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The Latin America CAPE team has encountered some incredible people through our projects, and we'd love to share their stories with our readers. This month, we chatted with Mona-Lisa Wareka. Mona travelled to Chile with the Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa Strengthening Māori Business Capabilities programme in 2018. She was recently selected as Tuakana for this year's programme, a role described below which Mona said she's looking forward to.

What is your iwi and identity affiliations?

Ngāti Wai, Rereahu, Austrian
Ko Huruiki te maunga
Ko Mokau te awa
Ko Mokau te marae
Ko Ngātiwai rāua ko Rereahu ngā iwi
Ko Te Uri o Hikhiki te hapū
Huri no Whangārei me Ateria hoki
Ko Mona-Lisa Wareka tokū ingoa

What was something you learned from the Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa Strengthening Māori Business Capabilities in Chile programme?

Our haerenga to Chile was the first real opportunity I have had interacting with an indigenous group outside of Aotearoa. As an anthropology major, my interest in diversity and cultures was the motivation for going on this trip. While I was over there, I learned about the realities of our indigenous brothers and sisters across the Pacific. We learnt about their culture, their history and their struggles, an all-too-familiar feeling back home. It was through learning about and interacting with our Mapuche whānau that I became inspired in promoting indigenous worldviews into contemporary institutions such as business, resource management, and tourism. Prior to the trip, I did not have much knowledge about the business sector, however THK 2018 opened me to new opportunities and ideas for valuing indigenous knowledge.

What was your most memorable moment from the trip?

Beforehand, I had never experienced such a beautiful city like that of Valparaíso. After having breakfast and a tour of the Winebox Hotel, and a lecture about the sociopolitical realities of the indigenous people of Chile, we embarked on our city tour. The port city with houses adorning the cliffs, mural art on almost every building, we even had a couple of stray dogs follow us as our kaitiaki! I will never forget the sunset I saw on our way back to Santiago. While our day in Valparaíso was not the grunt of our trip, it will be a city that will always have my heart.

How have you applied your learning from the experience?

Since Chile, I have been greatly inspired to promote indigenous knowledge as a valuable and integral part of the world moving forward. I am currently writing my Master’s thesis, where the underlying theme indicates the importance of indigenous knowledge in working towards saving the environment. I believe that our trip to Chile really opened up my eyes to the power of indigeneity, and its valid position in current world affairs, and so with my thesis and future writings, I hope to touch on not only the value of Māori knowledge, but Mapuche and other indigenous worldviews.

You’ve been appointed as the Tuakana for the THK 2019 trip. Can you tell us briefly what that is and what you think success will look like for you in this role – and other people on the trip?

The Tuakana role involves not only being part of the marketing and selection processes, but has a great focus on preparing the next round of students for their trip. I am working with the other CAPEs' Tuakana, Nikki Kennedy for Southeast Asia CAPE and Tiaana Anaru for North Asia CAPE, on creating orientation programmes to prepare our respective cohorts. This will involve creating a six-week orientation programme where each week there will be a focus for the students to engage with, such as learning basic Spanish, researching the relations between Chile and New Zealand, and designing a business pitch targeting indigenous tourism. The main thing that I would want the cohort to take away from this programme is to recognise the purpose of this trip, we have the ability to help our indigenous family with an opportunity such as Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa.

What are you career plans for the future?

I would like to pursue my PhD in Anthropology – focussing in the area of environmental anthropology and indigenous traditional knowledge. I am very passionate about knowledge and studying, and so I would like to become an academic and university lecturer in the future. More travel is definitely an aspiration of mine, to experience our world’s cultures, but overall I am just keen to keep on exploring and learning about the world we live in!

If you’re passionate about indigenous business and rights, or you’re just keen to explore some new opportunities in the Latin America region, then tono mai! Call for participants begins 17 of June, so make sure to sign up before the 28 of July through the Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa Facebook Page! If you have any questions, or want to know more about my THK 2018 experience, feel free to email me at mona.wareka@gmail.com.

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