Native Affairs - Ngāti Washington

By Taiha Molyneux
s we know, you can find a Māori anywhere in the world and Washington DC is no exception.

As U.S Citizens head to the polls, Māori are joining them to choose a new American President, so what do they think of the two front runners, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?

Washington DC is a city on the move, a city steeped in political history.

Tomorrow, millions of Americans will cast their vote in the 2016 Presidential Election and Māori voters will be among them.

Kate Brown of Samoan and Tauranga Moana descent has lived in the U.S for 6 years and like all other Māori living there, she leads a busy life.

So we had to intercept her at Union Station.

Kate told us, “I mostly work with island political leaders and high level people, ambassadors and this year I was lucky enough in Hawaii to meet President Obama, that was one of my bucket list people that I really wanted to meet.”

At least 40 minutes out of the central city, we caught up with Kiwi Kuisine owner and operator, Ram Todd of Ngāti Kahungunu.

He says, “I’ve been here 26 years and the reason why I’m still here is because I’ve got a beautiful wife and great kids and that's where my hat is and me and my business and that's why I’m here, I like it here.”

Another 40 kilometres south at the Iwo Jima landmark, we snagged some downtime with Miriama Patterson of Ngāpuhi and Alby McIlroy of Tuhoe descent, both of them have also lived in the DC for over 20 years.

Alby McIlroy says, “well this is home for me now and as much as I miss home a lot my whanau, you know I think for me this is my kainga now.”

Patterson says, “ what bought me here was marriage and a little bit of work and why I stayed, children, grandchildren and after 22 years you change and so this has become home now.”

They’ve all seen Presidents and campaigns come and go, but none have experienced a campaign, quite like the Trump versus Clinton race.

McIlroy says “my thoughts are...I cant understand and these are strictly my own thoughts, why anybody would even think of nominating Trump.”

Miriama Patterson says, “It’s been a difficult time, I’ve seen families split down the centre I’ve seen friends split down the centre. I’ve seen to the point where people are saying ‘we’re not friends anymore,’ ‘I’m blocking you from Facebook.’ ‘ Im not gonna discuss that with you,’ ‘I thought you were intelligent,’ ‘I had a lot of respect for you but I don’t have any respect anymore,’ and I'm like, seriously?”

Ram Todd says, “This is the craziest out of all the elections, because its one way or the other and to me there is one ugly person in it, they’ve both got their downfalls, they’re both trying to make each other, uglier than the other.”

According to Kate Brown, “I think it’s a terrible election campaign I think it kind of degrades the U.S political system which is often touted as a beacon of democracy around the world.”

While Washington DC has been declared a ‘safe state’ for Hilary Clinton, it’s also safe to say the loyalist of Republicans and Democrats alike are struggling with the messages, the propaganda and the nastiness of this campaign.

Patterson says, “It doesn’t matter where you go, you’ve got hardcore Republicans who are backing out the door and then you’ve got hardcore Democrats who are like, ‘whoa. This wants what I signed up for,’ and again this is the thing if they could get through the muck of the personalities it would be a lot better because there is something after this, we’ve still gotta survive after this right?”

Ram Todd’s whanau, his business and the twenty plus employees under his wing have been the focus of his decision.

When asked who he would vote for, his answer was clear.

“It’s gotta be Hillary, you know I think she’s the one, and if you ask the Hispanic people they like Hillary, and that's right, a lot of them are my workers and they worked hard to get here and they’ve been through a lot of painstaking things to get here, because America is the place to come right now.”

While Kate Brown isn’t a citizen and can’t vote just yet, she’s determined to do what she can to emphasise the importance of having a say.

“I can’t vote but I can encourage people to vote, I can encourage people to register to vote and I can try and get the word out about the Democratic process, without necessarily being either Democratic or Republican.”

People around the world have pledged support for the indigenous people of America in their battle against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Māori voters in particular are concerned, but sadly not surprised that these candidates and many others in the U.S have chosen to turn a blind eye.

McIlroy says, “Not much has been said about the first nations, it’s a shame, it’s a shame because they are the first original people here.”

“People don’t wan to hear about it, they wanna insulate themselves, they wan to cut themselves off and say well that has nothing to do with me, t’s got nothing to do with what’s going on in my life, it’s just a pack of whatever, but it’s not cos we’re talking not just about pipelines, we’re talking about water, we’re talking about the life of the planet,” says Patterson.

Kate Brown says, “That pipeline was moved from Bismarck, which is the capital of North Dakota, into this area because people in Bismarck did not want a pipeline moving through their water sources.”

While they’re over 12 thousand kilometres from home, the Kiwi crew in the DC get together as much as they can.

“We’ve got like 30- 40 kids starting to do kapa haka that's great and we’ve got great teachers like Tracy and Miriama and you know I'm glad they’re here cos I need it for myself. It keeps me alive, it keeps me awake and makes me realise how much I miss home too,” says Ram.

Kate says, “we come together to support each other and help each other and everyone's got a different thing that they bring to the table and I think one of the things about being ex-patriot or living somewhere else is you start to appreciate what you miss and I think it’s really nice, even if we can’t get together every week, we do try to see each other monthly at least.”

With two very different futures ahead with either of the candidates, the anxious Kiwis will head to the polls tomorrow, to have their say in the 2016 U.S Elections.

When asked who she would vote for Miriama replied, “well that's the other thing I love about America, i get to choose and I don't have to tell anybody”

Alby says, “I can’t go for Republican, for me I have to stick with the Democrats.”

Despite the tense atmosphere causing people in the U.S to lose their way, the Kiwi crew will never forget who they are.

Miriama says, “It’s our roots, it’s our heritage, it’s our culture the things we were bought up with, the things that make me proud to be a New Zealander because even though I’m American, I will never ever cease being a Kiwi.”

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