A Letter to my Parents

I have held resentment for my parents for so long because they raised me in te ao Pākehā. I resented them because as a result I missed out on experiencing the culture of my ethnicity. I missed out being immersed within te ao Māori, and on truly understanding the depth of our language, te reo Māori and tikanga. But mainly. I resented the fact that I struggled to exist between the two worlds, and I believed it was my parents’ fault for my disconnection to my Māoritanga. I now realise I was wrong to resent them because it was not their fault.  

The blame lays clearly with the colonisers who claimed Aotearoa as their own. Those first explorers who labelled us as ‘savages’; the first government of New Zealand, who prevented Māori from being able to vote. The government who created Acts to ‘lawfully’ to take our peoples land and who empowered institutions to punish them for speaking their mother tongue. 

In conjunction with the government and systemic racism within our educational and justice institutions, the media is in part to blame for the consistent rhetoric, that has influenced generations with negative stereotypes of the indigenous people of Aotearoa. The media, as an institution of power, has reinforced the belief that I, as a Māori wāhine, could never amount to anything, that I will lead a life of ‘bludging’ from the working class of Aotearoa, because I asked for financial support. The media is loath to celebrate the success of our Māori role models, and this lack of positive representation is just as effective at keeping us down as reinforcing the old ideology of us as ‘savages’, as violent ‘gang members’. The media is responsible for the misplaced Māori who continue to question their identity within an array of media that has them on a predetermined pathway to being a criminal.  

Even now, I don’t trust the media to do right by Māori. The ignorance of media has resulted in the belittling generations of Māori, creating a country where it is unsafe to be brown and to be opinionated, loud and proud of being Māori.  

The historical effect of colonisation still resonates. It is seen in the disconnected Māori who are trying to reconnect with their whenua, whānau, tīpuna, and te reo. It is seen when our children are streamed into the bottom classes at school and when we are herded into lower paid careers. It is seen when our whānau are homeless and starving on the streets of cities, who never cared about them enough.  

So, it’s not my parents’ fault that they believed the best way to succeed in this country was to conform to European thinking. Nor is it their fault that they believed it would be ‘safer’ to conform to societies expectations. I know that now and I apologise to my parents who I resented in the past because of my struggles with my cultural identity. I am sorry that I mistakenly blamed you when colonisation and the generational effect it has had on our whānau is the cause. In my ignorance and anger I overlooked the fact that my parents are also the result of the colonisation. They have suffered in ways that I will never understand because they protected me from what they experienced as Māori in Aotearoa.  

My parents have been my greatest advocates.  They have supported me through many experiences and continue to stand alongside me as I continue my journey of understanding my whakapapa, and what it means to me to be Māori.  I am extremely thankful that I get to partake in this journey of rediscovery, and that in some ways it has brought us closer as whānau, and that I get an opportunity to advance our relationship from parents to friends.  


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