Before starting, I must give some insight into my past, so that you can understand why the book “Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou Struggle Without End,” by Dr. Ranginui Walker, had a profound influence on my life.
Kia ora (hello), my name is Jerry Parangi. I am Maori. I was raised in a Maori family with 3 brothers and 1 sister. We grew up in a poor coastal village with a small population of about 100 people, and everyone was related. We were also able to live off the sea and land. Having so many cousins next door was great! We always played outside using the trees for climbing and the sea for swimming. It was paradise and this was our Maori world. A lot of our learning as children came from our parents, but I was lucky to be raised with my grandparents. This was a very traditional practice where Maori culture was transmitted from our elders. I was exposed to Maori language and protocols; however I would soon learn that my Maori world view was not a universal view.
My parents decided I should attend a separate elementary school to my cousins, so I was educated in a neighboring town. Maori were a minority group there, and the dominant culture was “pakeha,” (a person of predominantly European decent). (A Dictionary of the Maori Language, H.W.Williams, 1985). There was a huge cultural mismatch at school. Students sat on desks, and teachers touched our heads. These are considered culturally insensitive to Maori, and I always felt “out of place.” I remember my mother told me that they were physically beaten for speaking Maori at school. Institutionalized racism towards Maori back then and negative portrayal of Maori in the media, attributed to a stigma/shame for many of us in identifying as being Maori.
In high school, our Maori cultural group seemed to be marginalized and “token,” only used on certain occasions. The Maori group was perceived as “uncool,” by some “Pakeha,” but more surprisingly many Maori felt the same. These negative perceptions affected our Maori group membership. It was frustrating that many felt this way, but I was determined to maintain my culture.
After many years of struggling for Maori to be more respected in school, I decided to move. In my final year at high school, I attended a private Maori boarding school, located 400 km away from my hometown. The school had a strong emphasis on Maori culture and encouraged a Maori world view. This was one of the most challenging experiences that I had, but the sacrifice was worth it. I learnt so much about Maori culture and became a leader within our family.
After graduating from high school, I studied a Diploma in Teaching at Auckland College of Education and a Bachelor of Education with a major in Child Psychology, a minor in Social Anthropology and Maori at Auckland University. It was impressive to meet many proud Maori, actively engaged there.
At Auckland University, the most profound influence for me came when attending Dr. Ranginui Walkers’ lectures in my 1st year of studying Maori. The prescribed text was “Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou” Struggle Without End, by Dr. Ranginui Walker. A book that talked about pre-European contact of Maori through to early Maori contact with Europeans, colonization, implications of the British interventions and the progression of post-colonialism to the present day.
The title of the book is the based on the famous proverb by the great chief Rewi Maniapoto, who was fighting against the New Zealand government troops in 1864, when called upon to surrender uttered the words, “ka Whawhai tonu matou ake ake ake,” meaning we will fight on forever. (Manuka Henare. 'Maniapoto, Rewi Manga', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30-Oct-2012).
“Struggle Without End,” gave me the knowledge to understand in depth Maori history and culture and the implications between Maori and Pakeha cultural world views. I gained confidence from the stories of struggle of our old people and the sacrifices made for future generations. I was able to process different world views in contrast to Maori. I found a new strength through this knowledge. I am confident and comfortable being Maori, and hope to teach as much about my culture while learning about other cultures too.
Manuka Henare (2012) 'Maniapoto, Rewi Manga', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated
H.W.Williams (1985) A Dictionary of the Maori Language, 7th Ed, P.D HASSELBURG, GOVERNMENT PRINTER, WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND