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Sharing minds and hearts; reflecting on an international student exchange.

Valdine engaged with the team in  a photography session with Leigh Mitchell Anyon

Valdine Flaming a Metis woman from Thompson, Northern Manitoba was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship (QES), through a Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) programme. Through the scholarship, she was able to take up a three-month postgraduate student placement with Whakauae finishing in August 2017.

Whakauae hosted Valdine as part of a commitment to building indigenous research capacity and supporting international collaborations. As members of the Partners for Engagement and Knowledge Exchange (PEKES) programme in Manitoba we were invited to become a mentor organisation for the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship (QES) scholarship programme. Valdine was our first student placement.

During her three-month placement, Valdine primarily worked with the Whakauae team on their HRC-funded research project, Preventing Chronic Conditions (PCC): Learnings from Participatory Research with Māori. Her role included examining Indigenous chronic disease prevention practices in both Canada and New Zealand, updating the literature review already conducted by the research team and conducting a review of recent Canadian literature around Indigenous models of chronic condition prevention.

In her last week with us we asked her to reflect on her time with us. The following are snippets from that conversation reproduced with her permission.   

My three months at Whakauae has flown by. Originally I intended to just learn more about how Māori prevent chronic conditions. As a Metis from northern Manitoba – poor health seems unavoidable for many of us. Blood quantum divides my extended family from each other while we survive poverty, intergenerational trauma and a legacy of shame. We survive our realities and chronic conditions are a side note.

Coming to Aotearoa and my time with the team at Whakauae has made me feel safe and grounded in a way I have never felt at home. Māori are so friendly and welcoming and I learned a lot about being Metis by being with them and talking about my experiences at home in Canada. I have the teachings and stories inside of me, I just have to listen and accept myself. Thank you Whakauae whānau for showing me that. Your acceptance and hospitality has changed my life.

What did you learn from being part of the PCC project?

I learned about Whānau Ora – which is something that I didn’t know about before coming to Aotearoa. Before I joined Whakauae, I just thought ‘wow those Māori really have it figured out. I wonder what they’re doing right’ and now I understand that Metis and Māori face very similar issues but the historical contexts are different.

What surprised you in Aotearoa?

I honestly thought Whakauae was much bigger.  From the website and outputs, I thought the team was larger. I’ve also been disappointed to learn and see how much racism is alive and well in New Zealand.  On the other hand, the fact that the New Zealand government is engaging in treaty tribunals with Māori is something I struggled to comprehend when I first moved here. I’ve never seen a settler government acknowledge a treaty in this way.

What was a highlight of your visit?

I love the office environment, everyone is so accepting. I also really appreciated attending a Treaty tribunal hearing and especially being in Taupō on the same weekend that Ngāti Tuwharetoa settled with the Crown.  That’s a huge deal to me.

Heather, Don, Lynley Stacy, Valdine and Amohia during Valdines Powhiri
Heather, Don, Lynley Stacy, Valdine and Amohia during Valdines Powhiri