How can I succeed, as Maori?
He Māori ahau, I am Māori - in everything I do, all that I am; Māori. The way I see the world is shaped by Māori philosophies, values and matauranga (knowledge, wisdom). So, since I'm Māori, whatever I do or succeed* at in life can be deemed Māori success, right? Ahhh not quite, come walk with me (figuratively)...
Just less than a month ago, I had the cheek to think I could run in the Ekiden (marathon around Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe/Lake Rotorua) when one of my best friends organised a crew of us to share in this beautifully painful moment together, and engage with our tupuna (ancestors) and our environment (also, tupuna) whom we descend from. If you don't think this is fun, you have a point... haha nah it was awesome.
It was beautiful; the day was overcast, the air was crisp, the lake - serene and calm, the forests and plants were lush and green after an unexpected, never saw it coming, rain spell. It finally came to my turn to run and I took off, like Usain Bolt! 100m and I was done haha nah just kidding, I got on my way and I found myself in awe of the scenery, thinking how beautiful my home is, how cool to be connecting in this way.
Then, I saw it. And another, and another; pieces of rubbish, littered along the road, on the shores of my lake, at the base of the ngāhere (forest), all over my tupuna. I was sad, angry, shocked, frustrated and all the rest. I started to pick up the pieces, but I couldn't carry them all - there was too much!
People would pass me and cheer, “good on you,” which had me thinking, 'save your encouragement, and help me pick it up...' then the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became, not cool. So I started to pull apart where my frustrations where coming from; the disregard for the environment, the disrespect for my tupuna obviously, then it hit me.
I was humbled.
I was feeling so awesome about the things I was doing; the plans that I was setting in motion, the 'success' I was starting to taste. I felt really good about myself, I did. I thought yessss giiiiirl, I'm pursuing my passion, I'm sharing it with others, adding value to kaupapa (causes, projects), this is success. Meanwhile, there's my environment, my tupuna and in essence; me, being polluted, becoming more sick and dying. That's not success.
Being Māori means being connected to the environment, to space and time itself. We whakapapa (descend) from the environment, therefore we are the environment. If Papatuanuku (Mother Earth) is sick, we're sick.
So if I'm going to take responsibility for myself, I'm going to take responsibility for all of me; for being Māori. Which means I carry with me the thousands of years of rich history and cultural practices; understanding that if I achieve all my goals and I’m at the top of the ‘success’ mountain by myself; I have failed and I am not successful. It means that my success is the success of my people and the success of my people, is mine. Responsibility for myself means taking responsibility for the environment (ancestors), for my tupuna and for my people.
The success of our people, is our success and our success should encourage the success of our people; the success of our environment, is our success and our success should encourage the success of the environment.
And that, is how we succeed. As Māori, as a collective, all of us -together.
Nei aku mihi, thank you,
*Success; empowered, healthy, achieving, happy, self-determining and all other relatable synonyms.