Shooting straight from the heart – do’s and don’ts of working with iwi

Mandy Home;  Te Arowhenua Rūnanga; Maori Development Manager at NIWA
One from the archives – this piece first appeared in INNZ INsights in 2012; and it still resonates today as very good advice!

Do work with us; you have expectations and so do we. But at the end of the day they are our stories.

Do get in touch early. Give yourself plenty of time as we have to go grovel to our kaumatua. Te Ana Rock Art Centre is a great example – it was eight years in the making but we did it right.

Guide in Te ana rock art centre.

Don’t say dumb things like “I didn’t know you had a marae here?”

Don’t take Māori place names literally. You can’t take each word and translate it separately and expect to know the meaning. It’s a descriptive sentence as a whole.

Do be prepared to pay us for our time and our knowledge. Keep your baubles and blankets, we’ve had enough. If you get paid to do the work, we expect the same.

Do remember that some of the marae might not have enough confidence to do the work, so much has been lost. A lot of our young ones have not walked the trails.

Be prepared for questions. Some of the knowledge is held with the kaumatua and there will be questions. “What does this pakeha want to know that for? Why should I tell them?”

Do understand; we are vague because of our loss. One of our tipuna, his bones were found in 1884, last seen on the back of a dray – “finder’s keepers”.

This one’s for museums! If I come to look at taonga, DO take it out of the case. To touch it, to feel it, to know it, because it’s a part of me.

Be prepared for the tantrums. My dad is the best dummy-spitter.

Do think you are going to enjoy the experience, because you will be amazed at what you will learn. Be prepared for the giving. We have a rich and vibrant history and we love to share it if we are approached in the right way.

So work on the right way.

Te Ana Rock art centre guide.

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Interpreting the heritage of New Zealand