As all good Treaty partnerships demand, a significant amount of space in The Spinoff Aotearoa 2020 Time Capsule has been saved for tangata whenua. Like a yuck hāngī filled with bewilderment and Zoom, it’s time to bury this year in the ground.
What a year to be of the non-white or Indigenous persuasion. What has this year even been? Did we smash ceilings or were were dragged into the Dark Ages? Was there progress? For the love of god, someone tell us if we made any progress!
At the end of 2020, New Zealand’s estimated Māori population is 850,500 (or 16.7% of the population). Twenty-six of our 120 MPs have whakapapa Māori. The percentage of Māori with a bachelor’ s degree or higher has more than doubled since 2005 but the Māori unemployment rate (10.8%) remains well above the national unemployment rate (4.9%). Moko kauae, mataora, rongoā and maramataka have never been more popular, yet over the course of the pandemic, research found Māori were more than 50% likelier to die of the virus. Yonder in America, the first ever woman of colour was voted in as vice president. But in the same year, teams of armed civilians, police and national guard shot and killed Black protesters for demanding basic human rights, while the president stood by.
You could say it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. Except someone filled the rollercoaster with turds, set it on fire and the tracks haven’t finished being built yet.
We’d like to bury the last 250 years in the ground, to be honest, but if The Spinoff Ātea had to put something in a time capsule for 2020 it would be…
November 30 issue of the Dominion Post
At the end of November, many people around the country awoke to their local newspaper apologising to them. “Nō mātou hē”– “We’re sorry”, the Dominion Post, The Press, the Waikato Times, the Taranaki Daily News, the Manawatū Standard, the Nelson Mail, the Marlborough Express and the Southland Times offered humbly. It was a momentous occasion for mainstream media, one precedented by National Geographic in 2018 – an apology by media company Stuff, formerly Fairfax, for 163 years of racist coverage and unfair portrayal of Māori.
Led to this landmark moment by Stuff’s Pou Tiaki editor Carmen Parahi, who came at it from a “it’s this or I’m done” angle, it naturally received mixed reactions. The wounds inflicted by Stuff’s comments section are still raw for a lot of people. A few faux pas followed, including the Dominion Post publishing an immensely racist letter to the editor that suggested Māori were “overwhelmed” by a “stronger race”. Yes, for those reading this in 2120, that was actually published in an actual newspaper (newspapers were like a collection of very thin, manually operated screens with no interactivity).
Regardless, it’s a statement that would have been unthinkable for a large national media outlet 20, even five years ago. The execution may not have been perfect, but the tides have changed forever.
A box of Billy TK Jr CDs
The Advance Party leader definitely has a garage full of his 2008 blues rock album Presenting Billy TK Jnr and needs somewhere to store them.
The Makitānara lament
Yearning for restaurants to reopen was a real vibe in our nationwide level four lockdown, particularly as we edged ever closer to level three aka “level four but with takeaways”. A video posted online of a whakatangitangi (lament) to a closed McDonald’s in Rotorua really captured the essence of this in a uniquely Māori way.
Is it a problematic celebration of unhealthy eating habits? Is it a culturally inappropriate use of tikanga? Is it a celebration of Māori humour and resilience? Possibly all of the above.
“I cry a lonesome lament, for you my dear one, my friend Donald, oh the distress”. Let’s be honest, no other piece of lockdown art has summed up the collective feelings of New Zealanders in lockdown better than this.
Black Lives Matter signs
Alongside the shared struggle of fighting Covid-19, many countries came together in support of the US Black Lives Matter movement, calling for the dismantling of racist systems and beliefs that have oppressed Black people for centuries.
In New Zealand, this solidarity took the form of a number of protests in June. Slogans like “no justice, no peace” and “colour is not a crime” were waved in front of the US embassy, as well as a number of signs directed at a far more local audience. “New Zealand, we have work to do” and a take on the classic Tui advert: “New Zealand’s not a racist country… yeah right.”
These taonga deserve a place in the time capsule for lots of reasons, least of all to mark the year the interconnected world saw clearly the injustice of George Floyd’s murder, and those before and after him, and joined a global uprising against white supremacy.
Our hope that the signs won’t be needed again is likely in vain, but they might at least remind future generations of the actions taken by their tūpuna to help build a just society.
