Stone in Our Shoe: The Military Co-option of Indigineity and Protection Exposed


You know when you got a stone in your shoe, and even though you keep intending to work it out… you never get around to it until at some point you just can’t walk any further and everything has to just wait while you deal with that one, annoying, stone. That one stone that just won’t go away.

I have a stone in my shoe, and I gotta get it out.

I’ve written, already, about the links to plastics and warfare. The fact that plastics, the golden child of convenience – mass-produced so cheaply, and with so many applications, was a natural feature of wartime economies. A material that allowed our governments to save metal for the purposes of weapons production. A material that, post world-war, has continued to shape our economy – one that is characterised by rapid, and rabid consumption. An economy that continues to wage war on our environment, on our Atua, regardless of the presence or absence of human conflict.

I wrote that piece, and reflected on those issues, prior to my journey to Hawai’i – and since then, I have had much to reflect upon and observe. It’s kind of hard not to reflect on the experience of militarisation in Hawai’i, it is everywhere you look. Military installations dot the landscape – (there is something in the order of 180 of them in Hawai’i). Sacred sites are desecrated over, and over again while the military carry out their war games, using illegally occupied lands and waters to train their own forces for further oppressive military action overseas. The constant threat of the military rotor blades pound the air above you, in case you ever dared forget who holds the cards. If you get a moment – I would highly – HIGHLY recommend that you watch the award winning documentary “Noho Hewa” – by Anne Keala Kelly – which so clearly draws important lines between desecration of our sacred ways and places at the hands of military occupation and rabid tourism. It’s incredibly sobering, but critical, viewing.

To add to matters, I encountered a perplexing and awkward moment when I wandered through the IUCN exhibition hall, and found myself surrounded by military stands. After some enquiries I learnt about the interesting process through which many marine protected areas, both in the Pacific and around the world, do NOT preclude weapons testing and war-game exercises. In fact, many military installations have had conservation (marine and land based) areas established around them, and thus provide the military with a measure of seclusion to carry out their activities, and also provide conservation portfolios and profiles to the armed forces.



Military Stands at IUCN

Please see THIS very informative blog by Craig Santos Perez which lays out the connection between marine protected areas, military occupation, and the Trans Pacific Partnership, in order to understand that this arrangement is anything but an altruistic exercise.

And yet these apparent contradictions are audaciously presented to us – the military as conservationists, as well-resourced and responsible custodians of our natural resources. Of course, we know that the industrial military complex is responsible for the largest portion of the planet’s pollution. We know that they are as brutal to landscapes in their weapons testing and wargames, as they are to the people and places they devastate wherever they are sent. But we are expected to place all of that knowing to the side and simply accept the surface evidence of “Hey look at this marine protected area that the navy look after” and “but wait look at this conservation work that the marines carry out”. It’s a clear conflation of contradictory values – those whose core purpose is war, presented as beneficent agents of care and protection. I was then keenly aware of my other lens upon this phenomena – that of indigeneity. For just as the military were presented as carers and protectors of the land and waters – our message to the IUCN was that 80% of the world’s biodiversity rests within indigenous territories, and us, the indigenous protectors of those areas, are consistently labelled as terrorists, and persecuted at the hands of military, and police, who are mobilised against us by the very state that bargains away the wellbeing of our territories to multinational corporations.

That’s right – the military gets to bomb these zones and defend rampant extraction, and call themselves the protectors, while we, the actual descendants of these spaces, are persecuted for standing in the way of their destruction, then we are called terrorists, and arrested by the military “protectors”.

Ain't it?

Ain’t it?

So how do we wind up in such a perverse situation? Well, it doesn’t happen all at once. It’s an incremental process where our rights are eroded at multiple spaces, in multiple ways. There’s a process in Aotearoa that unscrupulous corporations use in order to get past our resource management processes – it’s called “unbundling”. When there is a large activity that, when viewed in its entirety, would undoubtedly cause concern, corporations will break the activity up and apply for consent applications for each constituent activity – and with each application is the inference that “well you have approved THAT activity (e.g. building a ford across the river to the drilling platform) – it would be unreasonable not to consent to this next activity (e.g. erecting the drilling platform) – and then the next application will do the same. In this way, the actual impacts are shrouded within a more drawn out, convoluted process.

Assessors, and the community, are incrementally lulled into accepting a state of affairs that would be absurd if originally assessed in it’s entirely.

That’s how I feel about this situation with the desecrators claiming the notion of protection, and the protectors being persecuted as terrorists/disruptors. We see it happen everywhere – Mauna Kea, Standing Rock, Río Gualcarque, West Papua,, – and here, in Aotearoa. In fact next month, the government has pre-empted indigenous resistance to the nuclear vessel by passing the “Maritime Crimes Bill” that criminalises protest action on our own waters. Around the world, they jail us, disappear us, and murder us, for defending our sacred spaces.

maunakea berta-caceres   west-papua

But that isn’t the stone in my shoe – it’s appalling, and unjust, to be sure – but that ain’t the stone in my shoe. You see there’s another tactic employed that distracts and disguises the agenda of armed forces. That agenda being to serve the Crown/Colonizer/State. They don’t just co-opt the notion of protection – they co-opt indigeneity. THAT’S THE STONE.



