

By Vanessa Tait, 2nd year MDP student

In today’s society, there is such pressures to produce outcomes versus taking the time required to build trusting relationships first and seeing where that leads, see what it could look like – this takes a lot of time” -- Vanessa Tait

Vee (L) and Leah (R) with Academic Director, Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai - after being welcomed to the traditional territory of the Waikato-Tainui people

Offering tobacco to the Waikato River - Giving thanks for allowing us to share this space.
The relationships we have with one another, with the land and water are interconnected.  Having always dreamed of visiting New Zealand and meeting the Maori people, the opportunity came when I could choose a field placement anywhere internationally as a requirement for the Master’s program I am a part of.   

From the moment I was connected with the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development, the relationship began with the connection of one of my instructors who had visited the college before and had a connection with the Academic Director and another colleague of the college.  I had connected with the college via email introduction, followed by a few Skype meetings.   

As mentioned it takes time to build relationships, therefore in order for us to understand the projects and where it would lead we needed to be in their space and develop a relationship with the people, land and water of the area we would be working in.  

Building a connection with the Tree - the sweatpants say it all - "Respect"
Upon arriving at the college, we were introduced and welcomed into the college whanau (family) with a whakatau (welcoming) circle.  It was a familiar feeling to me to be in a circle and be welcomed in such a gentle way to our journeys ahead here in Hopuhopu, New Zealand.

Being the first time in another country, there was a need to connect and ground myself with the land and water.  It is important to build a relationship with all your surroundings not just the two-legged.  This part of the world is beautiful and to be connected to everything here and welcomed in such an amazing way makes this new relationship one that I know will last a lifetime.  

Back to my project, as I am introduced to the other entities connected with the college and welcomed and greeted I am humbled.  It is inspiring to see the amazing things that the Waikato-Tainui people are doing.  It is in this introduction that I am connected with two individuals that I will have the opportunity to learn from and share with on my project.  The project is focusing on community development and looking into social enterprises. 

I will stress again, it is important to build trusting relationships as you work with community.  It is within this relationship that the journey of the project will be guided and the outcome will be one that has been built together.  Keep in mind that the outcome is not the end product but the learning and collaboration along the way, remember this takes time and many times relationships have no end……

Friday, 17 June 2016

Views from the 808 – O’ahu, Hawai’i

By Jasmin Winter, 1st year MDP student

“Whatever we produce must not be a version of our existing reality…it must be different, and of our own making. We should not forget that human reality is human creation. If we fail to create our own, someone else will do it for us by default.”
– Epeli Hau’ofa, “A Beginning,” A New Oceania, 1993:128-9.

Beautiful view of the coral forest at Hanauma Bay

I think that many people, after hearing that I am doing a summer field placement in Hawai’i, envision long days spent on palm tree-lined beaches, soaking up the sun with fresh coconuts in hand. I am happy to report that my placement so far has been full of that and much, much more. 

Jasmin (R) in front of the WAO office with Kathy Martin (L), case manager

My placement is with the organization We Are Oceania (WAO), which consists of an amazing team of people promoting empowerment and self-sufficiency amongst the Micronesian population in Hawai’i. Micronesians are the most recent migrant group to Hawai’i, and WAO works towards creating an environment of cultural pluralism in which they can navigate Hawaiian systems and services while still maintaining their home values and traditions. They strive for a world in which Indigenous peoples are respected, celebrated, and honored as part of the local culture of success, and can therefore play an influential role in the shaping of society. 

Through my time here I have gained a deeper understanding of the complex intersection between migrant and Indigenous identities. As WAO is also working towards becoming an independent 501(c)(3) public charity under the mentorship of the Partners in Development Foundation, I have also gained greater insight into the highs and lows of non-profit work. 

Enjoying a fresh coconut at popular shrimp truck
Serendipitously, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) held their annual meeting in Honolulu on May 19-21. Julie Nagam, my supervisor from the University of Winnipeg, was gracious enough to allow me to sit on her roundtable to speak about the Initiative for Indigenous Futures project ( The discussion that ensued was fascinating, and engaged with questions about technology and traditional knowledge and the tension between its ability to connect or isolate us when it comes to other people, the land, non-human and spiritual relationships. We talked further about Indigenous participation in gamification, video games, augmented and virtual reality, and it was so cool to sit amongst a room full of people who were on the same page about the potential for Indigenous peoples to be at the forefront of these futuristic conceptualizations. 

In my spare time, I am playing quidditch with the University of Hawai’i’s Alohamoras (the most clever Harry Potter inspired team name to ever exist), and trying not to think about how I am already half way through my time here already!