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  • Reni Broughton

In Pursuit Of Mana Motuhake: A guide to (sort of) surviving the battle of indigenous resistance

Words by: Reni Broughton (She/they - Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahine, Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara, Ngāpuhi) Whaia te Mana Motuhake: Ko te huarahi noa iho o te ora ki te whawhai areare o ngāi iwi taketake katoa.


I mōhio ahau i te wā i whakaae ki te mahi, he [ ] Māori au. I wawata noa au, kāore au e pērā - ka whai hua kē taku tūranga me taku mahi, ka whai pāpātanga taku mahi i runga anō i ngā hiahia o te Māori (arā te manaakitanga me te manarite, ko te tikanga ka tutuki aua mea)

Engari, kua 9 marama e mahi ana au i “taku mahi moemoeā” kua pau katoa te hau,kua pokea au e te mahi, e ngana ana ki te whawhai i tētahi ahurea me tētahi pūnaha e kaupare tangata ana, e whakaturi ana, e takahi mana ana i te iwi Māori. Ehara tēnei i te wheako hou, i te wheako motuhake rānei. He māori rawa tēnei wheako ānō nei he ōrite te kōrero ka rongo koe mai i tō māmā, i tētahi o ō hoa rānei i a kourua e inu tī ana, e tangi ana rānei whai muri i tētahi wiki nui i te mahi. 


I knew when I accepted the job that I was a token Māori hire. I naively hoped that I wouldn’t be – that I could make my role and my mahi matter, that I would be able to create impact and change that aligns with what māori have been asking for (like basic respect and equality at the bare minimum). But I’m now nine months into a should-be dream job, feeling burnt out and fragile from the workload of trying to battle a culture and system that inherently excludes, ignores and disempowers Māori. This is NOT a new or unique experience, and it is such a common occurrence that this could be the same story you hear from your mum or your mates over a cup of tea and tears after a hard week at work.


Me pono taku kōrero, kei te āwangawanga au. Ko mātou te reanga e tū hei ātete taketake? I roto i te wāhi māhi, ā he whakamataku te wāhi hei takahi. Ki te tino māori tēnei wheako arā, ko te paunga o te hau me te kaikiritanga i waenga i ngā kaimahi Māori, kei hea hoki ngā puka tohutohu e whakamārama ana me pēhea te puta? Me pēhea te noho haumaru? Me pēhea hoki e kore ai whakapau kaha tino wawe nei i ā tātou aramahi? Kāore ahau i te hiahia ki te āwangawanga, ki te whakapōuri rānei i ngā tāngata i mua i te tīmatanga o ā tātou aramahi. Engari i hiahia kē au ki te whakamihi i te pae o te pakanga ka takahia e tātou. E hiahia ana au kia rite tātou: arā kia kite ai tātou i ngā tohu mate o te tāmi nahanaha, ka mutu kia mōhio ai tātou ki ngā rautaki ka taea te tangata te tiaki i a ia anō i roto i aua horopaki. 

 

Truthfully? I’m worried. We are the incoming generation of indigenous resistance into the workforce, and it is a terrifying landscape to navigate. If this experience of burnout, fatigue and racism is so common amongst kaimahi māori – then where are the how-to manuals on how to survive this? How do we keep ourselves safe?  How do we keep from burning out so early in our careers? I don’t want to stress and depress people before starting out in our careers, but I did want to take a moment for us to acknowledge the battlefield that we’re stepping onto. I want us to be prepared: both to recognise and articulate the symptoms of systemic oppression, but also to identify the ways in which we can protect ourselves within these contexts.

I runga i ō tātou hīkaka me ō tātou ngākaunui ki te wetetāmi, ki te whakakī wāhi, ki te whakamana i te mana motuhake, ki te puri papanga i ngā whare Pākehā - hei ngā taiao taraweti tō reo whakahē me tōna kotahi. Me tū tēnei hei reta aroha ki a koe i runga i tērā haerenga. 

 

In our eagerness and ambition to decolonise, reclaim space, enable mana motuhake and hold colonial institutions to account – we will find ourselves in hostile environments where we might often be the lone voice of dissent. If anything – let this be a love letter to you on that journey:

 

Kia tūpato i ngā takune pai. 

