I climb to the summit of my mountain to see the lands of my ancestors.
Maungapohatu in its defying grace and strength holds me at my feet and the wealth of yesterday holds me in awe.
I see the wealth of our past stemming from the force that surges through legs of Tane Maahuta as he strains at the weight of Ranginui.
I see the wealth of our past, as it emanates from the beads of sweat that drench the forehead of Maui, as he heaves these lands to the surface.
I hear the wealth that entwines with the distant voice of Kupe as he commands his men to paddle onwards into the vastness of the unknown.
I see the wealth of yesterday cupped in the palm of Hone Heke Pakai as he outstretches into the handshake that births our nation.
I see the flag of Tutakangahau soaring with strength, with the wealth of our past woven in its very fabric — “kotahi te ture mo nga iwi e rua” it screams to the sky — acknowledging our failures and foreshadowing the prosperity of our future.
It is this wealth that I see bellowing through the waters of the Okahu, surging beyond the Whirinaki, and reaching the roaring waters of the Rangitaiki, outpouring into the heart of Tangaroa.
And as a lone Maori boy says a karakia to Tangaroa himself and he begins to devour the fish from his evening catch, I see the wealth of our past in him.
A wealth that is bestowed upon him and all Maori from birth. Our first breaths fall in sync with the frequency of a new wave and our hearts beat for the first time as a stray ripple rises to the surface of our distant awa, for water is the giver of life, yet it is also the ageless kete that holds the wealth of yesterday.
Thus when our people come into existence, it is our people that are our wealth.
Wealth in language, history and culture
It is our people that act as the bank of our greatest riches — enclosing the wealth that is our language, our history and our culture. We as a people have strived to immortalise the wealth of the past, for the use of today.
For it is our people who have acknowledged both the triumph and oppression of yesterday and united, fought for the growth of our successes, and battled against our injustices. It is our people that have embraced our native tongue and customs, and aided the rise of educational institutions, organisations and events that operate in accordance to the true nature of Maoritanga.
It is our people who have continued to be at one with the whenua and have forced those in higher positions to recognise the connection between Maori and land — which acts as an umbilical cord throughout the duration of our time on this earth.
It is we as a people that have strengthened, uplifted and globalised our culture, and in turn have enabled ourselves the opportunity to increase the wealth within us all.
Yet although fortunes flourish at our feet, it seems that somewhere along the way, some of us became clumsy with our possessions — dropping the loose notes of our language, selling off the knowledge of our past and gambling the revenues of our own culture.
As although our people are our wealth, our people can also be our poverty. The negative statistics of Maori paint a picture of us that is highly stigmatised and looked down upon in society. Therefore, in turn we are not only born inherited with the wealth of our past, but with the poverty of today.
We take our first breath, the wave reaches its crest, we fall into the predesigned mould of society, the wave falls to its trough.
We are born with a choice — to carry wealth, or to carry poverty.
But you see, we are no longer demigods, we are no longer chiefs and we are no longer in the past. Our awa still thrive and roar with the wealth of a time long ago, yet we are bound by prison cells, shackled by benefits and stained by statistics — so how can my people see themselves as wealthy, if we are told that what makes us rich, is what causes us poverty?
We must regain our misted wealth and let it cause the dew of a new day upon our people.
With our vision set on the past and our direction being tomorrow, we shall salvage the wealth that resonates within our people and act to change the idea of poverty that wavers the sails of many.
For I will climb to the summit of my mountain to see the lands of my descendants, Maungapohatu will embrace my presence for the last time, yet I will see the bellowing waters of the Okahu — everlasting and eternally echoing that our people are our wealth.
Written by Rebekah Doherty.