And it’s been in our shoe for a long time… and it’s not easy to remove you see, because we have to go back a while in order to look at this phenomena, and I particularly have to look at my own whakapapa. You see – my family line is associated with a long-held tradition of loyalism – that is, fighting for the Crown. My great Uncle Apirana Ngata was responsible for largescale drafting of Maori into the World War 2 Maori 28th battalion. His father, Paratene, was a runner for the Crown forces in the East Coast Wars. Paratene’s uncle, Rapatawahawaha, was a famous loyalist who utilised his alliance with Crown forces to settle local scores and protect the lands of the East Cape from Crown confiscation. I still have many whanau in the military who I love very dearly – and I think most Maori do.



Apirana & 28th Battalion Troops

It is very easy to look back at these times and speculate on the whys, and what ifs. Some of this story belongs within our whanau only. Other aspects I know have very little to do with our whanau, and more to do with hegemonic profiling – like the fact that much is made of Papa Rapatawahawaha – much less so (outside of our whanau) his hauhau brother in law (and father to Paratene) – Wi Tito; and also much less so their other kingite brother in law Hoera Tamatatai. Three men, married to three sisters, all on separate sides of the war – and he on the side of victory enjoys the profile spoils (or the kupapa sneers, as the case may be). Would Papa Api have recruited so many had he known the transactional “Price of Citizenship” we paid would not be honoured by our Treaty partners – and that generations later we would still be fighting, tooth and nail, for our rights on our own land? That we would still be dragging a resentful Crown to the Treaty table while trying to address the social fallout of war-borne PTSD and its multi-generational assault on our communities? Would he still make the same choices in retrospect of all this? Who knows. He was a man with heavy burdens – a man ahead of his times in many ways… and a man of his times, in many ways.

What I do know is that he made his choices based on what he knew from what was around him. It was a different world from that of his own tipuna – and choices required a triangulation of whakapapa, aspirations, and contemporary contexts. That helps me a lot when I feel conflicted about the armed forces – I don’t have to agree with the choices made, but I can understand that they were made under great burden, and in a specific cultural and political context.

That helps me when I have the task of telling the armed forces to back the hell away from my indigeneity.


General Rommel once said “Give me the Maori Battalion and I will conquer the world”. They’ve always known we were great fighters. Passionate fighters, strategic fighters, considered fighters. That these soldiers were also farmers, gardeners, artists, poets, parents, and sons… that didn’t figure. But our fighting prowess – that stuck. The Crown liked that. The fact that when we fought for them, we were less likely to fight them… they liked that, too. Who wants to bite the hand that feeds you, right? After all – the army offers you a future. Training. A house. Income. A way out of the shit-pile you inherited from… well, from colonization. And often, from the effects of war two or three generations back. All you have to do – is obey. Nope no doubt about it – the armed forces love us – and many of us love them right back. We consider our allegiance the maintenance of tradition. A way to ‘honour’ our Papas that went to war for the British monarch, for this nation (and more often than not to get away from the farm). We adhere to a tradition that conveniently and arbitrarily blends precolonial, colonial, and post colonial battlegrounds. We enable and allow our Atua to be used as marketing and recruitment tools. We join in the droves. We also maintain the traditional drinking culture of the military, drinking heavily together while on military bases. We raise our families on base. We even have – drumroll – military marae.

Rongomaraeroa-o-nga-hau-e-wha Marae, Waiouru Army Camp

And herein sits the foundations of indigenous co-option by the military. Because according to the forces, military Maori families deserve to at least ‘feel’ at home while they are in service. They deserve to maintain their customs, traditions, and practices even when fighting for the Crown.

Yet there is a tension there – a white elephant that, for my years of looking, I have yet to see anyone address. The co-option of the term “Ngāti Tumatauenga” (a pseudo-tribe without ancestral genealogy that the Army translates as “descendants of the God of war”) perpetuates a problematic stereotype of the “Maori Warrior”. It is a stereotype that is compounded by New Zealand tourism in much the same way as “lovely hula hands” operates for our Hawaiian cousins, and in no small part contributes to our mischaracterisation as brutish, fearsome criminals, well deserving of the high incarceration rates. It exacerbates the one dimensional stereotype that plays itself out in the policy and social sphere, resulting in inadequate health services, resulting in the removal of our children, resulting in lower employment and higher incarceration rates.

We are not an ethnically harmonious country. The socio-economic injustice experienced by Maori, at the hands of the colonial complex, accounts for a significant amount of the disparity that many seek to escape when they run to the bosom of Crown military servitude. Even though, in more recent years, the army has sought to “decolonize” itself by providing Maori nomenclature, and pseudo-tikanga and cultural education, and defends this practice by saying that it provides for a better experience in service – what it also does is provide an easy, accessible escape from the reality that you are serving a destructive, brutal, and ultimately imperial force. You can no more decolonize the army than the monarchy itself.

