I’ve just returned home from Fiji – I went to celebrate the wedding of a good friend to a lovely Fijian lad – and met with some of our voyaging and zero waste whanau to talk rubbish and solidarity… to experience some truly inspirational local sustainable tourism ventures, and to see friends.
It was my first time in Fiji. I sighed, a lot. Sometimes in awe – often in sadness, because what I saw, I see in so many places across our beautiful Moananui a Kiwa. Fiji the beautiful, and afflicted. Look up at the beautiful sunsets and swaying palms….
Look down at the endless tides of plastic washing up on the sand.
Fiji, the one night stand of tourism hoards, descending down the ocean-liner gangways like a conveyor belt of consumption, all pink skin and loud shirts, overburdened infrastructures creaking under their weight.
Fiji, sweetheart of extractive, exploitative resorts, where beautiful local people – the true architects of your experience – are charged out for their services at $60/hr by foreign owners and paid just $3/hr in return.
Fiji, where people come to escape the problems of their lives, and ignore the problems of Fijian lives.
Fiji, playground for some, hunting ground for others… just like the rest of our region – 250 odd years of dusky Pacific maidens being leered at and preyed upon by predominantly older white men, with military backgrounds… our women, our lands, our waters, all things used to satiate their ingrained R&R desires.
It’s heartbreaking – but it’s also the Pacific, in a cowrie shell.
As a region, the Pacific has always underwritten the consequences of the West’s behaviour.
The RIMPAC exercises being held off the coast of Hawai’i, and held every two years, is possibly one of the most extreme cases of this. New Zealand has been participating in these exercises since 2012 (here’s a previous blog detailing the growth of the US/NZ military relationship in recent years).
Over a month, armed forces from 26 nations, including 25,000 personnel, 47 ships, 5 submarines, and more than 200 aircraft will engage in wargames that will be hosted by the US Navy, upon stolen lands and waters.
The optics around the event are quite consistent – with the most common phrasing being that RIMPAC reinforces the US, and world, commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. But of course, the majority of the Pacific is not free. Hawai’i is not free. Guahan is not free. Aotearoa is not free. Tahiti is not free. Tokelau is not free. Australia is not free. Canada is not free. West Papua is certainly not free. And were we to pursue our right to freedom – it will be these very armed forces that are enacted against us.
Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.
This is not about protecting the freedom of the Pacific. It is about the maintenance and extension of colonial agendas. It is about the defence of extraction from Indigenous territories, theft of Indigenous lands, and the continued exertion of power over Indigenous Peoples. The men of these armed forces will come ashore between exercises and, as has always be the case, will be responsible for spikes in sex trafficking and violent sexual assaults.
The sexual exploitation of women and children has featured in a recreational, and functional sense, at the heart of the military in the Pacific from its very origins. The two are inextricable from each other. At every military base in the Pacific, you will find heightened instances of sexual assault – the Pacific has been hyper-sexualized for the pleasure of crews, troops and tourism hoards since… well since the days of Cook really. That is because we, the Pacific, as people and place, are viewed as commodities by the West.
Our people, lands and waters are commodities – used and tossed aside once fantasies are fulfilled. Stolen out from under us and used as training grounds for conflicts instigated by settler colonial governments in pursuit of power and resources. Packed full with toxic nuclear and chemical weaponry waste. Overburdened with the rubbish of consumerist hoards that it simply cannot sustain. Hocked out to foreign tourism investors that economically expel the righteously outraged occupants, replacing them with temporary escapees – who will only look up at the swaying coconut palms and pretty sunsets. Tourism providers that capitalise upon the fantasy package, constructed from the R&R culture of the military. Providers that enable and protect the continuation of rape and theft through hypersexualisation and spiritual denigration of our culture. Time and time again, the Pacific underwrites the decisions and behaviours of the West, with our resources, with our worlds, with our bodies.
So when I sat at the bar, in Fiji, and watched the middle aged, pink faced, sweaty, sleazy ex-military man preying upon young women I saw all of us, and all of our islands. And all of our mothers.
When I looked at the plastic rubbish flipping about in the waves as they lapped against the shores, I saw all of our waters, I saw all of our shores.
And what is happening right now, in Hawai’i, is happening to all of us. We must, we simply must, stand up to RIMPAC, just as we must stand up to all exploiters. From the leery predators, to the foreign tourism providers that court, couch, and enable them. And we MUST call out our own governments for their participation in these abhorrent wargames.
Because if time is up on the exploitation of women, then it must surely also be up on the exploitation of our region.
Anyone else get a deep sense of satisfaction when bullying backfires?
Oh you’re gonna love this then.
So back in February, this famously racist old white guy wrote another one of his famously racist columns, reckoning (as racist old white men do) that all Māori should spend the national commemorative day in service to white people – who brought them civilization.
You can imagine how that went down. The website eventually removed the column:
Turns out, racist old white guy has a knighthood, and so in no time at all, filmmaker Renae Maihi kicked off a petition to have him stripped of his knighthood, for hate speech. To date, it has 73 thousand signatures and counting.
And of course, racist old white guy did as racist old white men do (particularly rich ones), and has threatened her with legal action. But racist old guy did not stop there.
Māori Professor and researcher Leonie Pihama was just one of the many well known New Zealanders who tweeted her support of Renae, tweeting the hashtag #BobJonesIsARacist.
Sure enough, lawyers were soon in touch with Ms Pihama as well – sending the following:
Grab your popcorn here’s where it gets good….
