Written by Laura Adamovich ’20
This post is written in response to her trip to New Zealand during the fall 2017 3-week led by Professors Doug Brattebo and Acacia Parks.
While preparing to go abroad in our 12 week course, we had a reading that taught us about the history of New Zealand while also comparing it to the upbringing of America. It had also mentioned the similarities and differences in politics and historical events that occurred and how the countries handled the situations differently. One of the main concepts that struck a chord with me most was the differences and similarities in native cultures in both America and New Zealand. In our own country, the history of native people treatment was harsh and unfair, and still today we see discrimination toward cultures other than white. Racism and discrimination remain a large problem for not just our own country, but countries all over the world, making New Zealand no exception. The native culture to New Zealand is the Maori people. However, it is unknown the exact time they arrived on the island, or exactly how they got there, but there are many stories and mythologies that are passed down. For many years, this indigenous culture has faced similar racism and discrimination to those in the United States, but their culture has also been represented in day to day life for Kiwi’s over both the North and South Islands.
As we traveled across both islands, we had done multiple Maori cultural experiences including lunch, the traditional ceremony for greeting, as well as learning games, crafts, and stories they told within their tribes. One of the stories they told us about has become very popular, as it was made into a Disney movie. Many believe the popular movie, Moana, is about Hawaiian culture, however from learning the stories and about the culture in general of the Maori, it is evident that the movie is based off of their culture. The god that is a part of the movie, Maui is largely known in their culture, however he is only one of many that they believed created their people and the country they know as home. Many residents of New Zealand, even those who are not of Maori decent, know the history behind the country, and the stories they believe to be true about their ancestors and the becoming of the world. Many street names, city names, even national parks have Maori names translated into English. Seeing their traditions, like the greeting ceremony, have been an experience that has affected me in many positive ways. However for the people, it has not always been such a positive experience.
The hardships of the Maori culture are very known in New Zealand, as they are supposed to be remembered in order to learn from history. We read a book written by a Maori author called, Come on Shore and we Will Kill, and Eat You All, that shed light on the stereotypes and hardships the people faced, from a person perspective, and not just a history perspective. This taught valuable lessons on being accepting and learning the facts about cultures, not just picking out something that is different from your own culture, and making it negative. It also taught how to be accepting and learning the proper ways to interact with the culture which I believe to be very important and having background knowledge before stepping foot on the tribal grounds.
Learning about the culture was probably my favorite experience on the trip, and getting to read and hear about facts and stories that have been passed down for more than 800 years.