Indigenous Rights = Gay Rights = Human Survival


Oh yes he did.

You know… I just read someone going OFF about Te Ururoa referencing Tūtanekai in his speech regarding same-sex marriage. Starting with the same old “I got nothing against gays BUT… (followed by ridiculous hate message)”. No coincidence that racist comments often start the same way.

So yes, there are aspects that are specific to each struggle. But we share TOO MANY important similarities for an anti-gay agenda to make any kind of sense in an indigenous space.

Because guess what, Maori… Tutanekai was BI. Handle it. And LOOOOADS of our tipuna were queer and it was ALL GOOD. You better believe that any move towards heteronormativity within Māoridom has happened as a result of settler colonization and imposed religious ideals. That’s not just true for us, but for many, MANY other indigenous cultures too.

Yes that’s right – many indigenous cultures have, within their own culture, traditional frameworks for a variety of sexual preferences. It was a natural part of our community and society. Notions of heteronormativity have been absorbed into our cultures as a part of the process of settler colonization. It’s important that the queer voice within our cultures and our histories be celebrated, and promoted – or we risk, as indigenous cultures, being misrepresented, oversimplified, and homogenised. Clive Aspin and Jessica Hutchings have produced rich research around this area for Māori.

Many other indigenous and queer academics have also written about it. It’s not new information.

As Andrea Smith writes:
“a conversation between Native studies and queer theory is important, because the logics of settler colonialism and decolonization must be queered in order to properly speak to the genocidal present that not only continues to disappear indigenous peoples but reinforces the structures of white supremacy, settler colonialism, and heteropatriarchy that affect all peoples”

(I’m gonna say it… boom)

You cannot form an argument for basic human rights to be afforded to one group, and yet withhold it from another. To argue that you should not subject to violent and hostile attacks, systemic bias, or any other kind of discrimination because of who you are rings true regardless of whether this is related to ethnicity or sexual orientation.

In both instances we are experiencing a lack of wellbeing, or harm, related to control or restraint of love and acceptance. In the case of indigenous culture this relates not only to the love and acceptance afforded to our ways of being, but also the love of the land. As a HUMAN RACE we should be seeking to move closer to a space of positivity, love and acceptance. We need to do this in order to heal ourselves, and that includes becoming closer to the land, acknowledging that our own wellbeing and future depends upon the recognition of a wider experience – the wellbeing of the plants, of the trees, of the soil, the waterways, the fish, birds, insects and animals… the entire notion of biodiversity and ecological interdependence compels us to acknowledge that we must consider the wellbeing and rights of all that is around us, and not just from our perspective but from their perspective as well. Biodiversity tells us to acknowledge and allow for diversity in order to survive.

The land is suffering because of our incapacity to do this. The people of the land are suffering because of our incapacity to do this. It is in our interests, as indigenous people, to model the love and acceptance that we require for our land, toward each other. Hell the entire PLANET is suffering because of people’s inability to think justly, and fairly, and with love – it’s in our best interests as a SPECIES to change our attitudes.

So let me be patently clear on this point – if you participate in anti-queer agendas, you are moving further away from where we need to be as a human race, further away from where we need to be in indigenous rights, and further away from where we need to be if we have any hope of evolving into a population that exhibits sustainable behaviour. You think homosexuality will wipe us out? We’ve done just fine with it in our communities for 200,000 years. No, if anything’s going to wipe us out it will be our own ridiculous ignorance.

Still not clear enough? Then here: WE’RE ALL FIGHTING THE SAME FIGHT, SUCKER.


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Taku mea e haramai nei, ē
He whakahou mai ki ahau, ē,
He torotoro i tō waimanu, ē,
E mau nei, kei te paheke, nā

E hua noa ana te ngākau, ē,
He haohao i aku mahara, ē,
Taria ia rā kia tuakina, ē,
Katea ia rā kei te marae, rā.


