As we move toward Matariki this year, Rod and I have been reflecting on the meaning of this ‘public holiday’ and what the significance of it may be for Pākehā living in Aotearoa.  We asked each other some questions to consider this significance.

What does Matariki mean to you?

Rod says: Firstly I must acknowledge your leadership and creativity Karen!  Thanks for prompting this reflection.  I love being Pākehā, and also identify as tauiwi and Tangata Tiriti when it feels right.  My cultural identity is relational, in relationship with the many indigenous peoples of Aotearoa.  Therefore, if I am to consider what Matariki means to me, I have to engage with the wisdom and experience of tangata whenua.  For example, I’m learning some iwi prefer Puanga because of the varied appearances of whetū (stars) in the night sky.  This is a wonderful reminder of our diversity and how our whenua (place in geography) influences our perspectives.

Karen says: Yes, Rod thanks for the reminder that there is diversity amongst Māori also and while we call this holiday Matariki, it does not fit for all hapū or iwi to call it this.  I too love my identity as Pākehā and Tangata Tiriti and own these titles as a way of acknowledging relationship with Tangata Whenua and that my presence in this country is because of this relationship.   Matariki is beginning to mean for me the ‘start of something new’, the ‘New Year’.  As I am learning more about Mātauranga Maori and understanding the application of a calendar that suits the Southern skies and southern seasons rather than the Northern Hemisphere I am keen to embrace the rhythm of these southern skies. 

What Matariki traditions do you have?

Karen says: I have only really begun to have Matariki traditions over the last few years.  Although I note I did attend a Matariki event maybe 10 years ago with a friend and her children’s primary school, I must admit some ignorance at the time about what I was attending.  More recently I have attended the Matariki dinner with Manawatū ANZASW branch and rōpu when I have been able to, which is where some of my dawning understanding of the significance of Matariki began to emerge.  To this end then over the last two years I have taken on a more personal approach to it, taking the time to stop and reflect and to follow a process; to look back and let go of what needs to be let go, to farewell those who I have lost, and to dream a vision for the future.

Rod says: In recent years my family have attended the events on the Wellington waterfront.  Our attendance is tautoko and wānanga.  We’re there to support and we’re there to learn.  As Tangata Tiriti, I’m actively wrestling with the tension between appropriation and appreciation.  Matariki / Puanga has not emerged from my cultural tail, however I will observe it, celebrate it and join tangata whenua in uplifting our collective awareness of this tradition.  My favourite event in Wellington is called Ahi Kā; I love listening to young people perform kapa haka, as we stand around fires.  There are these large braziers with fire pits that feel so warm in the crisp Wellington evenings.  I love how dark and still it usually is, yet also warm and glowing.  Come join me from 6pm on Thursday 13 July (until Sunday 16 July).

What presence does Matariki have in your supervision room?

Karen says: This has probably been minimal really.  I do refer to it as a seasonal thing when it feels appropriate and also wonder about it with Tangata whenua as it approaches.  In the past I have mostly waited for supervisees to raise it themselves but lately I am more often mentioning it myself.  For example, when someone is in a transitional time or is planning for the future close to Matariki I might comment on the timing of it from a calendar perspective and note the timeliness of this during Matariki.  I have also invited others to think about what they may like to do to recognise or respond to Matariki.  I like you Rod, take heed of the tentative space between cultural appreciation and appropriation, and aim always to be care full in this invitation.  What I note is it is often welcomed and appreciated by those I work with. 

Rod says: I’m similar to you and to be honest it’s been minimal in my supervision space.  It’s something that’s naturally emerged in the supervision spaces I share with Kaimahi Māori.  For others I think since the public holiday was announced lots of people are wondering how to ensure the holiday is authentic.  Karen, this dialogue with you has encouraged me to be braver and (hopefully) naturally raise it!

How important do you think Matariki is for all of Aotearoa?

Karen says: I think it is important for all of Aotearoa to understand the concept and ‘season’ of Matariki, mostly because it is an indigenous ‘holiday’ and one that fits into the seasons of the South.  Many of our other holidays (Easter, Christmas, Kings Birthday) have reference to a Northern hemisphere cycle.  I think it is also a way of celebrating Mātauranga Maori, as well as acknowledging other Pacific communities and cultures who also have their own ‘matariki’ celebrations.

Rod says: I wholeheartedly agree Karen!  Along with Waitangi Day and Anzac Day we do have a handful of uniquely Aotearoa national commemorations, and it’s crucial we deepen our collective understanding of these.

And finally, what are your thoughts on whether we should even be engaging in Matariki as a Pākehā?

Rod says: I recognise we’re all connected in various ways, and throughout that tapestry need to navigate the place of Matariki.  In my ‘day job’ with the Prince’s Trust, our team is bicultural: some of the team are Māori and some are Pākehā.  We’ve embedded Matariki as one of our annual hui; it’s one of the multiple ways we measure the year.  The financial year is for budgets and money, the traditional calendar year has a purpose and Matariki has become about strategic reflection.  We use the day to project where we’re going and why.

Karen says: Rawe Rod!  I think my thoughts of this have partly been answered in my reference to a Southern Calendar.  It is part of celebrating and confirming the importance of mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori, and giving these as much preference in our calendar cycle as the Northern Gregorian/Christian calendar.  It is a way to express my ally role and also a great way to educate myself further.  There is as you say a place for other calendars and rhythms, and also some added vitality to link our rhythms to the rhythm of this land and its indigeneity.

We have both enjoyed wondering together on our Matariki focus as Pākehā and look to see where this will take us individually and as a nation in years to come.  Perhaps you too could generate a conversation with a colleague about this and see where your conversation and wondering takes you too.

Mā te wā,

Rod and Karen

4 thoughts on “Two Pākehā discuss Matariki

  1. Tēna kōrua Karen and Rod,
    Ngā mihi ki a ķōrua for this gentle and insightful conversation. It nicely reflects the meaning of Puanga-Matariki I think. I know that sometimes what we raise in supervision, with colleagues or students, even if briefly, can plant a seed and can have impact a long time later. Thanks for your encouragement to do more of this in my practice. Manawatia a Matariki!

  2. Thank you Karen and Rod for sharing your thoughts. I feel like I have eased dropped on a rich and significant conversation. You have inspired me to consider the implications of having conversations about Matariki within the supervision space. I have never thought about this in relation to my work before. This maybe because of my dominant pakeha discourses. Something to ponder. So thanks for the challenge. I will reflect more on my learning of Matariki and how new ideas can influence or inform my conversations in the practice we call supervision.
    I wish you both well. Nga mihi nui. Debbie Gray

    1. Kia ora Deb
      So pleased to have generated reflection and potential practice change. We’d love to hear more about any ongoing learning in the supervision space for you.
      Mihi nui

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