IMAGINING DECOLONISATION AND WHY IT'S GOOD FOR EVERYONE WITH TINA NGATA
HAPPEN FILMS PODCAST #7
In Episode 7 of the Happen Films Podcast, Antoinette is joined by Tina Ngata (Ngati Porou), advocate for environmental, indigenous and human rights. Tina is based in Tairāwhiti, East Coast, Aotearoa New Zealand, where she’s a busy community leader working for the rights and wellbeing of her whanau/family and community.
For many years her blog, the Non-Plastic Maori, documented her journey reducing her personal dependence on plastic, a journey that led to her deepening her understanding of the wider issues of plastics consumption and waste and becoming a prominent activist in that space and beyond. She has spoken for Maori and indigenous rights at the United Nations and in conferences around the world, has published a book of her collected work opposing the continued celebration of colonial history, Kia Mau: Resisting Colonial Fictions, and is continually writing, speaking and protesting for justice for humans and Papatuānuku/Mother Earth.
The intention was for this episode to be Happen Films’ contribution to Plastic-free July – Tina being one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s waste resistance heroes – and the idea was to talk about waste within the context of environmental, indigenous and human rights. And we do… but the focus of the conversation turned out to be colonisation – its history; its day-to-day presence – and what decolonisation might look like. That’s an appropriate conversation to be having at any time and feels particularly resonant right now, within the extraordinary context of this year, 2020, and everything it’s bringing forth to challenge our thinking, our history, our practices and our plans for the future.
As Tina says: “Anti-colonialism is not just for indigenous people. Anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and anti-racism is for everyone – we’ll all get well-being out of deconstructing the ways in which we believe that we have entitlement to each other’s spaces and places and bodies.”
We hope you enjoy listening to Tina’s wise and profound words and come away as inspired as we have!
Follow Tina Ngata
– Support on Patreon
– Watch Tina’s talk during the Claim the Future webinar (July 2020)
– Buy Tina’s book, Kia Mau: Resisting Colonial Fictions (digital download – please koha/gift if you can)
Hi everyone, I’m Antoinette. Welcome back to the Happen Films podcast.
Today I’m joined by Tina Ngata, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s waste resistance heroes. Her blog of many years, The Non-plastic Maori, described, among connected topics, her personal transition to living plastic-free. More broadly her work involves advocacy for environmental, indigenous and human rights. She’s spoken for Maori and indigenous rights at the United Nations and at conferences around the world and has published a collection of essays entitled Kia Mau: Resisting Colonial Fictions. I’ll include links to her work in the show notes and in the YouTube description.
I’m really excited to be chatting to Tina today; she’s a wise and eloquent speaker. I hope you’ll enjoy the podcast.
Antoinette: Morena, Tina, good morning. Thank you for joining me today. I’ve been following your work for a while now so I’m really excited to have this opportunity to chat with you and to share your wisdom with the Happen Films community.
Okay, so let’s jump right in. We have some awesome zero-waste and plastic-free heroes in Aotearoa New Zealand and while you’re by no means the only one who is talking about waste from an indigenous perspective you do have an approach that has a particular focus on the relationship between waste and colonisation and it’s a subject that isn’t strongly discussed in the mainstream yet, and so I’d really love to have a chat that brings that into focus, if that works for you.
But I thought maybe could we start with hearing from you about your background and what from your background shapes your worldview.
Tina: Thanks for the invite! I’m really excited for us to be discussing these issues, especially this year, you know, 2020 is a really, has turned out to be a pivotal year on so many fronts in relation to colonialism, colonisation, and environmental issues and of course being in the year of Covid and the year of Black Lives Matter and understanding the intersections of these issues has – it feels like it’s been a pathway of mine for many years now.
I went through university studying Maori Studies and Indigenous Studies and I did that with a great passion for indigenous rights and indigenous issues and injustice in those areas. When I came through university I also became a researcher, I worked under an amazing man called Mason Durie, who’s a leader for our people in terms of understanding well-being, the broad indigenous ideas of well-being that kind of transcend physical and mental well-being into the well-being of the environment, the well-being of communities and cultural well-being, spiritual well-being, and places these things all on even standing with each other.
And so that was kind of, he was who mentored me and my understandings of what it is to be well and it was through my work for him as a researcher that I came across all of these different diverse Maori realities, speaking with many different Maori families around what it is to be well. I met some who were very you know, they didn’t have a lot of cash, they were probably what people would describe as living in poverty, but they lived on their own land and they had abundant rivers nearby, they lived with their family all around them and they felt rich and they felt healthy and happy. And then I worked with families who were very well off and lived in what you’d easily describe as a mansion, but they had been alienated from their lands, they didn’t know their families back home their whānau whānui – their broader family systems – they didn’t have those strong kinship systems around them, they didn’t know their language, they felt culturally poor and that was a source of unwellness for them, in their hearts and eventually in their emotions as well.
So, and then there were also these aspects of the environment around how connected you were to your land and the well-being of your land and how that fit into our ideas of our well-being as Maori as well.
And then I went from there, so I taught Treaty Studies for a number of years as well and I worked at University of Otago as a researcher, still in health and looking at these broader ideas of health and how they intersect with rights, particularly for indigenous peoples. And then I was called home by my own whānau [family] to come and work in those areas here, in Tai Rāwhiti on the East Coast, and for Maori, and I believe it’s not just a Maori thing though but when you get the call to come home it’s a, it’s not one that you can resist and it’s not one that you can ignore. So when it’s time to go home you go.