So today was a beautiful day. A niece of mine has begun her sacred lunar cycle, and I was so honoured to share that sacred space with her through the day – sharing stories of our ancestresses, of our divinity, of the incredible power that lies in this process. I shared my first time with her, what it was like… I shared what I knew of how it was for our Nannies. We talked about cramps and sickness and volume and length and all of the related realities. We spoke of our genealogical lineage that goes all the way back to our divine beginnings. We spoke of whenua (land/placenta), of kurawaka (sacred red earth)… we spoke of inspirational women, admired empowering wahine Maori art, listened to inspirational music, we sung, we prayed. We painted hue (gourds) and made cloth pads, while talking about the healthiest way to care for our whenua within and our whenua without.

We are fortunate to have remnants of songs and prayer that reference the divine power – and we’re incredibly fortunate to have people like Ngahuia Murphy, who’s seminal work on menstruation in pre-colonial Maori world, Te Awa Atua has collated these remnants to rebuke the dominant, dis-empowering colonial discourse and provoke a vital, and long overdue discussion around the reclamation of indigenous voice, most especially in relation to our sacred spaces. This woman is a taonga for our people and I have endless love and respect for who she is, the kaupapa she carries, and how she carries it.

I drew from what I knew to create our own ceremonial celebration today – and I would implore all women to do the same for our young wāhine as they step into this, the most powerful aspect of their femininity.

Mauri ora x


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I’m late with my weigh in again… well I DO weigh in on time but inevitably the write up gets put off pending completion of a bunch of other tasks that were put off earlier. You know… work/writing/meetings/blahblah. Poor blog hasn’t been getting the attention that it deserves. Pat pat. You’ll survive.

SO…. 40gms :) A packet of Huancaina sauce that a good friend brought as a gift from Peru added considerably… sigh. I couldn’t turn it away. Well I could, and I started to… anyways you gotta know the friend I’m talking about to understand.

Plus… Huancaina.

So on to the tally it went. Oh and an old iphone charge cord that just doesn’t go. Some receipts, and some plastic that was stuffed inside a cardboard delivery box. I decided that I’m going to start weighing the plastic that I pick up when I walk Ella and Benny down the beach to offset that against my plastic waste measurement. A plastic footprint, if you will. So, as I only managed to get in two walks from that decision to weigh in, here’s what I picked up in 2 days – 5kgs. Some of the identifiable objects were jandals, ice cream containers, take away containers, drink bottles, caps, drink bottle rings…some polystyrene meat trays… a lot of plastic bags…. a nappy… a bong…


Yep…. so my waste production for July was 25gms – and I picked up 5kg of plastic from the beach for 2 days (and there’s no way I’m going to be able to do monthly amounts)…. leaving a footprint of -4.6gm.

Even better news though… is that at this stage of the month (late July) I don’t have any plastic waste and am looking at my first truly plastic waste free month. Weehee!

Also, of course, we had Plastic Free July. What started out in Perth a few years ago is now a worldwide event. Here in Gisborne we ran the “Buy One Get One Tree” initiative with 3 cafés – where they kept a tally of every time a customer brought in their own cup for a coffee. For each coffee sold in a reusable cup, the Women’s Native Tree Project planted a tree. Frank and Albies, Morrell’s Bakery and Verve Café all had a shot but it was Frank and Albies that went off the charts with a whopping 430 coffees for the month!

So here’s what that looks like in an infogram. pfjinfo

Thing is… that’s only about 50 trees. In actual fact the nearly 500 trees that we wound up planting for Plastic Free July just wouldn’t of course, fit to scale on that size paper and isn’t that a beautiful thing. If we can make that kind of change in just one month, with three cafés, then imagine what you can do in a year – imagine what you could do with 20 cafés.

This was a pretty easy initiative to roll out – everyone was a winner, really. The cafés got some publicity, the Trust did as well. It was just bringing some synergy to what was already there, and adding some intent. You know… I’ve been thinking a lot about personal power – it’s kind of been a theme for this month. What we were able to achieve through that initiative shows us that we CAN make a big difference, a significant difference, with just a few different choices (or even just one). Here’s one of the planting sessions behind Ohako marae, where rakau were planted as riparian vegetation alongside the Te Arai River.

We can do a lot you know – just with a few small changes.

Here’s another thing that we can do that doesn’t take much but can make a big change… VOTE.

