Immediately after returning home to Iqaluit from Taranaki, I stood outside on my deck and breathed the -56C air and thought about our two worlds. Same landscape in different colours.
I took the picture of the green hillsides on my first day in Aotearoa, driving to Parihaka. I hadn’t met you or any of our SCANZ group yet, and although I’ve always had a very strong interest in learning about Maori culture, I actually didn’t know anything. I landed at the airport and immediately bused to the beautiful little village of Parihaka.
Here is what I remember. I saw a whale vertebrae outside a house (something you’d also see here in Nunavut). A handsome young Maori man led me to where the group was. I went into the house (there is a name for these community meeting lodges – what is it again? Could you tell me more about them?) and for an entire afternoon, I heard your language being spoken and sung. In fact, there was not one word of English. There was no translation service or interpreters.
I sat on the floor and I listened. I listened to see if I could eventually recognize one word and then two words. I appreciated how very beautiful and lyrical it was. I studied faces and the building in which we sat. I thought about my panik (daughter) and how I wished she could share in this feeling with me. And then I thought about my language.
I was amazed and proud of you all. It is much too easy to speak English. It was my first day in New Zealand and this was the first thing I remember thinking – that we as Inuit, could learn from. Yes, I couldn’t understand what was being said, but I wasn’t being denied language.
I got to breathe it in without any expectations, I was just allowed the space to listen and become familiar with it.
I’ll leave it there for now Jo, I just wanted to share these first memories and reflections I had with you (which if you think about it really is this: landscape, whalebones, language and a cute boy!) haha.