So I did, I came home, and that was probably about eight years ago now and I’ve been home working in the field of environmental well-being for a number of years so, over that whole time actually. So I… I had moved home and was teaching a degree in environmental studies here in a very rurally isolated – I live in a very rurally isolated community on the East Cape of the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand – and the course that I taught, I taught out of our marae, our traditional gathering house, and I became aware of microplastic contamination and at the time I was working on what we call a tukutuku panel, which is a traditional art form that utilises patterns taken from nature and it’s a– it was a lattice work piece and it was called “Roimata Toroa” was the pattern, which means “The Tears of the Albatross”, and while I was working on that in my lounge room, the film *Midway* – the trailer for the *Midway* film was playing and I just started crying, just crying looking at what was, you know, these albatross feeding their chicks these plastics and not knowing where any of that had come from and seeing just the profound devastation that this was wreaking upon our relations, who we took inspiration from in these panels that we hang on the walls of our ancestral houses to reference our connection to nature.
And what was actually, you know, just that it was a really profound connection from me to, through my artwork and my genealogy to the toroa, to the albatross, and what they were going through and that was the channel that this issue landed with me through, and when it comes through that channel of your ancestry and your ancestral responsibilities and your identity, your very identity, then it’s not something that’s going to just brush off easily and it didn’t. It didn’t, it stayed with me.
And I also met some pretty amazing people that year through para kore, through one of our organisations that I’ve come from, that year to now, I’m still really heavily involved in, which is a national indigenous Maori waste reduction waste minimisation organisation that works with 430 communities around the country to minimise waste. So I met, you know, the champion of that, Jacqui Forbes, she really inspired me. I met a lady called Waziata Win from what’s known as Minnesota, now, and she really inspired me and she talked about, you know, our responsibility to divest from the systems that are harming Mother Earth and take that journey and in order for us to be able to live our leadership in that space.
And so all of those things culminated in me making a decision in 2013 to try– I just thought I’d try for a year to live without creating plastic waste. I just wanted to explore what it was, you know, explore my own addiction to it, explore what it’d be like to live without it, and so when I started off on that journey it was a very personal – individualised, I should say – and personal journey that I was on. And my blog at the time that I started – my cousin Marama said, “Oh can you blog this so that we can follow your journey?” And you can track how my understanding of the problem developed through my blog because I started off with uploading all of the different plastic waste that I was still acquiring and still producing, and my recipes and I’d weigh it and you know these really cool and important posts, but really individualised around how I was going to get my own plastic waste count down.
And then I thought, you know even if I’m just walking by myself along the beach picking up the rubbish that’s still less rubbish in the oceans, I’ll do that. And I thought but how can I magnify, how can I upscale the solution? How can I get more people along to get more of this waste out of our ocean? Because I learned through following people like Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins at 5 Gyres Institute about beach clean-ups are gyre clean-ups and I was like, I want more people to help clean the gyre through cleaning the beach. And so I started to go, Well how do I, you know, understanding how do you turn the problem off at the tap, how do we upscale the solutions to reduce the waste going in the first place?
And the more that I learnt about it, I started to look at the way in which we really needed to disrupt the power systems at the top of the chain, you know these groups – the plastics industry – who just had the resources and the relationships and the power privilege to be able to so easily enter the halls of power and so easily influence policy and abuse that power system that many of them are born into, to be able to create the economy for their products, that favours their products, that continue to pollute our beaches and our water systems and our food systems.
And then I was like, oh this is exactly the same as the oil guys that I was fighting a few years ago – we were trying to get the oil companies off our coastline – same guys! Same people, like literally the same companies. And because we had just been fighting Chevron and well now called Equinor but then called Statoil, and before that it was Petrobras and we’ve been fighting and successfully getting oil companies away from our coastline. And I was like, it’s the same power dynamics, and then I was like, actually it’s the same thing, it’s still colonisation, it’s these groups of people who believe that they have the superior right to create a product that they know is going to disrupt our food system, is going to pollute our coastline, they don’t care about these indigenous models of well-being that say that when that water is polluted the water in my body is also polluted, and that’s my ancestor, they just – that’s just piffle to them and so all they care about is their understanding of the world and their values and this profit and they will use their privilege to impose that valued outcome over the top of my valued outcome, regardless of where they – they don’t even live in the same country, you know?
So that’s colonisation, you know, that’s – that is neo-colonialism, that’s neo-imperialism, that’s exactly the same kind of entitlement that sent people out around the world to claim lands in the first place and claim the right to be able to extract riches in the first place to fill the coffers of Europe. But now those corporate entities, the empires are in the form of corporate entities who assume these same entitlements to be able to not just extract to make the plastic but also understand and consciously pollute with that plastic as well, by refusing to take responsibility for its impacts.
For me, with that understanding, turning it off at the tap was not just about getting people to make better policies, it was about, “Well who gets to be at the table?” “Who gets to influence the policy?” And what are the mindsets that are at play there and how can we expose that type of psychology so that there’s groups who consider themselves to be socially responsible, like governments are supposed to be and policymakers are supposed to be, how do we make really clear the harm that’s perpetrated through those systems and the mindsets as well?
