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Art - March 23, 2019

Who Can Tell the Story of a Community

When the Europeans began colonizing New Zealand, they followed Western codes of land ownership; they began to portion off sections of the river and sold off pieces of land to new landowners. For the Māori, the river is a single living being, a whole thing. The tribes of Whanganui often refer to their river as an ancestor and talk about their river from the mountain to the sea. You cannot take one portion of the river, and seperate it from the rest.

In 2017, the government finally gave the customary rights and ownership of the river back to the Māori. Even more, the river has the same legal rights as a human. Before, if the Māori wanted to go fishing, travel by boat, establish a community, there were always legal disputes about how they could do this. With this new development in a settlement between the government and Whanganui tribes, it seemed a good time to return and finish the book. The book is about the time I spent with them in ’96, as well as my time there twenty years later, reestablishing the kinship that we had on a physical and spiritual level.

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