Rather than respond directly, Leonie posted the letter on her blog, and with surgical precision, outlined the age old craft of SLAPP – where rich people abuse the legal system to silence the underprivileged.
Well NZ Twitter wasn’t havin’ it… commence tweet storm:
I've been convinced for 20 years that racism is just one facet of Bob Jones' charming personality. He's also a sexist, delusional, egotistical, bullying, anachronistic windbag who craves the opprobium of what he'd call "the PC brigade" (i.e. almost everybody else). #suemetoohttps://t.co/iQ3LHySo2b
So I’ve shared a lot on this blog. Nothing that I’ve been uncomfortable with, but a lot that has come about as a part of my path, and although I can’t deny in many cases it’s been healing, I would say that in nearly every case, the defining point about whether to share something about my own world, has been whether it would benefit others or not. At times, I’ve considered writing about moko kauwae, as I’m often asked about them, I guess because of mine – and it’s never quite felt like the time. Now feels like the time. An online “debate” (that’s pākeha media speak for an assault on Māori that we’re standing up to) is raging – instigated by a pākeha woman who has assumed the right to wear a moko kauwae. And Māori men who assumed the right to grant it to her.
There are those who would support her access to this realm of Wahine Māori:
There are many more OF that realm that would not:
One thing is not up for debate. It is a Wāhine Māori realm. And not unlike other territories – we have plenty of our own who would justify giving it away. Some might cite historical context (ie pākeha ancestor XYZ was gifted territory back in the day). Some might say Māori cannot look after their own territory so why not give it away. Some would say that our ancestors would not be happy with how we look after our territory so perhaps we shouldn’t have it, or occupy it, or indeed have no right to defend it.
These are not new, or novel, positions. We have heard every justification for giving our territory away in the past, we have seen plenty of cases where individuals have subverted collective territorial rights – and it has caused no less than war. Oh yes, historically we have given… and given… and given… and we have had far much more taken… and yet still, the bottomless appetite of the colonizer sends them back for more. For these reasons, in this contemporary context, we are charged to hold on to what territory we have left. I have no intention of giving away any more territory. I also have no intention of ceding authority to men, or tane, or non-Māori over this, Wāhine Māori, territory.
But what I really want to write about is this notion of what it takes for Wāhine Māori to “deserve” moko kauwae, because now, more than ever, I am seeing a lot of judgement on Wāhine Māori flying around the place. And I reiterate that this is in relation to WĀHINE MĀORI. There are statements that infer, or outright declare, that Wāhine Māori should be examining their own behaviour or pathways before they take on moko kauwae. Statements that outline what is acceptable for a Wāhine mau moko to do, or what she MUST do now that she has taken up this birthright. Statements about how much Wāhine must achieve in other peoples’ eyes, or how much she must contribute to her community before she takes up her birthright.
There really is no way to make these kinds of statements without first making a judgement about Wahine in general and that is…
That in your natural state of Wāhine – you are not enough.
That as a member of a line of wahine who descend down from Hina – you are not enough. That as a survivor of multiple generations of attempted genocide, as a survivor of this very specific battleground of settler colonial racism and patriarchy – you are not enough. That as a vessel for the continuation of our existence as Māori – you are not enough.
And to that I say:
E Hine, You ARE enough
Now I can say that to you from where I am sitting – but the most important point is that you believe this, inside of yourself. Over the years since receiving mine, I have been asked many times by other Wāhine about my moko kauwae journey. Unfailingly this has been because they too are on a journey of their own. And I have my journey, and my story – but that is mine. It is not theirs… and so my response has been quite consistent – be at peace with your decision. I say that not as a prerequisite for deserving anything – but as a measure of self-protection. Because only you will awaken, in your skin, in the middle of the night, with your thoughts, with your angels, and your demons. Only you can defend your heart from the barbs of others. If you are truly at peace with your decision, at peace as a Wāhine Māori, then you will be fine. If not, well there is very little that will mess you up like wearing the tohu of your ancestors on your face and feeling that you don’t actually deserve it. It’s a sad thing that so many people, right now, are prone to sit in judgement of each other, and at times of their own, in this sense – because it amounts to a bully mentality. When teaching children not to bully, we consistently ask them to consider that the person they seek to bully lives in a world much larger than that you see. That the little girl who you tease for wearing broken glasses lives in poverty. That the boy you make fun of for stuttering is actually healing from being severely abused. That the child who cries easily has just lost a parent. Yet here we are with grown adults who still seem very prone to judging Wāhine Māori based on their own observations and values. So when I hear people’s anecdotes of this Wāhine Maumoko they saw down the pub, drunk, or that one they saw with a glazed look in her eye, or another that was in trouble with the law well… you just sound like the same old bully making a judgement, to me. Wāhine Māori deserve aroha on our winning days, and on our challenging ones, and that is the case whether we are wearing a moko or not. We deserve aroha on our learning journey not just at the end of it. So rather than judge, how about extend aroha and realise you may not know the full picture, nor is it for you to sit in adjudication of any Wāhine Māori in relation to their own birthright. How do you KNOW what her relative contributions have been in the past, are on any other day of the week, and will be tomorrow? What do you know of her reo journey? Where is your yardstick for what counts as a valid contribution? I have heard EVERYTHING in fact here’s a list of some of other peoples’ prerequisites. Most of these come from men, or Wāhine who DON’T wear moko:
You have to have te reo (although nobody seems to know exactly how well so I guess they’ll need to develop a test for that one).