And I guess to a degree still you need to believe in goodwill because you have to appeal to, you know, the fact that once I expose all of this to you, once I expose the criminality of the situation to you then I’m going to be relying upon your good will as a policy maker to say, “Of course we can’t allow this to continue, of course we have to come up with a better way.” It doesn’t always work out that way but you know for me turning it off at the tap meant exposing that injustice so that those who are expected to act in a just way in their policy making were able to respond to that injustice, and correct that injustice, and a big part of that injustice also is, “Who is it that I’m actually appealing to?” And who should be in that seat, making that decision about this waterway? And so that, you know, that’s how I kind of came to be… and as I said you can track that through my blog and see my blog became more and more and more about political issues and about indigenous rights and about injustice and I still talk about plastic waste but I talk about it very much within that context.
Antoinette: Yeah I’ve loved following your blog and I think – I really enjoyed that evolution. Some of your articles in the last year or so have been really powerful much bigger-picture articles but always coming back to those really core issues of plastic pollution and waste generally. I think that’s quite different to a lot of the other stuff I’ve been reading and watching and that’s why I’ve found it so fascinating following your work.
So before we carry on into that, into talking about plastics pollution and waste more generally, I’m interested in clarifying around the colonisation because I think for a lot of us it’s something that happened in the past. So you’ve just talked about neo-colonisation and neo-imperialism and we can kind of get that notion of corporate colonialism and you know these corporate bodies coming in and colonising our waterways and our lands and oceans and so on, but so New Zealand was colonised by the British in the 1800s and for many generations I think we’ve kind of understood that there’s been an impact to that colonisation but ultimately in regard to the word “colonisation” it was something that happened in the past. Whereas all of your work is talking about it being a process that is ingrained in all of society’s structures, that is ongoing, and I think that’s quite an uncomfortable thing for a lot of people to take on board. So yeah before we narrow back down to waste and colonisation I wondered if you could explore the ways in which colonisation continues to exist in day-to-day life?
Tina: Yeah one of the analogies that I use when we’re talking about how colonialism impacts us today still is, I talk about cannabis – so cannabis laws. You know many people understand now that cannabis has great medicinal benefits. It’s taken a long time for the research to even be able to be done for us to be able to understand the medicinal benefits of cannabis and there are a lot of people who missed out on those medicinal benefits, a lot of people who suffered very deeply because of lack of access to those medicinal benefits, and a part of the battle for that was moving past this idea that cannabis does great harm, is a source of social harm. People demonised it in their head you know, we had the reefer madness propaganda and whatnot.
But you know, before that, even here in New Zealand Aotearoa, before 1965 you could get cannabis prescribed by your doctor. And these laws that have really criminalised it and demonised it in the mind, in the minds of so many, have only been around for a few decades. And in that short time, especially with this psychological connection, this connection that we make between something that’s legal and something that’s good, and something that’s illegal and something that’s bad, not considering that the law is wrong but if it’s illegal it must be bad, right? And so people got it into their minds for a long time that cannabis is intrinsically bad because it was illegal. And my dad was one of them, you know, like he was in great great pain and we were finally able to get some cannabis, some CBD oil, to help with the pain and he just would not take it because he believed it’s bad, it’s evil, it’s bad, I’m not going to take that thing.
And so it’s just really interesting for me and I think it’s a great analogy for us to say, well look that’s how our ideas about cannabis were shaped, with a law that was around for 60 years tops, you know, really shaped the social psyche around the intrinsic morality or immorality of cannabis.
The laws that have shaped our ideas around colonial entitlement and imperialism have been around for over 500 years and they’re still around today. They’ve never been rescinded. And so these laws, they were called papal bulls and they started in the 15th century and back then laws didn’t come out of governments, we didn’t have governments in Europe, they had the kings and queens, they had monarchs, but these laws came out of the Vatican, they were called papal bulls and in the mid 15th century there were papal bulls that were lobbied for, petitioned by the king of Portugal, King Afonso, and he wanted to carry out Holy Crusade and the Crusades had already been carried out in the Holy Land at that point and you needed permission from God’s representative on earth to carry out a Crusade otherwise you were carrying out mortal sins of murder.
And so with the permission of God’s representative on earth, those things were not mortal sins they were not crimes, they were Holy Crusades and they were done in service of God and the faith. And so it wasn’t just that you were permitted to do it, it was conceptualised that this was your good Christian duty to do it, and by “it” I mean go into countries, you were permitted to, in these papal bulls, these papal laws, to invade, to search out, to subdue, to vanquish, and to commit to perpetual servitude the Saracens and the pagans of these lands, and the Saracens referred to – at the time that was the term they used for Muslim people – and the pagans were anybody who was not Christian.
So these papal bulls; the first one, Dum Diversus, wound up becoming the bull that incepted the West African slave trade and eventually saw the displacement of tens of millions of Africans. And then the next, following on from that you had these other papal laws, paper bulls that now said: “You can take Dum Diversus, everything that we’ve said you can do there and you can now do that in the New World”. And they sent out Christopher Columbus under those laws and they sent out Magellan, they sent out Pizarro, they sent out Cortés, they sent out Cook from these European monarchs who were given permission, not just given permission but were told, “This is your Christian duty to spread the word of God.”
And then a part of these tools included the permission to enslave and murder women and children, you know, and they would tell them – they would have these pieces of paper that they would say, “We’re carrying out God’s duty here and if you submit to the will to the yoke, they called it the yoke, if you submit to the yoke of the cross and the crown then you know we will spare you and if you do not then we will do unto you such mischief as we may, we will take your women, we will take your children, we will take your lands, and you will not survive and everything that you own will be ours.”