In case you didn’t notice – things are pretty crud. Our whānau are sick and goodness me but our whenua and waterways are very very sick. This government has levelled abuse at Papatūānuku time and time again. Asset sales, the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement, RMA reforms, Freshwater Plans, The Maori Land Act review… all combining to create a more permissive climate for “development” (read: environmental devastation).

Know this: National government have a specific goal and it’s very simple. It’s called short term $$ gains for a very small group of people (and if you’re reading this blog you’re probably not in that group). All at the expense of our water and whenua.

Papatūānuku is under attack and our strongest weapon is coming up on September 20th. National are banking that you won’t use it. For gods sakes, let’s use it.

I get it… I know… we’ve been dicked over time and time again. Native Land Court. Suppression of Rebellion Act, Native Reserves Act. Foreshore and Seabed. The systems and agencies that surround us are biased…. They’re biased when they’re Labour, they’re biased when they’re National. The system is broken and we need to denounce the system. We deserve a better system, one that looks after us better.

Here’s the bitter pill: We have to participate IN the system in order to change the system.

And change has already happened. The beast our grandparents faced was very different to what we face today. It’s no walk in the park… but we have kōhanga reo, we have kura kaupapa, we have Maori seats, we have Māori Television and Radio – and many of these things were helped by those who kept standing up, re-engaging in the struggle, and fighting again.

We’re not beaten. And we’re not victims. We kick ass on the sportsfield. We kick ass on the haka stage. We kick ass in business. And we can kick ass for Papatūānuku too. The John Keys of this world… the Don Brashes, the Bill Englishes, the Judith Collins’, the Gerry Brownlees… they WANT you to feel beaten. They want you to give up. They want you to not vote.

It’s the same with our local councils. We have some very good councillors. And we have some very good people and groups working within councils. But boy do we have some wanker councillors too (and certainly they’re not going to be effectively regulated by environmental legislation). There are some that simply don’t seem to care about the environment unless they’re forced to – and then you have those who would rather serve their own agendas, permit activity that will benefit them and their families and friends and cost the land, cost us, cost future generations… and how do they get away with it?

Easy… Apathy.

Our apathy.

Enough of us have stopped caring, stopped even looking, for those types to be doing this in broad daylight and getting away with it.

Here’s a few examples:
In Gisborne, we have a couple of VERY good water advisory groups. There are some people on there that care more about industry, but there are also people on there that care a LOT about our water quality. They’re informed and engaged, and are placing pressure on council to take decisive action regarding our waterways.

SO – Taruheru River. Flows through our town and it’s currently, often very very toxic. We have a Taruheru Restoration Plan. However – at the same time our Council is planning to flood the river using a weir so that it can be used as a flatwater sports facility (the feasibility study results still aren’t back yet by the way). Why are we even courting the idea of such large ecological impacts when we can’t even sort out our own wastewater issues?

We also have a Waipaoa restoration plan. YET Council are granting consents for oil and gas exploratory drilling that is undoubtedly negatively impacting upon the tributary streams to the Waipaoa.

Can we have a “Screwed System” Plan?

We say we value our rivers, but then Council consents to more intensive forestry operations, when we already have severe sediment problems.

We have raw sewerage being flushed into our rivers. Our people are falling ill with Giardia. Giardia for crying out loud. When they flush the sewerage into our river, our council say that upgrading our pipe system is a priority. BUT when the vote went to council to prioritise the upgrade, all but three rejected it.

Mayor Meng Foon stood in front of a room full of people and lied last night – saying that we have solved the issue of the ‘para’ in the harbour. No we haven’t. The effluent pipe is still flowing out into the harbour. The wastewater is still being flushed out raw at the same regularity. Nothing has changed. Oh wait… now GDC tell us when it’s happening. That’s changed.

That changed when the people started to pay attention, and call for attention.

This last month we’ve also had a by-election – and lo and behold we have a fresh, young, Maori councillor. Hooray for better representation… Hooray for Maori getting out there to vote and most of all hooray for that being reflected in the results.

