I lift my head – I stand as ten thousand

Eternally pulling the mountains of home

inner yearnings for that special place

like ebbing tides that draw us close

we wait

for meaning

for purpose

life giving embers

that burn bright

wild and untamed

organic free range

roots rendered deep

an apple

descended from ten thousand seeds

sown

homegrown

every birth known

a gift

a breeze blows

kangaroos call

promises made

grasses more greener

dollars even sweeter

golden coasts

blue seas

happy endings

new beginnings

I turn my head

wire fences

soldiers standing

severing

pulsating

scarring our sacred earth

fracturing our ties

disrupting

devastating

dividends we now wait

hands too soft

hearts too homeless

indigenous or industrious?

Are you my motherland?

Miles travelled

thousands banked

grades given

papers earned

name known

published yet?

My mind aches

my heart wanders

cut the cord

eat fish

fly free

we pause

we dream

I am torn

ripples race

time ticks

goose bumps on my skin

I close my eyes

surveilling

travailing

wailing

transcending

beating hearts

sensing

knowing

legacies echoing

thousands before me

my heart warms

I lift my head

 

I share this poem as a reflection of my own journey trying to find coherence amongst all of the chaos. Of navigating pathways towards enlightenment and understanding my own sense of success and happiness. I realise how torn I am by what I do every day and the dreams that I have.

The pressure to be industrious and high performing consumes me and I often catch myself out –literally out of breath and all tangled up in a web of people pleasing. I miss my indigenous self, you know – the one that you bump into every now and then that has a grateful heart and a free spirit, that looks at the sun to tell the time and runs to go fishing when the fish are running.

I have somehow conformed to measuring a good day by the number of emails I’ve responded to, the words I’ve written, the tasks I’ve performed – all whilst never quite stepping foot outside to let my bare feet feel Papatūānuku beneath me. It pains me that most days I find myself tied by invisible chains to my desk – a form of prison that I impose upon myself as I work relentlessly to each deadline and then the next. These days I find myself measuring my unwellness by the number of times I’ve washed the same washing in the machine before getting to hang it out, or how big my Hikurangi like maunga is of papers to read, reports to write, jobs to be done. Never mind as well this huge elephant of a phd that sits in the corner, like a kēhua (ghost) on my back.

Why have I allowed myself to be tamed, to be a slave to this system? My step-son asked me with intense curiosity the other day – ‘What is a deadline?’; I paused – I literally tried to dream up a better response as I began to frightfully unpack the very word that I had thrown around so carelessly most of my adult life. It dawned on me in that moment that I was constantly pushing myself, working harder, doing more and at what cost? How did this happen? How did this mangopare from Te Whakatōhea, this iti kōpara from Ngāi Tai, this kahawai from Te Whānau-a-Apanui, this toki mareikura from Ngāti Porou, this mokopuna o te kohu from Tūhoe end up a guinea pig on a hamster wheel?

I feel like I’ve learnt so much, but that my greatest lessons will result from all that I choose to unlearn. My best ever research was when I was four years old. A time when I asked real, raw questions of the world and spoke to my ‘invisible friends’.

My phd journey is nearly complete and I feel like my real learnings are just about to begin – much like this blog that provides a place for us to stand, to share, to surveil, to wail, to transcend, to sing, to soothe, to lift our heads. The space that exists outside of the institution is uniquely infinite and challenges us to learn to unlearn, to deconstruct in order to reconstruct and most importantly to re-search to re-member.

Our whakapapa – our glorious tapestry of the past, the present and the future that binds us as one and allows us to stand as ten thousand reminds us that it has all been written. It has been no accident that we find ourselves (albeit awkwardly at times) ascending this doctoral journey. I am certain that my tīpuna, just like yours have forged this path before us, carved these dreams and hoped for greater legacies to be left across each and every generation.

I challenge us all to ask of ourselves each day, ‘What are we doing to be the shark that fights to the end, the bellbird that reaches the great heights of the kahikatea tree, the fish that feeds its people, the noble woman strong like a stone adze or the soft mist resting in the valley?’. Our ancestral teachings reveal to us the importance of who we are and why we are here.

I hope that as indigenous scholars we continue to help each other to lift our heads, to return to our homelands and to bravely step off the hamster wheel that is society as we know it. For when we do, we will truly gain our own sense of self-determination, of success and of happiness.

Jodi Porter

Te Whakatōhea | Ngāi Tai | Te Whānau-a-Apanui | Ngāti Porou | Tūhoe

Te Moana-nui-a-Toi, my ocean – it calls me. I am a descendant of these waters. I am a way finder, just like my great ancestors.

I love discovering new ways to innovate, influence and inspire. I hunt for the first domino, aim for the bulls eye and only invest in what I think will make a difference for us as indigenous peoples. I love to push the boundaries of what is considered possible and think that challenging the logic of the world as we know it should be part of our daily agenda.

I’m hopeful, futuristic and willing to adjust my sails so that the waves of the future may bite at my face. I love agility and try to shapeshift all the time. I’m always trying to experience more and feel with my heart and less with my head. I’m a passionate student of life – naturally inquisitive, curious and ok with asking the right questions even if I have no idea of the answers.

I try to be brave, have courage and reflect everyday what it means to be an indigenous woman. I’m attracted to work that’s about change, transformation, collective impact and indigenous systems innovation.

I’m a believer that our people are the solution and that we must design the world we want to live in. Being part of creating a world that one day my own children will inherit, is at the core of my life’s purpose.

I love being involved in community grounded collaborations and projects; and I’m in the throes of establishing a social enterprise.

You can get in touch at: jodi@poutokomanawa.co.nz

 

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