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Study Abroad Trip to New Zealand, May 25 to June 22, 2007


From May 2007 Ka 'Ohana
by Kimberly Moa

As indigenous peoples of the Pacific, native Hawaiians and the New Zealand Maori share a proud Polynesian heritage, genealogy, history, and culture. In just a few weeks, participants of the WCC Study Abroad Travel Group to New Zealand will see exactly how much these Pacific cousins really do have in common.   Starting on May 25, WCC faculty and students in Hawaiian studies, as well as native Hawaiian educators and elders, will begin a four-week educational tour of Maori history, culture, language and arts.  As part of a program of academic exchange, the official study abroad tour initiates a 2005 institutional agreement between WCC and sister school Te Whāre Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.  

The tour will consist of two weeks of intensive classroom study at the indigenous tribal university located in Whakatāne, New Zealand, followed by two weeks of travel to various educational and cultural institutions around the country.  The trip is a full Maori immersion experience, explained Kalani Meinecke, WCC professor and study abroad tour leader.   “We will be absorbing as much of the history, culture, language, and visual arts as we can,” he said.

Along with being exposed to Maori educators and guest lecturers, participants will visit a number of cultural sites, including the town of Whangarā (where “Whale Rider” was filmed) as well as various museums and Maori art schools.   During the two weeks of travel, group members will be staying at eight different marae (Maori tribal centers) and will be performing for a number of hosts, including the Maori royal family.  Having lived in New Zealand himself, WCC student Kilinahe Ah Mow says he looks forward to rekindling the family ties shared between all Polynesians.   Acknowledging the many similarities shared between his culture and that of the Maoris, Ah Mow says that it is the “whole concept of welcoming” that “is universal to all Polynesian cultures.”   “(In) seeing how they live their lives on a daily basis…I hope to bring back an even closer connection to our Hawaiian culture,” said WCC graduate Kanealoha Jeremiah.   Jeremiah believes that one of the challenges facing both groups is perpetuating their indigenous culture while balancing the desire to move forward. 

Like native Hawaiians, Meinecke says, the Maori are a people who are struggling to regain much of what was lost during their colonial past – “confiscated lands, mineral, fishing, and intellectual property rights, language and culture.”

Despite many of the social problems facing both groups today, including drugs, incarceration, disaffected youth, and fractured families, Meinecke says the Maori have managed to maintain a strong culture, identity and language.   “From what we know they’ve gained enormous strides in dealing with these issues,” he explains.  According to Meinecke, who is completing a doctorate in Indigenous Studies, the Maori have become vanguards of educational, cultural, social and political achievement among indigenous peoples of the Pacific.  As a minority in their country, comprising only 12 percent of New Zealand’s population, Meinecke says, they serve as an example for all other Polynesian peoples.

While learning about how the Maori are resolving these problems, WCC’s study abroad travel group will also serve as a Hawaiian educational and cultural delegation to local Maori institutions.  As part of this program of academic exchange, Hawaiian educators and students will have the opportunity to share their native culture through numerous presentations, lectures, seminars, and cultural gifts of music, dance, friendship, and aloha.   It is this exchange and the sharing of mutual experiences that has WCC students like Kalehua Stevens interested.  “I’m excited to share what we have with them and see what they have to share with us,” says Stevens.   

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