SHARING songs, stories and support with Maori were key parts of a cultural exchange around Aotearoa for a group of Canadian First Nations university students and their professor.
The students of McMaster University in Ontario and indigenous studies professor Dawn Martin-Hill (Mohawk First Nation) were hosted and shown around Te Ika a Maui (North Island) by the Lloyd family in Whatatutu. Marcus Lloyd (Nga Ariki Kaiputahi, Ngati Porou) and his family visited the Standing Rock reservation in North America last year to support the Lakota tribe’s protest against plans to build an oil pipeline near their land. Dr Martin-Hill, whose husband Chief Arvol Looking Horse (Lakota First Nation) was spiritual leader of the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock, also attended the protest site with some of her students, where they heard about Maori support for the cause.She saw Mr Lloyd’s posts on social media and the Haka for Standing Rock filmed on Waikanae Beach,
which went viral around the world.They had planned to visit Aotearoa before then but later organised a trip through their connection to the Lloyd family.“We have a strong bond with Maori and share similar stories. Standing Rock brought that out,” Dr Martin-Hill said. “Maori came and supported Standing Rock, so we come over here to support Maori. The injustices indigenous people face, and the fight to retain culture, are the same all over the world.”The students are part of McMaster University’s indigenous studies programme, one of Canada’s only institutes dedicated to indigenous knowledge and research.It was set up in a new era of reconciliation and openness from the Canadian government about treatment of its indigenous peoples.“We wanted to learn more about the Maori experience here,” Dr Martin-Hill said.The group’s trip included visits to marae and sites sacred to Maori.In Gisborne it included a visit.