And they read this in a language that the indigenous people couldn’t understand anyway, sometimes they didn’t even, they weren’t even there, they just saw the land off in the distance and they said, “Oh this is the time that we read (what was called *el requirement*) this is the time, okay we read it, now let’s go over there and do what we need to do.”
And so these papal laws you know created this system, once they invaded these places they set about extracting – obviously the people became a source of that profit – and profit was mentioned, this is a really important part: that first papal bull of Dum Diversus that came to – you know these papal balls collectively became known as the Doctrine of Discovery, or you know became an international concept, they became the foundation of an international concept called the Doctrine of Discovery. And so, even in Dum Diversus, that early papal bull, said that you may do this “for your profit” and so the dehumanising of people and the abuse of their lands, and the taking of their lands, all of this was able to be done for profit and that is a principle that has survived through the ages, through this process, and it’s a theme that runs concurrently through this whole process.
So they claimed these lands, they set up these systems of extraction and extracted from these very resource-rich territories to fill the coffers of Europe, and those papal bulls became the basis of international law. Inter caetera, which is I think the third of those bulls, wound up becoming the basis of the law of nations, which is the foundation of international law today – it’s never been rescinded – and the economy, the global economy that was set up through these systems of extraction became the basis of the global economy that’s still in place today. So these international institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are governed by boards that are set up in response to who’s able to put the most money into these funds.
And that’s indigenous money going into these funds, the coffers of these – you know and it’s largely imperial nations – and the coffers of those imperial nations are filled with money that’s been extracted. And those are the institutions that regulate world debt, that regulate international trade deals, that regulate the global economy, that all influences our domestic economies and our domestic economic well-being.
So those systems of colonialism are continuing right through to today. Africa is still labouring, many many countries, nations, within Africa are still labouring under systems of debt that – that is, you can draw a straight line from when they were invaded and they still are coming under European imperial rule, and the debt that was placed over them as well, and they’re not able to come out under from under that crippling debt, which will not be forgiven by International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. So they’re not able to establish their own food systems to feed themselves, they’re not able to come up with Covid responses, effective Covid responses, effective climate change responses, anything, because they’re labouring under this oppressive system of world of world debt of global debt.
And so it’s very present there and for me in Aotearoa of course colonialism is still present because I’m still living under colonial rule. In 1768 we were a free, independent, self-governing people and that was never ceded. And I think you ask any indigenous person around the world who’s living under settler colonialism still now, they’ll just need to look around them and say, “Well are we self-governing?” No, then obviously colonisation has not stopped. Which is one of the reasons why – and I know it’s not a new concept – but when people talk about the idea of “post-colonialism” I’m like, “When did, when did it stop?” It didn’t stop. I’m not – we’re not living in a post-colonial anything!
But the other thing also I should say is that, I’ve talked about how colonialism exists not just in terms of the governments that were set up or the power systems that were set up domestically, but it exists in this international space. You look at the United Nations, it’s largely comprised of secular colonial governments or imperial governments who if you were going to say, “Okay we need to deconstruct the imperialist economy”, it would cripple them, it would cripple most of those nations within the United Nations. So of course they’re not going to vote to take that kind of step towards justice, because it’s not in their own interests.
So you know when you have collectors like the United Nations who position themselves as the paternal benefactors of the world but are also rooted in imperialism, then you know that becomes really problematic for us using those channels to seek justice. And so that’s another way in which in which it still survives to this day.
But what’s really also just as important for us to discuss is that if you go back to that original analogy that I made about you know the construct of good and evil, the way that we construct our morals and our minds and our values and our minds, you know these are ways of thinking and doing and being that have been in place now for hundreds of years, that have shaped us as a planet and shaped our nation, shaped our economy and shaped our beliefs and shaped our ideas around how we interact with each other and how we interact with the planet. And so as a social psyche colonialism still exists and it’s impacting me as an indigenous person, but it’s also impacting non-indigenous people. You know colonialism – anti-colonialism is not just for indigenous people, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and anti-racism is for everyone. We’ll all get well-being out of deconstructing the ways in which we believe that we have entitlement to each other’s spaces and places and bodies, you know, because from the very beginning these laws and these papal bulls that granted rights to places also granted rights to the people of those places, they granted rights over bodies and for the purpose of profit and as that made its way into an economic context and the corporations, these multi-national corporations, acquired that idea that they have the right to be able to impact and extract from and oppress people’s bodies as well as their lands.
Yeah so that’s, you know, those – it’s very much, it isn’t just something that happened in the past, it’s something that shaped and continues to shape our present and our future as well, which is why it’s so important for us to talk about.
Antoinette: Yeah one point, because you know you’re talking about the papal bulls of the 15th and 16th centuries, which you know I was really shocked to first learn about those because I’ve read a lot of history over the course of my life and I’ve never heard of the papal bulls so – well I wasn’t shocked I was kind of embarrassed; how did I not know this? It’s an extraordinary thing to still be underlying all of our legal and economic structures, like you say, and I think in your writing around that you’ve talked about depositions to the Vatican to have those rescinded. I know that this is something that you’re still working on quite actively isn’t it, with a group of people, so I’d love to hear a little bit more about that. I wasn’t actually intending on going into this but I think it is a really interesting subject and it might be… I’d love to know what’s happening and in what way the rest of us can be supporting that, because I would love to see that rescinded.
