An Open Letter, Apology To CNN Reporter Jeanne Moos: Pacific Peoples Don't "Decorate Bums" Or "Rub Noses" For Fun

Written in response to CNN journalist Jeanne Moos segment on Prince Williams family's visit to Aotearoa (New Zealand) and the Maori welcoming ceremony.

Dear Jeanne Moos,

I recently saw your short two minute piece on the Williams' family traveling to Aotearoa (New Zealand). When I heard you say "decorated bums" my ears gave into you and your quick commentary on this tattoo tradition that goes back many, many, years.

My parents have taught me to remain respectful of elders so I write this to you with love and frustration in my heart for you and what your two minute spiel had done on the "powhiri", the welcoming ceremony that had taken place for the Williams family.

These "decorations"(on the bum) you speak of is our tradition to the Pacific peoples, and for the Maori the "koru" tatau patterns have deeper meaning then decorations, they have purpose and meaning; everlasting and evolving life, and growth. 

The nose rubbing with Maori elders is called the "hongi", the breath of life, in which people exchange each-others breath in the journeys they've taken to reach each other in their life's path. Elders are leaders, they carry with them family stories and life lessons integral to our well being. It is of high honor to be privileged to exchange the breath of life with our elders.

And the "challenge", you speak of is called the "wero", a simple and yet sometimes challenging for people to understand in respect to where you walk and where you stand. If a fern is placed at your feet, and you pick it up, it is an acknowledgment and a respect to the land in which you walk. If you step on it, it is a sign of where you stand in that respect.

I'm pretty sure the English were the great creators of the "thong" you speak of, and I have difficulties around your understanding of comparing "the haka" to emu mating and chip and dale exotic dancing. Honestly I've never had interest in watching birds mate or men dancing exotically, but to each their own Jeanne.

We understand things through our own personal experience, and so I realize through your two minute clip on CNN that you probably have no experience on Maori culture and tradition because of some of these things that come off distasteful to me and possibly other people who are knowledgeable of Maori culture, so I wanted to share with you some knowledge I had from a Maori elder that taught me these things.
I believe in moving forward, and wrote a quick note to CNN's "contact us" about you and your segment, and may have said some things out of anger even used twitter to send you a tweet and a tasteless hashtag, and I don't even use twitter, so I apologize because that's not something I was taught. I don't know how hurt those things have made you and hope to learn from these moments of quick ego'd seconds. I was taught to respect my elders so I hope that your 27 years at CNN and my 28 years of life on this earth, we can exchange good breaths of our lives if we ever happen to cross paths.

I've wrote this quickly on my lunch in hopes that we can learn to understand each other and our experiences of life with love and respect to wherever we are standing on this earth, whether in New York, Oakland, Aotearoa or the United Kingdom. 

In respects to you and your path...Alofa Tele,

Jean Melesaine

About Jean Melesaine

Jean Melesaine is a queer Samoan community activist, documentary photographer and editor with Silicon Valley De-Bug. 

This article is part of the category: Aotearoa Chronicles 
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Thank you for addressing the reporter's asinine ignorant reporting in such an elegant and respectful manner.

As a person who has reached elder status....I will take the opportunity to say that the reporting done by CNN journalist Jeanne Moos segment on Prince William's family's visit to Aotearoa (New Zealand) to me was disrespectful to the Maori culture and all indigenous peoples of the world. To see a seasoned reporter demonstrate such ignorance was appalling. Her so called "humor" reporting was racist with an underlining message that certain cultural practices are barbaric making her's superior - shame on her...

On the other note...I feel that Prince William and Duchess Kate were gracious and respectful to Maori protocol and the people. For them be bring out Prince George I think was a symbol of their sincerely. Prince William is definitely his mother's son.

Such a respectful and eloquent response, so proud that someone took the time to openly address what I felt was disrespectful towards to Maori culture and people.

