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  • Mauatua Fa’ara-Reynold

Tagata o le Moana mō Tangata Whenua: A Guide for Pasifika on How to be Allies

Mauatua Fa’ara-Reynolds (she/they) — Tahitian (Ra’iātea, Taha’a, Huahine) and Norfolk Islander

As Pasifika in Aotearoa, we’ve been lucky to come to the land of milk and honey, fulfilling the dreams of our ancestors. Despite the obvious struggles, this country has opened up a world of opportunities for us. But we can not sit here and be complicit in the ongoing struggles that Māori face, especially when Te Tiriti is one of the reasons we’re allowed to call this whenua our home. 

I understand that many of us aren’t familiar with being settlers (even if we’re brown) and are used to being the people of the land, fighting for our rights and sovereignty. But now we’re on unceded land which isn’t ours, so we need to bring that same energy, that same māfana. So here are a couple of ways you can do that:

  1. Learn te reo Māori

It’s important to learn the language of any country you go to, but it’s especially important when it’s one with an incredibly complex history of language suppression. In the context of Te Tiriti, learning te reo Māori brings life to its history and implications. 

And for Polys in particular, te reo Māori is extremely similar to many of our languages. When you embark on your te reo Māori journey, you’ll discover that we share many of the same words, concepts, and worldviews. Here are a couple of examples:

° Wahine is Fafine in Sāmoan

° Tangaroa is Tagaloa in Niuean

° Whare is Fale in Tongan

° Waka is Vaka in Tokelauan

° Tangata is Tamata in Fijian

° Haere is ‘Aere in Cook Islands Māori

° Mana (as a concept, word, and reality) is pretty much omnipresent throughout the Pacific

  1. Recognise our shared hardships 

The fight for sovereignty from colonial powers is not unique to Aotearoa—every single one of our islands has endured the same struggle. All of us have suffered under the hands of colonialism, whether it be through language suppression, loss of land, intergenerational trauma, erasure of cultural knowledge and practices, exploitation of local labour, reduced mortality rates, et fucking cetera. 

To my Sāmoans (who still feel the legacy of the Mau Movement), you know the heavy weight of New Zealand colonial rule. But your tūpuna found innovative and non-violent ways to gain independence from the colonial administration. 

To my Niueans, Kukis, and Tokelauans who are still under ‘the Realm of New Zealand’, we’re fighting the same fight. 

Sovereignty isn’t a foreign issue for us. We live with the same struggles for independence and reclamation. 

  1. Remember that we’re family

We’re cousins, nē rā. We all come from Hawaiki, from Raingātea, from our Lapita tūpuna. 

The incredible Tongan scholar Epeli Hau’ofa urged us to reframe our understanding of the Pacific from islands in a far sea to a sea of islands; this includes Aotearoa. By stringing our islands and regions together through the moana, we realise that we’re one body, one heart, one people. Don’t forget that many Māori were mistaken for Pasifika during the Dawn Raids; they went down with us because they looked like us, because they are us. 

Because of our shared whakapapa, maluāpapa, or ‘akapapa’anga, we’re not necessarily an ‘other’ in Aotearoa but a people with a shared history. And since we’re family, we have to look out for each other. We know that when a family member is going through something, we need to show up. We need to prove to Māori that we will show up for them. 

4. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason: to listen

Part of being a good ally (and a good teina) is being able to shut up and listen. Like when our elders speak, we need to know our place and when it’s our turn. And it all comes down to respect. As manuhiri, we should be sitting quietly and actively listening to the concerns of Māori out of respect and appreciation. Think of all you’ve learnt in talanoa and the incredible value of sharing stories, hardships, and insights. We need to be tuned in to what tangata whenua are telling us, so we know what to do for them.

As tauiwi, and as family, we have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with Māori and support their ongoing struggle for sovereignty. We must continue to uphold the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and honour its legacy by being better allies for Māori. I want to end this with another quote from our beautiful Mr. Hau’ofa, “Conquerors come, conquerors go, the ocean remains”. We remain, shoulder-to-shoulder with our whānau.


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