Revisiting places is always a mixed bags; places can seem way more beautiful, lose the magic they held in your memory, take on a whole new light and plenty of other experiences. Today ended up being the latter, with the group taking a peek at most of our field sites for a second time as an exercise in learning about the spirituality of the land. An expert and a friend of Dan’s and Max’s, a Maori Kiwi named Anthony, joined us today and lead us from stop to stop while teaching us about the history of each site. I won’t lie, this is being written weeks after the original visit so I’ve unfortunately forgotten a lot of the specifics. But I’m trying my best.
We ended up looking back at the first site we’d ever visited, the falls, a roadside stop we hadn’t seen before and a beach that Anthony was fond of. The guy himself is an impressive potato, handling settlements between the government and various iwi, owning lots of land and vineyards and a mountain, rattling off his genealogy through various iwi like it’s no biggie and a would-be chief if they still did that in his iwi. I mean, I can make some good brownies and am studying for underground. It’s hard to admit, but I’m a bit less impressive. He told us some different origin myths from Maori culture, the importance of knowing your roots and the history of land use at the sites we checked out. Apparently the Maori are pretty pro-female, at least for the times. The women were the matchmakers who kept track of who was related and had to wait a few generations for marriage, who would match well and other important things to know for the tribe. They were protected because they were bamfs, not (just) out of an idea of weakness. It was a bit hard to hear and process so maybe there was more to it, but it sounded like a good thing.
One thing Anthony said that struck a chord was the importance of being grounded and knowledgable about your family and home base. Now I don’t know how much modern Maori people travel and settle out of country, but it seems that many people are pretty tight with their home base, if not their country/specific island overall. In the US, most of the folks I know are pretty eager to travel, at least to other states if not other countries. For most of us, home is defined by friends and family, not the state we were raised in. I say that as someone who’s biased against her home state of course – sorry CT, but you’re pretty lacking in scenery/attractions/most anything besides the nostalgia of my childhood. And the US is much bigger than NZ with many diverse opportunities state by state, another huge difference in the long list of things that define the States from NZ. But the basic fact is that many of us don’t feel very tied to where we’re from, and tend to move/plan to move too much to really spread roots in a new place for a while. So while Anthony values the idea of knowing where you’re from and the land and history, I feel like a fish flopping in clouds.
How do you mesh ideologies that have such basic fundamental differences? I know this is an age-old problem that has been approached countless times from various angles, but it’s never going away. The grounded-ness of communities and knowledge here just seems so against the free-floating style of the (American) life I see and idealize, and mashing those ideas seems so hard. There are such good pulls from being in tune with your environment, and I’d love to really know where I was, but I also want to see the world and help a lot of communities. Which makes the whole being-in-tune deal much harder than it is for more stagnant groups. I don’t have any answers, it’s just something Anthony was so set on that has lingered in my mind since. And since I’m writing this post 2+ weeks after the day, it’s been a while.
Here are some fun rules of Maori language, not many honestly but a few fun things. Enjoy:
double word: very small
whaka: very (following word)
tunga: to do (previous word)