Tēnei te whakamānawa anō i a koutou e pānui ana i ēnei timonga kōrero āku.
Ko te kaupapa e whakatakotoria nei e au hei kai mā te hirikapo e pēnei ana: Kāore au i te ngana ki te noho hei tangata whakaaweawe i a wai ake, i a wai ake. E mahi noa ana ahau i āku mahi, kei a koe mēnā he mea whakaaweawe taku oranga i a koe.
Ko aku mahi katoa e mahi ana au, he mahi e manawanuitia ana e au. Ko tōku ao Māori te ao e noho nei au, pō te ao, ao te pō. Mai i ngā mahi kapa haka, ki Ngā Manu Kōrero, ki ngā mahi o runga i te marae, ki ngā wānanga, ki ngā kura reo, tae noa mai ki ēnei tuhinga, he mahi ēnei e kaingākautia ana e au. He aha i pēnei ai? Nō taku whakatipuranga ki ngā mahi ā te Māori. Ka hoki nei au ki ērā kōrero mō ōku mātua. Nā rāua te tatau ki te ao Māori i whakatūwhera mai hei whātaretare mā mātou ko aku tuākana, teina. Āe, he wā tōna ka hōhā, ka takeo au, heoi, mēnā ko te oranga tonutanga o te ao Māori te hua, me pēhea e kore ai e ū ki ngā mahi?
Kia huri atu ki tētahi atu mahi e rata ana au, arā ko te reti hukapapa. Ki au nei, ehara au i te tangata whakaaweawe nā te mea e taea ana e au te reti hukapapa. Ko ngā tāngata me whakaaweawe ko te hunga i a Adam Hall, i a Corey Peters mā. Ko rāua kei runga mō ngā whakataetae eke hukapapa i Aotearoa nei, me te ao anō hoki. Ko ngā mātāpono kua ākona e au i ēnei nanakia o te hākinakina nei, he mātāpono ka kawea e au ki te ake ake.
E hia kē nei ngā tāngata me mihi e au. Ki te kore ko ēnei tāngata, kua kore rawa atu au e paku whakaaro ki te eke hukapapa. Nā rātou te ara i whakangāwari, i whakangahau. Kua tata ki te whitu tau au e mahi ana i tēnei hākinakina, ā, he rite tonu te whākanakana mai o te tangata ki a au e reti ana. Tē aro i ahau, ko tāku noa he reti, he taka, he kata, ā, ka haere tonu.
Ki te whakaaro koe ki a koe anō, “he aha i whakaaweawe tēnei tangata i a au?”, ka pōhēhē pea mēnā he hauā koe ka uaua ake ēnei mahi ki a koe? E kī rā. Kia whakatauākītia e au ngā kupu o taku Pāpā “Māu anō tō ao e whakauaua”. Kāore anō au kia rongo i ngā wheako o te tangata hauā-kore, kāore anō rātou kia rongo i ngā wheako o te tangata hauā, ko tētahi mea e taea ana e ēnei momo e rua, ko te whakaaro nui, ko te whakamāmā i o rātou ake ao.
Ki te noho au hei tangata whakaaweawe i a koe, kei a koe tēnā. Engari ko tāku e hiahia ana kia whakaaweawe ahau i ngā tāngata nō runga i te pai o aku mahi, kaua nō tōku hauātanga.
My world revolves around Māoritanga and everything that comes with it. From kapa haka to Ngā Manu Kōrero speech competitions, to having responsibilities at my marae, to all of the different language immersion symposiums and events that I participate in, and even to writing this article in te reo Māori. My parents opened the door to the Māori world for my brothers and me, and it has been my life. Yes, it does bother me sometimes, but if the life of te ao Māori is at stake, how could I not be involved?
Years ago, when I was younger, a photo of me doing a haka in the Otago Polyfest held at the Edgar Centre shortly after having surgery went viral. My being there, performing in my wheelchair with casts on my legs, inspired people. Although I was young and unaware of this at the time, I see that event and that photo as a prime example of me just doing what I love, no matter what, and whether it inspired people or not isn’t up to me.
Being Māori is the crux of who I am. Being disabled is also part of who I am, but it in no way prevents me from having a voice or expression, just as I said to Viva this past week, “Disability does not stop you from having a voice,” and I always intend on using mine for my community and to advocate for what I believe in. Some of my heroes are Adam Hall and Corey Peters, disabled skiers. They are revered internationally for their commitment to the sport and are truly some of my own heroes because I also love to ski. The things I have learnt from meeting them and watching them ski are valuable life lessons that I will carry with me forever.
It’s been close to seven years since I first hit the slopes, thanks to the help of many people. I still get the same old stares as I do my own thing, ski, fall, laugh, and keep going. People often make the mistake of counting themselves “lucky” that they don’t have a disability and think that having a disability makes life harder. But as we know, this is wrong. Something my dad always says is, “you are the one who creates difficulty in your life” – and often it is not our conditions that disable us. I will never experience what life is like for a non-disabled person, and they will never experience what life is like with a disability, but one thing we all have in common is that we are able to be more aware of what life is really like for each other, beyond stereotypes, and we all have the capability to make our lives exactly what we want them to be.
In my life, I want to be known as inspiring because of the quality of my deeds, not because I’m living my life with a disability.