The system still needs to change – and just like we effected change in those instances above… just like we effected change to get support for kura kaupapa, kohanga reo and wānanga… we can change these decision making systems too but we need to back ourselves – like we do on the stage….

like we do in sports…

That’s how we have to approach voting, and making change with government. We gotta back ourselves… And you gotta participate. You gotta bug council, let them know that you’re on to them. You gotta keep getting up and fighting. It’s not easy – hell I’m still trying to get the wheels back on our bid for a plastic bag ban in our town (we WILL get there)….

Here’s the other really important thing I’ve got to say about this – yes, we have to keep pressure on the system to change… but we CAN’T WAIT FOR ANYONE TO SAVE US. No law will do that, if we can’t make that fundamental change, ourselves… in our hearts.

Go along to a tree planting project.. Minimise your waste. Take your own coffee cup, and refill your own water bottle. Start a small maara. Go and see if your local marae maara needs a hand. Go for a walk down to your awa. Find out what’s going on with your awa and whenua.

This is a matter of returning to ourselves. Our tipuna were one with the environment. It adorns our wharenui and frames our identity:




We sing of it… we pray of it… we weave it… we paint it… we wear it… we carve it.

We have to step up for it.


The Review. (About Bloody Time)


So here it is… my review of menstrual products for non-plasty rebels. First of all – there are a LOT of reviews out there, and I’ve found most of them very helpful – it’s always a good idea to get a few different reviews from the likes of Plastic Free and Vegan
, Beth Terry, and this SUPER detailed cool one by Lauren Wayne


Initially I tried the Natracare products – so – first things first. The regular (as in non-applicator) tampons are wrapped in plastic.

In every other way, though, they are much better than “mainstream”(haha punny) tampons. Certified organic, unbleached, non-GMO cotton. The pads, however, are NOT wrapped in plastic – and are fully compostable.

Commonsense Organics stock Natracare, and in Gisborne you can find them in Manutuke Herbs.

In both cases I found them quite comparable to any other tampon and pad, did the job just fine. I’m not a huge fan of pads, though, especially ones with wings. Maybe I’m un-co I’m not sure but they always seem to bunch and move about and the wing bit sticks to the base bit and gaahhh… it’s kind of like a sticky tape disaster except your undies are involved. Hōhā.


Now you have a few options here – you can make your own, by hand even. I’ve heard of others repurposing an old sock as well. Or you can purchase them online – Environmenstruals have a decent range or, again, at Commonsense Organics (I picked mine up from the central Wellington store although they don’t appear to be on the website).

COMFY! I’ve found mine to be pretty handy, actually. I did have a little problem with it shifting around a bit but hey… couply safety pins and you’re good to go. I still use mine for back up with my cup. Only thing is though – once they’re at full capacity you really need to be at home because you can’t exactly rinse/wash them out and then put a soggy cloth pad in your bag or pocket – not to mention it’ll probably be a bit awkward at a communal bathroom sink.


So THIS I was excited about. I looked at a bunch of options on Environmenstruals and decided to go with the Femmecup – I liked the measuring lines for tracking your flow and thought the little cloth bag was cute. Unfortunately it arrived wrapped in plastic (which made it’s way to my plastic tally for that month). Anyways – they’re usually made of latex, soft plastic, or in the case of mine (Femmecup) medical grade silicon. The cup is held between the vaginal walls, just below the cervix and catches the flow in the cup rather than absorbing it. Apparently they last longer than tampons but so far I have had to change mine more often in the first couple of days… although maybe that’s a user interface error :P . Just to be safe, I use my cloth pad on the first couple of days. They don’t dry the vagina out the way that some tampons can, you DON’T wind up putting bleached cotton with residual pesticides etc inside your whare tangata and you know what… it’s just better for you to become acquainted with the flow, texture, and colour of your Awa Atua. Really – stop putrifying it, that’s medieval patriarchal bollocks. I’ve never been a fan of how we treat our sacred sheddings as waste anyways – so I’m pretty happy to be using an alternative. I’m now at the point that I’m considering how to use it rather than simply disposing of it – so far I’m a fan for using it as fertilizer for a really kickass plant – like a Venus Fly Trap. I shall call her Gladys.

