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August 13, 2018 | by  | in Ngāi Tauira |
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NT: Te Ara Tauira

Te Herenga Waka
Being Māori at university is not easy. You go to your classes, your tutorials, do your assignments, get graded. You are judged by the words you put on the paper, and then branded with a letter. You’re respected as an individual, not as a culmination and representation of your whānau, your marae, hapu, or iwi, even if you are. I expected this, we expect this, as although this is our whenua, our land, we become accustomed to operating and navigating in a Pākehā world. We don’t have a choice, if we want to “succeed” here.
I remember vividly my arrival on my first morning of university. Walking from The Hub, vibrant, fast, loud, and crowded with people. There are large windows and intrusive concrete walls, grey floors, tables and chairs, made to look inviting.
I traverse zebra crossing — looking down at my feet, white, grey, white, grey… My whānau is here, and I’m hurriedly pushed to the front of the wāhine. “Kia tere!” The loud speaker rings in my ears. Then comes a call, a kuia, calling us forward. I walk apprehensively, and look up. Standing over us with great mana and dominance, the wharenui, meeting house. Its bright red carvings piercing, their glimmering pāua eyes watching our every move. “Te Tumu Herenga Waka”, is her name. A pitching post for waka, canoe. A name I’m told later refers to the students who come here to pitch their waka during their studies, only to unhitch when they’re finished, to return home. A temporary home, a guardian.
After the formalities, I enter the whare. I touch the carvings on the walls, each a different tīpuna, ancestor, and iwi. My fingertips meet every crease and crevice of the walls.
This is a special place, a tapu place, where important things happen, where people are created and made, where people are home.

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