You would be forgiven for believing that having a Māori only space is ‘separatist’, especially since everyone’s not-favourite Aunty Judith Collins thinks that Māori schemes reek of segregation as she tries her best to have a Don Brash speech at Orewa moment. If I put it quite plainly though, every system, every centre, every organisation and every institution in this country has a vested interest in ensuring that Māori interests are protected, especially since historically, they haven’t. This isn’t segregation or separatism, it’s self-determination.
In the context of Waikato University, redress has been sought in the form of a Māori space. We call this space Puutikitiki and since its opening last year, the number of Māori students present on campus has grown. Go to a kura and let any Māori kid tell you that the reason they love school is because they see themselves in their surroundings.
I was fortunate to have the childhood that I did. I woke up in the morning knowing that my Māori world was there. Having those physical spaces available to you as a young child does nothing but wonders for your identity. Yet, people seem less interested in maintaining that sense of cultural identity once you hit adulthood. You’re expected to find that for yourself. Puutikitiki attempts to fill that void for Māori students and ensures that we have a space to be Māori as authentically as we want, even for a fleeting moment.
To our tauiwi mates who find themselves wondering where their space is… just remember, you get to enjoy the rest of the campus because the entire space was built with you and your system in mind. We have Puutikitiki, and you can guarantee we will use it as we see fit. Despite how separatist anyone thinks it is!
And that’s on maintaining and sustaining cultural identity in eurocentric places and spaces.