Recently I had the privilege to attend Te One Kakara, a research symposium in Taranaki, for Māori who whakapapa to Taranaki mounga, and for Māori who live in the Taranaki region. Ngā mihi nunui ki ngā kaiwhakahaere, kia Dee, Arama, Will and Ripeka. Tino rawe te kaupapa.
It was an incredible three days. The pre-symposium hikoi around South Taranaki highlighted the rich history of the rohe, connecting us to whakapapa, whenua and whānau. The next two days of research presentations showed just how much talent we have in our Taranaki iwi and in Te Ao Māori. Meeting amazing whanaunga doing amazing mahi was really inspiring. One whanaunga, Ali, talked about “using the crown system to fight the crown system” and all our kōrero and research highlighted that although we are forced to operate within the academic institutional settings that are not made for our people, we are using our own mātauranga Māori to work this system.
The symposium also, importantly, gave researchers such as myself who were not bought up in the rohe, a safe space in which to reconnect. I am a Māori researcher, but in the past few years in particular I have been looking for ways to become a Taranaki researcher. Yet there has been a lack of knowledge (and confidence) of how to forge this pathway. And here was a brilliant opportunity for me to build relationships, meet whānau and let them know I have some skills that could be of use (to someone…at some point…sometime). But all within a setting that I was comfortable with to do and say such things. (And how nice was it to be back home for a celebratory occasion!)
In my presentation, I opened with my connections to Aotearoa Pā (thanks to my cousin Eleanor) where the symposium was held. This was a hihiri moment in which I truly realised that my whakapapa cemented my roots to that place, despite internalised guilt of being an urban Maori. As our whanaunga said – it was colonisation that created displacement and disconnection – thus, we need not carry that burden. Our role instead, is to find ways back to our whakapapa. And my way of doing this is through research.
Image credit: https://www.facebook.com/events/258784539072187