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Whaowhia te kete Matauranga ‘Fill the basket of knowledge’

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In May this year (2017) 6 local youth and 1 very fortunate mokopuna, accompanied by 4 adult
supervisors had the privilege of visiting whanau on the Navajo/Hopi Reservation in Arizona,
USA over a 10 day period, to exchange knowledge, share culture, and language, and most of all
to learn from one another. The trip was made possible through Tim Symington a local Owhata
resident who had previously organised excursions with other groups, and heard that there was
a group of rangatahi keen to visit the Navajo/Hopi Reservation.
Along the way and in acknowledgement of the work they had been doing over the last two years
within their community, they were treated to two days of ‘reward’ in Anaheim at Disneyland
California where fun was had by all including the adults.
The journey to get there was a long arduous one with the original group starting in 2015, with
over 24 rangatahi working towards the planning and implementation stages of the trip. Key
skills were learnt such as planning, teamwork, money management, engaging with the public
etc. However, due to work, study, costs etc only 11 of the group were able to travel, which was
extremely sad. So we acknowledge all the rangatahi and whanau that enabled us to travel to the
USA.
The landscape and people on the Navajo and Hopi Reservation in contrast to the bustling
metropolis of Hawaii, Los Angeles, Phoenix and the thousands of people, was and were
beautiful. The rangatahi were exposed to temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees in Phoenix to
the 12 degree temperatures on the reservation in Chinle, in the desert, due to us being at such
a high altitude. Unfortunately, for a few of us we experienced first hand the effects of altitude
sickness and dust, but that still didn’t dampen spirits.
The rangatahi were treated to the natural desert landscape with the beautiful rock formations
and the saguaro cactus on our road trip from Gilbert Arizona to Canyon de Chelly in Chinle on
the Navajo Reservation. On the way they were treated to sites along the old Route 66 Highway
also known as the ‘Mother Road’ where they saw the Wigwam Motel which featured in the little
town of Radiator Springs a Disney cartoon village created as a composite of multiple
real places on historic U.S. Route 66 from Kansas to Arizona in the Movie Cars which
was in Holbrook Arizona. Ironically, much of their time in Disneyland was spent in
Radiator Springs where they stayed till late.
However this trip wasn’t just about the sites (although it was a bonus) the rangatahi and
adults performed daily on the reservation sharing their Culture and Language, proudly
performing Te Arawa E! Ka Mate, Ka Mate! Tenei Matou! E Rere Taku Poi with heart,
sometimes waking as early as 6am to get ready for performances, cleanup before the
students of the Schools arrived at 8am, than perform, pack up and move onto our next
venue, by the end of the day they were spent. We had the honor of performing at
Churches, , Youth With a Mission Centres, engaging with different age groups, learning
about traditional customs of the Navajo/Hopi people and comparing cultures and beliefs,
which for many of our young people was an eye opening experience.
We met people from all over the world who shared stories of tragedies that they had
overcome, met Cowboys that taught our young people how to lasso, talked to young
people who were interested in our tamoko, the poi, our kakahu, and what we ate. I
remember at one of our stops a Navajo kuia must have thought I was an Eskimo and
continued to ask me “Did I eat Whale, Penguins and Seals” with a smile on my face I
replied “No dear” We even had the privilege of staying in traditional Navajo Whare or
Hogans, which was an experience. We also had the privilege of seeing squirrels,
meerkats, elk, wild horses, a scorpion, red ants, last but not least one of the natural
wonders of the world – The Grand Canyon.
This journey achieved what we set out to do originally which was to open up the world
of opportunities, perspectives and possibilities for our future generation. So what did
our rangatahi think?
Josiah Ransfield and Zion Hay believed that this opportunity enabled them to gain
more confidence in themselves not only talking to people but also to sing and perform in
front of people. For Zion Hay this was his first time learning and performing Kapa Haka
which was a huge achievement. Haylee Steele enjoyed learning new things about
Navajo Culture and Language, and she also performed for the first time. Waerea
Hohepa loved how he was treated by the people and how we all managed to get along
with them. While Izayah Ngamoki (7) the youngest to travel evidently thought he was a
local and at home in NZ, as he ran around the desert with no shoes on exploring the
rocks and the city, after been told that we had arrived in Arizona, at a time when snakes
were more prevalent, and not to turn the rocks over. Awatea Waiariki and Emily
Symington what more can we say? Awatea for confidently leading our whaikorero and
waiata and Emily for taking the initiative to lead our Poi. Awesome!
In closing there are so many people we would like to thank here and in the USA. To our
whanau and supporters in NZ – Takerei and Santana, Mokoia Community Association,
ER@P, Bunnings, Readings Cinemas, Tanekaha Ink, KB Screen Printing, Owhata
Primary School, Owhata Marae, Countdown Fenton Street, Yvonne Morehu and all our
whanau and friends that brought sausages and Movie tickets. A huge thanks to
Meretaka, Aaliyah, Mere, Stazi, Aki, Saige, Nireaha, Rae, Manda, Jeff, Jade, Shekinah,
Trinity, Zion and Zipporah, Tai and Bronte, the foundation members of this journey and
to the parents and whanau of Zion, Waerea, Haylee, Emily, Awatea, Josiah and Izayah
thank you. To Aunty Ann, Aunty Kaye and Yvonne, thank you for looking after our
rangatahi and making sure they came home safely.
To our USA whanau – Mike and Andrew no words can express the gratitude we have for
driving us those long hours, thousands of kilometers and introducing us to amazing
people most of all making sure we were okay despite our adventures. To Joe and Gerri
Begay of Grace Community Church Chinle, Arizona, John and Ruth Bloom of Immanuel
Mission School, Sweetwater Arizona, Florian Johnson, Rock Point Language Program
Cultural Director, Barsine Benally of Dine’ College, Tsaile, Arizona, Danelle Romeyn
Youth With a Mission, Hopi- Land Kykotsmovi, Arizona, Staff and Students of Tuba City
High School, Eric and Tracy Kee, Church of Christ Facility, Tuba City, Marlin Granger
and his beautiful whanau, Pastor Mike our resident cowboy and Will and Millie Toms of
YWAM Flagstaff.
A huge THANK YOU from Nga Taiohi o Owhata (Youth of Owhata).
Ngaire Ngamoki