Tina: Yeah you know, I think what’s really interesting for me in the journey to get those papal bulls rescinded is the opposition to it, you know, and that opposition to it manifests in so many different ways. It comes from people who are saying, “It doesn’t matter, it happened in the 15th century, what do you care about getting it done now?” and I’m like, “Well it matters to us and so if it doesn’t matter to you and it matters to us then doesn’t the humane, you know, the humanity of the situation dictate that you can rescind them?” And the Vatican themselves have said, “Well we don’t see it as being that much of an issue, they’re not really relevant anymore, they’re not in play anymore.” Well if they’re not relevant anymore but this matters to us, from a principal perspective it matters to us, and you’re not going to, if you believe that it’s not going to matter it’s neither here nor there, then why not make it here? The way that we’re asking for it to be? Because that would be doing a great thing for us, who believe that that it does matter.
But what that says to us, that we’ve been – you know this is not new, many years we’ve been asking for them to be rescinded now, so what that says to us is that evidently it does matter to you. If you are so determined to not rescind them then it must matter to you. You know the Doctrine of Discovery that was incepted through these papal bulls has entered into our legal systems and through those legal systems it’s entered into our land tenure systems, because there is a lot of land that was transferred out of Maori ownership and into crown ownership and then alienated, you know privatised and alienated, so it won’t be included in settlements.
So we have here in Aotearoa our settlement system through Te Tiriti o Waitangi – through the Treaty of Waitangi – which looks at these historical grievances and land that’s been dispossessed and we go through a tribunal with the crown to say, “Look this land, this land, this land was all dispossessed from our people we would like to negotiate to have it returned.” One of the things that’s non-negotiable is land that’s been privatised, and it’s been privatised by the Crown, who acquired it through a system of alienation, and that alienation was put in place through the Doctrine of Discovery.
And so when you rescind the papal laws that underpinned those cases, and set the precedence for this land alienation, alienation for us that is a fundamental part of discussing the return of justice to our land, the return of justice to our people. And that’s a long, slow, multi-generational march towards a space of justice that we’re on. And so that’s an important step for us, you know, and whether it’s just for them, whether it’s just something that’s done in a principled fashion or whether it is going to have any fundamental change you know – if they believe it’s neither here nor there then we believe that that’s a very good reason for them to do it and if it does make a big difference then from our perspective again, it’s a very good reason to do it!
And so we’re going to be continuing that call for them. And also it’s an issue of principles. You know, if ever there’s a group that considers themselves to be the benevolent paternal force in the world, it’s the Vatican. If you really do believe that you have some kind of moral high ground – believe they have the moral high ground in the world – then why wouldn’t you look at this step of restoring justice within your own history?
And so, I’ve had some amazing discussions with people from the Catholic faith from the Mennonite faith, from the Methodist faith and the Church of England as well, around resolving this history and what are your Christian, your good Christian responsibilities here and now to confront that history and respond to it? Because, as I said earlier, it was enacted under the yoke of the cross and the Crown so it’s not just the Crown involved in this injustice, it was the cross as well and so there’s been some amazing profound discussions I’ve had with church leaders and thought leaders within the church around those issues, but that’s certainly a pathway that we’re going to continue to pursue because, from a principle perspective, but also we believe from a very practical perspective as well.
Antoinette: So what does decolonisation look like to you? I want to ask generally but that’s huge and I also want to ask in regard to plastics and waste and so I’ll let you kind of… because I mean it’s the same thing but it’s also, there are specifics that you could talk about in regard to waste and plastic I think that might be easier than looking at it in a really big-picture way.
Tina: Yeah I mean we can answer that question and I do pose that question to people, but it’s really important for us to vision decolonisation and we need to vision it, I believe, at all levels, and so for me I generally ask and challenge people to think, What would it look like? What would wake you up in the morning? What would you eat? How would you get around? What would you be living in, you know? Like even imagine you wake up in the morning, for me you know we often talk about time being a coloniser, so in my ancestors’ time we lived under the Maramataka, under the lunar calendar, and each lunar cycle, each lunar phase had different types of activities associated with it, so some lunar phases were good for fishing, some lunar phases were good for building, some lunar phases were good for gardening, others were good to just stay inside and learn your genealogy or some were good for holding meetings and making decisions. Other lunar phases no, you don’t, you just stay with your close family, and some were good for making medicine.
And so those lunar phases weren’t just you know – another colonial understanding, I think, for us around, even around the way we perceive lunar science at the moment, is that it’s constrained to night time lunar phases and the time of my ancestors it wasn’t about night time, the phase occurs during the day as well and so one day you will cross from one lunar phase over to the other as well, but that is how we would organise our time and what we would spend our time doing was informed by the season – by what was growing, flourishing, what it was time to plant and the lunar phase and what that meant for the waters in our body and the waters around us and whether or not it was when our waters had rescinded and we weren’t, our ecosystems within our body were rescinding and coming into themselves and it wasn’t a good time because you weren’t feeling abundant, it wasn’t a good time to go out and share the abundance of your spirit and your thoughts and your energy with others, it was a time to bring yourself in to your household and just share your abundance with your immediate whanau [family] and really think deeply about how you were going to carry your tasks out for the rest of that lunar cycle.
