Student Blogger Study Abroad

Diving into Wellington

View from up high looking down into the bay of city. water is very blue surrounded by rolling hills of green

Each term, one participant from each HECUA program takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Naomi Clayton is HECUA’s student blogger this fall for the New Zealand program Culture and the Environment: A Shared Future. Naomi is a student from Grinnell College majoring in Anthropology. Read on for her next post!

It is hard to believe that I am already writing my third blog post and that there is less than a month left of the program. Now that we have been in Wellington for just about seven weeks, I have really been able to dive into my internship, Independent Study Project, and general exploration of the area. Our internships are beginning to wrap up, and I am really looking forward to learning about each of my peers’ projects and experiences during our final presentations next week at ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary. In addition to our internships (you can read about mine in my previous post), our program directors have worked very hard to schedule educational and experiential field trips throughout the semester.

Water rushing down river with verdant green foliage.
I am interning at Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush, which is a local botanic garden and is the only one in New Zealand that is solely dedicated to native plants. Photo credit: Naomi Clayton.

One of my favorite visits thus far has to be to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Te Papa is one of the most incredible museums that I have had the opportunity to visit. In addition to having free admission–making it accessible to everyone­–the exhibits are incredibly immersive and educational. The permanent Te Taiao | Nature exhibit is definitely one of my favorites due to its numerous interactive elements; one of which was the “Quake House” earthquake simulator. It gave me a little taste of what a real earthquake would feel like here. Additionally, I found the consistent incorporation of tangata whenua (indigenous New Zealand people) knowledge and te reo Māori (tangata whenua language) throughout Te Papa is incredibly valuable and critical to fulfilling one’s time at the museum and in New Zealand in general. I believe that Te Papa is a fine example of what all individuals, organizations, corporations, and more should strive to achieve.

Our field visit to Te Papa also included a back-of-house tour by Te Herekiekie Herewini (Head of Repatriation Programme) and Moana Parata (Collections Manager) through the Māori Collections and followed by a presentation on Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation Programme. Te Herekiekie led us in karakia (prayer recitation) when we entered the collection, which helped us transition to the space of taonga (treasure), tūpuna (ancestors), and whakapapa (genealogy). There was so much mana (prestige, power, authority) throughout the entire collection, but I could especially feel it when we were standing in-between the portraits of the tūpuna and the wall covered in taiaha (wooden battle staff). It was particularly interesting to learn about the Repatriation Programme after we had walked through and listened to the different stories of the taonga. One thing Moana said really struck me; “the taonga are alive and want to go home. The museum is just a temporary holding facility until they can.” Te Herekiekie emphasized how Te Papa is consistently working to establish and respect the partnership–between tangata whenua and the Crown–that was originally outlined in te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi). Te Papa collaborates with iwi (tribes) all around New Zealand to identify and protect taonga until there is a safe place for them to return home to. As an anthropologist, it was inspiring to see this mutual partnership and positive relationship between museums and indigenous people. I hope that we can see a similar shift in the United States.

The image is of a river with a rocky shoreline and verdant forest in the background
We spent an overnight tramp (hike) at Turere Lodge in the Rimutaka Forest. Photo credit: Naomi Clayton.

All of our field visits, particularly this one to Te Papa, have contributed greatly to the development of my Independent Study Project. Prior to arriving in New Zealand on this program, I did not have any idea what I might want to complete my independent study on. Like many of my peers, we spent the road trip portion of the program gathering potential ideas based on our different field trips, readings, discussions, and overall experiences. Since then, my Independent Study Project I have specified that my project will investigate how the integration of te reo Māori into the rugby sporting world empowers tangata whenua in present day Aotearoa/New Zealand. I am examining the incorporation of te reo Māori in rugby through an analysis of the haka, Aotearoa/God Defend New Zealand (bilingual anthem), television coverage, and practices. I decided to study the relationship between rugby and empowerment through the integration of te reo Māori because of my preexisting interests in sports as well as indigenous rights and empowerment. I think it is particularly important to define empowerment and also recognize my position as a white, American visitor when writing this paper.

In addition to finishing at my internship and continuing to work on my independent study project, I am really looking forward to my remaining time here. We had one of our three remaining field trips today; snorkeling at one of my peer’s internship sites with Mountains to Sea Wellington. We couldn’t have asked for better weather and water visibility, so everyone had a great time. I’m still looking forward to listening and looking for kiwi on a ZEALANDIA night tour and then spending the night on the predator-free scientific reserve at Matiu/Somes island. What a fun packed last month we have scheduled in Wellington!

The image shows a group of people dressed in snorkeling gear preparing to enter the water on a rocky coastline
Snorkeling at Taputeranga Marine Reserve with Mountains to Sea Wellington. Photo credit: Charles Dawson.



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