Anyways – the cup is a little finnickity to work out at first, but once you get your technique down it’s ok… you need to fold it and then twist as you insert. It’ll form a seal between the walls. Like I said… I’m still using a cloth pad for back up on days 1 and 2 but after that I’m all goods (reading through some reviews while writing this, I’ve seen a couple of more technique tips that I may try out). I’ve certainly enjoyed getting to know my flow better and of all the options this one will give you the most information on how much you’re shedding and what that might look like. Observing your blood can give you valuable information about your health and fertility.

Another option is sea sponge – I haven’t used one myself but here is a GOOD review on them by Raising My Boychick.

So there you have it, folks – no need for us to be using those toxin-loaded, GM cotton, petroleum plasticky baddies in or anywhere near our whare tangata.


The Very Late June Tally


Now you guys know what my professors feel like (and if you’re reading this and are one of my students, that was not automatic licence for an extension).
Life has been crazy this past month, well life is crazy in general. GREAT crazy though – lots of new projects on the go, and wonderful events around the place. But first things first! June weigh in:



Made up of: A sticky plaster, a coffee lid (total brainfart moment while in a hui and someone was taking orders for coffees duuuhhh), the plastic wrap from my mooncup (review coming up next post!!), a latex glove that I’ve had since last year and used to keep the water off my sticky plaster (I’ve reused the glove a bunch of times but now it’s torn), the lid of a gingerbeer, the lid of a cider bottle, and a few receipts.

Doing ok! I rather suspect July will be not as good though – I totally flaked the other day on the way to a hui which I’d helped organise – I thought we’d be able to stop at the bakers to grab a loaf or something to take, you know… kōha, manaaki etc. Except the bakers were closed. There was only the 4square open and as I felt the clock ticking I stood in front of that damn shelf of plastic wrapped biscuits having the MEAN internal dialogue:

“Get over yourself Tina, you can’t go empty handed, that’s just not on”

“But I can’t! Look at them, they’re so… manufactured and plasticky!

“You’re going to be late. Cuz is waiting in the car. Get the damn biscuits already.”

“But… but… what about some mandarins!”

(Walk over to the mandarins, which are dry and also have plastic stickers on them)
(Return to the biscuits)

“Get. The damn. Biscuits.”

“But the plaaaastiiiiiic”

“Get the biscuits, get in the car, weigh the plastic at the end of the month, fess up to it, and I promise from now on we’ll do a heap of home baking just for hui and manuhiri.”

Eventually, on that promise to myself, I reluctantly dragged myself, sulking at myself, to the counter with a packet of Ginger Kisses. Sugary ginger kisses of deceit.

Do you know what really sucks? They didn’t get eaten, didn’t even get opened… and I can’t take them back with me so I’m going to have to just… add some penalty grams or something to the July tally.

I baked like a mofo for the next two days. I’m still baking.

As an aside: When I got into the car with the ginger kisses and a big pout, my cousin was so devastatingly sweet about the whole thing – saying she would have driven us to find another bakery, that we could have gone into town, and yes we would have been late but I could, probably, have called. Lesson learnt – People get what you’re doing, and most of the time they’ll be cool with the little complications it makes. So don’t freak yourself out. And be better prepared.

And mistakes are ok. Really.

Here’s a clip I want to share with you – it’s my very good friend, Ngapaki Moetara. Ngapaki has recently moved here from Wellington, and is on a journey, which she’s sharing on her facebook page TuRongo Rongoā A journey about detoxifying her life, and learning how to grow her own food, and make her own rongoā (medicine) for her and her young whānau:

Gorgeous, nē? And you know what I love about it? I love her openness – that mess of a rongoā station is an absolute heart stealer to me – because that’s what people need to see – the realness of it. We have our messy days – hell we have messy LIVES. But we’re still here, we’re still doing what we can, when we can, however we can. It’s not a flawless story – reality never is – but that’s where the beauty begins. Those beautiful flaws that make the rest of us smile and feel a little bit more comfortable. We make a commitment to do a bit better, and to never give up, and we soldier on.

Here’s another one of my favourite wāhine, along these lines:

Marama Davidson – Yeah I intentionally chose a pic that looks like she’s about to have a bladder eruption from giggling. Cause how cool is that.

