1. When I did kapa haka at primary school, one of the leaders asked who in the group was Māori. I raised my hand and a teacher told me not to be silly.
2. When I was 11 my cousin Justine, who attended kura kaupapa, laughed at my accent after I said a karakia.
3. In my first year of uni the RA asked if anyone on our floor was Māori. When I said yes, a guy yelled, “What tribe are you from, ‘Ngāti Ginger Ninjas?’”
4. The aunties at my marae have always told me I don’t know anything. I’m not sure if they’re right, but I believe them.
5. Two years ago, my journalism class had a lesson on te reo Māori in the news. We prepared our mihi, but when I spoke, I tried to sound more Pākehā so no one would think I was pretending to be something I’m not. Then I sat down and burned with shame.
6. Last Wednesday, I told the organiser of our mihi whakatau that I had been to pōwhiri before because I’m Māori. He laughed at me.
7. Because I didn’t want another reason.
Republished with kind permission from the new anthology of Māori poetry and fiction Te Awa o Kupu edited by Vaughan Rapatahana and Kiri Piahana-Wong (Penguin Random House, $37), a companion volume to the nonfiction anthology Ngā Kupu Wero edited by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $37), both available in bookstores nationwide. Contributors to the two anthologies include Emma Espiner, Alan Duff, Tina Makereti, Paula Morris, and Colleen Maria Lenihan. ReadingRoom is devoting all week to the two books. Yesterday: an essay by Shilo Kino on the power of Māori journalism. Tomorrow: a classic poem by the superstar of Aotearoa poetry, Tayi Tibble.
“Reasons why I called in sick rather than go to the mihi whakatau for new employees last Friday” first appeared in Ten Acceptable Acts of Arson by Jack Remiel Cottrell (Canterbury University Press, 2021).