You have to be post-menopause (no doubt because menstrual blood is “icky”)
You have to have experienced loss, death (I don’t know if killing idiots counts but that could potentially be solved immediately if someone is saying this to you).
You have to have esteemed whakapapa/genealogy (just as well everyone descends from a Māori princess).
You have to have contributed significantly to your community – which apparently must take the form of… a degree from a university, or a lifetime of public service, maybe not so much driving the kura bus, or, you know… producing the next generation.
You have to karanga now (I have no idea if this meant you have to move home to your marae or should knock on the door of the local marae and introduce yourself as their new kaikaranga or if one is meant to just burst into karanga at any given moment on the street).
You cannot put anything unclean into your mouth which apparently relates to:
Drugs (I guess the non-prescripted kind)
A Penis (no really this has been said I kid you not and apart from the very obvious point that many members of the male community are quite clean – It should also be noted that for many women, this wouldn’t at ALL be sacrifice. In fact for some it might be a reason to get it. One thing’s for sure… even if that was the case, which it’s not, I don’t know any who would say “ohhh dang I was gonna get my moko kauwae but I just can’t possibly give up playing the skin flute it’s my fave!”)
So anyway… I could go on I’ve heard a bunch of conditions and they’re all very colourful. Depending on who you’re talking to and what they value, be it your parenting, your whakapapa, your commitment to the environment, or your community, or te reo… they all have their little lists that they like to put forward. If you tried to fulfil them all you would never succeed, not least because some of them cancel each other out. But there come times in your life when you must abandon the need to please others, because it’s not them that must live, and die with your moko. It is you. He hoa mate MŌU. In death, and in life, through the ups and the downs, through your messed up days, your bad decisions, your good ones. Through your learning journey, through your ongoing contribution as a Wāhine Māori. We survive the onslaught of settler colonialism, and the onslaught of racist feminists and faux spiritualists who assume themselves our sisters until they don’t get what they want from us, and then they go on the attack….
We survive the onslaught of patriarchal misogyny and toxic masculinity not only from others, but also from our own. We survive the attacks of men, and women, every time we are placed in a position by our own brothers to have to defend our territory. We survive to see another day, to pass the legacy of our ancestors forth to another generation, to protect, and reclaim, our territories and birthrights.
And so with every breath you take you contribute. Your existence, in a genocidal settler colonial state, is an act of resistance.
In two weeks, I will be attending the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, to place before them the issue of the 2019 celebrations of Captain Cook’s arrival in Aotearoa (and the Pacific). My objections to this event are anything but news to those that know me, or have read my blog – I’ve published on this numerous times, and spoken at a number of venues regarding the surrounding issues. Naturally – the issues raised by these objections don’t go unchallenged. While there are many of us who object to these proceedings – there are, still, many others who would like to see them go ahead. For those who may read or hear about this in the coming weeks, and feel the need to pose a question or two, I’ve compiled the following FAQ list, with responses.
Oh also, probably a good time to wave out now to my most recent followers from Ministry for Culture and Heritage and let you know that yes – you can expect more resistance. We’re only just getting started.
Ok so here we go – the Cook Celebrations FAQ:
1. Cook was on a science mission though… wasn’t he?
The observation of the transit of Venus was a convenient cover for Britain’s moves to secure trading posts, military stations, and the claiming of lands and resources in the name of the Crown. The 1700s was still well within this period of time known as “The Age of Discovery” – probably better termed from an Indigenous perspective as the Age of Genocide. Driven by the Discovery Doctrine, which arose out of medieval law discourse around the reach of the church and the duties of discovery and conversion, explorers were essentially accorded divine rights for exploration, and claiming of new territories, with any non-christian inhabitants being considered part of the land, and able to be claimed as territory. Converting them to christianity was considered to be doing “god’s work”. By the time the mid 1700s came around there were Spaniards, French, and Dutch “explorers” positioning themselves around the Pacific in their own little imperial race.
When the Royal Navy sent Cook on the Bark Endeavour, they knew that declaring their true intentions could result in others beating them to their goal – and so the cover of a science expedition was handy to position Cook in the South Pacific without betraying their intentions. The Bark Endeavour was a military vessel, captained by a Naval Lieutenant, equipped with 10 four pound cannons and 12 swivel guns, not for science, but for Imperial expansion.
2. It’s commemorations! Not celebrations…
Semantics. You’re basing a year long series of events, and investing millions of dollars, around your own arrival to this land when the people most impacted by that arrival still struggle significantly from those impacts. A year of events and millions of dollars, while our true history still cannot be taught in our schools, and the government fails to address children going to school with no food. A year of events while whānau of Edgecumbe await adequate housing a year after the floods, while whānau all over our country face another approaching winter without adequate housing, or heating. The fact that numerous newspapers, and even our own local council, can’t seem to avoid calling it celebrations exposes the commemoration tag as a thin veneer.
Truth is, as a nation, we are nowhere near being ready to hold this discussion, and to do so leapfrogs the primary discussion of our Indigenous rights. Commemoration, celebration, whatever the hell you want to call it – it’s not appropriate to be spending this much money on an event about your own arrival to our land. You have $15million handy? Give it to us come October 9th, along with an apology, an acknowledgement that this is just the scratch on the surface of what is required, and a commitment to start handing power and lands back and then we can talk. In fact why put off til then what you can do right now.
