OPINION: Trans-Pacific Collaboration May Boost Indigenous Visibility

Nanaia Mahuta (right) recently gave a keynote speech at an indigenous women’s conference in Chile. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nanaia Mahuta (right) recently gave a keynote speech at an indigenous women’s conference in Chile. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand’s minister for Māori development, visited Chile’s capital, Santiago, to give the keynote speech at an indigenous women’s conference on March 14, Scoop reported.

According to the Diario Financiero, Chile’s Ministry of Social Development, led by Minister Alfredo Moreno, invited Mahuta to the conference, at which 100 women representing Chile’s nine officially recognized indigenous groups gathered.

In her speech, Mahuta discussed recent Māori socio-economic development and the crucial leadership of wāhine—Māori women—in championing indigenous rights and interests in New Zealand, said Waatea News.

Scoop called Mahuta’s trip to Chile an “important follow up” to Chilean President Sebastián Piñera’s first state visit to New Zealand in November 2018.

Mahuta herself emphasized the potential for the indigenous communities to work together on business- and trade-related issues, telling Māori Television, “There are trade platform opportunities for Māori and the indigenous people there to collaborate and build great outcomes.”

Both Mahuta and Piñera’s visits also anticipate Chile’s hosting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2019, an annual gathering of 21 Asia-Pacific nations that will be held in Santiago from November 11 to 17.

Going beyond token gestures of transnational indigenous unity, should the partnership between Māori and Chilean indigenous groups continue and perhaps even come to flourish, future visits and exchanges such as this will likely be mutually beneficial.

Each exchange is not just an opportunity to share lobbying strategies and learn from each other’s experiences. By actively coordinating their political power, the communities would be able to give greater visibility to indigenous issues on the national and international stage, particularly at the upcoming APEC. As Mahuta points out to Scoop, through her visit, she can underscore the “value that indigenous perspectives can bring to policy development.”