Scrolling through social media, I see a combination of those on various front lines. I see those actively vaccinating, testing and providing manaaki to whānau in isolation and I see those who have been affected by mandates.
There is so much fatigue of Covid, of isolation, of loss of events, natural grieving, of business movements, even the normally optimistic are struggling. Many whānau are desperate, feeling more unvalidated and isolated from the other.
It is hard to feel validated virtually. Socialising helps build healthy relationships, it's important for our hingengaro. So, closing marae or restricting places and events where we thrive off kanohi-ki-te-kanohi and social engagement is hard. Tangihanga, church, weddings, kapa haka - most of our collective events have been taken away from us and so we find ourselves in a new space of adapting our tikanga and finding our oranga (wellbeing) of whanaungatanga in new ways.
Over the Covid period we have been blessed with three mokopuna, who have never not known our whānau without masks, they've never been out in collective kaupapa amongst whānau as my other five mokopuna.
And let's be honest, all these new, uncharted territories we are expected to navigate have created some incredible points of tension among whānau, including mine, and conflict across the motu has increased.
Division and conflict are not new to my whānau, I was opposed to settlements and the ridiculous fiscal envelope of the Government and actively protested it, much to the dismay of my father who was supporting our negotiators. I felt disgusted the Government was offering full and final .01 per cent of the loss incurred on our whānau, that iwi were being excluded and my dad felt that they had to start the negotiations towards reconciliation.
None of us was wrong, but somewhere in the heat of the conflict we lost sight of why we were in this position. My father didn't talk to me for months and I remember feeling a huge sense of betrayal.
It is not unusual for us as whānau to be navigating through division. Te Iwi Māori was born out of conflict with the children of Ranginui and Papatuanuku forcing the separation of their parents. From this growth came te ao Māori. Even the very departure of Aotea waka had conflict, and so can be deciding which tupuna our mokopuna are named after.
As I look at the division Government mandates has caused, I see my nieces, who are amazing policewomen, raised to understand that police need to be better to help their communities. I see my cousin in Wellington, going live from the protest, sharing the strength of her conviction and I also see my aunty, at home, disappointed with the protest because she feels as though she has done everything she could, to protect her whakapapa by getting vaccinated.
All three believe in the value they add to their kaupapa. They come from communities and whānau who encourage they stand for what they believe in. They also know that they belong to us and will always belong to us no matter their opinions, roles, or choices.
Hirini Mead wrote: "The fires that flare up all around te ao Māori are issues we can't resolve, some at us without us – some by us, however the minute we join the debate it becomes complex. 'taku ahi tūtata, taku mata kikoha; taku ai mamao, taku mata kiporo (when my fire is close by, the point of the weapon is sharp, but when the fire is distant the point is blunt)'."
He's right - distant fires do have a habit of coming close to home so that we do have to sharpen our wits and deal with them. In finding a position we could turn to tikanga Māori and its knowledge base, matauranga Māori, to provide a method that challenges our thinking or position.
Recently I had the pleasure of listening to a panel of Ngati Maniapoto rangatahi and was really heartened by their korero. They spoke about the Crown "having a bit of faith and trusting us as Māori to look after ourselves whether MIQ, home isolation and mandates". They recognised one size does not fit all and that a different way of relating would've had a different outcome.
Most importantly they reminded us we are a collective people, when we see whānau left out or feeling marginalised, agree or not, we hurt collectively, therefore our healing must be collective. That is the power or preserving whakapapa. He aroha ki te tangata (love for the people.
If I've learnt anything from these recent periods of conflict and division, it's that it feels like we have lost our way as a people and the importance of reminding ourselves who we are, and who we are here for.
You see, there are never any winners in these situations when it comes to Māori. In a colonial system, Māori will never win. We weren't treated as Tiriti partners, and the system has been designed to divide us.
After the mandates have been lifted, and I assure you they will be; Māori will still be left with the highest incarceration rates in Aotearoa, Māori will still be treated as second class citizens in Aotearoa, the inequities we face on a daily basis will still be there, racism against us will still be there. You see, ending mandates may give us a sense of freedom but it will never give us Tino Rangatiratanga.
• Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is co-leader of Te Pāti Māori