Serving the Crown military is more than just a job – it is a blood oath to live, die, and kill at the command of the corporate controlled government. In Aotearoa means service to a government that has continually violated the Treaty to which it owes its existence – and a government that has bargained away environmental, indigenous, and human rights for power and money. A part of a broader global machine that seeks to consume, pollute, and devastate, on mammoth proportions. The military serve this government, and they serve the governments that they are loaned to, through trade relationships. Trade relationships that again are responsible for large scale poverty, injustice, and stripping of ecological resources. Any care for the land or communities is not done because you depend upon the land and live in harmony with it. It is not done out of a responsibility that descends through your ancestry. It is done because you are ordered to do so, by your Master, the Crown. Who may give completely different orders the next day, to destroy lands, waters, and communities, and you will equally be expected to obey.

The military are, literally, the vanguard of extraction and destruction. Standing Rock is a prime example. While Obama told them they “are being heard” – police were mobilising in military fashion and dogs being released upon them.


WE – INDIGENOUS PEOPLE – are holding the frontline in the defence of this planet – and time and time again, it is the military that faces off against us. Are we paid to be on that front line? No – we are not there because the front line offered us a future, and training, and a house, and stable income. We are there because we are descendants of Mother Earth, and we remember that that comes with responsibilities. We are there because we honour our relationships to Papatuanuku, to Ranginui, to Tangaroa, Hinemoana, to Hineputehue and to Tumatauenga. That is our duty – it is not the Crown’s duty, and the Crown cannot carry out this duty while it is ultimately in service to the forces that commit to the desecration of these Atua.

So while they provide these cultural trappings, that shroud their true colonial agenda, in order to provide comfort (read: compliance and less attrition)… there is another impact upon the actual indigenous defenders of these spaces. Not only are we forced to face off against our own in these spaces – but we must also contend with the cultural confusion created when the armed forces co-opt our own sacred terms and ancestry.

Case in point: The New Zealand Navy will soon be conducting wargames with the US and other navies in the Hauraki Gulf. The title for these war games? Operation Mahi Tangaroa. The use of live munitions will undoubtedly have an impact upon the surrounding marine environment – and of course the entire exercise is a demonstration of the military strength the governments have at their disposal, to be utilised in the defence of multinational corporations who wish to continue their agenda of resource extraction.

Yet any indigenous water based protests against these activities has been criminalised by MP Simon Bridges’ Maritime Crimes Bill, founded in anti-terrorism doctrine, signed off in September, and applied to these wargames. That’s right – Operation Mahi Tangaroa will get to bomb Tangaroa – while Tangaroa’s descendants and defenders will be labelled terrorists and jailed for trying to oppose it. The US Navy will be sending their nuclear war vessel – the first in 35 years in NZ waters, to “celebrate” the New Zealand Royal Navy’s anniversary celebrations – also timed for the NZDF international weapons conference in Auckland. Again – our protests against these abhorrent industries that blast Papatuanuku to smithereens, that wipes out vast swathes of Tangaroa, our protests against this industry that creates more pollution than any other industry in the world, our protests against the most brutal facet of a machine that murders and displaces entire populations just to get at their resources – these protests will be criminalised, with protestors jailed, and said military forces mobilised against them.

These forces that have purposefully conflated this dichotomy and courted the patronage of Maori dignitaries like Te Ataairangikaahu. These forces that provide a false space of cultural safety within a machine bent on the ruination of our tipuna. These forces that have the audacity to call for Maori to ceremonially welcome their presence into our space, while they actively subordinate our mana as descendants and protectors of these spaces, relegating our mana beneath ultimate Crown authority.

And now the airforce has a marae too. No doubt, in time, they will also co-opt an Atua, perhaps Ranginui, to make their personnel feel more comfortable. Well this is what they do – whatever it takes to make you question less, and follow more. I’m inclined to think that those who allow these cultural consolations to enable their continued subordination do so because it is much easier than the difficult task of trying to resolve their servitude with the notion of rangatiratanga.

I, for one cannot resolve this – because it is unresolvable.

I would much rather their discomfort remain, and be examined, and understood for what it was. I would rather the military cease this disgusting co-option of our Atua, and tikanga, that creates confusion over who ACTUALLY holds the whakapapa, responsibility, and mana to maintain and defend these spaces. I would rather those who serve in the military understand completely who they are in service to, and what systems they are defending, and who they disempower along the way. I would rather they directly face the fact that they actively engage in the desecration of Tangaroa than allow themselves to believe that this is in some way, ANY way, in honour of our Atua. I would rather they sit in that discomfort, on their boat, with a pākeha name, a name to suit the agenda, to suit the boss. Maybe call the boats variations of “HMS StatOil”, and “HMS Rockefeller”. Better call the exercise “Operation Simon Bridges” or if they must use our Atua then be honest and call it “Operation Bomb Tangaroa”.

I would rather they carry the discomfort of honest contradiction, than rest in false cultural comfort.

Maybe one of them will read this, and it can be the stone in their shoe.

