Tino Rangatiratanga

I was at the Titoki healing centre recently to provide input for a retreat held for the clergy of Te Hui Amorangi O Te Tairawhiti. This is the Maori diocese which covers the East Cape area, and the tribes of Ngati Kuhungunu, Turanga-nui-a-kiwa and Ngati Porou. The New Zealand Anglican Church has been divided, since 1992, into three parallel divisions, called Tikanga: Maori, Pakeha and Pasifika. This arrangement is in keeping with the founding document of New Zealand, The Treaty of Waitangi, and is an attempt to provide equal partnership for the three cultural streams which make up our church. The congress between the three tikanga is patchy at best. We meet together in our national synods and committees but at a congregational level, churches are generally fairly independent of each other. So, although I have been guest speaker and led workshops and retreats and ministry schools all over New Zealand, and although I havebeen present at many Maori events, this was the first time I had been officially invited to contribute within Tikanga Maori

It was a small group and fairly tight knit; these people have known each other for a long time and many of them are, in fact, related. I was the stranger, the Pakeha from Dunedin who had come to talk about the parables and about the Kingdom of God. They treated me with the usual hospitality and courtesy of Maori people, going out of their way to make me feel welcome. For example the worship services for the event were all conducted in English, an innovation made entirely for my benefit. No one complained. No one so much as hinted that this was a sacrifice they were making, or even suggested that they usually had any other practice. I was grateful for the gesture, and I didn't let on that I was a bit disappointed to lose the opportunity to improve my liturgical Maori. We all fitted amiably in together on got on with things.

There is a different rhythm about things Maori. There is a soft flow to the language; a different pattern of starts and finishes, rises and falls than English. After a long time in Dunedin where English is the only language heard, except when some academic speaks French or German or Latin, it was a joy to be in a place where I could again hear conversational Maori; where people switched unconsciously from one language to another, sometimes in the middle of sentences. At a Maori event there is a different flow of time; people rise very early and the timing of events usually follows the needs of the task in hand rather than the needs of the clock. There is an easier acceptance of spiritual realities than I am used to in the Pakeha world, even in the church.

Before I went to the retreat, I'd met only one of the people present. Over three days of close contact they got to know me and my my story just a little, and as they began to know me, began in turn to let me see the real people who lay behind their offering of gracious hospitality. We found that we served churches with similar challenges and problems. We found that behind the different patterns and rhythms of our respective cultures there were the same life issues to be faced. Just as the breath is shared in a hongi, we learned that we shared much the same spiritual and ecclesiastical air. And I started to wonder whether our three Tikanga structure was really serving the partnership it was intended to protect.

All over our country small Maori parishes struggle to survive. They are under resourced and often scattered thinly over large tracts of land. Beside them often, are small, under resourced thinly spread Pakeha parishes. People like to worship in their own language and in accordance with the mores of their own culture, and so they should be allowed to so choose. But in terms of administration, support and resources I'm not sure dividing things up into three makes the most sense. In fact it even seems a bit daft. A system of support persons, competent to work across both cultures and adequately resourced seems to me to be a better idea than an under resourced ministry enabler and an under resourced Kaihautu working essentially the same turf.

The people thanked me for my contribution with their customary generosity and at the end of the retreat the reserve had melted. I was driven to the airport in a large four wheel drive, proudly flying the flags of Te Tino Rangatiratanga and The Maori Party. My driver's husband has the same disease as me, and the three of us were so engrossed in conversation we missed the airport turn off and I only just made my flight. I flew back down the country to Scottish Dunedin, away from the warmth of the Bay of Plenty, away from anybody who is likely to have the Tino Rangatiratanga flag attached to their car. I've been here in Dunedin ten years now, and by and large I love it. But today I was reminded that there are some things which I very much miss, and foremost among them is hearing the Maori language spoken around me, and learning from the ancient culture of those who got to these islands first. So, if you don't mind, just for today, I too would like to fly a couple of flags. The one above, and this one:

Kia ora tatou.


Janice said…
Kelvin, thank you for this article, in which you bring forth the beauty of the Maori culture very carefully and thoughtfully. Thank you for not using the words 'race' or 'social problems' which are all too often applied to indigenous people everywhere, as if we were misbehaved monkeys running rampant through the jungle. I'm glad you are trying to learn the language, and that you respect the customs of the people. I'm sure the Maori culture has much to teach anyone who wants to learn!

