Nuu-chah-nulth youth heading to New Zealand to learn Maori culture

Karly Blats, January 11, 2019

Aboriginal youth heading to New Zealand on Jan. 20 take part in fundraising initiatives to make the trip possible. (Photo submitted by Sarah Pachkowsky of the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre.)

Nanaimo, BC — 

Nuu-chah-nulth youth will be heading to New Zealand to experience the culture of the country’s Indigenous Polynesian people—the Maori.

The Paddling Beyond trip was organized by the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre with a goal of exposing some of the youth who attend their alternative school program to travel and learn about comparable Indigenous cultures.

“The Maori culture is very similar to a lot of our cultures here on the West Coast,” said Sarah Pachkowsky, project director with the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre. “They are further ahead in regards to being able to include the community and celebrate their culture and really be able to learn and share more.

Pachkowsky added that the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre would like to create a space similar to what many Maori groups have done in New Zealand.

Eleven youth, with about half being Nuu-chah-nulth, and 12 adult chaperones will take off on Jan. 20 and spend 10 full days travelling around New Zealand. 

“We will be making sure that we are getting the youth on the water so we will be doing some canoeing, we are taking some of our drums and we’re going to share some of our songs from over here,” Pachkowsky said. “The youth have been practicing some protocols on how to introduce themselves and they’ve been practicing some dancing as well so we can share that.”

The group will travel to several locations during their trip from Auckland to the Bay of Islands.

Pachkowsky said the trip is two-fold for the youth: cultural education and gaining life experience.

“Most of [the youth] have not done any travel, let alone international, overseas travel. I believe there’s two or three that have been on planes before but the rest have not,” Pachkowsky said. “The majority of the kids are in care, former kids in care or at risk youth.”

She noted that the trip aims to empower the kids to gain confidence and learn about their own culture while becoming acquainted with another country’s history.

The trip costs roughly $5,000 per person and Pachkowsky said they’ve raised about $70,000 of their $105,000.

Eighteen-year-old Tatiyana Billy is among the Nuu-chah-nulth youth attending the trip. She said she’s travelled as far as Calgary before but has never left Canada.

“I am really excited to learn about [Maori] culture and to be far away from Canada and to learn a lot more,” Billy said. “I heard we are going to be staying in a longhouse, we’re staying in one for two days and a different one for another two days. I’ve never stayed in a longhouse so I’m really excited about that.”

Although Billy said she didn’t have much former knowledge about Maori culture, she’s been doing a lot of research to prepare for the trip to New Zealand. 

The group has also been practicing their own languages in preparation for the journey. 

“We have been doing a lot of family nights where we practice our greeting in our language and say where we’re from and where our parents are from,” Billy said.

Billy said she’s very excited to travel to a new country and learn about a new culture, but that she’s nervous about the long plane ride. 

“It’s so high up in the air,” she laughed.

Billy said the group has been doing a lot of fundraising to cover the cost of the trip.

“We’ve been doing a lot of bottle drives and last Friday we did an Indian taco sale,” she said.

They have a few more fundraising initiatives before heading off.