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Tariana Turia: Inaugural Maori Research Symposium

Nga kete a Rehua: Inaugural Maori Research Symposium

‘The voice to have the right to speak for ourselves’.

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

This week, Parliament has been in urgency.

And so it was at 11pm last night, I was delivering a speech on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities.

A bill which it was announced only at 9am yesterday morning, would be debated that day.

In between 9am and 11pm I travelled to Whanganui to a tangi, I had various meetings in Parliament, and then I was straight into the House to take my part in debating the legislation.

Fortunately along the way, I remembered a woman I had met a couple of weeks back; I was able to make contact with her, and download her doctorate thesis on the unmet legal, social and cultural needs of Maori with disabilities.

At 6am this morning, I received an email back from that same woman, Dr Huhana Hickey, which I want to share. 

She responded to the speech I eventually gave, saying

All I ask is they give Maori the voice. The voice to have the right to speak for ourselves.

In the passage of a typical day in the life of a politician, Maori research is pivotal to our ability to give voice; to honour our commitment that tangata whenua have the right to speak for ourselves.

And so it is truly humbling to be with you all; people who are passionate about Maori approaches to research.

People who understand the impacts your work has on Maori communities; people who place high respect on the ways in which the views and perspectives of Maori are treated in your studies.

I mihi to you all for the enormous contribution you are making to academic research; to the body of knowledge we can now access; to ensuring tangata whenua have the right to speak for ourselves.

As a party that started out three years ago, being tagged the ‘last cab in the rank’; it is of course a particular pleasure to come to an event which is first in the queue.

I congratulate Dr Rawiri Taonui of Aotahi: School of Māori and Indigenous Studies, and Dr Tiwha Puketapu of Te Tapuae o Rēhua; for your collective vision in establishing the first pan-discipline, pan-tertiary institution Māori Research Symposium in Te Waipounamu.

It is a real tribute to you all, that this event has been developed in partnership with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, the University of Otago, Lincoln University, Otago Polytechnic and the University of Canterbury.

There is another reason I am pleased to be here – and Tiwha will probably know best that connection.

In Whanganui, where we are both from, iwi gifted the name Te Whare o Rehua to our art gallery, the Sarjeant Gallery.  And so, we all come together, through Rehua.

We think of Rehua as the heavenly guardian watching over the three baskets of knowledge— Te Kete-o-te-Wananga.

All of us are here today, to celebrate and cherish the gifts of those three kete. 

Tekete-aronui  - the knowledge of what we see, aro-nui, 'that before us', the natural world around us as apprehended by the senses.

Tekete-tuauri   - the knowledge 'beyond, in the dark', the knowledge which understands, 'stands under', our sense of experience.

Tekete-tuatea the knowledge of spiritual realities, realities beyond space and time, the world we experience in ritual.
It is truly a metaphor for the wonder of knowledge, the pursuit of excellence; the unity of collaboration.

But there is one more connection I must make to Rehua.

E rere kau mai te Awanui mai te Kahui Maunga ki Tangaroa; Ko au te awa ko te awa ko au

I make our connection from the awa of Whanganui to the puna at Rehua, which once provided fresh waters for the people of Ngati Mamoe, the peoples of Waitaha who lived at Puari Pa.

More recently, many of our relations came to Rehua Hostel, the place at which young Māori apprentices throughout the motu arrived to join the Māori Apprentices Trade Training Scheme at the Christchurch Polytechnic.

That scheme was also another first of its kind; and over fifty years ago was evidence of a respectful relationship between Te Haahi Weteriana and Ngāi Tahu.

It was from the strength of that collaboration that construction and carving of Te Whatu Manawa Māoritanga o Rēhua began in 1957. 

At that point in time, it was well over one hundred years since Te Wai Pounamu had been blessed with the building of a carved wharenui.

All of the marae in Otautahi were consulted about the building of the house and it was agreed that the wharenui would be representative of all the tribes in New Zealand.

In 1960, the lifting of the tapu of Te Whatu Manawa Māoritanga O Rēhua was performed by iwi of Waikato led by Princess Piki, the late Dame Te Atairangikaahu; and the whare was later opened by Prime Minister Walter Nash, with Sir Eruera Tirikatene alongside.

And my thoughts go to the walls of Rehua marae, to the faces and memories of those tupuna who stay in our hearts and minds.   I think of them.

I think too, of the mana whenua, and through Ta Tipene O’Regan, I acknowledge them for the welcome extended to me.

