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July 10, 2016 | by  | in Opinion |
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Ākikō

Over the past few weeks, we have interviewed Māori and Pasifika students about being in—and out of—halls, homesickness, motivation, education, and everything in between…

 

Being in halls:

“At the hall, there’s a BIG divide between white and brown. It’s hard to explain, but it’s definitely there. Lots of people love us being there, because of the cultural stuff at language weeks… but it can be tokenistic: growing up, I did a lot of performing for people who were unfamiliar with my culture, and that’s what it feels like. They just take it for granted. And I’m like: ‘It’s not just a dance!!’”

“There was this time I was coming back to the hall, at about nine, and there was this crowd of obviously drunk white kids coming in too. An RA stopped me to look in my bag. I thought, alright, but I asked him what he was checking for. It took about five tries before he admitted that he was checking me for alcohol. And I was just like: really?”

“And the RA cultural diversity training… that was the worst! Well, not the worst: I always try to get something out of it, whether it’s the free food, around or…! Anyway, there was one lesbian, but everyone else? Privilege. With indigenous people and our knowledge systems, there’s a history of it getting taken, published, and then fed back to us. That’s what it felt like.”

 

At uni:

“I’ve asked some people ‘why are you here?’ and they go ‘just cause.’ They’re just going with the flow, following their friends, and I tell them: ‘this is an expensive wave!’ Apart from if you’re forced, or if you want to be here, there aren’t really any good reasons—it’s just damaging our people, because we’re the ones who can’t pay our student loans.”

“You notice how few Māori academics there are to reference. I want to not have to reference Pakeha, who’ve done ‘ethnographic work,’ but they have their own biases. Your granddad might have taught you something, but you can’t quote your family. I want people to be able to quote their own whānau.”

“I’ve noticed how much of New Zealand history isn’t taught in high schools: the Treaty took three days to sign, there were bills passed that didn’t allow Māori to own land. People go, ‘oh, it’s little,’ but it’s big. It’s ammunition to pursue study, to learn more about my culture.”

 

On cross-cultural misunderstandings:

“I have a friend doing Law and she asked ‘what if all the laws were changed so that it’s Tikanga Māori?’ and then her white friend said ‘how are we supposed to follow the law if we don’t understand?’ BOOM!!! …she didn’t get it. And that’s what we’re working with, people.”

 

On spaces:

“With Pakeha, I’m like ‘you feel alienated too, you’re not connected to anyone’—we have the marae, Pasifika Haos—what do non-indigenous people have?”

“The hub? Their space is everywhere—we have to go find our spaces or make them.”

 

A word to the wise:

“For years, I kept who I am separate from what I want to do. I wanted to succeed here without using the ‘Māori card’. I changed my perspective at O-Week: a policewoman came to speak to us—half Māori, half Cook Island—she failed her first year because she didn’t ‘play the Māori card.’ The second year, she jumped right in, and her marks shot up. SO, straight after the lecture, I went to find TPA. It’s not degrading to get help.”

 

In conclusion:

1) The next time you want to reference your whānau but aren’t allowed to? Notice a bias in the way something’s taught? Something’s been left out completely? Ask why.

2) Feel like having a rant? Go have a rant! You’ll feel better, I promise.

3) If you’re at a hall and want to move: advocate@vuwsa.org.nz

4) We deserve spaces that we feel comfortable in. And we deserve access to support. That, and a decolonized education system, but that’s a topic for another day! ;).

 

Kia kaha.

He waka eke noa.

 

Kia ora rawa atu:

Tik, Nikayla Jonas, Laura Toailoa and many more

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