Lolomas, Saane

As a polynesian I found the report to be distasteful and disrespectful to the Maori culture. If you're going to report on a culture you have no understanding or knowledge of, then I suggest you learn something about it before you make ASSumptions about it! Therefore making yourself look like an uncaring disrespectful ass! Joking about it, especially on the news, shows major disrespect to the people and their culture and only causes dissapoint and anger not only amongst the Maori people but with an entire race of polynesian people. The Duke and Dutchess showed their respect and knew of the Maori ways when they arrived. If I can learn of other cultures I'm sure you can too. After all, isn't it a reporters job to collect information and facts before reporting the story instead of just making something up when they see pictures and videos? Not a very good reporter if that's the case! There is this thing called the internet! All you have to do is research on who, what, when, where and why!!! Enough said!!! Just my opinion on the matter! So don't get angry or upset about it and try to bash it! I'm not even Maori but I still have respect for them. We were taught to respect other cultures and love our fellow polynesians! To Jean, much love and respect!

To Jean Melesaine,

You have found a new reader and "follower" in me. Thank you for your eloquent and educated response to that horrid piece. My response below, though Iʻd like to think it was as eloquent as I was writing it this morning at 1AM, was a tag harsh and angry.

But... you will not find an apology from me to CNN or Jeanne Moos beyond this:

"Duly noted. I do truth and love, and I am sort of (but not really) sorry if the tone of my blog offended the highly sensitive natures of the Anglo-centric Comedian Journalist Jeanne Moos or her followers at CNN."

Whatever you may have written directly to MOOS and CNN, and I would love to read it, should not be taken back with an apology. You do not apologize to a child who does not know better. You teach.

And you have taught them well.

My blog below:

"The Culturally Offensive Satirist" or "Another Stupid Racist Bitch"

...When the cultures of the English and Maori are shown... I SEE two very different cultures and leaders act with amazing dignity and itʻs really a tribute to both societies. All I HEAR is an IGNORANT, ANGLOCENTRIC CNN reporter named Jeanne Moos mock and belittle the cultural practices of an ENTIRE NATION. She puts down and degrades the dress and the Haka that the Maori people perform. This is a performance of strength, honor and welcome befitting a King.

She even slides a few more non-American cultures into her disgusting attempt at satire just to get her point across. (I say American because while this story is of the British Royal Family and their travels to New Zealand... Jeanne Moos is American) What was her point? Satire and Humor at the expense of a non-American culture.

My favorite part is when she sticks her uncultured, grotesque and painted face into the camera. She is so ignorant as to make fun of the "rubbing noses" as she puts it, that Prince William and the Duchess do with some Maori elders. The Hawaiian People, my people, are family to the Maori Nation. We have similar cultural practices. In Hawaii that exchange is called the "Ha" or "Breath of Life". That is a traditional way of greeting... by sharing your LIFE Force.

Do you know the term "Haole"? Do you know what that means... "NO BREATH" "NO LIFE".

This woman has no soul. No life. She is the epitome of "Haole".

After many "dislikes" and even a petition for an apology that reached more than 25,000 signatures, CNN has since forced her to "apologize"... and this was her lame, wormy, lifeless apology:

"...I do humour and satire, and I am truly sorry if the tone of my story offended anyone,” ...

I had to cut the rest of the blog as I am only allowed 3000 characters here. Please do me the honor of checking out my blog.



It takes great strength, compassion and thoughtfulness to turn such an ignorant and culturally incompetent (I use these terms in their literal sense, not as an insult) opinion piece as Ms. Moos' into an opportunity to educate her and those of us unfamiliar with the Maori people and their culture.

If all of us took the same care as you in their comments and responses to such media content, our world would be a much better place. Thank you for your example.

This is the same attitude shown towards Polynesians for many years. Sadly, the disrespect continues.

I was personally offended and disgusted by the CNN report. CNN is off my watch list forever.

She has no culture JUST COLTS

Jeanne Moos' vast ignorance and galling insensitivity is revealed particularly well in this response. I just saw her equally insensitivity piece lambasting airlines who allow passengers to remove their shoes. So I'd like to mention that if it were not for the airline' consideration in this matter, this passenger, who suffers from the debilitating circulatory and neurological effects of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, would not have been able to visit his daughters out in Montana.

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