And so those are ways of organising your time and energy that would make for a really different day in Tina’s decolonised future. It wouldn’t be an alarm clock that woke me up that said you know it’s eight o’clock, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get dressed, it’s time to you know it might be my daughter’s laugh. I might be up before the sun because I know that this is a day that I have to do this, this and this or it might be a day I don’t get up at all and it’s just my baby’s laugh that wakes me up eventually and we get to lie in bed for a little while because that’s the day that we spend planning our future, our month that falls ahead from it.
And then when we do move into what it is that I prepare her for her breakfast, what does that process look like? What am I preparing? How, where do I get my energy from in terms of you know how do I cook? And what do I cook or prepare for her? And then what does our day look like moving on from there? How is she – does she have education systems around her? What is it that gets taught to her and who teaches her that? And what am I teaching her for? What am I preparing her for? What needs will she have in the future that I need to provide for intellectually, spiritually and mentally throughout that day?
And so you know I can make anything up, that might look like anything, but the point is that I’m considering and visualising in almost a visceral way what it is going to be like on a daily basis to live a decolonised future.
And then you can carry that question forward into all of the different contexts, especially when you start talking about waste, you know you start thinking well what is the waste that would be generated out of that day? But also if I’m working, if there is a job in that future, what does waste look like in the– what are the waste systems that are associated to that as well? But also who gets to make the decisions? Who gets to make the decisions about that? Who sits in the positions of power around that? Is there a council – is there a regional council? Who sits on that regional council? And what are the values of that regional council? Where do those values come from and are there any power structures above that regional council? Because for me a decolonised future actually does mean localised decision-making, the most localised decision-making you can get. So the more centralised the less decolonised, in my perspective anyway. So if there are, though, if there are power systems sitting above that local council or regional – whatever it is – then what do those look like? Who sits in there? And what values drive those places?
And so you know I think it’s really important for us firstly to visualise what it’s like at the local level – it’s very similar I think to the process I went through with understanding plastics and understanding the colonialism of it, which for me was about I want to know how plastics impacts my life; I’m going to go for a year without it, so that I could live it and then I started to see the systems in play that were determining that outcome for me, at the deeply personal level. And I think you can do that same multi-level assessment or multi-level visioning as well around what decolonisation might look like moving up the scales of power as well.
Antoinette: So we’re talking about a complete restructure of all of society’s systems really.
Tina: Radical is radical right! Radical’s not just a little bit, you know, and so I think that’s really pertinent now because we– you know one of the things that imperialism does and colonisation does is that it tries to convince you of what’s possible and what’s not possible, and one of – I talk a lot about the colonial fiction, I wrote a book about colonial fictions, and one of the really strong colonial fictions is… you know it’s like *Fight Club*, first rule of fight club: nobody talks about fight club; the first rule of colonialism is colonialism doesn’t exist. And then there’s all of these other ones that come under that and one of them is the fiction of benevolence, but the other thing, the other part of it is the fiction of inevitability and so it will tell you that it’s inevitable and that you can’t overcome it. The most you can ever do is tweak it but there’s this assumption that the core power system must stay intact and must stay there.
And it’s attached to all of these other fictions around how, if you’re going to talk to people about that power you have to use technical language you have to talk like this, you can’t talk from the heart, the heart has no place in those types of structures. And so it’s extracted heart talk from power, from spaces of power. What does that mean? Everything that we, whenever we discuss power and injustice we have to take the heart out of it. That’s exactly the problem, you know, and so we wonder why we come up with these heartless situations of injustice because injustice is what– a beautiful definition of injustice that I heard recently is that, well justice is really about removing blocks to love, barriers to love. Justice is about letting love flow, and how are you going to get to a space of justice without including your heart?
And so you know when people say well you can’t talk like that in places of power and decision-making, you have to talk technically, I just say that’s exactly what got us into this space. I can talk technical but I think it’s an act of decolonisation to bring back the language of the heart and to bring back the language around love into those spaces of decision making, but also these ideas of belief and hope – self-belief and hope – and when we’re talking about things like the global Green New Deal and the SGD’s, they can talk very surface level sometimes, they make nice little surface-level discussions around “this is about the rights of future generations”, it’s about future generations and stuff like that but I think we can do a much better job of embedding, you know, belief in our capacity to be able to do this, to take radical steps to overturn these systems.
You know it just it really boggles my mind that these systems that are deeply imperial, that are built out of this imperial injustice, are now the ones that are telling us that they will be the ones to save us, they will be the ones to determine and we’re allowed to participate in it, but we have to lobby them, we have to really appeal to them to grasp the global Green New Deal and to consider source point impacts of the oil and gas industry and the plastics industry and we have to really lobby them hard to do that and these are institutions, global institutions, that service industry and they service imperial governments and they’re made up of imperial government, so the conflict and… you know you have people like Joseph Stiglitz, who’s the ex-vice president of the World Bank and a Nobel Prize laureate economist who also talks at length about the levels of conflict within those spaces that inhibit them from being able to carry out true acts of justice, and really you know set some – yeah I think I’m struggling to you know, because I don’t even like the language that we use when we say, “Oh, it’s broad…”, even when we say, “Oh, it’s radical”, it’s just, it’s justice.
