Six months ago, when toitū first launched, we built our community on the premise of exploring and protecting the natural world. We tagged our photos with #exploreandprotect and didn't think twice. That is, until an Instagram follower sent us a message suggesting we re-evaluate our wording.
Why does the language we use matter, so long as it's not inflammatory and crude? Well, let us run you through what we've learnt.
Picture by Textured Waves (@texturedwaves)
Words in the English language often have hidden or connotated meanings. I'm sure we can all think of a time when we've been caught out because of it. The word 'explore' is no different, along with other terms such as adventure, conquer and discovered. They're words commonly used to describe the way Columbus invaded the lands occupied by Indigenous people.
Cyclista Zine, a decolonial and radical intersectional feminist critique of the cycling industry, described the use of these words as 'contributing to the story that conquering land gives you a right to it, that Native people only exist in the past, and that the future is inevitably a colonial one'. Thus using this sort of language can support and inevitably celebrate the violent exploration and adventure of colonials who invaded the lands for which Indigenous people call home.
Picture by Ben (@bushtrucker)
I'm not sure if it's really possible to eliminate these words entirely from our vocabulary, but something we most definitely can do is acknowledge the lands original stewards. We can acknowledge that the land is never truly explored anew, given the ancient cultures that have always called these places home and still care for it today.
It must be noted that these thoughts come from me; a Ngāi Tahu wahine who has grown up with the privileges associated with 'whiteness'. I can't tell the stories of the Indigenous people who suffer from the invasion of colonials, or ever truly understand the real hardships Indigenous people face. What I can do, and what toitū will do, is be an ally.
Which leads us to rewriting our hashtag to something that is more respectful. Got an idea for what it should be? Drop it in the comments and your hashtag might just be the one we choose.
Picture by Allan Carpenter (@allancarpenterexploration)
Thanks to Cyclista Zine (@cyclista_zine) and Ben (@bushtrucker) for their wisdom, advice and counselling on this issue. Words by Jessie McRae, pictures by friends.