Pākehā Agaisnt Confiscation

Image credit: Catherine Delahunty

Image credit: Catherine Delahunty

I have been a privileged witness of mana wahine at Ihumātao for at least a year. It has been clear that this campaign of land protection has many leaders but particularly Māori women with excellent skills and unshakeable tenacity. It is also a sign of the times that younger tangata whenua women are leading and inspiring a new generation of activists who are very welcoming and respectful of their elders. Outside Crown settlement processes, Special Housing Areas and RMA planning rules, a community has been built by the people.

Whatever the outcome, mana wahine is at the heart of it.

It is heartening to see many people visit Ihumātao to see what is happening for themselves. Ihumātao is an opportunity for learning that does not happen every day. It is a chance to think about the role of not only women leaders but the part of the ally when tangata whenua put out a challenge and ask for support.

I spent time with thousands of others standing on the green grass and hard road with the people at Ihumātao. I nodded to those who are not Māori, the recognition between us that despite the complexities, we should front up. Some of them I have known over many years of activism, and there were also new faces.

There is no job description for the role of an ally, but principles underpin it.

Behind the scenes of solidarity, there is an extraordinary tangata whenua workforce and their allies who have been there right from the beginning. They are not on television or on the stage but demonstrating the first rule which is listening to manawhenua and giving help as it is needed. Be it media work, holding front lines or in the kai teams these people know their role.

There are also historians, archaeologists and planners writing background papers that give context and young workers helping to manage the waste and support action. There are unions represented at Ihumātao and students and elders from Auckland and around the country.

I have noted that some of us need to check our privilege and assumptions, especially on social media. It is not the role of the ally to enter into discussion on whakapapa matters or differences of opinion within Te Ao Māori.

It is not our role to lead strategy or demonise the voices of tangata whenua. Our purpose is to look in the mirror and make sure we are listening, respecting and supporting positive work towards solutions.

We need to share our resources, money and materials to amplify positive efforts for peace. To keep examining our contributions and voices sparingly. It is a privilege to be welcomed into this space, and the opportunity for learning and relationship building is outstanding. In a colonised country, there are moments when we can strengthen the connections to the land and to each other.

The ally in this instance is an ally to history and a precious cultural heritage to be cherished. We can bring our children and grandchildren to this whenua because the tangata whenua, led by powerful wahine and their whānau have made it safe and peaceful.

We heed the call for peaceful behaviour and educate ourselves about the tradition that is being maintained, which includes Parihaka. There is immense pressure on the SOUL group and the manawhenua cousins leading this campaign. I cannot imagine how tired they are by now.

There have been generations of struggle led by many good people, not all of whom are comfortable with the resistance of today, and now it's mid-winter. Who could ever have imagined this outpouring of support and solidarity? Who could have imagined this moment of change?

In our efforts to support this moment, let us keep examining our role and contribution, our identity in this place.

Ihumātao reminds me of our history and how manawhenua were feeding the city of Auckland until Governor Grey, impatient for the opportunity to steal the land, declared war on them. They are still feeding us, but this time lets be allies in the best sense and keep our focus on the vision. We can build healthy communities if we learn to be respectful of indigenous leadership, mana wahine and the profound care they demonstrate for the land and all people. Auckland has benefitted from the painful 506 days on Takaparawha/ Bastian Point, fraught as it was with the forces of divide and rule.

The city can rise again if we ally ourselves with the big picture and value cultural heritage in this very particular place. In crafting a solution, the Government and Auckland City seem afraid of precedent, forgetting that we have creative options all around us from within and without the flawed Treaty settlement processes.

Allies need to listen hard to hear the voices of manawhenua as they try to teach us the meaning of home and heritage. We should look to the voices of mana wahine.

They have put children at the heart of this struggle, and have planted māra, gardens for the future. Whatever the politicians say about yoga pants or freedom campers, this phenomenon speaks of a change in the discourse, with a voice as old as the stones at Ihumātao and young as the spring.

It is the voice of the extraordinary and ancient indigenous female commitment to peace, culture and endurance, rising again and again.


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