Ocean in our blood

| 9th September 2021 |

The Maori Carvings at Mine Bay on Lake Taupo.

The Maori fight for water and against empire.

It is said that within the next decade, over 700 million people worldwide could be displaced through water scarcity.

I am, as a Pacific Woman, a member of a water nation. I am an ocean person. In saying this, I mean I am the ocean, as a person.

My layers of ancestry back to the ocean are recorded, and recountable, and each of those ancestors exist within me, including my ancestor ocean.

Hence why we so readily say, in the Pacific: “We sweat and cry salt water, so we know that the ocean is really in our blood.”

This series of articles has been published in partnership with Dalia Gebrial and Harpreet Kaur Paul and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in London. It first appeared in a collection titled Perspectives on a Global Green New Deal.


Water is therefore, from my Indigenous perspective, an issue of relationships. The severance of these relationships is one of the greatest open wounds of imperialism.

Imperialism took my Indigenous ocean nation, sliced it up, and apportioned its control around the world.

It is said that within the next decade, over 700 million people worldwide could be displaced through water scarcity.

Water, in my world, is the great connector, but in the hands of Empire, it is used to divide, displace, and impoverish.


Maori fight for water to have intrinsic rights because we understand it as an intelligent being. Water’s intelligence is comprised of the multiple lifeforms within and around it, and the waterbody itself.

To understand and respond adaptively to water therefore requires a localised relationship. Governing water from centralised imperial power hubs is the least effective model of water protection.

For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have kept our waters clean, life supporting, and abundant.


In a short time, imperialism, in a multitude of forms, disrupted that. We must therefore confront imperialism if we genuinely want to protect water.

We must know imperialism’s source, and we must know its extensions. We must understand its function not only in multinational corporations, but also in NGOs, in governments, and in the global institutions that service them.

We must, as Arundhati Roy says, force empire into the open, we must make it drop its mask.


In the context of the Global Green New Deal, that is the mask of paternal benefaction which disguises a global power complex rooted in imperialist entitlement.

Without such exposure, we will continue to fail climate commitments, Sustainable Development Goals, and the Global Green New Deal.

In my culture, polluted waters are a metaphor for a polluted mind.

It is a polluted mind that tells me my Indigenous rights are inferior to imperial rights.

It is a polluted mind that suggests the oppressed should appeal to the oppressor to grasp the Global Green New Deal.


It is a polluted mind that suggests the enslaver will protect the interests of the slave. Either you, as an Imperialist oppressor and beneficiary, are interested in justice or you are not.

You do not get to establish its parameters for your own gain and maintain the role of a humanitarian benefactor.

The Global Green New Deal therefore demands a new global power infrastructure that is independent of the Imperialist behemoth, with full powers to hold that behemoth to account, and a true benefactor of humanity will champion that step.

This Author

Tina Ngata is an environmental, Indigenous and human rights advocate based in Te Ika A Maui.


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