3. It happened 250 years ago, shouldn’t you be over it by now?
Oh how I’d love for it to have stopped 250 years ago. Maybe if we’d shared some of the qualities of our Hawaiian relations, it would have.
The privilege of an inconsequential past belongs to those who still live off the benefits of how it played out.
For those of us who have survived a consistent, multigenerational experience of racism, from the theft of our lands and displacement of our ancestors, and the imposition of an illegitimate settler government, through to acts of cultural genocide – all of these rights violations have multi-generational impacts, and all of them are rooted in the entitlement assumed under the Doctrine of Discovery. These same rights violations are still relevant and present today. Our government still assumes rights it has never been accorded through our “founding document”. Pull the thread of Britain’s right to be here at all, of their assumption that they provide us with civilisation and protection, of their right to make the decisions about our lands, resources, rights and lives, and the very foundations of our own government begins to unravel. It’s a huge issue, which is why Discovery Doctrine issues are so rarely addressed, and why they still need to be addressed. What Cook did held impacts for our entire nation of Maori, and further afield, held impacts for our relations right across Te Moananui a Kiwa.
4. But he was one of the good guys!
Captain Cook’s voyages around the Pacific have often been characterised as adventures where he engaged in mutually beneficial relationships, admiring the people he encountered, trading hospitably with them – he’s often portrayed as the honourable and fair scientist-cum-explorer. Yet in his own journals he details stealing from Indigenous communities when he comes across their homes unattended – but shooting, killing, and abducting those who would dare to steal from him when he arrives uninvited to their lands and waters (and being the judge jury and executioner when anything went missing). He quite evidently didn’t admire the people of Niue which he named “Savage Island”, and also evidently didn’t admire my own region which he titled “Poverty Bay” – of course these names revolved entirely around what he wasn’t able to get from us rather than any intrinsic value. Here again, we see the erasure of native title simply in the assumption to name a place that already clearly has a name.
Cook also, of course, used deadly force whenever he felt he was under attack, and as was the case in Turanga, his perception of attack may well at times have been a matter of miscommunication – but EVEN IF IT WAS that he was under threat, that is a perfectly predictable and reasonable response to an invader, arriving without invite on other people’s shores with no actual entitlement other than that of his own Crown. It has always been quite within our rights to defend our own territories from invaders so let us never forget who was taking the action out here – Cook was imposing himself upon our territories and had no right to exert deadly force upon us for defending our territories as we saw fit.
But it was not merely within the scope of retribution or miscommunication that Cook took Indigenous lives, in fact he also detailed within his own journals the murder of unarmed Indigenous peoples merely because he desired to get a better look at the vessel they were sailing at the time. In plain terms, he committed piracy. Multiple times.
These particular pirates did not just pillage and plunder but they also infected swathes of Pacific populations with sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea, and in fact was responsible for the introduction of sexually transmitted diseases to Aotearoa, Hawai’i, and many other Pacific nations, by some crewmembers accounts with girls as young as 9. It’s widely known that Cook, himself, died ridden with syphilis. Alongside tuberculosis these diseases were responsible for huge population losses, hence in many places by Indigenous peoples Cook is remembered as a syphilitic pedophile rather than an honourable explorer. Comparing explorers who were all responsible for wiping out Indigenous populations is hardly a yardstick for morality. So who were the good guys? Well – in this context, I’d say the good guys were the ones that stayed at home.
5. But there are Maori taking part – they’re getting to tell their story and celebrate their histories too.
So first of all – Maori participation is not an indicator of justice for Maori – the Ture Whenua Maori Review quite clearly demonstrates that. But secondly – we are not a hive mind. Some value the Treaty, some do not, some see the relevance in the Doctrine of Discovery, others are quite unaware of it. I cannot answer for those who have chosen to participate but I can say that any move to base an event around the arrival of colonization to these lands should NOT be initiated by pākeha, should NOT be led by pākeha, and should not have the pursestrings held by pākeha. So what is the choice here, given that it was initiated by pākeha, with an option for Māori to participate.
The option was participate or be absent.
And this, literally, is how I have had this situation presented to me by well-meaning pakeha involved with these events who had no idea of how absolutely traumatising it is to say to an Indigenous person:
“Well, it’s going to happen – so what would you like to do about it?”
And that, my friends, is the perfect example of the power dynamic that sits behind the Cook events. This is a chance to participate or be erased on your own land.
Can I blame anyone for insisting that their story be included? No. Does that make this a JUST scenario? NO.
There are still others who revel in the fact that this is “shining a light” on the Pacific, on Aotearoa, that it brings with it unprecendented interest in our region and a desire to learn more about us (and even now I cannot write that without sighing deeply).
Let’s be clear about this – we, Indigenous Peoples, Māori, and all Ocean Peoples – do NOT need Cook in order to celebrate ourselves. We have done so, and will continue to do so. Pasifika Festival, Matatini Performing Arts Festival, Te Maori… we don’t need to wait for Cook to come along in order to celebrate who we are. In fact – we should probably all at this point be asking some very important questions: Who is it exactly that is just now showing interest in our region and ourselves? Why now as opposed to any other time? Whose gaze are we courting, and for whose ultimate benefit? No, I’m going to suggest that the heightened interest in this region is the misinterpretation of a greater interest in the colonial narratives of discovering and conquering this region. This, combined with the peddling of Indigenous acceptance makes for a much more palatable version of our history – a story where fragile white settler descendants can feel “safe” to engage in what happened, and is still happening, on these lands. That is what people are engaging in. For Māori – given that we CAN celebrate ourselves any time – why should we be basing any celebration of ourselves around the arrival of the forces that have sought to undo everything we are from that point onwards? Especially when it allows our colonizer to pat himself on the back for “providing the opportunity” and ultimately provides a free pass for our colonizer to leapfrog past restoration of due rights to a pretense of “reconciliation”. When our lands and waters are returned along with the ability to govern ourselves on our lands and waters… then we can begin the discussion of reconciliation. There is no shortcut. Which brings me to the next common line…