Marama is a strong, valued political voice in Aotearoa for women and children, for ethnic minorities, for indigenous rights, and for the environment. She is a tireless campaigner of social justice, a social media BOSS and a devoted mother… but probably one of my favourite qualities of hers is her unstinting honesty about the messiness of life.

A few cases in point:


Here’s her gorgeous maungakakahu.
Which of course set a bunch of us to post back our own growing laundry mountains in support and gratitude:




And here was mine, at the time:

Ah the solidarity when we realise we’re not the only ones with messy couches.

And then there is this, this, this

I can’t say how much my heart sings to hear women remind each other of these truths. The truths of our humanity, the truths of our irretractable divinity, the solidarity, support and understanding we can offer each other.

There’s another aspect to it – KNOWING WHAT MATTERS. There’s a whole lot going on in the world right now. Sometimes maunga kakahu just needs to be there for the day while you sort a few other things out. The other day I had a LONG list of to-dos. A few phonecalls, some unexpected complications, and at the end of the day I looked at the list and not one thing had been ticked off.

But I DID do this:

I’m pretty good with the fact that that’s what I did get done.

Now, nobody’s saying live slovenly. But the bare truth of the matter is – it’s HARD staying on top of everything. People often ask me how I handle and juggle everything – and there are varying responses akin to a) being single b) not having children or c) not really knowing but somehow I fluke it. All of those have elements of truth but the wider truth is probably this:

I don’t, really.

I mean, to say I handle and juggle everything would be to infer that it all stays up in the air and me on my feet and that just isn’t the truth.

I fall over, often. I’m late with stuff, often. Sometimes I miss appointments (I try not to but it happens). My house is… seriously… piled up with books, books, paperwork, books, and laundry… and there’s a LOT of filing to be done. There are days when I feel strong and there are days when I feel incredibly weak and just want to hide from, well, everything. There are projects that I’ve not yet gotten around to that I intended to start a long time ago.
Sometimes I have a good old cry.
Somedays I accidentally grab plastic (as you’ve seen). This month I knowingly did. :(

But I always, always, get back up the next day and give it another go.

And that’s the best you can do for yourself, and a wonderful gift to give others, too. Give yourself permission to be flawed, to be beautifully flawed. To learn from those flaws, and commit to working on them. You’ll see… everyone else will post their messy couches too. :)

Island Wisdom, Ocean Connections, Global Lessons

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I tēnei rā whakahirahira o ngā moananui, ānei rā aku TINO mihi ki o tātau whanaunga i runga i a HōkūIe’a runga i a Hikianalia. Mā Ranginui, mā Tāwhirimātea, mā Tangaroa, mā Hinemoana koutou e manaaki, e tieki, i runga i ngā ara o o tātau tīpuna. Nā koutou i whakarongo, i whakahoki ki te karanga a Hinemoana kia tū mai tātau, kia mau ki ngā taonga heke iho hei ara tōtika, hei tauira mā tātau katoa. Nō reira e ngā karere o Kiwa… ka mau te wehi – haere pai atu, hoki pai mai.

Island Wisdom, Ocean Connections, Global Lessons

On this day, World Oceans Day, I would like to acknowledge the incredible work of the Polynesian Voyaging Society in raising awareness about the health of our oceans. We are people of the sea. It was the cry of our oceans that set me on this path, and it is the cry of the oceans that these incredible voyagers have responded to in the most profound and inspiring of ways. Since the 1970s our Kanaka Maoli whanau have worked tirelessly to restore our voyaging traditions, and that is a call that resounded across the pacific to many of their relations and to is in Aotearoa. A few years ago a flotilla from across the pacific set sail to circumnavigate the Pacific, and carry the message of our obligation to care for our oceans. Now they are taking that message even further and circumnavigating the globe. The voyage is called Mālama Honua, which means to care for our Earth, and they will carry this vital message of the need to protect our natural and cultural treasures across 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports, and 26 countries.

Travel well, dear cousins, Uncles, Aunties. Bear the call of Hinemoana across the oceans, gather the tide of humanity to answer her call, to live to our fullest potential as consciously loving children of Papatūānuku. May the stars and tides guide you true, may the winds favour you, may Hinemoana and Tangaroa care for you and bring you home safely to your whānau. Mauri taiao, Mauri tangata, Mauri Ora.