Tokomaha ngā tāngata atawhai e mihi ana ki tēnei mea te tautika kore, kātahi ka noho ki te tēpu me ōna whakaaro pai ki te tautoko i te kaupapa. Kore rawa koe e whakapono i ngā wā katoa, ka huri ēnei takune pai ki te mahi. I te nuinga o te wā tū ai te iwi Pākehā hei kaitautoko, engari me uaua ka kitea i a rātou e uiui ana i ō rātou mana me tō rātou whiwhi painga. I ētahi wā, ka puhi iho tō rātou [ ] tō rātou kūare me tō rātou horokukū ki te āhuatanga tuku, i tā te hoa takune pai.

1) Beware of Good Intentions

There are so many well-meaning people who recognise and acknowledge inequity and come to the table with the best intentions to support the kaupapa. We can’t always trust that these good intentions will follow through to action. Pākeha people are often supportive but rarely have ever had to interrogate their own power, authority and privilege. Sometimes, their fragility, ignorance and reluctance to compromise will shoot down any good intentions that supposed allies can have. Lean into these allies with good intentions where you feel you can, but be cautious not to lean too far.

 

2) Recognise Microaggressions

If you hear people describe you as ‘angry’, ‘negative’ and ‘too critical’, or if every time you bring up kaupapa māori, it turns into a performance review about how you’re not meeting THEIR expectations – chances are pretty high that you’re experiencing a form of racism called microaggression. Please don’t be fooled by the term ‘micro’ - It’s aggression, just a gaslight version. Just because these microaggressions are more subtle does not make them any less violent. These acts of racism are insidious because they are subtle and sneaky. Learning how to recognise them and how to articulate what these micro acts of violence are can be critical for your mental well-being. I personally like to take my list to therapy or brunch with friends (a.k.a. Group therapy) to laugh/cry/vent about. It’s helpful, particularly in addition to point #4.

 

3) Te Tiriti is a Tool

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is an essential legal tool. Regardless of personal critique, we might have for it, understanding this document is critical because it is one of the very few explicit tools that we have to defend ourselves and our rights as Māori. Research and understand the document, the discourse around it, insights from Waitangi tribunals, and how it is applied legally and across different sectors and industries on a governance level down to daily operations. Understanding these concepts will enable you to hold our organisations to account and give you legal precedence and evidence to back recommendations you might make for Māori. We have to be savvy enough to code-switch in effective ways - and using legal and academic references to elevate our attempts to hold organisations accountable makes our positions stronger.

 

4) Keep a Record

Keep a paper trail of dates, names and descriptions of conversations and experiences that feel racist. This includes any recommendations you make for kaupapa māori initiatives that go primarily ignored, giving written feedback and signalling evidence of why decisions may be inappropriate, asking managers for written reasons why they do or don’t follow recommendations – Keep a record of all of it. Effective record keeping can keep us safe when people become threatened by our advocacy, and our records can become a protective measure for ourselves, as well as an opportunity to hold others to account. Sometimes, the only power we can hold in our positions in the workforce is the ability to hold people accountable – even if it is only to you.

 

5) Look After Yourself

As we work up against mammoth challenges that are mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausting, we have to learn how to look after ourselves so that we can sustain our progress towards change. Some things I’m learning include:

- Picking three things to focus on: You will be pulled in so many different directions, and this will exhaust you. Pick three priorities to focus on and learn to say no.

- Finding Respite in your Community: Gather with your people (whoever they are) as often as you can.

- Doing the things you love: We bring our strategic mahidog energy to work, but we also need to make sure we nurture our spiritual, creative and physical sides as well. Think: Whare tapawha holistic hauora vibes.

 

We’re coming into this space with a powerful, tangible whakapapa and legacy of resistance, advocacy and asserting tino rangatiratanga. One of the most beautiful traits I often see amongst our generation is this insatiable fire – this energy that refuses to accept inequity and inequality as normal and acceptable forms of treatment. People will resist. They’ll fight to silence you and disempower you. There will be times when you will feel (or made to feel) crazy and insane for your advocacy, for being frustrated with systemic violence and for refusing to settle for bare minimum efforts to change. But even if the journey feels lonely and isolated – you’re not alone in the pursuit of mana motuhake. 

 

We got backs, and we’re in the trenches with you, kare. Keep fighting.

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