Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ngati Wikitoria

As has been said many times, especially by us Brits for for whom it is still somewhat of a novelty - even to those of us used to the small world of Quakerdom - Aotearoa New Zealand is a small country. I don't mean in the geographical sense but in terms of people. It is hardly surprising then that the traditional Maori way of greeting involves stating where you are from and who are are related to so that kinship ties and mutual friendships etc can be established. There is a distinct sense of everyone being related to everyone somehow within the Maori community (for better or worse...), the use of aunty, uncle and cousin is a tad different to the European conventions - it's much broader - altho' having not quite got my head around it I'll not try explaining it here!

The tradition of establishing where you connect to has become incorporated to a large extent into Pakeha (non-Maori) culture too - unlike parts of Britain where being asked where you are from, or even 'belong', is usually a sign of you being considered an outsider or comer-in any questioning along such lines here is usually followed by an abridged version of the questioners (British) heritage. Same with many Maori too due to the extent of cross-cultural marriages, a guy I met at the marae down the road is quite proud of his Hebridean ancestry. But as was pointed out on the news lately amidst Nationalists concerns over the number of immigrants - we're all immigrants here, some are just more established than others.

When I lived in Britain not really coming from one place tended to be a disadvantage when such things mattered - there was always too much of somewhere else in me either by parentage or place of birth regardless of where I lived and where I called 'home'. However here I'm starting to realise that it's a bonus. Folk here don't care what other places I may link to, they are more interested in what I have in common with them than what I don't. So my widely spread family have unknowingly aided and abetted me in establishing links to many more places in common with people here - the latest being Yeovil, ok so I can only actually remember having been there once to see Great Uncle Percy and G. Aunty Gwen and it was probably about 25 years ago but what the heck! It's kind of like having three extra bingo cards to play with.

When I joined the school group at the Marae I made sure I'd got my mihi (greeting) brushed up as I knew doing the rounds of those was part of the evenings programme. As it happens the teachers somehow got let off the hook and me with them, part of me was a bit miffed as I'm quite proud of being able to recite my mihi in Te Reo rather than English but I'm still not 100% happy with it so maybe not giving a work in progress wasn't such a bad thing.

Part of my problem goes back to being from 'everywhere and nowhere' - so just which is my mountain? my river? who are my tribe? which is my marae? For the last two I'd borrowed someone elses answer which was Te Haahi Tuuhauwiri (Quakers) and Quaker Acres - the Settlement at W(h)anganui. But having listened to Bruce at the marae and then being back at Te Papa recently I've decided to change that - Ngati Wikitoria, the tribe of Queen Victoria are in effect all those she ruled over (and their descendants) which as Bruce pointed out included them too once the Treaty was signed. Now given my longstanding decidedly republican politics (as in ditch the monarchy as head of state not the USA version!) it does feel a little odd to be aligning myself with Queen Vic but the Treaty was with the crown, not the government, nor the country - no monarch and technically the Treaty becomes invalid. Rats. Ho hum... so until a legal loophole has been discovered I'll shut up and make do with the status quo, sigh.... but Scotland gaining her independance wouldn't muck it up so all is not lost! Anyway, I digress...

So yes, I'm part of Ngati Wikitoria. When in Wellington a couple of weeks ago I took Wee John to see the modern marae at Te Papa, I love that place and took everyone who came to visit me in Welly there. I always rub away at the same point on the Pounamu kaitiaki, one day it'll be all shiny and green! When we were there a guided tour was getting the spiel and something the guide said sank in - the marae at Te Papa Tongawera is for all people, tangata whenua - the people of the land ie Maori, tangata tiriti - the people of the treaty, and all those who have come since... so, I have a marae!

My mountain and river still raise issues for me - at the moment I've plumped for Castle Hill as it rather ambiguously covers both the landmark I grew up with in the Holme Valley and that in Edinburgh on which sits the Quaker Meeting House (oh and the castle!). My river is more tricky - I still dither between the Holme and the Firth of Forth, I can't bring myself to call the cold, grey, uninviting North Sea my moana (sea/ocean) instead and I reckon I'd be pushing it still to say Ahipara Bay, but maybe one day...


richard evens said...

Hello Anna

In my farewell to Aotearoa I used the phrase the land with the mountains of my ancestors. These mountains are Mount Walter and Mount Nicholas. They are near Queenstown.

Not sure about my river.

MC said...

Kia Ora Anna
I have stumbled upon your Flickr photos of the KDS production while searching for Tauroa Point pictures. I like a lot of your pictures, you have a different eye for a picture than Ruth at Diggers, and I really liked the monarch squence and quirky titles in the Natural Selection collection.
Good to read your blog too, I shall bookmark it!
I have struggled with the mihi as probably do all Pakeha. I like Glenn Colqhohoun (spelling?) and his take on Maori /Pakeha cultural differences.
I call my mountain Black Coombe in the Lake District because it has spiritual connections for me. My awa is the Irwell that connects (by coincidence) the 3 places where I spent my first 18 years. My marae I call the local community centre in Lancaster The Gregson as it was our marae - we went there for parties and to christen our children and for other memorable events. As to my iwi - sometimes Ngati Pakeha, but now I have hit upon Ngati Lancashire as that is where I am from.

I shall carry on reading your blog. good luck with your trip back home.