How do we ethically remember?

The way in which we look back and understand the past is really important. Examine your local histories and consider the ways in which the past is being remembered.

Activity: Local history looking glass

Examine local histories, and the experiences that inform that story.

The way we remember the past directly influences our present. Let's notice together the stories that have been told, and the ways in which this reflects our shared values.

  • Brainstorm with a friend everything that you already know about the history of the area that you live in. Perhaps draw a timeline on the wall, and place the ideas you have along the timeline. Try to think about what happened in this area 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 years ago.

  • Invite a local historian to speak to you, visit a local museum or library or take a walking tour around your local neighbourhood with a local history expert.

Discuss together with a local history expert:

  • What places, people, and events are celebrated?
  • What are the names of landmarks and street signs, and whose experiences of life are reflected in these?
  • Who is in charge of telling our  local histories?
  • Whose voices from the community of past, and present, might be missing?      
  • In relationship with mana whenua, discover as much as you can about the local environment and social systems in pre-colonial days. See if you can find out about the pūrākau to explain features of the living landscape around you, the history of the local ecosystems, the natural state of whenua, and the ways in which colonisation has affected these and the ways in which colonisation continues to impact mana whenua.

  • Gather your insights from this process and expand the information you have on your local history timeline.

Discuss together:

  • What are the differences, gaps, and overlaps between the ways in which you’ve explored local history.
  • What do you notice about whose story is told the most within local landmarks and street names?
  • What does this reflect to us? In what ways could we approach this differently going forward?
  • What state does the land under your feet yearn to return to?
  • Who from te taiao is now missing from our local worlds? What do they need to thrive once more?       

Activity: Remembering well

Consider whose narrative needs to be centred.

  • There are 110 statues or monuments in Wellington, but only 10 of those represent Māori narratives. Watch the following Re: News video of two strangers, Safari Hynes and Peter McKenzie, discussing whose ancestors are represented around the city.

  • When we ethically remember, we consider whose story might be the most important to consider. As Tina Ngata writes: “Ethical remembering’ calls upon us to approach commemorations from the perspectives of those who have been worst affected...”

Look at the statues, plaques, or memorials in your community or area. Discuss:

  • Who or what is represented?
  • What stories are being celebrated?
  • What stories are not?
  • What does this tell us about the ways in which history has been told?
  • See if it is possible to connect with those that hold the untold stories. Listen to the ways in which you might be able to help raise the visibility of those stories in your area.

Extra links for the extra curious

Go down amazing wormholes with this curated suite of links.