#Hands Off Our Tamariki : An Open Letter

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Te Wharepora Hou

An Open Letter to Whānau, Hapū, Iwi, Iwi Leaders Forum, Māori Members of Parliament, Māori National and Iwi Organisations

E ngā Pou Whirinaki o tēnā iwi, o tēnā iwi e whiri i ngā nuku, e whiri i ngā rangi tēnā koutou katoa. He whakaaraara tēnei mō te ture hou o te Kawanatanga e pā ana ki a tātou tamariki mokopuna. E kii ana te Kawana he ture tiaki mokopuna. Ehara! He ture huti rito, he ture pare awhi rito, he ture e kato rau tipu, rau rangatira i te pā harakeke a ka tuku ki ngā hau waho ki reira marara haere ai. Inā tipu pā harakeke kore a tātou tamariki mokopuna, ka tipu pēhea rātou otirā tātou. Ka mato, ka mate rānei?

Over the past months a number of Māori women have worked collaboratively across Aotearoa to raise issues regarding the documents released by the Crown related to the…

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Maui ‘Skin Suit’ Isn’t The End Of ‘Moana’ Trouble

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So Disney has pulled the most ill-conceived merchandise idea of the year (perhaps decade) — the Maui skin suit — and issued a “sorry-some-of-you-were-offended” non-apology. While the decision to pull the suit was obviously the best one given the circumstances, the non-apology and the decision to run with that merchandise choice in the first place …

Source: Maui ‘Skin Suit’ Isn’t The End Of ‘Moana’ Trouble

Disney in the Maara


In Aotearoa we have a native praying mantis, te whē. Te whē provides us with a number of services, not least of which is keeping our maara, our food gardens, pest free. In order to have whē, we require a range of elements to be present, and in balance.


Whē requires other whē to mate with, whē requires insects to eat. Whē enjoys native, leafy shrubbery to hide under. That shrub requires loose, aerated, rich soil. The soil has it’s own needs. Bacteria. Warmth. Aeration. The spiders and ants aerate the soil and allow for the spread of the roots. The ants and spiders in turn have their own needs. The shrub also requires clean water and sunlight to grow. The water also has its needs. The shrub will require birds to spread its seed across the forest floor. Those birds will also have their needs.

You remove one of these elements… the sunlight, the water, the other insects, the birds – even the bacteria from the soil – and the other aspects of that system will be impacted upon.

I guess that’s the point that I want to start this post on. The complexity, and interdependence of our systems. How beautiful that is. How sacred and worthy of protection. How right nature gets it (through millions of years of practice). You can take this model of complexity and apply it to many other contexts. That of water. That of politics.

That of culture.

As any storyteller of merit can tell you – storytelling doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is inextricably linked to other elements of our world, including language, protocols, values, sacred spaces, and sovereignty. Our representations are an inherently political issue to us. The mining of our lands, and the mining of our knowledge and culture through appropriation is one and the same act. The forced dispossession of our representations sits within a broader experience of forced dispossession of language, lands, and loved ones.

Muriel Rukeyser said that “The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms”.   As a species, humans are constantly asking questions such as “what is this all about and why are we here”, and our stories are the answers to those questions. As indigenous peoples, our storytelling is bound within contexts and values that protect who we are, that protect the world we live in. It is symbiotic and its extraction holds consequences. Our tales are passed down within a context of language and meaning. Within a context of human, and non-human kinship relationships and protocols. A spiritual, political, and cultural context that recognises the power of the word, the power of the storyteller. A system that impels you to be responsible and accountable with this power.

I returned home from Hawai’i last week to see this:


I knew the merchandising was coming. It was an inevitability… but wearing someone’s skin is just… next level, and it’s predictably creeped a LOT of people out (you don’t have to understand cultural appropriation to know that wearing a skinsuit is just plain wrong). I’ve blogged about the Moana movie a couple of times now and a part of me felt that I’d probably said everything I needed to say. And I’m SO thankful to the likes of Tēvita Ka’ili, Vincent Diaz, Keala Kelly, Karlo Mila, and Teresia Teaiwa for their articulate responses to this space.  Still –  looking at this image honestly shocked me to tears. This little tama, clad in impropriety, blissfully ignorant of the potent symbolism of his act. His beautiful smile in such stark contrast to the weeping I felt for, and from, our ancestors. I sat in my car, staring at that image, with angry tears spilling over my cheeks. I swore a lot in the following 24hrs. At random things. I’ve carried the rage around like a righteous prickly coat. It’s time I talk it off.

You see, Disney also sits within a broader system. It sits within a system of mass-appropriation. A system of warping cultural pillars to appeal to the humour of their dominant audience. A system of cultural subversion, where they get to redefine history, and everyone in it. A system that includes industrial mass-production lines of plastic merchandise sold within a hyper-consumptive system that compels us, and our children, to buy, buy, buy, and then throw away, throw away, throw away. A system that models the thoughtless consumption of collective property and is ultimately destructive of all we hold sacred. This is the system within which Disney – and the broader industrial storytelling complex of Hollywood – exists. These are the invasive species that have been introduced to our storytelling landscape.

And they have been planted by our own hands.

Our own hands who are only too swift to protest that “it’ll be different this time”.
You wanna tell me that the same company who still, to this day, perpetuates racist stereotypes in their merchandise and theme parks, have all of a sudden changed?
You wanna tell me that the same company who would wrap my child in this obscene mockery of our ancestor and Atua – that subverts not only the story of Maui but also the traditions of tatau and moko – that actively participates in cultural genocide through targeting our children – that THIS business is now conscionable?

