Toitū a Matariki

Toitū a Matariki...

A blog affords a writer the opportunity to share what’s on their mind. It’s fitting for a time such as this, where our thoughts keep us up at night and wake us up in the morning. Thoughts about inequity, racism, oppression and assimilation. Thoughts about sovereignty, mana and the future. As I think about these things, I think about some of the words we use to communicate how we are experiencing them. Words like ‘toitū’. 



The word Toitū has been thrown into the limelight recently, popularised out of necessity, in the statement ‘Toitū te Tiriti’. It’s a call for the protection of the Tiriti of Waitangi. But what does it mean, and why is the term so important? In literal terms toitū means, according to the oracle Te Aka, ‘undisturbed, untouched and permanent’. It was a term I was most familiar with through its use in the whakataukī ‘Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua’, people will pass, but the land remains. If we use the proverb as a lens to look even deeper, we see that although the land does remain, and will always be enduring, it has also long been alienated…along with so many other things. I like the word toitū, it’s staunch! It speaks of an uncompromising resolve. When used in relation to the Tiriti, it’s easy to see how appropriate it is. It also feels right to use it as a term associated with the ongoing fight for the revitalisation of te reo Māori. Toitū te Reo. When I say it, it speaks to me about commitment. Its use in the title of this blog has been very intentional, and at first read, hopefully not cliche. Toitū a Matariki.



You may ask why I might be posing a question about cultural or linguistic sustainability, when as a nation, we are only three years deep into our public acknowledgements of Matariki through the provision of a public holiday. Truth is, Matariki has been around for a very long time, even if so many of us didn’t know about it until recent times. The cluster has been sustained in the sky since time began. Nō mai, mai anō. But with the current state of our countries 'affairs’, it does beg questions about the future and the care of mātauranga Māori and kaupapa that are culturally significant to us, given the direction that public policy has taken in recent months which can hit the spirit of those who value these taonga. But still we rise, like Matariki, again and again. Matariki invites reflection, and when we take the time to reflect, we take the time to search for meaning and for hope.

The well known German teacher Ekhart Tolle encourages us to live in the present, to be in the present, and to be present. He talks about “The power of now”. For many parts of my life, it’s something I aspire to do, especially for my mental and emotional wellbeing. ‘The past is in the past’, ‘forgive ourselves’, ‘you can’t change what has gone’ are all statements I’m sure we’ve all used to affirm ourselves when we’ve been in situations where we may not have made the best choices or been our best selves. As an ideal it serves a purpose, however, when I use the ‘present’ as a lens to analyse the state of the nation, I can see that without the knowledge of the past, we will never be able to have a better present.

Without an understanding of Aotearoa New Zealand histories, histories including colonial legislation, land alienation and the loss of the language, culture and identity, we won’t yet know the significance of the things we see, hear and say. Or make policies about. Or create bills for, like the Treaty of Waitangi. Any attempt to create policy without understanding the past and its effects can cause harm. And aren't we meant to ‘do no harm?’ How can we assure a better future, if we don’t ensure we know the past? How might we continue to fight for justice and truth, when so many don’t understand the reasons why we might need to do so? And as you will have heard, ka whawhai tonu mātou, āke ake ake, we will fight on.

As we await the release of the film Ka Whawhai Tonu at the end of June, I wonder who will go to see it and most importantly who will go to feel it? It’s a story of warfare in our land. It feels like many have already forgotten that the New Zealand Land Wars were the major impetus for the introduction of the histories curriculum, and I worry that the teaching of them will be relegated to the ‘too hard’ basket for some. But remembering war is not foreign to us. Respectfully, we stand at dawn on Anzac Day, to state patriotically ‘we will remember them’. But when it comes to our nation's war stories here in Aotearoa, evidence shows that we do forget them. To remember is confronting our colonial past. “Just let go”, we hear, “it’s in the past”. “We are all equal”, “we all deserve equal rights”. Well, no, I say there is work to be done. We might not be able to change the past, but there are things we can do with it. We can learn, and remember, and we can do better.

To that end, as we prepare to pause and set new intentions for the season ahead, how might we all better reflect and invest time and heart into seeking a way forward? What are our moral and ethical obligations towards ensuring the care and sustainability of all our stories and knowledges for generations to come? When it comes to our histories, the past is the present. What we see in the present is hurtful, so how might we raise our collective consciousness to combat inequities at every given opportunity? The potential solutions do not have to look a certain way. A softly spoken rebuke can be as powerful as a telling off, we just have to think of some of our aunties for the example of the power of a glance! I wish it were different, but we have no choice but to keep on keeping on. We have to believe in the power we all hold to make a difference. When Whina Cooper set out from Te Hāpua in 1975, she walked quietly with a tokotoko and mokopuna in hand. Never underestimate the small steps that you make, for who knows where they will lead…

Photo by Abbas Tehrani on Unsplash

For workplace and individual learning on past and inequities in Aotearoa, te ao Māori and cultural capability, please contact the team at

Whiria te reo

Join us for our new te reo Māori programme, adaptable to your workplace, group or setting.

Whiria te reo
Website image 400x400 15 Jan V2