Kia ora my name is Te Aonui Wharawhara-Muriwai and I am a recipient of the Waikato University Sir Edmund Hillary scholarship. Which means I will finish university debt free. I am also currently training with the Chiefs u20 rugby squad. I have many dreams and aspirations for my future such as becoming a professional rugby player and starting my own business. But trust me, it has been extremely hard to even get to where I am today. I come from a small town called Waharoa where everyone is my whanau. I don’t come from much and some would even say poverty. But one thing that has helped me overcome challenges and get me to where I am today is my culture. My Māoritanga.
I grew up in the kura kaupapa Māori system, but my life was disrupted when my parents moved me to mainstream schooling at the age of eleven to improve my English. I’ll be honest I became ashamed to be Māori. Seeing less people that looked like me and learning in a school system that didn’t cater to my Te Ao Māori beliefs was hard. And it forced me to try to fit in with everyone. To be liked. To have friends. I guess that’s fair right. We all crave to belong somewhere because it gives us meaning. It gives us life. But sometimes when you’re doing this at the expense of your true character it can actually have a negative impact on your life. I now know this. How you may ask? Because I have experienced it first-hand.
Over the years I have realised how important culture and identity is. And how it can be our best friend towards realising our true potential. My culture begins with my whakapapa. My whakapapa is where I come from which creates my identity. Identity creates confidence. Because as long as your actions align with your identity and character as a Māori then you are probably doing the right thing. From this confidence I use it as a vessel to grasp opportunity.
If I were to describe what it means to be Māori. I’d say it means caring or showing Manaakitanga for others. It means respecting our elders for they have lived a long life that we can learn from and then use to teach the next generation of young and bright Māori. It means being fierce and brave just like our warrior ancestors on the battlefield. It means having the courage to face challenges just like our ancestors did to survive on the land. It means living in a way that nurtures the environment just like our ancestors did as mana whenua. It means working hard just like our koro and kuia did to provide food to the iwi. It means dreaming and chasing our aspirations of a better world just like our ancestors did when we voyaged into the unknown from Hawaiki to Aotearoa. All of these things are a culmination of who we are and what we stand for.
As you continue to dream and believe in a better world for tomorrow. Take pride in your Māori culture. For many beautiful souls have laid the foundations for you so that you can move the foundations forward for the next generation.
Seek your whakapapa. Embrace your identity. Be courageous.
Believe in yourself!
Be proud to be MĀORI!!!
Things to reflect on:
- When have you felt proud about your heritage, who you are?
- What are you doing to ensure those around you feel empowered and inspired?
- What’s one key message you’ve taken from Te Aonui’s kōrero (story)?