Whale Riding In Napier....
An Open Letter
By Rita Corriel
One of the most memorable experiences I had while visiting New Zealand last winter took place in a suburban dining room in Napier. It was there that I witnessed the diminutive yet powerful, 90 year old Hana Cotter, speaking Truth to power. And she spoke it the only way it can be spoken - straight from the heart! Hana Cotter is a Maori elder who had the opportunity to address a group of legal representatives from the Crown last July, because she is leader and founder of the WAI 692 Claimants group. But the *reason* she spoke so passionately and authentically is because she is, above all else, a 'human being'. It was stunning.
She spoke to the lawyers from Wellington as though *they* were human beings as well. She told them that after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, she had been cured as a patient in Napier Hospital. She spoke about the 'mana', the vital life force and source of healing energy she experienced there. She described and explained how the beautiful view of Napier Bay gave her inspiration and hope. It fed her inner 'spirit' and provided the comfort and fortitude needed to help her heal. As a practicing psychologist, I am well aware of the importance of Hana's experience as it relates to successful recovery from all forms of illness. Sadly enough, I doubt that those lawyers have any understanding of the vital roles which hope, aesthetics or even the power of nature, play in the healing process. She seemed to believe that her urgent plea and deep-felt 'knowing' and wisdom would be understood and respected. But most surprisingly, she seemed to believe that they would actually *care*. She spoke as though they too had hearts beneath the suits and bureaucratic personae.
With the deepest sense of urgency and passion, she implored the legal representatives of New Zealand's government to take her plea to the Minister of Health; "Please give this hospital back to the people of Napier!!" Hana Cotter is obviously heartbroken and outraged that a place which is filled with such profound healing energy could be sold for a quick profit by people who have no respect for that which has deep meaning and value in life. Although this land actually belongs to the Maori people, Hana's pleas were for the welfare of all citizens; "We are all 'one' family with one Creator". It was breathtaking to witness someone who knows that what is desperately needed, now more than ever, is truth and substance. Here is someone who has not given up on humanity - (not even lawyers). This is a woman who is connected to the divine spark within herself and is willing to put herself on the line for the benefit of others. Here is someone who should be taken seriously.
It is certainly clear that a crime against the citizens of Napier, as well as the Maori People, is being committed. And it was astonishing to hear someone in today's world speak to bureaucrats as though they would not only 'get it', but would actually give a damn. I think this is a very important issue for all of you; for all of 'US'. You are being given an incredible opportunity to benefit yourselves immensely, while honouring the wisdom and knowledge that comes from a non-European culture. You could be the recipients of a powerful legacy of healing. Why would you allow this to be stolen from you?
It is well known and accepted that the attitude of patients and the state of their spirit has a significant correlation to recovery rates and outcomes. From my own personal and professional experience, I have learned where to look for the 'truth' in any situation in life. It is always where the 'Heart' is. Hana Cotter wants this place of healing to be available for all citizens. Why would your city reject such a plea? Most hospitals are simply warehouses for the ill. Why wouldn't the people of Napier want an authentic 'healing centre'? Why would Napier *not* wish to gift itself with a place such as this?
To marginalise this woman is to marginalise yourselves. Why not take this woman of outstanding character, altruism and integrity seriously? This is a woman who has put years of her own time and resources into trying to save a sacred healing place for you. How many people of this quality do you have in your city? How many do you have in your nation? Any society that holds to the 'bottom line' as the ultimate value, is a society that will ultimately fail. You are being given the chance to set an example; to take the 'high road'. Do you really want to negate someone who doesn't play politics and has your best interests at heart? I believe we've had have enough experience to know where that road leads.
It is absolutely essential to support any human being who possesses such strong qualities of character and conscience, because soon there will be no one left to speak for us.. Those who understand that we are all in this together are too few and far between in our world. It is time for us to 'wake up' and 'see' that our only real option is to recognize and support our cherished 'whale riders', wherever they may be!