by Teatuahere Teiti-Gierlach

when I speak of colonization
I’m not referring to ships with white sails
or sandpaper men and their infection
when I speak of colonization
I’m not referring to ships that leak oil
or diseased soldiers protected by uniforms
I’m not talking about the man made catastrophe
they call radiation
or the cancer
they wrapped in money
and forced down our throats
I’m not talking about the violence
generations of vahine Māʻohi have endured
or the family we’ve lost
or the cataracts my mother had
or the bombs that detonate in our wombs

though I could

when I speak of colonization
Iʻm referring to the foundation
beneath our swollen feet
Iʻm referring to the forgotten soil
and coral replaced by concrete
and artificial wood
Iʻm referring to the blisters
on the inside of palms
not used to pounding
Iʻm referring to the fear we have of darkness
when I speak of colonization
Iʻm talking about the connections obliterated
by atomic bombs
the lasting effects of radiation coursing through our veins
reminding us
that we can never escape this trauma
we can only face it
poisoning our fenua
poisoning us
wasn’t enough
they take and take
chip away at our land
until they can’t see us anymore
they build their gates and their walls
and they lock us out, they lock us up
they reduce us to tourist entertainment
but they don’t realize
as long as they are here
as long as they occupy our land
exploit our resources
commodify our culture
consume our people
as long as they try to disappear

we will fight
we will sing
we will dance
we will blow our pū
we will beat our pahu
and welcome the Atua

when I speak of colonization
I speak of something that will end


Teatuahere Teiti-Gierlach is a Māʻohi (Tahitian) poet from Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. She has spent her life between Tahiti and Hawaiʻi, embracing her culture while learning about the intersections of oppression that plague this colonial society. In her search for understanding her families and her own experiences, she has come to understand herself through an Indigenous lens, rooted firmly in the land.








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