In October 2014, Moeraki sons Shannon Goldsmith and Haydon Richards attended the ninth annual First Nations’ Futures Programme held at Stanford University, California.

Shannon and Haydon attended the programme with six other representatives from Ngāi Tahu, and were joined also by Hawaiian Fellows from Kamehameha Schools and First Nation Alaskan Natives from Sealaska Corporation.

The New Zealand leg of the programme is aimed primarily at Ngāi Tahu postgraduate students and provides the opportunity to gain exposure to leading international research and thinking within a uniquely indigenous context.

The First Nations’ Futures Programme provides an intensive two-week study programme held on Stanford’s Palo Alto campus and at its Monterey Bay marine biology campus. The 2014 fellows were exposed to a range of topics presented by Stanford University’s finest professors and lecturing staff.

The programme was comprised of a number of lectures, presentations and workshops covering a range of topics including: Strategic Management, Marine Biology, Values, Organisational Design Thinking, Communications, Leadership, Media Training, Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Indigenous Economies. The days were long and demanding but all fellows participated enthusiastically, wanting to capitalise on the unique learning opportunity on offer.

Highlights of the trip were rich and varied and the fellows were treated to a raft of once in a lifetime experiences. The indigenous peoples of the San Francisco Bay Area – the Muwekma Ohlone, welcomed us with a traditional smudging ceremony which involves burning sage leaves to cleanse our spirits and repel ominous forces. The Muwekma Ohlone were supported by members of the Stanford University Native American Culture Centre who made us feel very welcome throughout our two week stay.

The cultural exchange with both the Alaskan and Hawaiian peoples afforded the opportunity to make lifelong friends.  Some of the greatest learning’s came from the informal interactions between the fellows as we explored cultural similarities and differences and discussed the impact of colonisation on our people.  A love for food was shared across the board as the Ngāi Tahu cohort sampled salmon roe, sweet smoked sockeye salmon and muktuk – frozen whale skin and blubber; and we shared our southern delicacies of smoked tuna and tītī.

The American ‘western’ culture didn’t go unnoticed either as we made the most of the opportunities available on campus and beyond. Stanford’s monuments were explored and we were fortunate enough to experience both Halloween and the build up to the Stanford Cardinal ‘Home Coming’. Again, food featured heavily with Hershey’s Chocolate, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, Sizzler, Appleby’s and up-sized everything being sampled.  We took in San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, The Old Pro, and the Monterey Aquarium. A trip was also made to the SAP Stadium where we watched the San Jose Sharks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in a fast paced game of Ice Hockey.

Academically, it was enlightening to have such ready access to some of Stanford’s finest faculty members, who doubled as leading experts in their respective fields of study. The opportunity to visit Google[x] organisation Makani Power in Oakland highlighted the growing pains faced by start-up organisations. Some of the fellows even got an impromptu opportunity to trade company secrets with organisations such as Dropbox and Facebook as they undertook team bonding sessions in Silicon Valley.

We would like to thank all those involved in making this opportunity available to us – from the programme sponsors at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, to the University of Canterbury Ngāi Tahu Research Centre, to our employers for providing the time off, to our rūnanga for endorsing our applications, and to our whānau for your support. The programme is a fantastic experience which provides for rich learning within an academically revered institution.  It provides a great opportunity to step out of the ‘fish bowl’ and share and exchange a raft of ideas and experiences with other indigenous peoples from around the Pacific.

Expressions of interest are now open for the 2015 First Nations’ Futures Programme and we encourage you to consider applying for this fantastic opportunity.

The First Nations Fellows for 2014.

The First Nations Fellows for 2014.