Mahalo, Hawai’i

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It’s been a wonderful month for learnings, not so great for plastic waste. Both for the same reason: International travel.

I was VERY fortunate to be selected to present at the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education (WIPC:E),  as a part of a larger delegation of 48 people from Aotearoa. As a group we travelled over to Hawai’i and stayed on the west coast for a few days, hosted by an amazing ohana there, before moving on to the conference in Honolulu for a week.

I’m just going to say now that it is REALLY hard to travel without using plastic. Not impossible, but I learnt a great lesson. Travelling non-plastic requires diligent preparation. Especially when you’re travelling in a group and you don’t necessarily have your own transport, itinerary, or eating arrangements.

Plastic, inside plastic, with other plastic, all wrapped together in plastic…

Plastic on planes…. ohhhh the plastic on planes. The condiments that come plastic wrapped, next to the plastic wrapped cutlery, and the plastic wrapped serviette, all provided inside their own collective plastic bag… and the plastic wrapped blanket… and pillow… and earphones…  And the consistent offerings of water in plastic cups. Do a girl’s head in. I’m writing to Hawaiian Airlines in the hopes that they’ll consider aligning themselves a bit more with the statewide move to reduce plastic waste.

So anyway I did what I could, where I could. I tried using the same cups/cutlery where possible – but like I said travelling in a group without your own itinerary or transport made things difficult. I didn’t bring my plastic waste home with me to weigh so let’s just say yeah, nah…. May has been the big ole plastic fail.

With that out of the way, I have to say, Hawai’i has been the most inspirational and transformative journey I have ever been on – and I’ve done my fair share of travel.

As we moved away from the airport and toward the west, our eyes were glued on the landscape and the beaches – The West Coast of Oahu is, without a doubt, breathtakingly beautiful, in land and in people (it has the highest Maoli population on the island). There’s an undeniable majesty to the whenua, but it is beset by a number of challenges.  The refineries, wastewater plants, and the incredible number of cable systems crisscrossing the landscape reminded us that our tuakana fight the same ngangara as we do in Aotearoa. Our first sight of a homeless camp drew a gasp from some people on the bus, but then moments later came another, and then another, and just like that we realised these communities are another part of the landscape, particularly so for Wai’anae, where these camps have been set up and supported as a means of channelling homeless away from highly visible tourist centers of Waikiki and the North Shore.

It didn’t take long to learn that, like so many other nations that have a colonized indigenous population – the native communities in Hawai’i experience the greatest social and economic challenges – their lands are targetted for toxic landfills, surrounded by chemical research facilities, military training grounds GMO crops and pesticide test crops. Wai’anae is Oahu’s largest native community and has more homeless than anywhere else in the state.

And, like so many other nations that have tried to overthrow indigenous will – there is a deep, profound resilience within the people of the land. A strength underpinned by whakapapa, ancestral ties to the land that are inseverable by nature of their divinity. For all of the anguish I witnessed at the continued barrage of the government, I was inspired the unstinting resistance, the pride, and the resolute nature with which many of them stand their ground, and build toward a new future.

So for the first few days we were hosted by these guys – Ma’o Organic Farms. A non profit organisation based in Wai’anae, they grow organic produce, employing local youth, and linking them into tertiary education – while also promoting sustainable lifestyles, cultural values and community connectedness. We spent a morning working on the farm in various areas, each of the groups led by youth, and I have to say I was blown away by the strength of their character. A truly amazing outfit. They are promoting the values of sustainable practices, championing the incredibly important cause of food sovereignty, providing local youth with an education and income, work ethics, and a skillset that will provide for them and their whanau for the rest of their days. All of this in addition to a growing organic landbase.

Looking out over some of the Ma’o fields toward their solar panel field in the background



Planting up a field of kale – much respect to these youths this is hard work in the Hawai’i sun!