When we call justice radical I think we’re setting some really low bars there; to say that the return of indigenous lands is radical. Well it’s going to upset your economy sure but what we’re talking about is justice. And forgiving world debt is radical? That’s just justice. And you know I think we really need to reframe the language around that and anything less than that I think we’re selling ourselves short and selling our future generations short as well. So we need to again you know – I guess we have to use that language – be brave… we have to “be brave”, we can’t set these parameters around justice and say, “Yeah, we believe in justice but except for Uighur in China, who are under forced labour”, “Yeah, we believe in justice, we support justice, but we won’t return indigenous lands”, Oh, we’re okay with this but that nuclear dumping ground and that militarism in Hawai’i that needs to stay there because a b c d e f g and then give us all of the blah blah that we’ve heard for the last however many years around why you can’t deal with that injustice.
And so you know if we’re going to talk about justice, if we’re going to set a vision for a just world, if we want our planet to thrive but we can’t even reach justice, how are we going to thrive if we can’t even reach justice? If we’re interested in justice we’ve got to have the full discussion about it and that includes these international institutions like the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UNESCO, UNDP. And so yeah, we’re talking about a complete systems shift and that’s what’s required of us in order to be able to make this shift internationally, to bring us all together.
You know it’s important for us to foster what’s happening in these local community leadership scenarios, we need to foster that and grow it, have more of them and more of them happening and I think we need to take that and apply that in a transnational and international setting as well, those values and those transnational, international settings because so much of this – for me as a Maori woman living in Aotearoa New Zealand you know I can lobby local and national government all day, every day, that’s not going to stop the plastics that are being dumped overseas making their way to my shore, picking up all of the ambient pollutants along the way, being eaten by my fish, making their way into my body, disrupting my hormonal system, impacting upon my future generations, you know.
So there’s a transnational and international discussion to be had here that moves beyond these national colonial borders as well. And you know a perfect example of that is what’s going on in the high seas. For me as a Pacific woman, as an indigenous woman, you know my nation is a water nation; it doesn’t stop at the coastline, it doesn’t stop at the high tide mark, the vast majority of our territory is oceanic territory because I’m an indigenous oceanic person. And so the way in which Empire came into the Pacific and sliced it up and created these borders and created these exclusive economic zones and then apportioned power over the high seas to an international audience, to an international construct and apportioned power over these nautical mile limits, the economic power over those regions, to Germany, to France, to Britain or to the colonial states that have been set up by them, you know that is an enduring injustice that came straight out of the United Nations through the convention on the Law of the Seas, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
And everything that happens in the high seas is voted on by people that, like they’ve never even come from here and these are my traditional territories, these are our indigenous territories, my ancestors were voyaging, moving back and forth, it wasn’t a no man’s land, we were actively occupying these oceanic territories, including the high seas, for generations before they got sliced up by the United Nations. We were feeding from them, you know we were using them as our food cupboards, we were caring for them, we were praying to them, we were making families on them, we were making families in them, we used to give birth inside these oceanic territories, and we were charting them and we were mapping them before these other nations who now have part control over them even knew we were here.
And the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, that’s still there today governing who is able to fish, who’s able to overfish, who’s able to dump stuff, who’s able to drill, who’s able to extract oil to make plastics, whose responsibility is it to clean up the plastics in that area that all of the species that are being impacted in the high seas and the damage that’s being done in the high seas they’re the ones that determine the funding and the means for how that gets addressed or doesn’t. And we as the people of that area whose knowledge systems and way of being have literally grown up out of those waters, we carry those waters in our bodies, we are the people of those waters and those waters are us, and we’re shut out of those power by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
And so you know these groups that carry these masks of paternal benevolence, which consider themselves to be the benefactors of the world, who are the ones who are supposed to develop our pathways to justice for the world, really need to turn that lens upon themselves as well and look at the injustice that they are perpetuating through their own laws, which if you trace back the genealogy of those laws, as I said, come back to the papal bulls as well.
Antoinette: Yeah I’ve really been thinking a lot about how the way that I approach my I guess my environmental ethics around my purchasing decisions and my lifestyle, the way that I live have been in order to not contribute to the polluting of the oceans and the waterways and the land and to have access to quality food. But I’m also seeing that in order to achieve, in order to be part of something that’s really having an impact, I also need to be supporting indigenous people to– I need to be just supporting decolonisation, because it’s, because they’re one and the same. And so I’ve been thinking, what’s my role in supporting decolonisation? And it’s in supporting indigenous sovereignty, it’s voting for indigenous sovereignty, understanding indigenous cultures, so learning te reo Maori, the native language of New Zealand or learning tikanga, the traditions and the yeah I guess understanding the cultures that are near you, so Maori for me because I live in New Zealand but for somebody living in other parts of the world that will be a different course. But it’s integral, it’s those, it’s no longer a case for me that I can just focus my energies on environmental decision-making, it’s indigenous and environmental decision-making, if you know what I mean.
Tina: The words that you just said then that I really enjoyed were you will *vote* for indigenous sovereignty. And that is a powerful act that our non-indigenous brothers and sisters can do, you know the ones that, as an act of allyship – you know it’s fantastic to educate yourself and you *must* educate yourself on what the system looks like, how it impacts you and how it impacts humanity as well, because we don’t just do these things for ourselves, we do these things because we consider ourselves humanitarians and we want the best for everybody so we undertake this journey with that interest. But you know we also need, that also needs to translate over into concrete acts as well.
So that means you know going on the marches and it also means voting, as well, like interrogate the political powers at the moment around what are their policies in relation to indigenous rights and indigenous peoples? What are their… they might even have some fantastic environmental policies but how does that intersect with indigenous rights? And how do their policies and their environmental policies empower or disempower indigenous peoples in that space and then what are, you know, out of all of those suites of policies that you’re looking at what are the ones that are able to tick both boxes as well? And have that inform your voting rights.