6. But this is a great opportunity for us to reconcile our pasts and move on together!
This… THIS is really rich. Like.. that bitter, embattled “HA!” kind of rich, when someone makes a suggestion that is as insulting as it is myopic. Māori have been dragging our Treaty partner back to the table to remind them of their obligations under the document THEY drafted, since before the ink was dry. In each instance, our Treaty partner has sought to curtail our efforts. Opportunities exist for reconciliation every single day in this country, and every single day we still seeracism in the media, racism in our council representation, racism in our government,racism in our schools.
Even the incredibly flawed Treaty settlement process sits underneath a Crown power structure which still resists our own historical truths and calls for justice. Every week I go to gatherings that essentially boil down to us dealing with the impacts of colonization and every week our Treaty partner leaves us to deal with that alone. Every one of those gatherings is a missed opportunity for the descendants of colonizers to attend, to hear the impacts, and to consider how they can help to restore justice. You want to reconcile? Come hikoi with us. Support our kura kaupapa and kohanga reo. Learn our reo. Call for the return of our lands. Call for our right to govern ourselves. Call for pākeha to exit their positions of power and hand them over to us, and support us in our journey for the restoration of our rights, and our agency, in our land. But no – you want to ignore those material opportunities and call THIS our opportunity to reconcile. An opportunity that affords you the right to celebrate yourselves, and then us too – because that, apparently, is how to do “bi-cultural”.
There are so many ways you can enter into the discussion of reconciliation.
But centering an event around the day that your lot arrived here, initiatied by you, with options for us to participate – that’s not it.
7. What’s this got to do with the environment?
If we’re talking about Cook – well, when Cook returned to Europe, and even during his travels, as he spread word of the resources he encountered in various lands it unfailingly led to intrusions from further traders, or military invasions and theft, and subsequent resource depletion and in some cases, the wiping out of food systems and staple stocks for Indigenous communities. Of course this fault lies not only with Cook but also with those that followed after him – and in both cases, again, we see this imperial entitlement, this socialised, normalised philosophy of entitlement to Non-christian territories and resources encapsulated by the Discovery Doctrine, that persists to this day. So the answer is: Everything. The Doctrine of Discovery has EVERYTHING to do with the environment. It was developed with the dispossession of Indigenous lands and resources in mind. The Discovery Doctrine facilitated the rechannelling of resources and wealth to European empires. From that point on, the claiming of lands, which was necessary in order to set up settler governments, removed power from the people who lived in an interdependent relationship with those lands and waters, and placed that power in a central location that could reap the benefits of its use without being subject to the impacts of its degradation. And that is how governments continue to operate today – in a centralised fashion, viscerally dissociated from the harm they cause, re-channelling power and resources to a core group. The empires they serve were once monarchies, and are now corporations – who operate under the very same entitlement to impact upon our lands, waters and even our own children and bodies as if we were simply a part of the booty that they stole. Our government stole ten thousand hectares of land from Maori hands through the Foreshore and Seabed Act NOT because the Treaty allowed it to do so, but because the Doctrine of Discovery empowered it to do so. Oil industries plunder our seabed and lands not because of a Treaty-led government – but because of a Doctrine of Discovery led government. Our waterways are dying not because of a government that honours Te Tiriti, but because of colonial entitlement that erases Indigenous presence and voices, as per the Doctrine of Discovery. If the Treaty was the tenancy agreement of the Crown to remain in Aotearoa – then it begs the question why can it still remain after so many breaches? The answer is The Discovery Doctrine.
8. But… why the United Nations?
The Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues sits within the UN, under the ECOSOC council, to hear specific issues pertaining to Indigenous peoples around the world. Where governments fail to recognise the rights of Indigenous Peoples, or in the instance where issues supercede one government and impact upon the broader Indigenous community, the Permanent Forum is there for these issues to be recorded in the global accounts. Upon occassion, recommendations may be elevated to General Assembly, or rapporteurs may be appointed to investigate an issue. The Doctrine of Discovery may not be that well discussed in Aotearoa – but in the Permanent Forum it’s recognised as the underpinning theme for Indigenous dispossession. So much, so, in fact, that a special session was held around the Doctrine of Discovery, and the resulting report from the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues reaffirmed that “all doctrines, including the doctrine of discovery, that advocate superiority on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust and should be repudiated in word and action.”
So while the NZ government might not realise the rights transgressions of an event which does anything less than completely repudiate Cook’s acts as vile and immoral – the UN Permanent Forum certainly does, and that’s where this needs to be presented, as a record of NZ’s response to the recommendations of 2014. In addition to this – we already know of instances overseas that seek to use these celebrations as a template for their own celebrations. Our brothers and sisters of Australia will also be subjected to a government imposing Cook celebrations upon them, will also be told that it will be in their own best interests, will also have government-sponsored participation from members of their communities, in spite of Cook’s declaration of “Terra Nullius” – unoccupied land, which led to subsequently being subjected to horrific abuses and murder. Other Indigneous nations are also facing re-enactments of the arrival of colonizers – this issue of governments celebrating the arrival of the colonizer is a huge, unnecessary sap of energy and resources that could so much more effectively be spent on simply getting on with the business of reclaiming our freedom.
