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'Our Sacred Māori Voices': Six Māori learners share their stories of growing up Māori

Our Sacred Māori Voices hopes to inspire other ākonga Māori to pursue higher education. Photo (cropped): Amber Bridgman / Otago Polytechnic

The journeys of six ākonga Māori (Māori learners) forging a path in higher education have been brought together in Our Sacred Māori Voices, a book which was officially launched this week in Ōtepoti (Dunedin).

The publication showcases the early-years experiences of six Otago Polytechnic ākonga "growing up and being Māori", told in their own words.

Our Sacred Māori Voices book cover.  Photo: Amber Bridgman / Otago Polytechnic

From different backgrounds and places in Aotearoa, Tracy Te Wake (Ngāti Hāua Ki Taumarunui, Te Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ko Ngāti Apa, Ko Ngā Wairiki), Keri Ropiha (Ngāti Kahungunu), Bobbi-Jo Clark-Heu (Waikato Tainui), Kera Baker (Ngāi Tahu), Kim Gotlieb (Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu) and Scout River Barbour-Evans (Ngāti Kahungunu Ki Te Wairoa) each share their personal stories.

"We learnt to read the clouds, the wind and the birds as signs that a change was imminent," says Kera Baker, as she tells her story in the book.

"We were also taught that we were kaitiaki (caregivers) of the whenua (land), moana (sea), awa (rivers), maunga (mountains), roto (lakes) and all the mahinga kai (food) that these domains produced so that they would always be stores of food for the future generations to come after us."

Kera Baker (Ngāi Tahu).  Photo: Chris Stanley / Otago Polytechnic

The editors of the book first published in late 2022 by Otago Polytechnic are Associate Professors Kelli Te Maihāroa (Waitaha, Ngāti Rārua Ātiawa, Taranaki, Ngāti Maniapoto) and Adrian Woodhouse (Kāi Tahu).

Professors Kelli Te Maihāroa and Adrian Woodhouse.  Source / Te Pūkenga

"We seek to highlight the diverse experiences and lives of Māori learners, affirm Māori ways of knowing and being, and the resiliency within these whānau, hapū, iwi and hāpori Māori (Māori communities)," Associate Professors Te Maihāroa and Woodhouse said in the book's introduction.

"We can learn much about ourselves when we pause to fully consider our life’s journey to date, reflecting upon our family of origin, the influential people in our lives, the events that have shaped us and the lessons that we choose to carry with us moving forward into our future. In the process of reflective writing, there is also healing for Indigenous people who have been subjected to colonisation and in how we navigate our lives within these spaces."

Te Pūkenga said it hoped Our Sacred Māori Voices would "inspire other ākonga to forge a path in higher education".

Otago Polytechnic's director of research and postgraduate studies, Scott Klenner, at Wednesday's book launch, commended the editors and authors "'for telling their stories' and allowing others to learn off the people, places and experiences that shaped them."

Our Sacred Māori Voices: Mauria te pono Believe in yourself, can be viewed online or downloaded here.