This “Oceanic Story Trust“, in all it’s expertise, finds it acceptable for our children to dress up in a costume that mocks our ways for European humour, bound in a European construct, a cog of the European economy built on the exploitation of indigenous representations. And that’s ok to this “Oceanic Story Trust”. That’s authentic. A costume that will be used for probably less than a year before being tossed away, to bulk up land fill and increase the toxification of our lands, or wind up in our oceans, killing Tangaroa. The irony of this in relation to a movie called “Moana” is thicker than toxic sludge.


I cannot accept that this violation is beyond the groups who were approached by Disney to validate this process. The importance of storytelling cannot possibly be news to them – nor could the impact of cultural appropriation. They cannot deem to be experts in their field and be unaware of the interconnected nature of our stories, representations, and the political implications. All I am left with when I consider what they know,  is that they were knowingly complicit in this act of cultural mining. That they assessed the situation – and in an opportunistic and purposeful manner, permitted themselves to sell off our collectively held traditions to a known abuser. The hands that have planted these species in our maara are brown. Tragically… so will be the eventual pest species.


What Do Allies Look Like? The Four S’s of Ally Success.


This post isn’t going to be a long one – it’s not an area that I like to spend too much energy or time on, merely because I’m busy looking after a multitude of other kaupapa – and this kaupapa is one that is really best cared for by others anyway.

I’m talking about White Fragility.

How do I know it’s best handled by others? Well experts in the field like Judith Katz carried out the research for all of us quite some time ago through years of anti-racism training and wrote about it in her book. She’s not alone – many others contest that the best people to educate white people about racism is white people. This is exampled really well by the Andrew Judd phenomenon.


Andrew Judd didn’t say anything new. He didn’t say anything that Maori haven’t been saying in a myriad of ways – through calm reasoning, through protest, through song, through lobbying, through civil disobedience and peaceful but resolute resistance, through education and publishing… Maori have been repeating the SAME message since forever and have achieved much through holding that space. They also got ignored by the mainstream media, but that’s because the mainstream media is racist too and tends to under-report Maori voices or characterise them as radical and dissident.

Not so with Andrew Judd. Because he’s white – and a mayor at that. He looks like the older white man who sits up from you in the boardroom – who better to listen to? If he’s calling NZ racist… it’s GOTTA be, right?

Andrew didn’t say this in a different way, he didn’t bring a different light to it, and the peace walk was NOT Andrew Judd’s peace walk. It was the Tū Tama Wāhine Peace Walk that Andrew took part in. The mere fact that people characterise his discussion as somehow more peaceful and reasonable than Māori – even as Andrew himself was raising awareness about the epitome of peaceful resistance that is the Parihaka story… says a LOT about the wilful blindness of some. He didn’t say anything new – he just got attention because he’s a white man in power.

What Andrew did do though – was incredibly valuable. He examined and acknowledged his own role in this biased system. He correctly deduced that being a white male in a position of authority accorded him extraordinary privileges – and most importantly he used that fact to cast a light on racism in New Zealand, he used it to recruit attention to the lessons of Parihaka and most importantly he used it to advocate for POWER SHARING.

Subsequently – the Andrew Judd Fan Club facebook page has rocketed in popularity but even that is not immune to the ravages of white fragility – and much time seems to be taken up with roughly the same discussions being had elsewhere online, where white people problematize Maori frustration and project their hypersensitivity on to Maori. The discussion is not “Those damn Maori who think they have rights” but rather “Those damn Maori who are angry and won’t let me give them their rights”. Time and time again the catch-cry “Andrew wouldn’t do it this way” is thrown up in defence. Apart from the very obvious point that Andrew Judd isn’t the messiah and isn’t actually THERE to deliver his sermon and instructions in the first place – the very POINT that is being missed here, the very POINT of what Andrew did, was to highlight systemic racism and the insidious nature within which it infects the social psyche. That INCLUDES the entitlement that white people assume to being gently led through the process of self-critique, that INCLUDES the privileging of the white voice over a brown one, and it includes the insidious nature in which white voices wind up coming out of brown mouths (like when Maori start criticising their own for not being nice enough, or projecting the common white trope of the angry Maori onto their own).

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not now, nor am I ever, going to advocate for abuse. You use cusswords to call someone a name at any point – you’ve lost all credibility.

But let’s be clear about abuse. Let’s be clear about anger, and about what it looks like to ‘get ugly’. Because recounting the brutal facts of history is NOT rage, and blunt statements about the ubiquitous nature of colonialism and our racist society is NOT abuse.

Hypersensitivity is a PART of the crime of racism. It means that we’ve been ignored so long we have to shout to be heard. It means I have so many fires to put out by now that I don’t have TIME to break it down into gentle whispers for you. And it means that even if I did, you’re so unused to my voice that even a whisper still sounds like a shout, to you.

