Neuseeland: Pauline Tangiora

We have to sit down, have a meal together, pray together and then actually talk together. Then we realize that, yes, although we have some differences they are not impassable differences.

— Pauline Tangiora

Pauline Tangiora is a Maori elder from the Rongomaiwahine Tribe on the East Coast of the North Island of Aotearoa. She is the former president and currently vice president of WILPF Aotearoa, the former representative for the World Council for Indigenous Peoples, and a member of the Earth Council. She has represented Aotearoa at many international fora. She says, “My idea of government is that you run a country not with a party stick but with what you really have to offer. People come together with all their skills from whatever background and work for the benefit of the whole community."

"How can you have a just war? War is not just. In 2003, I visited a hospital in Iraq. I saw a young mother with her baby, and two or three children. I put my hand out to her to hold the baby. She gave me the baby; it was very tiny, two weeks old. She told me that, in the first Gulf war, she had been in the south when the Americans dropped their uranium-tipped weapons, and now 11 years on, all her children had been born with leukemia. The two beside her had cancer, the last baby they said would die. Now, there is the extremity of what humanity does to humanity. But I also know joyful things. At the World Forum of Fisher Peoples in Thailand, we were asked to meet Thai fisher folk on the Malaysian border. They were to be moved out because of government plans to put in a gas or oil plant in the area. I was asked to speak. I told them I understood why they felt bound to their land. When I finished they were so happy: they said that was how they felt, but nobody cared. This was their land, their working life, their spiritual life, their interaction, and connection with people over the border: how could they take up their soul from out of the earth and transplant it somewhere else? So it gave them hope that other people saw it. So what you do in life can give hope. Prison is a terrible place to go, but it is also a place of hope. This is my 40th year of visiting in a prison. It does not matter if someone in your family has done something, you cannot throw them away. Better they come out knowing you cared enough to visit or write to them every week. A long time ago, I sent a card to a man in prison. Years later, one officer said to me, ‘You know this guy, that card you sent him 20 years ago he carries round in a plastic bag in his pocket, and sometimes you see him sit outside and read it.’”

Maori Women’s Welfare League World Forum for Fisher Peoples (WFFP) Indigenous Initiative for Peace