In recognition of World’s Indigenous People’s day, this blog is about my experience with Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous peoples, also known as first peoples, aboriginal peoples or native peoples, are ethnic groups who are the pre-colonial original inhabitants of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently.
It has always blown my mind how little we are taught about Native Americans. My formal education in the US regarding Native Americans equate to a miscellaneous paragraph here or there regarding Sacagawea, The Trail of Tears, and Navajo Code Talkers. I’ve never thought that the US was on the right side of history when it came to the treatment of Native Americans and Hawaiians. Sadly, despite centuries of opportunities to improve, the US government is still subjecting them to injustices today.
My time in New Zealand has changed my perspective on so much, including my scope of understanding of Indigenous Peoples.
From the time I got off of the plane in New Zealand, I was greeted with Maori Culture. ‘Kia Ora’ greeted me in the Auckland airport. During my first week, I went to the Auckland Art Gallery and stumbled across a Maori blessing. There was a new exhibit opening and some of the local Maori came to bless the opening (it would have been deemed disrespectful to photo/video so no videos, but I swear it happened).
On my road trip, I visited Waitangi which is the site of the treaty between the Maori leaders and Queen Victoria for the founding of New Zealand as we know it. In line with most incidences of colonization… the indigenous people got shafted. Basically some things got ‘lost in translation’ in the treaty between the Maori chiefs and Great Britain. Te Reo, the Maori language, was an oral language prior to European arrival so a written language was developed by European missionaries who learned the language. With written form of Te Reo being a rather new advent, understandably there was a bit of ‘miscommunication’ regarding the terms of the treaty.
The Maori wording of the treaty would allow them to govern themselves, while the British would provide military protection from the other Europeans that were causing a stir. The British version of the treaty said that the Maori ceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria. As New Zealand is still apart of the UK, you can see which version prevailed.
My lessons on the Treaty of Waitangi echoed of the broken promises the US has given to Native Americans. As I spent more time in New Zealand, the more I learned about Maori culture the more I thought about the Native cultures in the US. So many of the injustices were similar. Te Reo was prohibited in schools at one point. Native Americans were taken away from their reservations, stripped of their culture and put in Indian schools. Both Maori and Native Americans and Native Hawaiians had their resources stripped away from them for the benefit of the foreigners whom they had welcomed to their lands (Ironic, I know).
What I admire about all of these cultures is the pride and resilience that they have shown in the face of colonization. I don’t know ancestrally where my origin is… Africa is a really big continent. It’s indigenous people are very diverse, each culture its own rich history. I am always amazed when an oppressed and marginalized group can maintain their language, traditions and culture.
As I continue to travel and grow, I look forward to not only experiencing more cultures, but also defending them as well. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. I want to say that our generation (yours and mine), stopped making excuses for social injustices. There isn’t a statute of limitations on morality.
Okay Okay… I know that above was kind of heavy. I don’t mean to bum you out, but if reading this has bummed you out imagine living these struggles. #message.
Below are some of my lighter experiences with Indigenous cultures.
Best of wishes on your journey,