I’ve told a few people this story, it is a very short one the whole thing happened in a few short minutes but it is still very vivid in my mind.
It was 1990, the 150th anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti, and events around this were happening all over the motu. I was a seventh former (as we called it in the olden days, last year of high school) and myself and the other 7th formers in the Māori class were at a hui at Putiki marae.
We were introducing ourselves, and I was super nervous. As an aside I noticed this on Tuesday night too, I have no problem at standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people presenting. (I guess it’s the Pākehā man genes kicking in, we’ve been overconfidently talking at people forever). But put me in a setting like doing a mihi and karakia on the marae at Te Papa (Tuesday night) and I get all whakamā. So back to the story, I was nervously waiting my turn and when it came I bumbled my way through it. Then I said something like “as you can see I’m only part Māori”
Moana Jackson (who we were there to kōrero with) then said
There are no parts, you are Māori
Now if I was whakamā before, imagine how I felt now. I felt like I had been told off, but let’s face it to a 17 year old boy everything feels like being told off. Here is this man that my parents hold in super high regard and he’s telling me I said something wrong. I blushed and sat down.
But within minutes, I began to understand. One of the reasons my parents (and I) admire Moana Jackson is because his words come from a place of aroha. He was grounding me, letting me plant my feet, saying you have the right to be here. There are no degrees of Māori, you just are.
Seven words that have lived with me for 26 years now since that day. Seven words that have had a massive impact on how I view the world.
So even though it’s incredibly unlikely Moana will read this, just in case. Kia ora mō tēnā.