Peace work: Working the divide

I had the epiphany today that I am in peace work? What does that mean? Well at this stage I’m not too sure but what I do know is that I am vulnerable and that this is my strength. Many events have happened over the last few months that led to this and as I asked staff to reflect on their story through the framework of pepeha and whakapapa I reflect upon my own. I reflect on my mother as the eldest daughter of 17 children, who through her childhood was raised by her maternal grandparents. The future my koro had for her was to gift her to God and as a teen, she was sent to the nunnery in Christchurch… until a chance meeting with my dad changed those plans. Though she was educated in Catholic ways her foundational schooling with our tūpuna saw her very much grounded in tikanga Māori (living by Māori values). Mum had a heart condition, I think it was a murmur, but I only discovered that at her poroporoaki. This is a ritual within tangihanga (funeral) that takes place the night before we Māori farewell our departed loved ones. Here we share stories, laugh, cry and sing. As a daughter, I heard the story of my mum as a sister, an aunt, a mum, kui (grandmother), a friend. I knew her as my mum and though we had lost dad 7 years earlier, I  knew the love my dad shared for mum as he shared with me his wishes of doing more for her, of wishing he could spoil her more, whilst I drove him home after his evening wind-down at the pub. Medically mum died of a heart attack, but we say a broken heart which she held since we lost Dad. From our mum’s whakapapa (lineage) we are the people heart of Te-Ika-A-Maui (The Fish of Maui – the North Island is a stingray). The heart-to-heart work is very much a defining factor of who I am. And really that is at the centre of peace work.

So what does this have to do with the university? Much of my work is in the bicultural space and for Aotearoa New Zealand that is Te Tiriti or The Treaty space. Last year (2016) at a pre-conference workshop for the International Indigenous Research Conference, Linda Tuhiwai Smith passed on some sound advise to indigenous early career academics. She said that you needed to define your parametres to what space you are working in. For her, it was kaupapa Māori. Recently she reiterated the importance of knowing your space in the academy. She talked of those working in kaupapa Māori space and in Te Tiriti spaces. Mārama! Epiphany! At that moment, I realised two things, 1. I work in Te Tiriti space, not kaupapa Māori. And 2. In Aotearoa New Zealand, in theory (but definitely not in practice) these are the only two spaces. There should be no western-only space. Te Tiriti is a partnership, it is a marriage. And what I have been seeing is that within applying Te Tiriti in teaching and the curriculum I am seeing that resolution has tried to be achieved through going head-to-head and as I mentioned in a previous blog, bi- and multi-cultural work needs to be heart-to-heart.

The realm of Tūmatauenga: War and Healing

Tūmatauenga is one of the Māori gods or kaitiaki (guardians) and until recently I knew him as the God of War, which to my ignorance I perceived as violence and fighting. However, in a kōrero (discussion) with Whaea Rose Pere, she helped me see beyond the surface as she shared her knowing of Tūmatauenga as the Guardian of Peace. I shared this with my sister, an ex-Major in the New Zealand Army as I reflected on their logo Ngāti Tūmataunga and how the New Zealand Army were/are renowned for their peacekeeping success.  Te Tiriti work is at a threshold of tactical change. The weapon of choice until this time has been politics of difference and history. This was a time of the warriors. We are now transitioning to politics of likeness and sharing hurt-stories, and this is the time of the healers. And with that, it is a time required for our warriors to go through whakanoa and engage in the ritual of pure. Traditionally, when returning from war our warriors would go through this ritual to remove tapu – however, the defense mechanism and thinking that ensured their survival, would restrict their ability to conduct themselves safely within in communities. If the tapu is not removed the warriors can be potentially harmful to their community and themselves. In Western psychology, this tapu is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD), and in today’s society PSTD (Perry & Szalavitz, 2006) is no longer a condition solely seen in soldiers of war, but rather a condition now experienced in many children as their senses and lives are bombarded and living in a constant state of defense-mode (Asperger Experts, n.d.). This is what I see happening while working on the border space of Te Tiriti I see people in defense-mode.

As a peace worker in the liminal space of Te Tiriti is like being a medic on the battlefield at the end of the battle. However, within the university, the truth is most people are in defense-mode and as a healer, the medic, I need to identify the hurt and hear the hurt-stories of those I encounter within my work. Spaces of sanctuary are what I endeavor to create in my work. Spaces of wānanga, where people reflect within to identify those barriers that stop them from engaging. To take ownership of those barriers so that they can then create the bespoke solutions and learning to overcome their personal barriers that ensure their barriers do not become barriers to the students’ learning of mātauranga Māori.

The creating of sanctuary spaces is something I have observed from the wānanga that I have been attending. Tohunga and facilitators have this ability to hold space and make participants feel safe and to let go inhibitions. More of this I will share in future posts but Sandra Bloom’s, Sanctuary Model share characteristics that I have observed. So until next time… Mauri ora koutou!

 

 

 

 

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