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Jones, Carwyn --- "Bringing It All Back Home" [2005] IndigLawB 51; (2005) 6(14) Indigenous Law Bulletin 2

Bringing It All Back Home

By Carwyn Jones

This extract, from Carwyn Jones’ Maui and Kahu’s Excellent Adventure series, continues the exploration of issues arising from the conduct of research and action within and in relation to indigenous communities. The Indigenous Law Bulletin first published a story from the series in Volume 6, Issue 12, July 2005. Another story of Carwyn’s is reproduced later in this edition.

Kahu never really got used to Maui’s stunts. Even many years later, with many more embarrassing, uncomfortable, and sometimes shocking situations initiated by Maui, Kahu still never quite knew what to expect from him. So it was when Maui suddenly appeared at Kahu’s work one day, entirely unannounced.

‘So, whatcha doin?’

‘It might surprise you to learn Maui, but some people work during the day.’

‘I work.’

‘Just what exactly is your work?’

‘Well, I’m here now aren’t I?’

‘Yes, but Maui, this is my work.’


‘Look I haven’t got time for this right now. I’ve got a rather tricky problem to deal with.’

‘I thought you might.’

‘Yes, well, that’s all very clever of you.’

‘I thought so too.’

‘I don’t find that entirely surprising.’

‘No, I am a very clever character after all. So, what’s your problem?’

‘Apart from you? I need to figure out what to do with this research funding. There are some really interesting applications here, but unfortunately we just don’t have enough cash to go around.’

‘Boy, I know what that’s like.’

‘Yes, well, you’ve been a great help as usual.’

‘Hang on, hang on. Maybe I can help. I’ll give it a good try anyway.’

‘But Maui, it seems whenever you try to help me, I end up with a whole lot more work than when I started.’

‘Never mind that. Look, these are all proposals for research on the Kaianga community aren’t they; your hometown?’

‘Yeah, that’s right.’

‘So which of the applicants have actually asked the people of Kaianga what they want?’

‘I don’t think any of them have.’

‘Okay, so which of them state that one of their objectives is to improve things for the people of Kaianga?’

‘Ahh, zero again I think.’

‘Alright then, which proposals are constructed around a Maöri way of thinking, based on Maöri concepts and values?’

‘I think you’ll find exactly none of them do that.’

‘That’s settled then.’

‘What is?’

‘You’ll have to do the research yourself.’

‘No, I’m not supposed to...’

‘You should be pleased.’


‘It just goes to show you were right all along.’

‘About what?’

‘That if I tried to help, you’d end up with even more work to do. You should be very proud of yourself for picking that one.’

‘Oh yes. Very proud indeed.’

‘Don’t worry, I’ll give you a hand.’


So, Kahu, with Maui’s help, embarked on the Kaianga project. Kahu did all the things he was supposed to – he began by talking with the community and exploring the directions in which they wanted to go. He worked with a foundation of Maöri thought, and he shared whatever useful bits and pieces he had learned with those who had shared their knowledge with him. Meanwhile, Maui spent his time mixing up Kahu’s notes, re-scheduling appointments without warning, and deleting random passages from Word documents he discovered on Kahu’s computer.

Ready To Go

And it seemed like some travel was going to be required too. The folk at Kaianga had suggested to Kahu that it might be useful if he made some connections with some of the Aboriginal peoples of the Great Turtle Island.

Kahu had mixed feelings about this. He had found even working with his own people quite demanding, and wasn’t sure whether he could find appropriate ways to work with other groups as well. He also had mixed feelings about traveling in general. He enjoyed meeting new people and getting all sorts of experiences that he wouldn’t get if he just stayed at home. But he missed home whenever he was away. He loved seeing the sights, but the sights he loved most of all were those familiar surroundings of home. He had connections there, family and friends: roots. Everywhere else seemed so strange, unexpected and unknowable. Which made him glad of Maui’s company when they went off on their journeys. Maui had no qualms about travelling. He seemed to know everyone already, and the strange surroundings never seemed to faze him. Putting up with Maui’s hyperactive shenanigans seemed a small price to pay for a bit of company to pass the time with and jolly things along.

Kahu knew this journey in particular would be a big one. He and Maui had been planning it for a while now. Well, mostly Kahu had been planning and Maui had been drawing all over their maps and tearing pages out of the guidebooks. Kahu was amazed that they’d ever managed to get around to going at all. But then Koro had helped. In his own Koro-like way of course. Which mostly involved talking. Koro had told stories and histories and myths and fables and legends and genealogies and anecdotes. He had recited famous speeches and not-so-famous conversations, prayers and proverbs and songs of all kinds. Maui seemed to think it was a great joke to take out whole paragraphs of the travel guide and rub out the directions they had been given and replace them with Koro’s ramblings.

Kahu began to wonder whether he should be setting out at all. The chances of him ending up where he wanted to go seemed increasingly slim.

‘Come on, come on!’ Maui called from outside.

‘Can you just wait a minute?’

‘Sorry. No time for that now. You’ll just have to catch-up.’

Kahu poked his head out the door and saw Maui disappear around the corner. Why was he in such a hurry? Kahu quickly slipped a few more things into his bag that he thought might come in handy, carefully adjusted the straps – at least that was one small thing he could do to provide a bit of comfort on this trip – slung his pack on to his back, and took one last quick look around. He had an idea that if he knew where he was starting out from he might not get so lost along the way, even if he did have to contend with Maui’s sense of direction.

It was late afternoon as Kahu left his house. He squinted toward the setting sun, looking for his companion. Just ahead in the distance, Kahu could see Maui, and he seemed to have somebody with him. Then Kahu heard Maui laugh and he strained his eyes to get a better look. Who was that with Maui? Wait a minute... No, it couldn’t be... but yes, it seemed it was... surely not... how did they ever meet? Kahu blinked. Yep, it definitely was all right.

Kahu stared up the road, gaping open-mouthed at Maui laughing and chattering away with a figure that looked very much like Coyote. Kahu had heard many stories of this trickster from the North. With both Maui and Coyote watching out for him, Kahu realised this journey was going to be nothing if not interesting.

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