Today marked a day of relaxation after the tiring and thought provoking river trip. We spent our days in small groups throughout the city relaxing and enjoying some time to explore. Some of us spent time at the Big Orange café for a quick coffee before splitting off to enjoy Thai and Indian food. It was a national holiday, Wellington Day, which left slim pickins’ for dinner options. Although Whanganui’s food scene is not as vibrant as some cities, it was delicious after several nights of camp food (while remaining on a college student budget). Gabe and Glynnis biked along the Whanganui River on the Mountain to Sea bike path where they saw a killer sunset from its banks. Unfortunately, today was also the day that Nathan received the gnarliest sunburn of his life with the least amount of effort. They weren’t kidding when they warned us about this hot New Zealand sun. Everyone came home to spend a relaxing evening playing ping-pong, relaxing, and getting into their beds for an early night’s rest.
Tuesday: The Day of the Treaty; Part One
Today we began our two-day seminar on the Treaty of Waitangi with our guest lecturers Jillian and David. David and Jillian are British Kiwis who have made it their life’s work to tour the country doing various workshops educating adults on the Treaty of Waitangi and the political disenfranchisement of Maori since the Europeans arrival in the 1700’s. The Treaty of Waitangi was an agreement signed between the crown of Great Britain and the rangatira (chiefs) from the surrounding area on the North Island. The treaty was written in both English and Te Reo Maori, but the meaning of the treaty in the two languages differed. The European concepts of owning and selling land were unknown to the Maori iwi, which led to the rangatira signing away the rights to their land unknowingly. Although the treaty involved the promise of royal protection of the Maori, a century of economic, social and political oppression under British imperialism followed the signing of the treaty. We were asked to discuss what we knew of the history of the indigenous people where we come from, but for the most part we came up empty handed. While we learned about the history of the indigenous people of Aotearoa, we wrestled with the fact that most of us knew little to nothing about the indigenous stories in our home countries pre-colonization.
Wednesday: The Day of The Treaty; Part Two
Today marked the second day of our Treaty of Waitangi workshop. Rather than focusing on the origins of colonization in New Zealand, we looked at the historical events that followed the treaty as well as the varying political hierarchies that the treaty implied for both sides. We learned about the goals and aspirations of many Maori people today who seek to live within a political structure closely akin to the Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Te Reo Maori translation of the Treaty of Waitangi). At the forefront of this political and socio-cultural revival is the settlement of the Whanganui awa (river). The Whanganui iwi and the Crown are in the midst of declaring the Whanganui awa as its own political entity. This allows the river to be represented in court by two representatives (one elected by Parliament and one by the Whanganui iwi) for any injustices that it faces in the future. However, the bill has yet to move through Parliament so the outcome is unclear. For dinner, we enjoyed a filling meal of BLT’s, home fries, and fruit salad.
Thursday: The Day of Flourishing Flora
Today was filled with plants. Native plants, invasive plants, shrubby plants, soft plants, and a forest full of ferns. We began our morning early (9 am) with Lynneke in the library. Our class focused on New Zealand native flora ranging from miniature mosses to big beeches (Southern Beeches, of course). It was nice for our group to learn a little more about plants we’d seen on our excursions thus far and we felt better equipped to take notice of them on future tramps. During lunch, our Auntie Wai from the river trip stopped by to visit her waka crew. She told us stories from the occupation of Pakaitore in 1995 that we had learned about a few days earlier during the workshop. In the afternoon we walked along paths Lynneke set up around the Quaker settlement, identifying different species as we went. Truman has taken a liking to eating plants we see along the trails. We hope this doesn’t prompt indigestion or possible fatality in the future, but only time will tell. The night was capped off by rigorous preparation for the First Annual Fighting Quakers Ping Pong Tournament at the settlement this Saturday.
Friday: The Day of the Lucky Chicken
We started the day with a Jay seminar that focused on the idea of a human-constructed nature. The class was spent in small groups discussing our individual queries for the readings with one notable question thinking about how we can deconstruct a constructed nature without devaluing our natural spaces. After class we had a short time to pack lunch and change before heading over to Gordon Park to meet up with our guest lecturer Colin Ogle. Colin led us on a walk through Gordon Park which is a small reserve of native swampland near Whanganui that is distinct for its dense, divaricate shrubs. We spent the better part of two hours clearing out invasive species from the dense shrubbery before meeting up for afternoon tea. Some of us decided it would be a good idea to try and capture a chicken in the park who was probably left there by a previous owner who had no room for an extra bird. Luckily for the chicken, she escaped into a bush before our friends could capture her to bring her to a new home on the settlement. After returning home, most of us were exhausted and decided to stay in for the night, either resting or studying for our upcoming classes that start on the 1st!
Saturday: The Day of Ping Pong Victors
Today was the day of the First Annual Fighting Quakers Ping Pong Tournament. After several hours of rigorous competition, Nathan emerged as the champion. However, the validity of this statement is uncertain considering he only played one round in a four-round tournament. Not all of us participated in the tournament, though, with some of us taking an early trip to the farmer’s market to check out the stalls of food and handmade goods. Sooner or later, all of us have returned to the settlement with bellies full of food (whether it was frozen pizza or from a local restaurant) and resumed studying for our upcoming exam on Maori culture as well as some heavy reading for our Environmental Issues of New Zealand class. Sunday marks a day of cleaning and new adventures, as well as meeting our individual homestay families and moving in with them! Our homestays range from staying on the Quaker Settlement to moving all the way across town but that won’t stop us from coming together as a group after class to have a cup of coffee at a café.