So here in Aotearoa in New Zealand you know there was a – I think it was in the last election that one of the media, very irresponsible media personalities, tried to put it out there that non-Maori can’t vote, can’t give the party vote to the Maori party and of course that’s not true but you want to, also you want to be – I’m not going to start saying to everybody, vote for the Maori party, but what I am saying though, I mean I support the Maori party but you know you need to interrogate what are the parties that are out there that visit harm or support the indigenous rights struggles and perspectives and needs in your space, you know?
For me that’s an easy answer because there’s one party who’s at their core – at their core – dedicated to Maori outcomes and will not compromise on that and so, but you know that might look different wherever your particular listeners are from. But the point is that you’re interrogating that – so many of us don’t even interrogate to that level when you consider who it is that you’re voting for. What are the intersections of whatever my other interests are with indigenous rights in that space?
Antoinette: I’m seeing these young rangatahi [youth] here in New Zealand at least who are speaking te reo Maori [the Maori language] and demanding justice in a way that feels like there’s more momentum to it than there has been in the past. And I think that that’s a worldwide phenomenon because we really are seeing a lot of young voices starting to step up and really speak quite loudly I think and I’m sure that that has to do with the growing awareness around climate change over the last few years as well. But do you feel that? Do you feel– I guess do you feel a sense of hope in there being more momentum behind you because there’s a generation coming forward that is speaking with a stronger voice I guess than it has had in the past?
Tina: Yeah I do. I mean you have to have hope right, you have to have hope otherwise why would you get up in the morning? And so you have to hold on to hope and like I said before sometimes it feels like radical hope when you hear what the media is trying to feed you; it feels like a radical act to hold on to hope.
So you have to do that, but you know I also am really mindful that this is in part thanks to the struggles of the generation beforehand and education that was put in place by the generation beforehand as well. So there’s more reo Maori [Maori language] here you know around us, great, we have a generation now – second generation now – of graduates from the kōhanga reo [immersion preschool], kura kaupapa [immersion schooling], whare wānanga [university] system and that was put in place because people marched, because people lobbied, because people fought, because people opened up wounds around the ways in which they were oppressed and harmed from speaking their language.
So the kura kaupapa, kōhanga reo, whare wānanga is a system of immersion, you know, Maori language immersion and education. You can go through your entire education now from a baby right through and to getting your doctorate through a system of immersion and we’ve also had generations now of decolonised academic pursuits in both languages, so that we’ve become very fluent and nuanced in our understanding of how colonialism shows up in economy, in education, in health, in politics in many different spaces.
But I’m always mindful that there were people who made sacrifices, it didn’t just happen by itself, there were people who– we’ve lost so many people along the way out of fatigue and the energy, the indigenous energy that’s been invested in this struggle to get us to where we’re at now so that we do have these new amazing beautiful new generations of people of leaders, up and coming leaders, who are conversant in their own language and conversant in the political language of their rights.
And so yeah there’s a genealogy to that. It’s really easy, I think, to judge past generations and the decisions that they made but I’m always trying to be mindful that only two generations ago it was a radical act to survive, you know, you’ve been living in a situation under governments who – you can look through the Hansard Reports; there were clear designs for genocide to actually wipe us out from some of those policy makers and politicians, and in the mid to late 1800s, early 1900s, mid 1900s, you can find Hansard Reports that have statements in parliament, in the halls of power, that were clearly, you know, lent themselves towards wiping us out or culturally wiping us out and making our survival dependent upon assimilation, so that we could survive, we just couldn’t survive as Maori, which is another form of genocide.
And so for us to even survive was a radical act just two generations ago, to hold on to enough of ourselves to have something to pass on to the next generation so that we could take that struggle one step further and then one step further than that, and then eventually we were able to acquire an Act, a bill in parliament, to protect our rights to establish our own schools and to protect our language, and then off the back of that we were able to educate ourselves to be able to grow our own economy and invest in our own research units and invest in our own health systems and grow our intellectual academic capacity and integrate our ancestral academic and intellectual capacity to be able to reframe what science looks like, and include the science of our ancestors and include the values of our ancestors.
So there’s so many steps to bring us to where we are today, that what we’re seeing is not happenstance, it’s design and determination and sacrifice, a lot of sacrifice to get us here today.
So I’m really – I do hold out hope and it’s my duty to continue to hold out hope. How dare I do anything else other than honour the sacrifice that’s been made and then commit to building upon it, and building upon it you have to continue that design and that strategy and hold out hope that you’re going to get the outcome that all of those generations before you laid their eyes upon when they made their decisions.
Antoinette: Kia ora, thank you, thank you for – yeah I feel like we could have oh well we could have gone off on so many different tangents in relation to all of this, and yeah I’m grateful for the conversation and I hope we’ll have a chance to chat again sometime. Thank you.
Tina: You’re so welcome. Thank you, thank you very much for the work that you’re doing and the platform that you’re affording these issues and the discussions that you’re extending out to with this platform. So thank you very much. Kia ora.
Jordan: Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode. You might have noticed that we don’t have any sponsors or ads in these podcasts and that’s because we’re supported by our listeners. So if you’d like to support the show you can do so at happenfilms.com/support. Thanks again for tuning in and we’ll see you next time.