All is right in my world

Mana reader Diana Cruse writes about her family's loss and her own journey in reclaiming te reo Māori and identity. 

Heritage / 23 November, 2016

All is right in my world

 1929.

Kararaina.

The wind whips around my face, I shiver. I stand on top of my hill, looking over my valley. Pride surges deep within me, this is my whenua, my home. I hear my Nanny calling out over the fields and I know it’s time to go back. I start running, skipping over the cow patties, back to my marae, my home.

The Tekoteko stands proud against the darkening sky, beckoning me to come home, showing me the way. This is my whare, my home.

I look at the trees as I dash past them; the strong Totara with their large branches. These remind me of my kaumātua; strong, staunch, proud, unwavering. I see the small saplings, growing under their protection. I am a sapling, surrounded by my large whānau. They protect me, nurture me. This is my whānau, my home.

I am a proud Māori tamaiti. I know my special place in the world.

All is right in my world.

Native School. Day One.

I stand at the front of the room, my thick hair pulled into a tight braid. I run my hands down the front of my starched skirt. It feels stiff, like the bark of a Rimu tree.

I walk to the front of the cold classroom; my black, polished shoes loudly echoing with each step. I am nervous, but I am excited. I am proud, I want to make my teachers proud of me like my Nanny, my Koro, my Māma, my Pāpa and everyone else around me is. I have been practising this speech for days.

“Kia ora,” I say, loudly, proudly. “Ko Kararaina tōku ingoa”.

The matron straightens her shoulders and walks up to me. She takes my hand. I am still nervous. She puts it on the wooden desk, pulls her ruler out from her deep pocket and whacks it right across my knuckles.

I gasp. I am breathless. I am confused. What did I do wrong?

“Caroline.” The teacher says crisply.

“Kararaina,” I say, but much quieter this time.

“No. You are Caroline. We do not speak that language here.”

Te Reo Māori is my first language; I don’t understand this other, fast language. But I realise that I must it learn quickly.

I get strapped three times that week, for speaking my language, which has now become the other language. At home, I cry in my Nanny’s lap. She soothes me, running her hand gently down my back. She sings me an oriori and I finally drift off to sleep.


1949.

Simeon.

The wind whips around my face, I shiver. I stand on top on my hill, looking over my valley. My uncles still talk about the stories of the place, but I am not told about them, rather I have been told to learn to walk in both worlds, Pākeha and Māori. I hear Nanny calling out over the fields. She’s calling out in her first language, Te Reo Māori, as she has always done, but I don’t understand much of her language. My mother insisted I never learn it, as only harm was brought to her when she spoke it.

The Tekoteko stands proud against the darkening sky. I wonder what the carvings mean and how it was done, but none of my kaumātua will teach me now. They insist I need to learn mathematics and science, rather than spend time on learning how to carve.

I look at the trees as I dash past them; the strong Totara with their large branches. These remind me of my kaumātua; strong, staunch, proud, unwavering. I feel like their sapling, but there is still so much about them and my heritage that they won’t share with me. I want to know the stories of my people, but no one will tell me, no one will pass their knowledge on to me. They are trying to protect me, but I just feel lost.

I am not quite sure where I fit in here. I have been told to walk in both worlds, but I just feel alone wherever I go.

I am not quite sure of my place in the world.


1997.

Diana Caroline.

The wind whips around my face, I shiver. I stand on top on the hill, looking over this valley. My father brought me here for my Christmas holiday. I am fifteen and it is the first time that I can remember coming here. It feels strange. It is getting late, but no one calls out for me. Eventually I slowly trudge back to the marae.

The Tekoteko stands against the darkening sky. His big eyes scare me.

I look at the trees as I plod past them; the strong Totara with their large branches. I try not to trip on their large roots sticking out from the ground.

I feel so disconnected, so out of place, so awkward. I don’t know the protocol –I don’t know when to stand, sit or eat. Where can I wear my shoes? What are the meanings of the designs on the walls?

I don’t know. I didn’t ask and nobody told me.

I just want to leave this place that feels so foreign and never return.

I don’t have a place in the world.

Thirteen years later… 

University. Graduate Diploma of Teaching. Day One.

I stand at the back of the room, my thick hair flowing down my back. I run my hands down the front of my white cotton skirt. It feels soft, like the feathers of a duckling.

I walk down the grey steps, my orange jandals clopping with each stride. I slide into a stiff plastic seat in the middle of the lecture hall; I am nervous, but I am excited.

The lecturer begins. She starts to teach about native schools. I gasp. I am breathless. I am confused. What did those children do wrong?

During a break, I go outside, desperate for fresh air. I pull my cellphone out of my pocket.

“Mum,” I cry. “There were these schools. In New Zealand, in our New Zealand. They used to whip children for speaking Māori”.

“Yes, your Nana Watene went to one.”

My mind reels. “What? Why do I not know this?”

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” she replies quietly. “Your father doesn’t talk about it at all. It brings him so much pain, so we don’t speak about it”. 

My mind races. Small puzzle pieces whirl around my head. “But Dad never came to my kapa haka performances. He told me not to learn it. He made me learn Japanese instead of Māori. He wouldn’t even answer me if I spoke to him in te reo.”

And then the pieces fall into place and the blurry puzzle instantly becomes clear. He loved his mother deeply and her native language had brought her so much pain. All of my anger and confusion at him for holding me back from that unknown side of me melts in that moment. I see his sadness and I now understand. I never felt I truly belonged anywhere. But now that I know my past, I suddenly know where I belong.

I overhear fellow students talking fluently in te reo Māori. English is my first language; I don’t understand this beautiful language of my ancestors. But I realise that I must learn it quickly.

I walk back into class, thoughts running through my mind. I cannot stop thinking of my grandmother, who has now passed on. I was named after her. Well, kind of. Her name is Kararaina. My middle name is Caroline. Even my name is a symbol of the true disconnection my culture experienced. Everything about me, even my name, had to be changed to fit in with this new world my nana found herself in.

I continue to learn about the native schools that were established to eradicate my Māori culture from the new New Zealand. I continue to learn that children were whipped for speaking their own language, Te Reo Māori. I now know that my nana was whipped for speaking her language. Her language was whipped out of her.

She stopped speaking Te Reo.

My father won’t speak it.

I don’t know how speak it.

The goal of language and culture eradication was successful.

Up until now. 

Because I am standing up. I am making the change. One word at a time. One tikanga practice at a time. This stops today.

2014.

Diana Caroline.

The wind whips around my face, I shiver. I stand on top of my hill, looking over my valley. Pride surges in me, this is whenua, my home. I hear my tamariki calling out over the fields and I know it’s time to go back. I start running, skipping over the cow patties, back to my marae, my home.

The Tekoteko stands proud against the darkening sky, beckoning me to come home, showing me the way. This is my whare, my home.

I look at the trees as I dash past them; the strong Totara with their large branches. These remind me of my kaumātua, of my nana; strong, staunch, proud, unwavering. I see the small saplings, growing under their protection. My tamariki are now the saplings, surrounded by my large whānau. They protect us, nurture us. This is our whānau, our home.

I am a proud wahine Māori. I know my special place in the world.

All is right in my world.

 

Papa  Dee copy

Diana and her father, Simeon.

 

The magazine

The MagazineSubscribe

Connect with Mana

facebook twitter instagram
×

Subscribe to our free newsletter for news and prizes