9. What do you hope to achieve/What do you want to see happen?
First and foremost – for the records to show that this did not go unchallenged. Secondly, for those that have spent so many years working to elevate social consciousness around the Doctrine of Discovery to have their work acknowledged and built upon, as a legacy for future Indigenous generations to carry on with.
To be honest – I would like to wake up in 2019 and have this be another year where we progress as Indigenous people towards our sovereign rights, not some other shifted goal of “celebrated dual heritage”. Let Cook rest in the shadows of history as the murderous, thieving, kidnapping, diseased pirate that he was, and let the rest of us just get on with elevating our own Indigenous stories on our own terms and timeframes.
Koina noiho. That’s why I’m going. If you’d like to contribute towards the trip – here’s the crowdfunding page. MCH – feel free to fund me! It’s be a nice step towards reconciliation 😉
So this has been an incredibly exciting, and arduous, and rewarding period for me. From the first year of my plastic divestment journey, I have been aware of the work of the 5 Gyres Institute and their founders, Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins. I shared their work with my students. I blogged about the research, I based Plastic Free July events on their work around gyre memory. Meeting them in Hawai’i was exciting enough – hosting them in Aotearoa has been an honour.
Smog of the Sea premiere, Honolulu
Meeting Marcus and Anna
Over this month (with the help of Okeanos Foundation and Massey University) we are touring through 8 towns and cities, in nearly 20 events and workshops around plastic pollution and the conversations that have arisen have been significant, and at times challenging.
I want to speak to some of these issues today because there are some very specific facets to this journey that we, as a nation, need to address if we hope to step into a solution space around our role as plastic polluters.
I think, at times, there is an expectation that the discussions we offer through this tour should center on “hard science” – and certainly, with a “hard science” background, and having produced numerous papers and, together with Algalita Marine Research and Education, the bulk of science in relation to microplastic pollution – 5 Gyres would certainly be well equipped to load us up with all the facts we need to scare the bejesus out of us about the extent of the problem and what this means for our planet, and our survival.
But we need to get past scientifically documenting and commentating our own demise. There is a bulk of information, stretching back at least a decade now, that affirms and reaffirms that there is too much plastic in the ocean, and that this is not a good thing. Plastic pollution denial at this point can only sit alongside climate change denial as intellectual self-harm.
At this point more work is required to better understand the nature of the impacts upon our food systems, and ourselves – but this “hard science” needs to sit alongside social science, to understand the diverse range of social, cultural, political and economic factors that influence, and are influenced by, plastic waste. Not least because we know that plastic pollution is caused by all of these dimensions, and can only be solved through responses in all of these dimensions. I, for one, want to know how the accumulation of microplastic toxins through fish impacts the health of Pacific peoples whose diet consists largely of seafood. I lost my father to digestive cancer. I’ve lost grandparents in the same way, all of whom had diets centered around seafood. The majority of Pacific Island peoples and indeed Maori have seafood based diets – and in fact this is probably true of many coastal communities in Aotearoa, in general. Are we at greater risk of acquiring these toxic carcinogens, linked to digestive cancer, through ingesting plastics? And if so… what is the level of risk? How much is too much? What can be done? There are a lot of questions that still need exploring.
But secondly I want to say – that the “hard science” approach marginalises too many of these voices who bear the brunt of impacts from issues like climate change and plastic pollution. The business of faceless numbers, statistics and graphs is borne of an imperial knowledge system that has displaced Indigenous knowledge systems in much the same way as imperial expansion has displaced our bodies. There is a system of knoweldge that is borne of these lands, of these waters that surround us, and it can not, nor should not, be ignored.
This brings me to my second major reflection of this tour. It’s not new – it’s a topic that I have visited over and over, but it has crystalised within this tour at the forefront of my consciousness in a way that again, needs reflection.
If colonialism is a system of power abuse – the uninvited occupation of spaces for the purposes of economic exploitation and political domination, then surely what we are all facing here are forces of waste colonialism.
Waste colonialism has often been described as the means by which large, privileged countries export their waste to economically marginalised nations – then turn their backs on the subsequent environmental devastation in these regions, and worse still, judge them for it.
And I can’t deny – this is a thing – especially here in Aotearoa. Hat tip to China for refusing to take the world’s waste – they’ve too long been the world’s closet, where we hide our dirty waste secrets – whisked away from your curbside and in two blinks of an eye, fouling China on your behalf. You know what else they do on our behalf? They make the thing you throw away in the first place. Factory Asia is responsible for 60% of the world’s stuff. So many times I’ve seen and heard people talk about how pollution is China’s fault, or is Asia’s fault…. but I would challenge any room of people to check the labels of their clothes, of their shoes, to check the point of origin of the seat they’re sitting on, of the car they’re driving – and maintain that they and their own governments have no responsibility in the waste issues surrounding Asia. We love to buy cheap, and our corporations and suppliers love to source from Asia – but we also love to blame them for the obvious, predictable environmental implications of producing all OUR stuff.
So yes, this form of Waste Colonialism is a thing – but I’m going to revisit this term (that has drifted somewhat from public discourse), and expand it out a little, as someone that has had a thing or two to do with colonialism.
