Posted on : 21-06-2016 | By : Cindy | In : Uncategorized
‘So tell me about this controversial book you have written,’ the announcer asked me during a recent radio interview. I would have stuttered in shock if I had not spent the morning at a cafe discussing this very issue!
I don’t do controversy. I am exhausted by my son’s love of ‘debating’ which I see as arguing; I wither in the face of disputes about politics and religion; I almost always stay silent in the face of dogmatic opinions about nutrition that, as a dietitian, I know are misinformed.
The first hint that The Pounamu Prophecy might be controversial was when a member of my mother’s book group commented that I was ‘brave’ to write such a book. What was brave about telling a story about a piece of New Zealand’s history that few people knew, I wondered. It wasn’t until I recently traveled to New Zealand to do a few author talks that I saw the discomfort of some people as I spoke of the injustices that the Ngati Whatua tribe suffered over the past 100 years.
‘Don’t talk too much about that stuff, Cindy,’ advised my mother. ‘The book says it well. Let it speak, not you.’ It was wise advice.
History is subjective, seen through the eyes and felt through the heart of whoever was there. For this story I had the privilege of interviewing an elder of the Ngati Whatua tribe. He was eight years old when the government burnt down his village to ‘tidy it up’ for Queen Elizabeth’s visit the following year. There were tears in his eyes as he recounted what had happened. It was a perspective few people, including myself, had heard. It was a story worth telling.
‘If one of our people had written this, many would dismiss it as just another sob story, ‘ he said. ‘But when a Pakeha (non-Maori) writes it, it has credibility.’
Perhaps this was part of the plan: for me, a Pakeha girl married into a Maori family, to write this book. A purely Pakeha perspective might defend itself with stories of less than honorable actions of some Maori. A purely Maori perspective might stir up resentment and anger, slashing open old wounds with no remedy or hope of reconciliation.
After the ‘controversial’ radio interview I spent hours in my room, praying for wisdom and adjusting my talk. That evening I encouraged the audience that New Zealand, despite its past failings, is an example to the world of how two cultures can live well together and celebrate the best of both. Afterwards I spoke to a woman who had recently immigrated from the USA.
‘When you said that New Zealand is an example to the world I wanted to jump up and yell, Yes!’ she said. ‘It is one of the main reasons we moved to this country.’
Thanks to the Treaty of Waitangi and honorable men and women who, over the past 150 years, have sought and pursued justice with peace, New Zealand is a nation we can be proud of – and not just because of the All Blacks!