A few weeks ago Mike Smith, a local to Whangaroa but more often heard about around Auckland, was at the Taiwhenua Hui of the Whangaroa hapū putting their stories to the Waitangi Tribunal held at the Kaeo Rugby Club.
(Taiwhenua Hui are meetings involving whanau, and supporters, working together to gather history and present it in a way that addresses concerns to make a better future for whanau and hapū.)
Mike Smith is probably known to you as a protester, including the infamous chopping down of the tree on One Tree Hill.
He spoke to us about the change in direction he has taken. Here’s what he says in an on-line blog, which matches what I heard here in Kaeo:Kia ora my name is Mike. I am a Maori member of the northern tribes of the far north territories of Aotearoa-New Zealand. I’ve been an indigenous rights activist for most of my adult life. During the 1980’s through to the 90’s together with many others, I was engaged in the struggle to correct historical and contemporary injustices affecting Maori people in Aotearoa – New Zealand… Our activism during this time was centered on political and constitutional rights together with social and cultural programs. However, the emerging global climate emergency caused us to re-evaluate our focus. My first exposure to the issue was in 1992 when I was sent to Rio de Janeiro to attend the first global Earth Summit of world leaders… By 2008, in my home village, we were beginning to see the emergence of the predicted effects of climate change including unusual flooding events, increasing droughts, and more powerful cyclonic storms and that’s when we really began to be alarmed. My partner Hinekaa Mako and I then began to interview meteorologists and climate scientists here in Aotearoa – New Zealand and the more we began to find out about the issue the more concerned we became, so much so that we decided to suspend our social, political and cultural activism in order to work full time on climate issues.
Mike invited us to look not so much for immediate remedies and compensation as a result of negotiations for settlement of treaty claims, as for what is needed so that our tamariki mokopuna, our children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren will have homes and livelihoods as sea levels rise.
We need to look more to the hills, he said, to re-establishing kainga (villages) and means of livelihood on higher ground. Don’t use up energy and opportunities seeking return land around the coast and at the beaches. Look to the hills.
Mike’s interest is in arranging meetings with people at marae to talk about this in relation to their land and opportunities. I asked him if a church could be included in his rounds and he said, yes certainly.
I think Jesus would line up with this kind of activism – having long enough vision to live for a future beyond ourselves. And to seek a future that is God’s future, with well-being and peace for all the generations to come. Indeed Jesus, I am sure, is leading it.
Rangimarie Peace Shalom, Robyn