I didn’t invite wasteful corporations to my economic or geographic landscape. I have never consented for them to occupy my body, to impact my health, or to take liberties with my land in order to produce their goods from the oil under my marine territory and attempt to sell it back to me in the form of plastic goods. I never consented for them to impose their systems upon the minds and bodies of my daughters through saturation of media, and political manipulation, and social domination. Their presence is exploitative, uninvited, oppressive – they take from the many, disadvantaging most for the privilege of the few. Without a doubt – this is corporate colonialism.
And just like climate crisis – nobody will be able to escape it.
And just like climate crisis – there will be different sections of our society that it will impact differently. The impact on women is distinct. The impact on minorities is distinct. The impact upon Indigenous Peoples will certainly be distinct.
We all need to be at the table. We all need to speak to the responses. Groups that are marginalised and negatively impacted by Waste Colonialism DO NOT NEED SAVING by well intentioned observers, scientists, or NGOs. We certainly don’t need you to speak over us, or erase us, in this equation. Meetings about climate change and plastic pollution in the Pacific should be accessible, affordable, and appropriate for Pacific peoples and indeed Indigenous Peoples at large. Western science, if it’s to be applicable at all, needs to meet the minimum standards of working alongside Indigenous Peoples – we have well deserved expectations now that relationships be forged with us, as the embodiment of our territories. Nothing about us, without us.
With that in mind, I am incredibly proud of our waka hourua, Te Matau a Maui, trawling our eastern seaboard, as the first marine microplastic transect in Aotearoa waters. 5 Gyres have provided the training to our youth, and the manta trawl to our waka community, and in doing so our youth are not only extending their scientific toolkits – but are also becoming ambassadors for plastic waste for their communities – first hand, fluent witnesses to the damage of microplastics in our ocean. This is the same youth crew that travelled out to the Schlumberger Amazon Warrior last year to issue our trespass notice – and advise them that the oil industry is not welcome in our marine territories.
Our relationship with 5 Gyres has been invited, and forged in ceremony, in shared space and on our own waters and lands, and on our own terms. This is how intersectional work should be.
Our resistance to the plastics industry – through science, education, food sovereignty and zero waste systems – is very much an extension of our opposition to big oil. Not only because we recognise that plastic comes from oil – but because we recognise that the two industries rely upon the same colonial, patriarchal systems of oppression, resource theft and exploitation of power. This link is no better exemplified right now than by the fact that the oil industry recently invested over $180billion US to boost plastic production by 40% – a move that could irredeemably damage our oceans and the earth.
For us – it will be in this space that we forge our resistance – through our acknowledgement of our ancestral roots as peoples of the ocean, and stewards of the land. We are growing new generations of passionate, informed, bright, culturally grounded advocates for our rights, and the rights of our waters. We will march for our ocean – this Tuesday 27 February – calling upon our government to ban single use plastic bags, alongside 5 Gyres and Greenpeace – and this is just one drop of what will be an unconquerable tide of the Ocean Peoples calling for the rights of our great ancestors Tangaroa and Hinemoana.
A tide that will ebb. A tide that will flow. A tide of force. A tide that will outlast. A tide that will encompass the world.
I would like to start this post off by acknowledging the Indigenous Peoples of the lands involved here:
Nā tēnei mokopuna a ngā whānau whānui o Ngāti Porou, i te Tai Rāwhiti o Te Ika a Maui, tēnei te mihi atu kia koutou te iwi mōrehu, te iwi māia i Parihitini – e Kōkā ma, e Koro ma, e Tama ma – tēnā koutou.
Kia koutou hoki aku tuakana i Motu Honu Nui/Abya Yala me Hawai’i – tēnā koutou.
There are many more who support, and empathise, with Palestine. Māori support of Palestine is well documented, and voiced, through communities such as Kia Ora Gaza – and proudly represented by Māori MP Marama Davidson
Another week and the scum in the Hollywood pond continues to rise to the surface. Accounts of sexual assault continue to reach our screens, and as the momentum continues to build, it’s hard not to sit back and wonder… just how far will this go?
I mean, it’s not exactly a big secret that the industry has a seedy, rotten core. A dark, misogynist infrastructure that has operated to oppress and objectify women since its very inception. Rape culture is present from the very foundation blocks to the cloud-nestled penthouses, and while we are understanding it in an aptly broad behavioural sense – ranging from inappropriate language, and whispers in the ear, to groping, and exposure all the way through to violent rape – this must also extend to the normalisation of misogyny manifesting in script language, costumes, roles and storylines. As Lizzy Marvelly recently noted:
I can’t help but wonder whether the image of a woman as a passive and pretty object plays a significant role in both unbalanced but consensual couplings and non-consensual crimes. When the societal image of a woman is an ornament that will yield to male desire, irrespective of her own sexual wants and needs, what women actually want (and what they don’t want) has become moot point.
If this goes as far as it should go – it has to address the entire industry. And without a doubt right now, industry executives are shunting undies and meeting to strategise the best way to take the wind out of these sails. Entire legal firms will be bankrolled to destablise claims. Media will be engaged to capitalise on any retractions. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if purposefully false accusations were tabled JUST so they could be rescinded/disproven. Anything to sow the seed of doubt in this tsunami of believing women.
Already, we see employers minimising the acts of men, like Lena Dunham, who, even in her apology for launching to the defence of her employee, couldn’t help but try to cast doubt on Aurora Perrineau’s claims.
