Canada trip brings renewed perspective of indigenous law

30 July 2010

Twelve Waikato University students studying management and different aspects of indigenous law have returned from a research haerenga (journey) to Canada, encouraged and challenged by the experience.   The group consisted of Māori postgraduate and undergraduate students and the experience was to assist students carry out comparative research on indigenous Canadian peoples for papers in law and management in New Zealand.

Haerenga co-ordinator and management student Priscilla Ngatai says they had a variety of experiences; attending an international conference on global ecological integrity at the University of British Columbia, meeting indigenous people from First Nations, Inuit and Métis, attending a pow wow, meeting representatives from government organisations, faculty and students from UBC and Ottawa University and also being hosted by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

“What you find is that Canada’s aboriginal people have a lot of similarities with Māori, but there are differences too,” says Ngatai. “You only have to look at the size of Canada and the spread of its people to realise they are on a larger scale than New Zealand, but we both have similar issues regarding the revival of our language and land ownership.” 

The students all kept a journal of their trip and will present their research findings to their deans and other faculty members who supported their haerenga. Masters student Henare Waihape is studying Environmental and Natural Resources Law and says a trip like this deepens your understanding of another culture and helps you to appreciate the different aspects and effects of colonisation.

Waihape and management PhD student Dara Dimitrov presented research projects on the cultural management of fisheries and sustainability. “I presented to global academic experts in the ecological field, some of whom I had quoted within the presentation itself,” says Waihape. “This was a real privilege and honour.”  

Waihape is now contemplating PhD study at the University of British Columbia as a result of his presentation on the haerenga. “This haerenga to Canada was a start to our academic journey,” says Ngatai. “It will encourage Māori students to research our indigenous culture and share their findings with our iwi and on a global platform.”

Canada Group

Indigenous perspective: Te Huarahi Rangahau students pictured in the Longhouse at UBC, Vancouver, Canada.
Back left to right: Pani Chamberlain, Moira Neho, Melanie, Gabrielle Kershaw, Priscilla Ngatai, Andrea Paki, Ebony DeThierry and Luke Claasen.
Front left to right: Alvina Edwards, Whetu Taukamo, Henare Waihape, Dara Dimitrov and Tawa Campbell-Seymour.

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