With the words of Dr Tongarō in our minds we rested for the night to prepare for day two of sessions at Kapi‘olani Community College. The first session of the day was about the use of the Māori meeting-house as a metaphor for the principles of teaching and learning. The speaker Kimoro Taiepa, discussed how the tools needed for inclusive, safe, and best practice in teaching for Māori were present in all the aspects of the house construction. In this way he was demonstrating how the teaching of the ancestors was informing current practices and providing knowledge which is relevant to Māori people.
Ko au te whare ko te whare ko au
The second session of the day I was co-presenting with my colleague Jennifer Carter. The room was overflowing, and we had to provide extra chairs. The workshop was entitled “Unmasking Spirituality”, this workshop was from Jennifer’s PhD study which is exploring how spirituality is experienced within society which will inform how it can be better included into health and aged care settings to improve wellbeing. Participants were invited to draw or write their experience of spirituality. This work is inspired by Jennifer’s experience with aged care when her Mother was suffering from dementia. She noticed that there was no acknowledgement of the spiritual dimensions of being when the mental state of being was diminished. I enjoyed supporting Jennifer in this workshop and look forward to supporting her future work. Participants were grateful of the opportunity to be creative in the classroom and found ways to develop spiritual literacy through their participation.
The next session of the day was presented by Stephen Te Moni, and was about the benefits of Haka for realizing the wellbeing of Māori. This is not the stereotypical Haka that we see on the rugby match, it is so much more than a war display; it includes songs, poi dancing and traditional chants. His thoughts on this were interesting to me as I have been engaging in Haka as way of strengthening identity. His focus was on the physical benefits including the strengthening of joints rather than just muscle building as people are doing in contemporary society. Mr Te Moni suggested that the way forward was to make Haka a way of life, as it once was. This includes diet, a commitment to exercise and a striving for excellence in performance. We were all invited to learn a Haka that would represent our time in Hawaii.
The presentation for which I was funded entitled “Auto-ethnographically Locating the Cultural Self” was after the daily lunch break.The session went very smoothly as I talked through my study and the writing processes that I use. I then facilitated the participants through their own activity to produce writing from their cultural selves. I asked the group for feedback on their activity and to share their writing. The feedback that came was overwhelming. Participants expressed a deep gratitude for my work and the ability to participate in such a workshop. One participant became emotional as she talked about her journey of healing her cultural self, and the internal personal and social struggles that she had been through. She was grateful that this time had enabled her to acknowledge her personal growth as a cultural being, who is connected to her ancestral Indigenous knowledge.
As the day continued on, I was somewhat relieved to have completed my presentation commitment. I went on to learn about the needs of Native Canadian students within the education system, and why Indigenous teachers feel that they are failing their kids by forcing them into a colonial system. Finally, I learnt about the relationship to Māori dance movements to the activity of the birds in New Zealand. Each movement corresponds to a particular bird species; this has helped me to understand the origin of the movements, enabling greater appreciation for Kapa Haka and the way it is performed.
The formal sessions concluded with the final keynote presentation of the day, it began to rain and the outdoor venue was becoming difficult for the sound crew to manage. We moved in doors for cultural performances from the many immigrants that call Hawaii home. It was getting late so the CEO for Hawaiian affairs, Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe, graciously sponsored our evening meal. We moved outside again for the finale of traditional Tahitian fire stick dancers, some as young as 5 years old. It was an awe-inspiring end to an amazing day.