And then of course we have Disney’s John Lasseter. I mean to be honest – if you are shocked at any of the sexual assault allegations then you have not been paying attention to how Hollywood operates – and the fact that sexual assault is normalised within this infrastructure is demonstrated perfectly by the societal shrug given to casting couch tactics since, well, since Hollywood WAS.
They not only hypersexualised her – they did so using slave references. 15 year old sex slave Jasmine for your viewing pleasure.
If we ever needed proof of Disney’s structural misogyny, it’s this:
Disney have reportedly financially settled on at least one allegation of sexual misconduct against John Lassiter. According to Vanity Fair, Disney executives MET in 2010 to discuss the problem of John Lasseter’s continued sexual assaults upon young women. We can safely assume the concern was more centered around the liability he posed the company than the safety of young women. What was the decided course of action? Nothing. They continued to allow this creep to work alongside young women, making our children’s entertainment, and make millions in doing so. Disney knowingly placed young women at risk, because John gave good film.
And when John Lasseter is finally added to the list of powerful men being called to account for their ways – how does Disney respond?
An apology that didn’t even accept responsibility for his actions, but instead characterised 20 years of complaints as “missteps” and “unwanted hugs”.
To give you an idea of what that means, financially – Disney has reportedly paid Lasseter $6billion for his creative services. His net worth is over $100million. His salary back in 2001 – 16 years ago – was already $2.5million a year.
Over the next 6 months, Disney will pay millions out to a sexual abuser – who will, no doubt, then return to his position of power, privilege, and influence. This, apparently, because his talent is more important than keeping women in this industry safe. It bears mentioning that, of course, there are many talented, respectable people in this industry who DON’T pose a risk to young women but this just makes the crime that much worse that their good work is put at risk by the enabling of sexual transgressors. The assumption that there is not enough talent to replace the likes of Lasseter flies in the face of the disposable manner in which creative talent below the Hollywood bottleneck are treated.
We can’t look at their depiction of an Arab child princess as a sexualised slavegirl and pretend there aren’t a few creeps behind the Disney wheel. Likewise, we can’t consider the way Disney behaves AS A CORPORATION towards these issues and fool ourselves that Lasseter is an isolated case within Disney – after all, like Hollywood in general, it is an empire built upon misogyny and white male entitlement, and like all empires, it has set out to expand, through consumption, co-option and commodification of native property, and at the expense of native bodies, and native lives.
And I am purposefully specific in speaking about native bodies and property here because we CANNOT let this call for justice stop at high profile white women. That would the most patriarchal version of feminism. Cartoon Brew have been rigorously reporting on the treatment of women and people of colour by Disney Pixar. We must take this opportunity to expose the distinctly compounded consequences of Hollywood’s racism and sexism upon women of colour – and discuss how the financing, the storylines, the languaging, the casting, the costumes have all bled through to a social expectation of women of colour to sit in the background and quietly allow things to be done to them.
The following year Misty’s life was ended, another under-investigated death of a bright, creative Indigenous leader. No reira e Misty – noho atu ra i te taha a o tipuna, e kō. Nei ano ngā mihi aroha ki to whānau kua ngaukino i te mamae nei – koutou hoki ko ngā whānau pani o ngā kōtiro, wāhine taketake a Abya Yala kua tahaetia, kua kōhurutia – nui ngā mihi aroha kia koutou. E hine ma, e moe, e moe, okioki atu.
Indigenous women have a distinct experience of the patriarchy that is being called out in Hollywood right now. Colonization begins with the destruction of the sacred and this is primarily through the deliberate sexual defiling of women. This is as true of storytelling as it is of military invasion. The squaw mentality, perpetuated through western fiction and certainly Disney tropes, directly contributes to sexual assaults, violence, abduction, and murder of Indigenous Women. It contributes directly to the lack of police investigation into their cases. The hypersexualisation of Pacific women through Tiki Lounge culture – recently reinvigorated by the platforms of fantasy based tourism provided by Disney and compounded by the militarism through our region – objectifies and endangers us. We pay the price of our commodification with our bodies.
We can’t continue to fool ourselves that Disney are unaware of these consequences for women of colour, or that they care – and we cannot let the industry get away with individualising these men as aberrations, when in fact they are perfect archetypes of a sick structure. We must demand justice OF THE SYSTEM, not just from these men.
If there is anything that has given me heart, in this, it’s that this drive has come from the public. Media have been complicit in suppressing the horrors of this industry – but their monopoly on the truth is disappearing like a bullettrain in the distance – and in its place are social media movements like #MeToo that have spilled over into real life action, real accountability – and we must keep pushing for it to extend to justice at a structural level. #MeToo did not spill over because people stopped at the hashtag, but because they took action. Here are two actions you can take to address these issues:
Disney must be made to consider their own misconduct in placing young women at risk, and we, the public who have driven this campaign – must demand better behaviour from them, and it can start with an apology from Disney and stronger action against Lasseter. Please take a moment to sign and share this petition
The story surrounding Misty’s disappearance is currently in production by her father, Charles Upham, in the form of the documentary 11days. This is a vital opportunity for Indigenous voices to tell our own stories about the structural injustices that lead to underinvestigation of crimes against Indigenous women. Please support it if you can, and share the GoFundMe page so this story can come to its fullest light.
Keep speaking about Misty. Keep supporting the brave women who speak out. Keep demanding that justice extend to women of colour – and most importantly – keep calling out THE SYSTEM.