And let’s also be clear that when you set up a situation that is intended to address racial injustice but then wind up perpetuating injustice through enabling passive racism – that’s going to frustrate Maori – some will be able to identify and articulate it well. Others will not. The crime is then compounded when they are singled out as angry and crazy. Again – I’m not advocating for the raging abuse that comes out of them – I’m just pointing out that passive racism contributes to that rage and incites it.

So no, potential ally who wants to examine your role in this state of affairs – I don’t want you to victimise yourself and crumble under your perceived weight of blame. That’s of no help to me or to us as a nation trying to progress.

It’s not an easy process – it’s traumatising, it’s laden with self-analysis and you have to avoid the pitfalls of self-loathing because the system is set up to benefit you. You have to be strong, and come through it… just as we have had to be strong with our load, just as we have had to bear much over the years, and still do – so, too, must you be strong. You can. And you must. You have to be strong in your space and hold that up, so we can continue in the business of being strong in ours.

And what does that look like? What does it look like to be a good ally, to be a helpful ally?
Well first of all – stay white. You can be white and learn te reo. You can be white and learn tikanga. You can be white and support and celebrate Te Ao Maori. Please, god please don’t abandon who you are in shame and try to “become” indigenous. New Agers do it all the time and it evokes something like this from us.


Seriously – I’ve seen ALL those expressions in response to Dolezal-ism (it’s a word).


In fact it’s vitally important that you stay white (not least because it will cost you a bundle in expensive fake tan solutions and failed hair do’s) – but also because your whiteness gives you access into spaces and discussions that we are shut out of. Just like so many white NZers did with Andrew Judd – white people will listen to you more then they will I.

So stay white… and speak up. That’s going to be the next level of discomfort for you. Your white friends and colleagues may not appreciate you dropping the truth bomb into what was previously a safe-zone for racist dialogue and decision-making. Rest assured that at least you will get more mileage from their ears than if it were me saying exactly the same thing. Jane Elliott is living proof that you can be incredibly blunt and confrontational with your own and get marvellous results (and of course she has had to deal with her fair share of resistance as well, including physical assaults).

Stay white – speak up – and stay strong. Stay in the conversation even when it’s uncomfortable. We didn’t get a free pass from trauma for the past 200 years, so no point in you expecting one.

Let’s be clear on this: Your participation in this conversation is not a gift to anyone else but yourself. It is not a service to Maori – it is a service to yourself, and a duty to your community. If you check out on this conversation you are checking out on your own self-improvement, you are checking out on your OWN duty to your community. It WILL get messy. You WILL encounter rage. And you have the capability to acknowledge that for what it is, understand it’s underpinnings, and use that as further justification for your commitment to work towards a more just community. You don’t need to be pulled down by it, you don’t need to subject yourself to abuse – you just need to stay true to the course. What does the language look like?

“I understand your rage, I’d be pissed too if I were subjected to the injustice you’ve been subjected to – I wish to god I could change what happened, it was shameful, and unjust – but I can’t – all I can do is commit to making a change here, and now, and support the call for your rights to be restored, which is what I intend to do.”

Understand that even THAT might not be enough for some of us – but still… bless them on their way, hope for them that they find peace, and continue on your own path of self improvement and supporting the cause for better justice. Understand that if you choose to check out on dealing with colonisation, based on their behaviour – that is still your choice, and it’s one that we don’t have.

And there are so many spaces to do educate yourself in this manner, if you choose to.

Which brings me to the final point. Self help.

We’re busy. This blog is already longer than it should have been. I’ve got dinner to put on, I’ve got assignments to mark, and assignments to write, and a class to plan for, and funding apps to write and soap and shampoo to make and juicing to do and well the list could go on but please don’t add to that list by expecting me to educate you. Where we do make time for that – it’s great. But it’s not an entitlement and don’t WAIT for us. Learn from each other. Seek information out – the internet is full of wonderful resources. Watch a Jane Elliot clip. Read some Linda Alcoff. Get busy, because the sooner we tackle this beast the better, and it’s going to require ALL of us on the frontline.
That’s it really. Stay white. Speak up. Stay strong. Self help.
Good luck on your journey.

(ps will post my soap and shampoo recipes up next)

Plastic, Indigenous Rights, and Warfare in the Pacific



So for those of you who have not been following NZ politics this week – there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle about Helen Clark’s bid for UNSG. Here is a link to a great summary from Jeremy Rose on mediawatch, Radio NZ.

I have to say, I’m glad someone else also noticed the irony that I was on mainstream news one week being celebrated for plastic resistance and the next week I was being associated with treachery and treason. The feedback has been interesting to say the least. I’ve been private messaged with accusations of letting womanhood down. I’ve been told I should get over it and get into line (not sure why anyone would think that would all of a sudden work when we’ve been getting told to do that for 180 years now). And interestingly, I’ve been told to “stick with the plastic stuff”… I’m guessing the inference here is that plastic consumption and indigenous rights are separate issues? I was hoping to be able to clear that up in this morning’s Radio New Zealand interview and though I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to create some connections there – we didn’t quite get to fully explore the genealogy that sits between these issues. Thank goodness for blogs.

