– By James MacTaggart
In March earlier this year I was given the opportunity to go on Aoraki Bound, courtesy of the ARTS295 scholarship and a partnership between The University of Canterbury and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. This meant a few weeks working as an intern at the Ngāi Tahu ‘glass palace’ and a few more weeks trying to get myself ready to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors.
And follow I did, from the revolving doors at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to the golden-sand beaches of Anakiwa. I climbed through the uppermost branches of a kahikatea forest, rowed my first waka and struggled with the logistics of digging a toilet trench on a bracken cloaked mountainside.
The internship was about showing me a place where Māori culture and tikanga could be normalised and enjoyed in an everyday work environment. Aoraki Bound taught a similar lesson at a school of much harder knocks, stressing the importance that Māori values like whanaungatanga could play in overcoming the constant challenges the course presented.
For twenty days I was a fish so far out of water I may as well have been allergic to the ocean but I managed every one of those footsteps with thirteen amazing people beside me, all equally as sleep deprived, sick of scroggin and culturally absorbed as I was. I couldn’t recommend the experience enough.