First Nations visit strengthens bond with Maori

INDIGENOUS SUPPORT: A group of First Nations people from McMaster University in Canada perform a traditional song. In the front are Barbara Lloyd, whose family in Whatatutu hosted the group, and student Hannah Maltay. In the back from the left are fellow students Dawn Unwin, Maureen Gustafson, Makasa Lookinghorse, Piers Keeps, Cody Looking Horse, Karhatiron Perkins, their professor Dr Dawn Martin-Hill, and Jonia Hill. Picture by Liam Clayton

SHARING songs, stories and support with Maori were key parts of a cultural exchange around Aotearoa for a group of Canadian First Nations university students and their professor.

The students of McMaster University in Ontario and indigenous studies professor Dawn Martin-Hill (Mohawk First Nation) were hosted and shown around Te Ika a Maui (North Island) by the Lloyd family in Whatatutu.

Marcus Lloyd (Nga Ariki Kaiputahi, Ngati Porou) and his family visited the Standing Rock reservation in North America last year to support the Lakota tribe’s protest against plans to build an oil pipeline near their land.

Dr Martin-Hill, whose husband Chief Arvol Looking Horse (Lakota First Nation) was spiritual leader of the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock, also attended the protest site with some of her students, where they heard about Maori support for the cause.

She saw Mr Lloyd’s posts on social media and the Haka for Standing Rock filmed on Waikanae Beach, which went viral around the world.

They had planned to visit Aotearoa before then but later organised a trip through their connection to the Lloyd family.

“We have a strong bond with Maori and share similar stories. Standing Rock brought that out,” Dr Martin-Hill said. “Maori came and supported Standing Rock, so we come over here to support Maori. The injustices indigenous people face, and the fight to retain culture, are the same all over the world.”

The students are part of McMaster University’s indigenous studies programme, one of Canada’s only institutes dedicated to indigenous knowledge and research.

It was set up in a new era of reconciliation and openness from the Canadian government about treatment of its indigenous peoples.

“We wanted to learn more about the Maori experience here,” Dr Martin-Hill said.

The group’s trip included visits to marae and sites sacred to Maori.

In Gisborne it included a visit to Te Wananga o Aotearoa where they experienced whakairo (carving), raranga (flax weaving) and rauangi (visual art) classes.

Waka hourua Te Matau a Maui

In Napier they went out on the waka hourua Te Matau a Maui, which earlier this year sailed out to confront seismic surveying vessel the Amazon Warrior and protest against its search for deep-sea oil and gas.

“We were acknowledging the support and strength they provided us at Standing Rock, and giving it back to them,” Dr Martin-Hill says.

“Both cultures have strong links to the land. We are the land, and when the land is not well, we are not well. We also have similar assertions of sovereignty, spirituality, creation stories and desire to retain our languages.

“It is good seeing the struggles Maori face here and also providing strength by sharing stories, songs and inspiration.”

In Canada there were similar issues, including health problems, and drug and alcohol addiction.

“They stem from colonisation and historical trauma. We have been sharing how we are addressing those with each marae. It has been good for both of us.”

Student Hannah Maltay (Millbrook First Nation) said their research involved examining indigenous knowledge and applying it to real life.

“As indigenous people in Canada we wanted to come here and put our knowledge into practice, learn how Maori are so strong and resilient depsite their history of struggle, much like Canada.”

For Cody Looking Horse (Haudenosaunee and Lakota, Sioux First Nations), son of Dr Martin-Hill and Chief Looking Horse, the trip was about exchanging culture.

“I see a lot of the same history with First Nations, so it is nice to stand together in solidarity. Everybody here is so connected to their culture, and know their language so well.”

The Whanganui River, with its recent legislation making it a legal entity, was particularly important.

“We have been taking notes about how we could do that for our streams, rivers and lakes back home,” he says.

“In some rivers, 50 years ago people could drink out of them. Now we can’t even swim in them or eat fish from them.”

The group were “extremely grateful” to the Lloyd family for their hospitality.

SHARING songs, stories and support with Maori were key parts of a cultural exchange around Aotearoa for a group of Canadian First Nations university students and their professor.

The students of McMaster University in Ontario and indigenous studies professor Dawn Martin-Hill (Mohawk First Nation) were hosted and shown around Te Ika a Maui (North Island) by the Lloyd family in Whatatutu.

Marcus Lloyd (Nga Ariki Kaiputahi, Ngati Porou) and his family visited the Standing Rock reservation in North America last year to support the Lakota tribe’s protest against plans to build an oil pipeline near their land.

Dr Martin-Hill, whose husband Chief Arvol Looking Horse (Lakota First Nation) was spiritual leader of the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock, also attended the protest site with some of her students, where they heard about Maori support for the cause.

She saw Mr Lloyd’s posts on social media and the Haka for Standing Rock filmed on Waikanae Beach, which went viral around the world.

They had planned to visit Aotearoa before then but later organised a trip through their connection to the Lloyd family.

“We have a strong bond with Maori and share similar stories. Standing Rock brought that out,” Dr Martin-Hill said. “Maori came and supported Standing Rock, so we come over here to support Maori. The injustices indigenous people face, and the fight to retain culture, are the same all over the world.”

The students are part of McMaster University’s indigenous studies programme, one of Canada’s only institutes dedicated to indigenous knowledge and research.

It was set up in a new era of reconciliation and openness from the Canadian government about treatment of its indigenous peoples.

“We wanted to learn more about the Maori experience here,” Dr Martin-Hill said.

The group’s trip included visits to marae and sites sacred to Maori.

In Gisborne it included a visit to Te Wananga o Aotearoa where they experienced whakairo (carving), raranga (flax weaving) and rauangi (visual art) classes.

Waka hourua Te Matau a Maui

In Napier they went out on the waka hourua Te Matau a Maui, which earlier this year sailed out to confront seismic surveying vessel the Amazon Warrior and protest against its search for deep-sea oil and gas.

“We were acknowledging the support and strength they provided us at Standing Rock, and giving it back to them,” Dr Martin-Hill says.

“Both cultures have strong links to the land. We are the land, and when the land is not well, we are not well. We also have similar assertions of sovereignty, spirituality, creation stories and desire to retain our languages.

“It is good seeing the struggles Maori face here and also providing strength by sharing stories, songs and inspiration.”

In Canada there were similar issues, including health problems, and drug and alcohol addiction.

“They stem from colonisation and historical trauma. We have been sharing how we are addressing those with each marae. It has been good for both of us.”

Student Hannah Maltay (Millbrook First Nation) said their research involved examining indigenous knowledge and applying it to real life.

“As indigenous people in Canada we wanted to come here and put our knowledge into practice, learn how Maori are so strong and resilient depsite their history of struggle, much like Canada.”

For Cody Looking Horse (Haudenosaunee and Lakota, Sioux First Nations), son of Dr Martin-Hill and Chief Looking Horse, the trip was about exchanging culture.

“I see a lot of the same history with First Nations, so it is nice to stand together in solidarity. Everybody here is so connected to their culture, and know their language so well.”

The Whanganui River, with its recent legislation making it a legal entity, was particularly important.

“We have been taking notes about how we could do that for our streams, rivers and lakes back home,” he says.

“In some rivers, 50 years ago people could drink out of them. Now we can’t even swim in them or eat fish from them.”

The group were “extremely grateful” to the Lloyd family for their hospitality.

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