Dave | Share your why

Photo of Dave | Share your why

Kia ora,

Ko rawiri ahau,

Ko moehau toku maunga

Ko waihou toku awa

Ko hauraki toku whenua

Ko ngati maru toku iwi

Ko ngati nau nau toku hapu

Ko tainui toku waka

In the last year, I have embarked on a personal journey to discover and connect with my whanau in Aotearoa. Born and raised in "so called Australia". I had no connection to my maori culture, language, whanau, history, whakapapa and iwi. I knew of my whanau and maori roots, but opportunity to connect didn't arise. Being that i have fair skin and have a australian accent, all my life i have been positioned a white fulla coloniser here on aboriginal land. Which poses as a barrier to connect with an Indigenous culture by "white australia". It's frowned upon and laughable when someone with fair skin identifies as Indigenous.

Now that im a grown man and ive started to long for that family connection and I developed a disire to learn about my roots. I know who I am,

but where to I come from ?

Who are my ancestors? 

What did they do ?

The only answer to this was to go out there and find the answers. I need answers.

At this point, it was easy to see past societies expectations, ignorance and disarray. So just recently I decided to book a plane ticket to visit my nana as I heard that she was getting older and I wanted to get to know her aswell as my family that I only vaguely heard about. 

My cousin Raika picked me up from the airport, and drove me up to Whangārei to see nana. I was so grateful to yarn with her and connect, she had a photo of me on the wall in her home. It was a photo from 20 years ago. So this solidified my family connection and in my eyes, made me feel I had definately had roots in this country.

After cuppa and kai with nana, the next day Raika took me to the aukland museum and I found out that our marae was being stored there. I learned about toki, patu, taiaha, haka, harakeke, waka. Etc..

He took me to our whenua and moana in the coromandel and showed me our marae. Educated me on the carvings and told me all about our whakapapa. Explained to me about maori lands and some of the history about our great grandparents.

I stood bare foot on our ancestral lands and a wierd feeling came over me. I can't even explain. But it was surreal. All I know is that it felt right, it felt good, I felt safe and strong. I felt at home.

We drove up and down and around maunga, visit whanau all over. I was happy to build so many genuine connections, long lasting relationships.

During our journey, I found myself starting to try and pronounce street signs and names and places. I was absolutely hopeless. My aussie accent certainly did not help at all whatsoever. My cousin agreed, my te reo maori needed some work, haha.

I welcomed him to correct me, he gladly took on the task to educate me, which might have been tiresome and annoying. Sitting in car together for 2 weeks driving around, listening to me miss-pronounce every attempt. It quickly turned into an ever growing passion to learn this tongue twister of a language.

Raika taught me about some cultural practices and I was most passionate about stone carving which is my favourite evolution of culture. Making taonga pounamu.

I returned home with a completely new perspective on life. But most importantly, I discovered my roots, I learned about my ancestors and what they did. Where they came from. How amazing and lucky am I?

Not very many people would be as lucky and privileged as I am to hit a home run with I return flight.

After a month of being home in brisbane and back to the work life (boring).

Every night I found myself online learning about everything maori. I was addicted, my culture is so beautiful and lovely. But i was also very saddened about alot of history that I learned, the colonisation of NZ. A memory came to mind of a korero I had with nana, I asked her why don't you speak maori ?

Her reply;

"back in my day, i was beaten with a stick if i spoke te reo maori david ! ".

This helped me understand the generational effect from colonisation in alot in Indigenous cultures, especialy mine. Made me feel kinda fired up, angry but also empowered at the same time. Like it's my responsibility to learn te reo maori. To continue this on and into the future. In that moment, i decided that I would do my part and make damn sure that there is a place for te reo maori in the future, for maori, for my future maori mokopuna and so on.

So, I decided to venture out into what was available here in Australia. I found night classes, te reo maori wananga only 20 minutes away. This was perfect because my matua keke 60th was 2 months away and I was invited. A perfect opportunity to come home with some native tongue, surprise the whanau, speak a mihi at the birthday ceremony.

I was told it was being held in our marae, and aparently the whole whanau is going to be there. Also, everyone will be sleeping litterally inside the marae together ? Whaat ? That seemed strange at first, I thought it was a sacred place, I wondered if that was allowed or not. But as it turned out, based on the snoring I heard while we all slept in there together, it's just a normal maori thing to do.

So I did te reo maori wananga over 6 weeks and learned my vowels. The basics, hello and how are you, where are you from. I continued to practice every morning and night for 2 months in the lead up to the trip back to nz. I was able to learn my pepeha and my kaiako helped me write a mihi especially for my uncles birthday.

I also took on night classes to learn how to carve stone, so that I could continue on with what raika had introduced me to.

I was able to make my uncle a special taonga for his birthday, hei matau.

The trip was amazing, he loved his gift and even more so, he and the whanau were blown away that I could switch off my aussie twang accent and start to mihi mihi in te reo maori. My cousins complimented me in my pronounciation and the whanau was so impressed.

Nana said; " I don't know what you are saying david, but I know your saying it right ! ".

Since then, I went back to Aotearoa again for a cultural revival stone tool making wananga in the atahua hauraki whenua and tikapa moana. By then I had practiced language for 6 months. So I could confidently introduce myself, pepeha and have short korero. I was proud to introduce myself to the wananga group in maori. I have since written many songs in maori and it's been a big help to learn whakapapa and history now that I can read and write in te reo maori.

There is one thing that I haven't mentioned in my story, and the story isn't finished yet, the story has just begun.

My cousin Raika received many phone calls me, asking him how I pronounce something and he has been extremely patient. Correcting me over and over. His genuine interest and passion for what it is to be maori, is second to none.

As a result I can pronounce is name correctly now.

Raika Whakarongotai.

This seemed impossible initially.

Thats 5 syllable tongue twister with "wh" aand rolling of R's. But now I can easily pronounce my other cousins names too, Te aumihi, Kumeroa, Teahooterangi. Strangely enough, I never thought that I'd be proud to pronounce my family members names, to be honest I never thought I would ever be challenged to want to pronounce names of my family, or places where my dad grew up, or what a moana was for that matter. I have a newly founded pride in knowing these things, I never thought I would. I'm so incredibly blessed to develop my native tongue.

I love karakia too. I can say karakia for my taonga pounamu and cleanse properly before gifting on. Te reo maori has opened me up to new way to express myself.

I hope this story captures the beginning of my journey in learning language. I look forward to growth in te reo maori into the future.