what’s been going on in race relations in this country, frankly, makes me feel queasy.
all the issues that touch on maori, unearth this cesspool of racism.
to try to counter this in some small way, i would like to tell you about the experiences i had that proved for me, as an 11 year old child, how stupid and ignorant racists of any description are.
this was in 1961, at spirits bay in the far north.
this was before the department of conservation took over control of the area; it was still under the care and control of local maori.
at that time, to be able to stay/camp there, you had to have permission.
i still don’t know how it happened; but a friend of my parents arranged for us to go and stay there for four weeks over christmas.
my parents, (in their 30’s), and their friends always camped together every holiday, so there were about 30 of us camped on one side of the creek that runs down through the valley.
on the other side, and just over the hill, was the encampment of the mix of local maori, and those who had come back from the city to help with the work on the property.
this division was new zealand society at that time in microcosm.
and, despite being there for four weeks, the interaction between the two camps was minimal,(surprising really, given the twins of close proximity and isolation.)
the pakeha camp was made up of adults my parents age and their offspring.
the maori group was more intergenerational. and as there were no permanent residents in the bay, what was set up was a traditional camp.
now, there was an 11 year old boy in the maori camp and we just hit it off, (as you do).
so we hung out together most of the time, and drifted between the two camps.
in the pakeha camp i was exposed to the casual, institutional racism of the day, (echoes of which are still here, but now more strident).
at that time, it didn’t even really seem to be that malicious in tone or tenor; more of a given. (lazy maoris etc etc.)
and there was no overt racism shown to my mate (that i saw/heard).
my experiences in the maori camp were life changing. i was totally accepted, and shown friendship in a multitude of manners.
we rode horses bareback using bridles made from woven flax, that were made for us by the old women.
and it is with these old women that my memories are the strongest. as a child i remember them as old, grey haired, and with moko.
they spent most of their time sitting around the fire, weaving, talking, making food, etc etc.
at the time i didn’t know why, but i used to like being in the maori camp for most of the time; and i really liked just sitting with the old women.
despite the language barrier, they fussed over this skinny little pakeha, early harry potter clone.
sitting with them, i would sometimes feel physical manifestations of what, i didn’t know. it just felt good.
now, i do know what those physical feelings were, having experienced the births of my children, and other major life happenings.
it was love. i was sitting there bathing in the love of these old women.
for this i thank them.