Momi participating in a Rongoa Maori workshop creating Kawakawa products

Momi at Apumoana Marae in Rotorua

This past week I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Rotorua to experience and take part in a health conference put on by Toi Tangata. This conference taught me so much about myself and my place as an Indigenous person and also about the things that I need to reconnect to in order to improve my overall well-being.

The first day of the conference was opened with a traditional powhiri to welcome all guests onto Apumoana Marae. Previous to this experience I had only heard about powhiri and never actually experienced it. It was amazing to see how the protocol was carried out right before my eyes and also hear the beautiful karanga, waiata, and karakia shared in the sacred space.

After the powhiri, we were given afternoon tea and mingled around a bit with the other conference attendees. The two keynote speakers of the first day were, in my opinion, the best of the conference. The first speaker, Dr. Matire Hardwood, spoke on health inequities through a voyaging lens. She mentioned that her presentation was based off of the different houses used by Nainoa Thompson and many other navigators on their voyages. That instantly made me feel at home because Nainoa is from Hawai`i and I have heard him talk on many occasions. She ultimately taught me that the point of navigating is to get somewhere better and so we must extend ourselves to help our community get to a better place in regards to heath and overall well-being.

Another keynote speaker that really stood out to me was Dr. Rangi Mataamua. He spoke about our constant focus on papatuanuku, or papahānaumoku as she is referred to in Hawaiian tales, that we often forget to look upwards to the sky. He also emphasized the importance of the lunar calendar and its utilization in ancient times. Our ancestors never once used the solar calendar to live by like we do today. This just shows how much we are governed by modern times and the need for us to return to our roots and the ways of our ancestors. It was refreshing to hear him speak about how astronomy can help us predict the future in regards to good harvesting time, good times to go out to fish, and more.

Over the next two days of the conference, I learned so much about the importance of inner and outer wellbeing. Of course, it was also beautiful to be a tourist for a few hours here and there and visit some of the historical sites within the area. The second day was focused heavily on systems and the way in which things are organized on multiple levels. It was interesting to hear health being talked about in a totally different context, although as an aspiring sociology major, talking about systems is not foreigh. The last day was dedicated to the power of media in improving health outcomes in communities. Overall, it was an amazing conference that really opened my eyes to new ways to look at health and wellbeing.