Our parish sits central to three 'reserves' (areas where the indigenous people of Canada have been caused to live by government, yet we have only one indigenous parishioner. We once had a family; mom, dad, and three kids, who came every Sunday, until one day our Rector, in the middle of a story about a drug-addicted young man he'd been helping, suddenly announced that the young man was 'native', as if that somehow explained everything. I was sitting in the same pew as my indigenous brothers and sisters, and it was as if an icy wind had blown over us; I felt their bodies stiffen as mine had. It was a very profound, physical sensation, and, sadly, we never saw this family again, they just stopped coming.

Our present Rector, in a sermon just two weeks ago, incorporated both race and skin colour (black, white, and yellow, he forgot the 'red' people) into his sermon, and when I took him (gently) to task for this, laughed me off. However, I think the Anglican church's 'old boys club's' time is almost at an end, and hopefully these attitudes will fade away with them. We are, after all, one HUMAN race whose physical differences are due to our adaptation to our environments, qnd it is time to accect and celebrate our similarities rather than our differences. Thanks for walking the harder road instead of joining the club, Kelvin.
VenDr said…
The sort of attitudes you mention, Janice, are precisely what causes people to put up barriers and not emerge from behind them until they are sure the other is trustworthy. If you had asked either of those clergy about their attitudes to Indigenous Canadians, they would, I am sure, have vehemently and indignantly denied any traces of racism and they would have been sincere in their denials. It's a very subtle thing. We live by attitudes installed in us from a very early age. Probably the only way to rid ourselves of such attitudes is familiarity.

And even when we are familiar it's tricky. Trying to insist that "we are all one" and "there's no difference" is just plain silly. There are ways of doing things that are distinctively Maori. I guess it's not about ignoring or glossing or despising differences but knowing them and respecting them. It takes years. And even then it's easy to get it wrong.
Janice said…
Certainly I did not mean to imply that we are all one = just to say that it is wrong to divide ourselves down racial lines because there is no foundation for believing in 'race'. There are plenty of theories, but none of them proven, yet millions of people have been killed over the centuries because of the belief that one race is superior to anothre. And yes, let us celebrate our diffrences, life would be pretty boring without them, but before anyone tut tuts about substance abuse, and broken families, it has to be remembered what and who caused them. At any rate, I don't want to get into a long discussion about this; I just meant to say that you are pretty cool, keep up the good work!
Tillerman said…
It is interesting that in your link the colour "BLACK represents Te Korekore (the realm of potential being). It thus symbolises the long darkness from which the earth emerged, as well as signifying Rangi - the heavens, a male, formless, floating, passive force."

It is curious that the male element is represented as passive when Maori are in fact traditionally a warrior race. I have heard it said that the Maori Battalion were greatly feared by the enemy in WWII.
VenDr said…
I was unaware of the spiritual meaning of the flag until I red the explanation you refer to. It seems to me that the idea of the world of being and light - the white line existing between the world of potential (black) and the world of coming into being/movement (red)it is not a million miles from Meister Eckhart's ideas of form and being and ground.
Abbas Zaidi said…
Dear Venerable Reverend, you used a parting statement, but did not explain what it stands for. May I ask, please, the meaning of:

Kia ora tatou

Same to you sir!-)

Abbas Zaidi
Maulana Techno
Wow, this is fascinating to me, a complete outsider. I have no concept of the Maori culture, but I know what it is like when cultures come together in peace. There is a kind of longing and sadness when we realize how much beauty in the world we will never know or experience. There just isn't enough time.
VenDr said…
Abbas: Kia Ora is the standard Maori greeting, "hello".

kia = movement towards
ora = wellness, wholeness, health
tatou= you (plural)

RLP: I agree. To shift, even temporarily and partially into another culture - any other culture - is a wonderful thing. To see the world from a different perspective suddenly brings the great universals into sharp focus. For me, this is particularly true of Maori culture. Our cultures and languages are shaped, in part by the geography of the places we live. My own European derived culture was formed elsewhere and sometimes struggles to fit the land sea and sky of this place (example - all our principal festivals are fitted for Northern Hemisphere seasons.Think of the oddity of celebrating Easter in the autumn instead of the spring )Maori culture and language grew in the land I was born into. Its particular rhythms fit in a subtle and deep way I can't really explain but know when I see.
Abbas Zaidi said…
Thank you Kevin. I stand fascinated by the similarity of these words with the language I grew up with - that of India and Pakistan, hindi/urdu. In this language, these words:

Kiya = how, what
ora (or "ho ra, or even "ho raha") = happening, occuring, is
tou = slang for you.

So the words with slight modification become "How are you, or how's it going? or What's up?"

Specifically, it is "ki ora", the "Tou" is, admittedly, a little forced ;-)