When I visualise these issues in my mind – Indigenous rights, Sustainable Development, Plastic reduction, Sovereignty, Economic oppression, Hero worship, Colonialism, Social and Environmental Justice – what I see looks rather like the spiderwebbed whakapapa (genealogical charts) that my grandmother used to draw out. They are all linked in complex ways, and, just like when you’re studying your whakapapa, as you look closer, further, very interesting relationships reveal themselves – and one of my very favourite pass-times is to sit with my close cousin Rhonda analysing issues and whakapapa at micro levels, then macro levels, triangulating points of commonality to understand the various facets of what sits before us.  When I do that with the list above – what comes forth at the nexus of these points is another very pertinent issue. I’ll get to that issue in a moment but first I want to just discuss the relationships between these other issues.

Let me first just point out that engaging in a plastic reduction journey is an act of resistance. The plastics industry lobbies aggressively to maintain a level of market saturation. The vast majority of plastics are made from petroleum, and so they are all associated with a raft of issues that accompany fossil fuel economies, including:

• Climate change
• Rising sea levels
• Pollution
• Species and Habitat loss
• Wealth/Poverty Gaps

Some of these are able to be monitored at a national level, but many of these issues are global issues, and the best approach so far is to get United Nations member states to ratify agreements where they commit to proactive measures in reducing emissions. Except in some cases, like New Zealand, our targets are less than inspiring, and our trade relationships actually account for more offshore emissions than onshore. Being offshore, of course, makes them very difficult to monitor let alone reduce. Probably the most problematic region is Factory Asia, who is responsible for producing over half of all the world’s goods. That’s all goods. Everything. In this sense, Asia is really emitting greenhouse gases and creating production waste on our behalf (and of course there are the added issues of labour exploitation and workers rights abuses). Of course the remedy to this is to buy local, but arrangements like the 2008 free trade agreement between China and New Zealand (set up by the Labour govt) flood our market with more affordable merchandise which – when we are suffering some of the highest living costs in the world – works against conscious consumption.

And in fact as many of us may already know – Global Corporatocracy – where borders are gradually being blurred and redefined through bilateral and multilateral trade arrangements that privilege transnational corporations and allow them to directly influence the governance of nations – really is the largest threat to human and environmental rights. Unsurprisingly the World Trade Organisation, tasked with regulating international trade, has administered it’s duty in a flawed, biased fashion and consequently been unsuccessful in providing a fair trade economy – resulting in large-scale conflict and political instability, environmental degradation and globalfood and water crises.

SO in light of such powerful, well established, ubiquitous economic and political odds – reducing your consumption, consuming consciously, sourcing your own food and minimising plastic consumption are very much acts of political and economic resistance – playing out at the most influential sphere you have – yourself, and your investment choices.

Of course this alone will not solve the problem but nonetheless a strong core is the basis of structural integrity, and if you can explore the challenges at a personal level it undoubtedly assists your approach to this at a public and political level. Other spheres of influence are your family, your community, your workplace, local government, national government and of course the global sphere of influence, like the UN.

So we’re clear – I’m NOT a member of any NZ political party and did not go over there as one (the media have largely not helped in making that clear). My duty in that space was to the global indigenous community first and foremost – and to those with valid, but suppressed voices in Aotearoa, who also wished (and had a right) to be heard in this process.

Appointment processes are not popularity contests. They involve thorough assessments of past performance. Performance assessment is based on the candidate’s success in a particular field. Any statement that “well that was the past, get over it” or even “she’s learnt since then” is really irrelevant because that’s not how performance evaluation works. You don’t hire a bus driver based on what he learnt from the many crashes he’s been in, nor do you simply say “well those crashes were all in the past now”. If the past didn’t matter then credentials and demonstrated strengths also do not matter.

So – UNDRIP matters (especially when it’s the theme of the meeting). Other key themes that arose at that meeting were the loss of indigenous land (also a core theme of the declaration) and the state persecution of indigenous defenders of land and waterways. Both of these are perfectly exampled by the F&S legislation and the police militarisation against indigenous families during the anti-terror raids.

In fact, the state use of police and armed forces to clear indigenous people away from the natural resources in order to facilitate natural resource exploitation and corporate expansion is not at all new. Sourcing resources and colonial expansion were the very causes that brought Captain James Cook to our shores. His assumed right to kill, abuse, and steal is not purely historical for us – it is merely one of the earliest iterations of what was to become, for us, a very common and regular aspect of our lived experience of colonisation – and it continues to this day.

It continues for us as Maori on Rekohu, Te Ika a Maui and Te Waka a Maui. It continues in the most brutal fashion for our relations in West Papua who are experiencing severe human rights abuses every day as the Indonesian Army continues to occupy their lands in order to exploit their natural resources. It continues for our whanau in Hawai’i who are also under illegal occupation by the US have their most sacred sites occupied by the government in the forms of military bases, telescopes, and multinational GM food conglomerates. It’s happening to our relations in Rapa Nui who have their leaders arrested and detained for trying to protect their sacred sites. It’s happened to our relations in the Marshall Islands, the Bikini Atoll, Mururoa Atoll, with nuclear testing.

And the militarisation of the Pacific is exactly the issue that I see sitting at the nexus of plastic consumption (which first boomed due to the second world war in order to reserve metals for weaponry); indigenous rights; and colonisation.

