I look around from where I stand on this muddy lava field and once again notice nighttime is when magic settles slowly over the whenua. A spell radiates out softly from the silently sleeping maunga of the tūpuna, the first explorer Hape who rode here on the back of a manta ray ahead of the first waka of the Tainui after praying to the ocean, to Tangaroa to aid him when he was left behind for being a cripple. As the constantly shifting ocean of the sky rolls through burning oranges and fading pinks to blue through to darkness, lengthening shadows as Marama rises through the waves of the clouds overhead, beginning to shine her familiar pale light as Ranganui sets.
This is the time of karakia, of sacredness and prayer before eating the fine food prepared by the hardworking whānau of the local marae. The time when one week ago nearly two hundred police officers amassed, cutting off a small group including woman and children on our frontline, ramming a member of the mana whenua with a gate and donning tactical gloves as we prepared to meet their violence with peaceful firelit song and overwhelming mana. We remained solid and were joined by the many who answered our urgent calls to get down here ASAP and join us in defiance. So in the light of our torches and by the glare of hundreds of live recording phone cameras to record and transmit the one sided violence of the state, we held our ground, the police, eventually – after a five and a half hour stand off, backed down and here we remain.
We have been here one month, in this space carved out of the contingency fund of fletchers housing development and the margins of their shareholders profit dividends and the greasy deals of a so called kaumatua.. We have withstood the police with our kaupapa of the four ps, peaceful, passive, positive protectors are we. We have weathered the storms and stomped in the mud.. We have raised wooden huts where tents have collapsed, kept ourselves fed and our spirits high.. everyone here does their mahi with a smile because together we are creating something new, yet steeped in the traditions of the old.
We stand on another of the multiple rising points of global resistance against corporate destruction of sacred spaces for private profit. We invoke the names of similar simultaneous struggles, Mauna Kea and Standing Rock.. Next to the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, fly flags of the pacific and Indigenous australian resistance – as well as the rainbow and a couple of grinning piratical jolly rogers. The mana whenua of this land have proudly welcomed representatives of all these struggles and more in loud pōwhiri, a traditional ritual of welcome acknowledging a modern emerging unity.
And people ask less where is the absent Jacinda Arden, the prime minister who swans around the world in a Māori cloak and bases her entire brand on lip service to tolerance and inclusiveness, while 57% of the new zealand jail population is tangata whenua, government agencies kidnap their children in alarming numbers and stolen land is sold off to the highest bidder. As Pania Newton, the mana whenua spokesperson for SOUL is nominated for Aotearoa person of the year and the prime minister still won’t acknowledge her or get involved – while the NZ police act as a supplementary force of private security for the developers, echoing their jackbooted historical role as murderers and displacers in the name of the New Zealand Company in the 1860s, while the minimum wage paid First Security guards shiver their nights away in a fenced off cattle shed.
The evening is a magic time as night descends and the stars begin to show, visible from the plains here more brightly than most other parts of Auckland’s sprawling overpriced and housing crisis ridden metropolis. A corona of rainbow, my friends tohu, surrounds the almost full moon and people form circles as more logs and smashed pallets are thrown on to stoke up the flames.
The evening is the time our fires burn, our ahikā. . They simultaneously welcome, Protect and guard.. on a cold and windy night the fires are a beacon, they show there are people here who care. And as the fires blaze and spit sparks in the freezing winds we do up our jackets or wrap blankets around our shoulders and form circles.. in Ihi and Wihi, the balanced energies of the north and south entrances to the whenua, in the early weeks barricades and gates, now in an act of faith towards the deescalation of the intimidating police presence just chill spots away from the noise of the main Atea.. In the chairs against the fences of the Wana frontline where people stoke the smoky fires and settle in for their shift ‘holding the space’.. and around the various fires in the emerging village of the lavafield, people form circles, pass stones and speak their mauri..
These are sacred times, as people gather and talk, some who’ve never met before, others who’ve watched this movement and nurtured it for years or some who’ve been here since the whenua reared its head in response to the sudden violence of the dawn raid eviction of the Kaitiaki Village on a cold Tuesday morning.. There is most days a lot of laughter here, a lot of joy as we carve out this space, cheerful kiaora and waves as we greet each other on the road or in the fields and tents, catchups and games.
But we will not for a moment forget the seriousness of why we are here and in these circles we articulate it.. everyone speaks from the heart, and its amazing how much heart we all display as even people who don’t normally publicly speak, address the group and eloquently introduce themselves and say why they are here, what this place and the movement within it means to them.. some people sing a song, others speak of ancestors, of land, of hopes for the future and fears of the present.. people speak of responsibility and of unity of purpose, they speak of their mokopuna, their memories of the whenua and their own journeys.. people speak of sadness, of loss and of healing both of and from the whenua, healing and change.. as opposed to our current societies doomed sickness and stagnation. People speak of putting their lives on hold or turning them upside down because we knew we had to be here right now in this place and time there is nowhere else, we are exactly where we were always meant to be. People speak of projects and ideas, pride and mana. We all speak and we all listen and we all come to know ourselves and each other a little better.
The fires burn all night and we talk sing and dream long into it.
We don’t know what will happen, the wairua guides us, every day here is a tohu and we grow stronger for it.. We are resilient and we are defiant, We will not abandon this place of the tūpuna
.. We will not abandon Hape sleeping in the mountain and we will never abandon the whenua to the ravages of New Zealand’s corrupt business as usual practices. We are still here and our fires will continue burning as we guard them for many nights to come. We are Ihumaatao and we are growing.
We will burn through the lie that New Zealands colonial history was ever harmoniously settled.
We are one heart with many voices.
Now hear us speak..
LINKS TO EXPLAIN MORE
(even though its of communist origin, an excellent and accurate overview..)
theres also been really good coverage on RNZ so for deep digging or updates
and Te Reo news has got the goods too..