Winnie. Ngāti Wai heartthrob, a polarising king, pride of the north.
Since entering politics in 1975, Peters has been a fierce advocate for rural communities, the capital-N North and oldies. An unrelenting stone in the shoe to anyone in the house and of course to all the eager journalists waiting outside.
Behind his inimitable swag, double-breasted suits and cheeky smile has always been an “eclectic” collection of political views plucked from all over the political spectrum. A bit of racist fear-mongering over immigration or blocking capital gains taxes one day, while getting free ferries to Waiheke for the over-65s the next. He’s criticised protesters at Ihumātao and been outspoken against any government deal over the land, but also led a successful campaign in the 1970s along with other members of Ngāti Wai to retain tribal land in response to the Labour government’s plan to establish coastal land reserves – helping to inspire the 1975 land marches. Whatever you think of Peters, it’s impossible to dismiss his peculiar influence over our political landscape.
And 2020 was of course not without excitement from the New Zealand First leader. In true Winston style, he broke the rules in level four lockdown by fishing on his back lawn. There was, of course, the New Zealand First funding scandal. And a personal favourite, his response to Nikki Kaye’s false assertion around Paul Goldsmith’s whakapapa Māori: “I hadn’t heard of Paora Heke Goldsmith till this morning.”
Watching New Zealand First failing to win a seat or meet the 5% threshold to get back into parliament in this year’s election felt, well, weirdly bittersweet. It’s the end of an era. And while it’s a relief for many that his reign has come to an end, it’s nice to think that Peters is likely enjoying a whiskey, some fish heads and a durry on his porch in Whananaki.
Early on in lockdown, some cheeky aunty smooshed Zoom + hui together. It was cute. It was sassy. It was Māori expressing their digital sovereignty. And then slowly it began to herald a ritual of soul-emptying exhaustion. Remote colleagues mouthing silently before the hundredth gentle reminder to unmute; unmuted uncles having full-on conversations off camera, ignoring your pleas, feedback on a loop from a nearby radio. The constant stress of our own muted/unmuted status. The repeating. The constant repeating.
Farewell Zui, haere, haere atu rā.
Public statue of an old racist dude who may or may not have been to NZ
Despite calls for the removal of racist statues and monuments being shouted into the abyss for years by Māori and Indigenous people, this year the fight came to a head when protesters across the world started tearing down the statues of slave owners and colonial figures.
In the UK, a statue of slave trader Edward Coulston was thrown into the Bristol Harbour in a very impressive display of strength from protesters who lugged the 5.5m tall bronze statue down the road and over a barrier into the sea.
Closer to home, the conversation was also being brought up as once again, Māori and Indigenous voices asked if the government would consider removing statues honouring people like James Cook, who caused the murders of many Māori and Pasifika people as he sailed his death ship around the world, and spread STIs and TB to Indigenous populations like gross confetti.
Now leader of the National Party Judith Collins voiced concern on The AM Show about pigeons losing their beloved statue resting places.
“I’ve often looked at those statues as I’ve walked past, and I see Richard Seddon all large as life, larger than life, and I think – where would the pigeons go?” – a bad point, poorly made.
If we are putting one thing underground, let it be all the statues of the people who came to Aotearoa to take what wasn’t theirs, who stole land and property and the lives of Māori people and were praised for it. Rip them down and place them where nobody will see them for at least 100 years. In fact, we wouldn’t be mad if the exact coordinates were lost, and they were left there until the sea claims back the land.
Ngā pōtae o Te Paati Māori
“I’m proud to be Māori,” Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer sung as they were sworn into parliament. Their choice of bold cowboy and top hats on the day were not only a bomb accessory choice, but reflective of a new era of the Māori Party and New Zealand politics. Te Paati Māori 2020 is unapologetically Māori and very ready to shake things up.
After failing to win seats in the 2017 election, the Māori Party were the comeback of the year in 2020 with Rawiri Waititi winning the Waiariki seat and gaining enough of the party vote in the final vote count to bring Debbie Ngarewa-Packer into parliament.
Their choice of hats haven’t been without controversy – with many wrongly accusing the pair of breaking parliamentary dress code. Will racists stop being outraged by their hats in 2021? Who could say. But with such an impressive return to parliament, it’s no surprise that the two want to flaunt some impressive pōtae.