This has been a lengthy introduction to my korero, but it was very important to me, to be able to truly connect and I am grateful to the link we have in Te Whare o Rehua to make that possible.

The research that is being pioneered from Papatipu marae; from the Maori Indigenous Health Institute; from Te Tapuae o Rehua; will all place value on the strength of collective connections.

Our excellence lies in telling our own stories; in carving our own waka, in connecting the past with the future, one generation with another; the land with the people; indigenous peoples of this land and across the globe.

Our stories are indeed our strength.  They are a collective volcano waiting to yield.  To burst forth and clothe Papatuanuku with the histories that give testimony to who we are.

Dr Annemarie Gillies, Rawiri Tinirau and Noreen Mako in their research on whakawhaungatanga describe how our interconnections with each other and our environments, are sometimes interpreted as networking. 

They challenge that definition – arguing that whakawhaungatanga brings with it an enduring obligation and reciprocity element that is missing from Western research processes.

Rose Pere, with her wonderful wheke or octopus model always makes me think in picture terms, about how each dimension of our wellbeing is vital in order to sustain ourselves.  Our whakapapa, is, of course, absolutely central in this concept at the heart of all life.

The programme for these two days was overwhelming in the rich showcase opportunity it provides for tangata whenua identities, knowledge and experience to flourish.  It has many tentacles to tantalise and stimulate you all as you continue to refine the stories you seek to express.

Our greatest wish in the Maori Party is that the brilliance of the tangata whenua research mind is nurtured through appropriate and courageous investment.

The research sector, in our view, suffers from insufficient budget to achieve Maori research goals of developing Maori research capability and evolving Maori knowledge.

We know that there are various issues with the processes used to determine funding allocated to achieve Maori research goals and too, with insufficient levels of advice requested by the Minister from Maori researchers, about how exactly such priorities should be determined.

I recently enjoyed a paper written by Ocean Mercier,‘Indigenous Knowledge and Science: A new representation of the interface between indigenous and eurocentric ways of knowing”.

In her paper, Ocean was generous in her appreciation of the work the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology has been leading in Te Tipu o te Wananga portfolio. 

One of the four main goals of this portfolio is

“enabling the vitalisation and evolution of matauranga Maori and exploring the interface between indigenous knowledge and other knowledge streams particularly science and technology”.

I have always been worried that while there seems to be ample research funding available for looking at the deficits of article three responsibilities – the levels of deprivation; of health inequalities; of educational disadvantage – but when it comes to our passion for exploration and entrepreneurship the funding seems to dry up.

The Maori Party is keen to support iwi specific initiatives which seem to document indigenous knowledge in areas as diverse as aquaculture, Maori multiple land usage; biofuels; solar energy.

We need to have the science and the knowledge which worked for our tupuna and could just as easily apply to contemporary challenges.

Ocean accepts that some of this knowledge has been lost; some has been deliberately concealed; others have embedded and possibly even hidden within our tribal memories and traditions.

But the challenge as we move forward is to prepare our pathway wisely.  To celebrate our survival, but also to take pains to organise our research, to protect our protocols, to respect our authenticity.

And we must be forever mindful of the importance of decolonising methodologies; to be alert to what Linda Tuhiwai Smith refers to as “they came; they saw; they named; they claimed”.

As we expand the frontiers of indigenous knowledge and tangata whenua knowledge in particular we must always be true to the discipline our tupuna have left for us.

Our disciplines of our karakia; our consultation mechanisms; our respect for our kuia and koroua; our attitude of gratitude for all who have guided us to the pathways of knowledge we tread.

My co-leader, Pita Sharples, always speaks passionately about the complete and utter discipline he expects when people pick up a taiaha; or take on the challenge of kapa haka.

In the very same way, we must ensure that our own tangata whenua processes for protecting and preserving tino rangatiratanga are our reference point for the research pathways we create.

Essentially, it is about having‘The voice to have the right to speak for ourselves’.

Nga Kete A Rehua is establishing a foundation where nothing less than excellence is expected.

We all need your brilliant minds; your cultural authenticity; your passionate respect for te Ao Maori to ensure our visions and aspirations are able to spring forth and multiply.

As we approach the period in which for the first time, Maori will be in the driving seat to determine the next Government; it is even more apparent that your voices must be leading us forward.

And I leave with you, one last question to take forward through this hui.

That question is -  he aha te mea nui?

We, in the Maori Party, are ready, willing and waiting with bated breath to hear what your response to that question will be.

ends


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