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outsider

It is good to be back in study mode again after a long wet disrupted summer, that produced very little in regards to our normalised summer holiday weather expectations. In fact, it delivered a diversity of ‘extreme weather’ that we were nationally ill-equipped to navigate, resulting in life loss and extreme property devastation.
Extreme weather, now widely regarded as a consequence of global warming, is a result of man’s anthropogenic impact upon the earth, and an unknown that we negotiate daily. It is also possibly the ‘karma’ that Indigenous communities refer to, given the abhorrent disregard and abuse that the Western world has subjected the environment to, discussed in this first week of readings, on positionality.

The task was to produce a weekly ‘Reflective Journal’, engaging my creative juices. A perfect outcome for me, to be advancing in a creative space, that it is attached to the academia and literature that underpins the RAW mahi (raw.org.nz).

The readings this week, have been relevant and reflective, more so given my two current RAW mahi projects, one that was presented to the District Court Judges conference in Auckland in March.

I am presently working on a collaborative Māori led proposal to ensure that offending wāhine get purposeful outcomes from detainment, by ensuring their voices are included in the correctional conversations.
As a white ‘external outsider’ (I once saw myself as an ‘external insider’ given my relationships with Māori, however, I now acknowledge I can never be this), I am struggling to get traction, indicating my methods of engagement with Māori require a transformational re-think. Therefore, not only does the correctional system and its outcomes for Māori wāhine come under scrutiny, but so do my methods of construction within a proposal such as this.
Working with complex offending Māori wāhine, through RAW, for the last ten years is simply not enough to give me the credibility to have this discussion, that I now know, has to be Māori led.
This has caused me to reflect on my approach to any granted huis with agreeable Māori Iwi, In that they will be very different to the approach I would normally have taken within my Western world.

The reading from Archibald was a strong reminder of the process of approach when wanting to extract knowledge and information for research from Indigenous peoples or communities. Researchers are seen as learners, and when sharing learned knowledge with others, it requires a cultural respect, responsibility, reciprocity and reverence, by acknowledging what is important to Indigenous communities; their land, beliefs, ceremonies, traditional teaching of elders, dreams and their stories.
It will be important to ensure that I give proper acknowledgement to my sources. That I engage by way of ‘active listening’, no matter how off topic I believe the ‘teacher” is, or how much time it takes, and that I continue to remain respectful and reciprocal relations.
Blood memory (knowledge passing through generations) and heart knowledge (relationships and connections), truly resonated with me. As did having an understanding of how in harmony Indigenous communities can be, with self, others, nature and the animal kingdom.

The four principles that were detailed in Archibald, pg.55, will provide me with the foundations of my Indigenous connections moving forward.
1. Respecting cultural knowledge.
2. Understanding the responsibility in the roles of teacher and learner.
3. Practicing reciprocity, continuing the cycle of knowledge from generation to generation.
4. Revering spiritual knowledge, and one’s spiritual being.

I resonated with the TED video, delivered by Chimamanda Adichie, on ‘The Danger of a Single Story’.

Where people are shown as one thing over and over again, that is who they become. How stories are told and who tells the story, holds the power. The danger of a single story is that a negative story flattens the experience and forms stereotypes that are incomplete, when one story becomes the only story. Single stories can rob people of dignity, and mainly detail how people are different, not how they are similar. Stories matter, they have the power to empower and humanise, or disempower, provide dignity and repair, or break people.

There are many examples of the ‘single story’ that I encounter in my day to day, commercial mahi. Recruiting a Māori wahine, requires a varied approach, to a Pākēha employment, in a Western world. Behaviours that can be misconstrued as tardiness and indifference to the role, may in fact be a normalised way of approaching an employment application, where timeframe is not as important as ensuring the right employment fit, and this simply takes time.

I encountered two relevant pull outs applicable to my RAW mahi in Meyer. These have given me a deeper understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing.

How do we educate our youth? We surround them with community, we give them meaningful experiences that highlight the responsibility to be meaningful, intelligent and kind. We watch for their gifts; we shape assessment to reflect their mastery, that is accomplished in real time. We laugh more, we harvest the hope of aloha. We help each other, we listen more, we trust in one and other again. We have what we need, we are what we need (Myer, 2001, pg.146).

The belief that meaning is tied to learning, is not hidden or subtle, it is the pivotal hope for the why, how, where and what, of lessons, understanding and the creation of a meaningful life (Meyer. Pg.139).

Ivan Illich’s, To Hell with Good Intentions, also provides a thought provoking read. He talks to the impact of mission vacations amongst poor Mexicans, affected by well off US students, naming them as; salesmen for a delusive ballet in the ideals of democracy, equal opportunity and free enterprise, among people who will never have the possibility of profiting from these.

It is so normalised for affluent white communities and individuals to see themselves as ‘saviours’ of those less fortunate, given their acquisitive and achievement orientated lifestyles, where there is a total disregard for the historical colonial damage that has occurred.
This saviour behaviour occurs when there is perceived suffering or shortage, and those that ‘have more’, heed the call to alleviate the pain.
Good Samaritans flushing material excesses from their homes to assist the flood victims in New Zealand, can be simply taking the opportunity to rid themselves of unwanted material acquisitions (normally destined for the dump), were they mask this ‘generosity’ as an attempt to demonstrate humanitarian support.
I suggest that there is a more significant course of action that can be taken, where a less impacted individual takes heed of the weather warnings and looks to reduce their damaging environmental footprint.

I couldn’t help but reflect on my korero, with the CEO of the Waikato Women’s Refuge (WWR), as we discussed the flood damage at Port Waikato and her access difficulties, in getting food to the residents. There appeared to be blockage from local Māori organisations, who suggested they had the situation under control, and that WWR were better served to remain in their own area. I sensed her frustration as she acknowledged that these frameworks and barriers, that delayed outcomes and increased difficulty for impacted Māori, were no different to the Western ways of working, all driven by money, opportunity and power.

References

Archibald, J. (2008). Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit. UBC Press. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.waikato.ac.nz/lib/waikato/detail.action?docID=3412589.

Illich, I. (1968). To Hell with Good Intentions. CVSA.

Meyer, M. A. (2001). Our Own Liberation: Reflections on Hawaiian
Epistemology. The Contemporary Pacific. 13 (1): 124-48.

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