Culture & Immersion, Narrative

The Māori Mindset

Travel brings many insights, by hitchhiking, many more. I decided, I’m not going to plan anything in New Zealand. Why should I need to? I’ve come with the belief that, to experience New Zealand, you don’t need to plan anything. All you need is basic preparation: a tent, a bag, a thumb, and a smile. In my first two weeks, I’ve seen countless mountain ranges, sand dunes and stunning beaches, but the most interesting experiences were with the locals, both indigenous and colonist.

My first driver was a friendly racist named Peter. He worked his ass off employing a team of people beautifying reclaimed land. His view of the indigenous Maori people was one of contempt. “Their lazy f**kers,” he said, “The government pays them heaps of money and they sit on their arse.” I’ve met many people like Peter in my day, deep in the ideology of Western work culture, because that’s all they know, their own side.

That brings me here. Because I decided screw Christmas and New Years, I hit the road Christmas Day. Whatever happens, happens, I thought. And it did. I said goodbye to my German companion of two nights, with whom I surfed and spent Christmas Eve, and walked out of Opunake, a small surfer town nestled on the west coast near Mount Taranaki. Under a hot summer sun I walked along a deserted country road with my thumb out when dark sedan stopped for me.

Gordon was very Maori, connected to other deeply ingrained Maoris. He invited me along to visit his brother’s family, then afterwards to a giant barbecue, where I met his mom and her extended family. There I was greeted by the whole family with curiosity and tons of good food. Maori families are Italian big, many siblings, and many many cousins. It was there Gordon passed me off to his second cousins, Dyhanna & Werahiko, a family with two energy riddled toddlers. They invited me to spend Christmas and Boxing Day with them in Whanganui

Christmas in Whanganui gave me a sense of being where I needed to be, at the right time in the right place. Of the handful of Maori people who I met through hitchhiking, none spoke Maori until I met the family at the barbecue. Spending the next two days with Werahiko & Dyhanne gave me insight into Maori culture. Their culture demands a different perspective of life, which fundamentally clashes with the colonists view of owning land and working it versus letting it grow wile. It goes much deeper.

Over these days spending time with D & W and their parents, who create Maori learning materials at their workshop, I’ve learned about a culture that sees the flow of time different from us Westerners. When we view the future, we stand with our back against the past, walking towards the future. Maori turn that around – they look at the past and with their backs to the future, blindly stumble backwards into it. The Western way envisions a brighter future, which we try to turn into reality, however unlike the Maori, our perspective neglects the past. This is just one of the ways the Maori mindset differs. Maori view their ancestral homes, or whare, as living entities, with a head, fingers and ribs along the length of the homes.

Driving through New Zealand it pains me seeing land that was once native and wild, that’s now either deforested, farmland, or beautified private property. I see a lot of it. With our world growing bigger with more mouths to feed, and more feet to tread, what will we do when all of the land has been divvied up to the point that there’s no more land to claim? Last I noticed, people aren’t fond of giving up what they own, and it’s a problem that would never exist with a Maori mindset; the problems would be different. The fact is, our mindset rules the world now, but if we want to survive we have to start learning from others.