We, as Tagaloa peoples, as a nation of descendants from across this ocean, remain under attack. Our relative governments keep us apart with imagined borders – but our common struggles, our whakapapa, and our shared relationship to Tangaroa and Hinemoana brings us together. This is yet another reason why plastics matter so strongly to me, it is my genealogical link to the ocean that informs my obligation to its care and protection. The exploitation that is happening over land is absolutely happening over water as well.

Even as we speak preparations are under way for a nuclear warship to enter New Zealand waters, for the first time in 35years, in time for the international weapons conference being held in Auckland. That ship will traverse right through our oceanic territory – just as proposed trade agreements traverse right through our oceanic territory – just as the plastic waste of our socially engineered consumption habits traverses right through our oceanic territory.

And of course ALL of these things are driven by corporate greed – it controls the state, it is defended and facilitated by the military, it will push you into survival mode and sell you solutions based on dependency.

So there it is – the whakapapa between plastics, warfare, militarisation, governance and indigenous sovereignty. It crisscrosses back and forth in a myriad of ways – the cultural genocide visited upon indigenous peoples is absolutely a tool of economic oppression to maintain wealth and poverty gaps – to keep one group in servitude and another in power. The trade agreements are tools to maintain military occupation, and vice versa. The hyperconsumption drives resource extraction. All of this requires sites of resistance, from your personal choices – to the global halls of power, and everywhere in between. On sea, on land, and on the airwaves, you’ll find us.

We’re not going anywhere.

We are Tagaloa Nation.


WTH Do You Mean, Bicultural?



There’s been a bit of talk lately about some of the people we label as heroes.

I’ve already spoken out a fair bit about these issues.

From Disney’s Moana, to Helen Clark’s nomination for Secretary General, to Captain Cook – our “ethnically harmonious” nation appears to be unwittingly flashing our racist panties by how we choose our heroes. I’m not particularly surprised (nor do I think we should be bothered) by the accusations of treason or treachery  – no system of oppression was overturned without treasonous acts.

What I am tired of is being told what I should be thankful for. This expectation that I should be proud of our “bicultural” nation.

Just don’t.

Don’t talk to me about biculturalism.

Biculturalism only refers to the presence of two cultures it makes no explicit reference to the balance of power in that equation.

In a country where colonialism is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe most would have no  IDEA what it would look like to have an equally Maori and Pakeha world. So don’t throw your meagre brown crumbs at me and tell me to be thankful for biculturalism. What you think is an equitable notion is actually 90% of this reality being shaped by you and yours, with, at BEST, 10% shaped by me and mine.

Look at our “bicultural” health workforce. Shared by Maori who account for less than 7% of that workforce and Non-Maori who account for the remaining 93%  – even though those stats are reversed for patient numbers.

When you have 10 memorials relating to a white man.

And offer to put up one for a Maori leader.

And the white guy murdered, stole from, and kidnapped Maori.

That’s not biculturalism – it’s imperialism.

When you want me to spend a year “celebrating” this painful event while you continually minimise and euphemise the Maori experience of that event – echoing the way in which our trauma is continually minimized and euphemized in the experience of colonization...

That’s not a “celebration of dual heritage”.

My people are not yet free. We are not free to live the lives that our ancestors did – nor are we free to secure the choice of which aspects of their world we carry forward for our descendants. We are not free to live on our tribal lands. We are not in control of our representations. We are not in control of our own wellbeing. We are not in control of our own healing, or our own governance.

So don’t talk to me about biculturalism. Talk to me about equitable power sharing.

Don’t show me your damn Disney representation of a Pasifika girl and tell me that’s empowering for wahine.


Not when the production and writing crew are still predominantly male, and predominantly non-pasifika (and there are NO wahine pasifika on that crew)

Not when the stories that have held our families together and helped us to understand the mana of our mothers, and grandmothers, and sisters and daughters – not only through the words but through the surroundings, the actions, the inflections, and language – have been ripped out of our hands while we are still in the process of reclamation. DON’T SELL THAT TO ME AS YOUR FEMINIST EMPOWERMENT – ESPECIALLY when you’re doing that to deal with your own history of gender representation rather than supporting our own knowings and perspectives.

NOT when you serve our Atua up for misinterpretation as witches.

Don’t tell me I should be proud to have a woman in a role of power, responsible for the wellbeing of indigenous people the world over.hillary

Not when the children of indigenous mothers are still wetting their beds, and waking screaming with nightmares, and cowering from police, and violently self destructing because of acts inflicted under that woman’s supervision.

Don’t you dare tell me that this would be a step ahead for me, as a Maori woman in this world.

Not when that woman’s idea of a development solution is unfettered trade, even when it results in the abuse of our Mother.

And don’t fool yourself for a second that your idea of treason is relevant to me.

Because you have no idea of who I serve. In actual fact – if the power in our country were truly biculturally shared – then we would never be having this conversation, and this notion of treason would certainly be redundant.

You see, in my world Helen Clark is not one of “our own”. Disney’s Maui is NOT the Maui I descend from. And Captain Cook is anything but a founding father.

Keep your heroes. I have my own.