The Importance of the Environment to Rangatahi Māori

By CCC19 participant, Whakairitaua Stanyon, introduced by CCC19 co-organiser, Graham Meltzer, Findhorn.

Graham: According to Noam Chomsky, the world is “facing potential environmental catastrophe and not in the distant future.” Furthermore, he insists, the only thing standing between humankind and catastrophe, are the world’s indigenous peoples. In this vein, the organisers of Climate Change & Consciousness have applied considerable effort to raising funds (donations and sponsorship) to bring indigenous representatives to the conference. We have been quite successful in this, but we continue to seek contributions from donors and sponsors in order to bring more. Please go here for details.

I grew up in Auckland, NZ, but have not lived there since I was 19, some 50 years ago. And yet, I have always remained a very proud kiwi. Why? Because the country of my birth has historically and until today, strongly and explicitly upheld values of inclusivity, fairness and progressive social change. In good part, this was catalysed during a period of invasion and colonisation in the 19th Century. The British settlers were met and resisted by an indigenous nation of warriors, the Māori people, who fought fiercely for their land and basic human rights. These were formally enshrined in the famous Treaty of Waitangi of 1840 which guaranteed the Māori equal rights to land and political representation. Ever since, NZ has been at the forefront amongst Western countries of environmental, social and political reform. It was the first to grant women the vote; has taken an anti-nuclear stance since the ’70s; been open to taking in refugees; and speedily granted equal legal rights to minorities. Recently it has granted legal status as a living entity to particular rivers and mountains.

So it will be with great pride and a sense of privilege, that in April I will welcome a delegation of 9 Māori men and women, coming to participate in the CCC19 conference: Te Waka McLeod (31), Te Akau Wharehoka (28), Zayyen Benson-Brown (20), Maikara McLeod (19), Kae’sharn Hose (19), Haki Hamilton (19), Te Ngaru Wehi (18) and Whakairitaua Stanyon (16). They will be joined by Whakairitaua’s grandmother, Rita Rukuwai. There is some information about Te Waka and Te Akau on the website, here. Maikara, Zayyen, Kae’sharn, Haki and Te Ngaru introduced themselves in an earlier blog post, here. And in this post, the youngest delegate, Whakairitaua (Grace) Stanyon will introduce herself to you. To me, her words are infused with the deep knowledge and wisdom of her ancestors. They speak loudly of reverence for the land and love of nature. And they carry the fierce determination of a warrior nation. Thank you Grace, for your beautiful and powerful contribution to this blog.


Tihei mauri ora = Listen up!
Ko Taranaki te Maunga = My mountain is Taranakaki
Ko Waiwhakaiho rāua ko Waitotoroa ngā awa = My rivers are Waiwhakaiho and Waitotora
Ko Tokomaru rāua ko Kurahaupō ngā waka = The canoes on which my ancestors arrived on were Tokomaru and Kurahaupō
Ko Te Āti Awa rāua ko Taranaki ngā iwi = My people are Te Āti Awa and Taranaki
Ko Ngati Te Whiti rāua ko Ngati Moeahu ngā hapu = My family are Ngati te whiti and Ngati Moeahu Ko Parihaka te papakāinga = Parihaka is my home (town)*
Ko Toroanui te marae = Toroanui is my marae
Ko Paul Stanyon tōku mātua = My father is Paul Stanyon
Ko Christine Ngaraiti Rukuwai tōku mama = My mother is Christine Ngaraiti Rukuwai
I te taha ō tōku papa ko Geoffry rāua ko Joyce Stanyon ōku tūpun = On my father’s side Geoffrey and Joyce Stanyon are my grandparents
I te taha ō tōku mama ko Rita Rukuwai tōku kuia = On my mother’s side Rita Rukuwai is my grandmother
Ko Rangikotuku rāua ko Ngaraiti Rukuwai ōku mātua tūpuna = Rangikotuku and Ngaraiti Rukuwai are my great- grandparents
Ko Whakairitaua Grace Monica Stanyon tōku ingoa = my name is Whakairitaua Grace Monica Stanyon

Nō reira, tēnā koutou tēnā koutou tēnā tātou katoa = Greetings everyone,

Grace2To begin I would like to explain why I introduced myself with my pepehaPepeha in general, has the purpose of sharing with others who we are and where we come from. However to me, my pepeha reminds me of my home, my whānau, my people and my tūpuna.  And when I am reminded of what I am fighting for I am provided with the strength and courage to continue my journey and mission.

The environment is a crucial aspect of Te Ao Māori, the Māori world. As a rangatahi Māori myself, I have been raised to acknowledge, understand, care, protect and return to the environment. Māori have always had a tightly knit relationship of love, respect and healing with our providing earth, henceforth, since our tūpuna arrived from Hawaiki we as a people and as individuals are emotionally, mentally, physically and most importantly spiritually intertwined with the environment. In my own life, my connection with papatūānuku began not long after I was born into the world, my ewe, placenta, was returned to papatūānuku, in the earth and a harakeke was placed on top so that it could grow with me and face the wind and storms alongside me. The harakeke continues to comfort me in times of struggle, it reminds me of how many storms I have faced and how much I have grown and strengthened over the years yet simultaneously nurtures me and encourages me to continue growing.

I believe that I inherited this mindset from my tūpuna. Their holistic love for the environment continues to run through my veins. The environment is not only a crucial aspect of te ao Māori but also a large aspect of the identity of māori. As Rangatahi Māori and the generation of post-colonisation, our identity is very much required to maintain the connection we hold with our tūpuna. Our identity is made up of tikanga, te reo māori, whakapapa, karakia, waiata, kapa haka, and our connection to our ancestral land, however, due to the colonisation and oppression of our tūpuna, many of these aspects are fighting for existence within a modern world. Therefore it is essential for the environment to survive and thrive, as without it, many rangatahi of the future will be deprived of an identity and a spiritual, emotional, mental and physical connection with their tupuna and their life source.

My ancestors fought for the land which nourishes our body, mind and soul, and I have come to realise that in today’s day and age, we are no longer battling against other people for our mother, Papatūānuku, but rather battling against the environment itself. Within Te Ao Māori there is a Whakataukī which drives and motivates me every morning to make a change within the world, ‘Te toto o te tangata, he kai; te oranga o te tangata, he whenua’ which means ‘food supplies the blood of man; his welfare depends on the land.’ In my understanding, this warns us that when the land disappears so will the people. Our beliefs within te ao Māori is that we come from Papatūānuku, mother earth, and to her we shall return. However what frightens me is if, ‘We’ do not fight for her, the legacy of our tūpuna shall disappear alongside the people.

To conclude I would like to share with you a whakautaki of my great, great, great, great grandfather, Te Whiti O Rongomai the third, which was shared to bring peace to all and encourage unity between all people. It has been shared as a tool of strength through each generation within my family and within the lives of others.

Korōria ki te Atua, maungārongo ki te whenua, whakaaro pai ki ngā tangata katoa.
Glory to God, Peace on earth and good will to all mankind.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa = Greetings to you all.
Whakairitaua Grace Stanyon

* Parihaka is a small community in the Taranaki region of New Zealand. In the 1870s and 1880s the settlement became the centre of a major campaign of non-violent resistance to European occupation of confiscated land in the area. (Wikipedia)

ewe: placenta
hawaiki: ancient homeland
harakeke: native flax
kapa haka: cultural performance
karakia: prayer, hant, ritual
papatuanuku: earth mother
rangatahi māori: young maori
te ao māori: the maori world
tikanga: correct practice or custom
tupuna: ancestors
whakapapa: lineage, genealogy, descent

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