The incredible crew at Ma’o Farms – Kamuela Enos, far left, Social Enterprise Director and the amazing Terri Langley – organic kai extraordinaire…

Just when I thought I could get my head to stop spinning at the awesomeness of it all – I get to go out to dinner with Kamuela and meet his good friend Kevin Chang and powerhouse of a wife Miwa, who is the Deputy Director for KUA, an umbrella organization for a number of the grassroots environmental initiatives happening across the islands. Check out their website and prepare to be seriously blown away by some of the amazing work going on over there.

Here is Kamuela talking about the Ma’o Farms approach to resistance through food sovereignty and education.

And here’s another seriously inspiring talk on clever resistance:

Hawai’i has a LONG history of political resistance, and like our people, have had to make a stand, and hold their ground, numerous times. But it can’t always be about saying no. We need to plan our “Yes” strategy. There is a time for making a stand, and there is a time for moving ahead… and we need to be clever, and strategise, about that path ahead – because if we don’t chart our own progress, then progress will become something that happens TO us. We need to be divergent in our resistance, and arm ourselves no only with flags and placards, but also with pens, with the tools of the maara, with the knowledge of our own ancestral healing systems, with the skills of negotiation.

This resonated so strongly with me – from the creed of my whānau:

To the values of the indigenous sustainability program that I deliver – the harnessing of modern technology, the resurfacing and reapplication of ancestral knowings, the faith in a divine thread that links us to our purpose and to all things – to all that surrounds us – the positive, collaborative, progressive approach to forging our path ahead in this world in a way that maintains our identity, our integrity… the obligations we have to our tipuna to carry their ways of being, and knowing, and doing, forward to our descendents in a way that is meaningful and respectful. This is everything that I am about, so naturally my heart sung every minute that I spent around this kaupapa.
From there I went to WIPC:E – and again, there were many, MANY fantastic experiences, and wonderful workshops, and connections, and how can one not be warmed and inspired when they’re surrounded by so many empowered, gifted, intelligent, indigenous relations.

On our first night in Honolulu we went to the Bishop Museum for the Aotearoa evening. The absolute highlight for me, that evening, was seeing the awe inspiring Dr. Kamana‘opono Crabbe – who, as the CEO for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, wrote to Senator John Kerry asking for legal advice on the sovereign status of Hawai’i – which, according to the USA was formally and legally annexed in 1898 – however the legality of the events surrounding the annexation are still highly contested, and in any case the Kingdom of Hawai’i is still acknowledged, even by the US, in a somewhat grey manner – and many consider the state to be a sovereign nation under illegal occupation by the United States. Crabbe’s letter to the Secretary of State – in demanding final transparency – was an act of political resistance the likes of which has never been seen from within a state agency. This is history in the making, and the type of savvy, powerful leadership that is required by our people in this climate.

Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe at The Bishop Museum

I found this quote about him, which aptly summarises these qualities:

“It took a resistance — and not just a resistance for its own sake — it took a resistance from one who plays equally well in both worlds: one who would [don] the suit and a malo; one who is educated at the academy and reared in the lo‘i kalo; one whose mind is firmly set in the present and whose spirit is free to roam the past. Sir, my children will know your name, and so will their children, and so will their children after them. This is my honor to you.”

A letter, yet an act so powerful, your name is immortalised.

From Oahu I went to Moloka’i to visit with ohana from Ka Honua Momona – again another inspiring initiative that is returning back to their ancestral practices as a form of provision, education, and re-connection to their ancestral roots.

Two years ago we hosted the Ka Honua Momona ohana here in Gisborne, and connections were made there that will never be broken. This whanau have a deep, spiritual, profound connection to their identity that is bolstered through engaging with their ancestral practices and developing indigenous education systems by revitalizing natural and cultural resources. After being welcomed to the fishponds by my Moloka’i sister Kauwila, we were taken to present to the Moloka’i community on our pathways and work. I was incredibly humbled by the warmth and beauty of the Moloka’i community, will never forget my time there, and cannot wait to go back to connect with the ohana again.

Mahalo, Hawai’i – in you I saw the strength of our collective tipuna – the ties that bind us are rooted in our shared ancestry, the maara that was seeded in the days of our Atua.

We are resilient, we are innovative, we are determined, and we will thrive.