Hey Kinship Foodies,
In my last post I talked about how modern indigeneity is alive and well, not a myth of the past.
Weaving indigeneity into modern spaces is a powerful, transformative way to do business. I was taught this by Mavis Mullins, the leading Maori woman executive in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Maori leaders start business meetings with introducing their ancestors and locations, often in great detail.
“What is your mountain? What is your river?” is the same as asking who your people are. What follows is talk of common relationships and chitchat. In Hawai’i, folks call this talking story. Taiwanese call it 來坐坐 (come sit sit), which means, "come over and chat for hours over tea and food."
Self-introduction, in the context of our ancestors and our connection to land, transforms the space. It’s powerful medicine for the unspoken tension of Western corporate norms that center the meeting agenda, instead of the people in the room.
"Where are you really from?"
For me, it was the restorative version of that painful question, “where are you really from?” That question instantly puts me on guard.
In this case, I felt such relief answering, knowing the asker was holding space for which no answer was too complex. In boardrooms all over New Zealand, I found myself starting with migration stories. I spoke of my grandparents (even great-grandparents), with eager listeners.
Making space for future generations was the intent of my previous company, PastureMap. Mavis and I originally named it "Whenua Marama" - seeing clearly on land, for Maori youth to use tech to steward the land with wisdom.
Through talking story, I found kinship. I learned that Taiwanese and Japanese indigenous people share traceable ancestry with people of Polynesian descent. I have some native Taiwanese in my family, and wondered if Maoli people were related to Maori. Mavis, who is part-Chinese, smiled and said, “well, through one side or another, you and I are distant kin!”
Modern indigeneity looks like: women of color in boardrooms, launching tech intended for the next generation to connect to land.
I love this practice of recognizing kinship in one another. Let’s hold space for complex answers of “where are you from?” Let’s take time to uncover our deeper relationships that are already there, only hidden. Let our kinship-finding become as natural as breathing.
Kinship Finding: What's your mountain? What's your river? What's the story of where you're really from?