There is an old Maori proverb that says:
Hutia te rito o te harakeke, kei whea te Komako e ko?
Ki mai ki ahau
“He aha te mea nui o te ao?”
Maku e ki atu…
“He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!”
If you remove the heart of the flax bush, where will the song bird sing?
If you ask me
“What is the most important thing in this world?”
I will reply…
“It is people! It is people! It is people!”
In this proverb, and many Maori proverbs, the flax bush (harakeke) represent the family, and the wider community. You can cut the outer leaves and the bush will continue to to thrive. If you remove the heart of the bush, however, it will die, leaving nowhere for the songbird to sit and sing. Many of our communities have lost their songs because they no longer have their hearts.
For Maori people, and Mountain people alike, we feel a deep connection to the land beneath our feet. Our roots run deep (family and community connections) into the land and it gives us strength. When we are disconnected, when our hearts are removed, our communities and families slowly die. We lose our song.
If we are to find our song, we must first rebuild our families. We must rebuild our communities. In the Mountains of Appalachia, our communities are dying due to rampant drug abuse, often Dr prescribed drugs are the main culprits, and the loss of what has been the main source of income in this are for generations – coal!
Before we can restore our song, we much teach our children to sing. There is a culture in Africa where each child is quite literally given a song when they are born. Each child learns their song. If, when they are grown, they lose their way, they are taken to the center of the village, surrounded by the entire village and their song is sung to them. This is a beautiful gesture of solidarity within a community. More importantly, it is a very literal expression of notion “it takes a village to raise a child”
We must teach our communities to sing once again. We must restore the hearts of our communities.
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!