Sam Tihoi Jackson
New Zealand

Being Māori

Being Māori,
is being
born of pathological
brown skin.
A free ticket to
unearned privileges.
too hard to pronounce.

Being Māori,
is deviance and defiance,
hands always reaching
for the 'race card'.
The aggressive,
bitter other.

Being Māori,
is taking the seat
of the articulate someone
who actually
deserves to be here.
Being too cultural,
or not cultural enough
when we need you
to do a haka.

Being Māori,
is being backward.
The warrior gene.
The diabetes gene.
The alcoholic gene.
The, ‘your presence
makes me feel

Being Māori,
is having invisible narratives
inscribed on my skin
about never
being enough.
Lateral violence
and not being

But I
am enough.
And we are children
of the universe,
sneezed into being
by a divine spark,
curators of a heritage
and a sacred language
that lines the marrow
of our bones,
waiting to see the
world of light.
We, are united.
We, are Māori.
And we,
are enough.


Who are we
If not a collection of stories
unfolding beneath
chiefly eyes?

We are at the table
talking education.
You look down at brown
hardened hands and I
know the dirty nails
of the lower class
can go to university.

My breath warms
the same bones that carry
you across oceans
gathering the songs which
we sing into the earth.
Home is carried with grace
beneath wide-open wings.

We spend summers in tents
hugging the river,
Fishing until we each know 
the pride of catching just
enough to feed the family.
Is not mine to master.

It’s two o’clock in the morning 
And the rain is lining 
the insides of me.
Tangaroa is knocking
fiercely on my soul’s door
breaking me like his waves
until I find hope.

I am tiptoeing through 
Stale night breath.
A symphony of snores.
I place the cloaks of our dead
Atop graves, and wait
for the sun
to kiss them in place.

We are folded in half,
like our kūmara picking forebears,
hands buried in powdery dust.
I am learning to raise soil and loaves
so we can raise children
and build homes.

Biography Sam Tihoi Jackson
Born and raised in a shearing whānau in the deep south of New Zealand, my roots lie in the far North. I am the youngest of two daughters, and also an aunty who is passionate about Māori development. I am currently a second year medical student at the University of Otago.

The Island - Rosie Whinray - 2015