Auckland, New Zealand

Alyssa Ma’ili Yee

Alyssa Ma’ili Yee
University of Auckland

Conducting community-based research through the Global Studies Internship Program has been an impactful and invaluable experience for me at Stanford. I now look forward to continuing community engagement and research important to Pacific Islander communities.

This summer I remotely interned from Honolulu for Dr. Margaret Mutu of the University of Auckland and her tribe, Ngati Kahu. I conducted research regarding Dr. Mutu and her tribe’s recent experiences with Chinese foreign developers. We examined the positive experiences of the mana whenua (ancestral stewards) of the Karikari peninsula under Chinese as opposed to American developers. In 2015, the tribe and the Chinese executives of Shanghai CRED Real Estate Co. successfully negotiated a development plan that respected Ngati Kahu ancestral sites on the property. This was considered a great success after years of contention with the previous American owners of the property who refused to respect ancestral burials.

During my internship, I examined the cultural exchanges and practices that have allowed for this positive relationship to grow over the years. It appears that Shanghai CRED recognizes and upholds the te mana te rangatiratanga (authority and power) of the indigenous stewards of the area. However, I also discovered that aboriginal descendants in North-Western Australia had an opposite experience with the same company. In 2019, Shanghai CRED allegedly cleared land without first consulting the Nyikina Mangala Traditional Owners. In comparing these two cases, I learned of the diverse effects of Chinese development for the indigenous peoples of Oceania.

My M.A. thesis examines the potential implications of the Belt and Road Initiative on indigenous Pacific Islander communities. Through my internship with Professor Mutu, I learned the complexity and breadth of Chinese growth in the region. I have thoroughly enjoyed gathering data, conducting interviews, increasing my interpersonal communication skills, and respectfully learning about another culture. This internship has given me an opportunity to apply my personal interests to a comprehensive research project with real implications for culturally appropriate research. I have learned crucial research and writing skills that will prepare me for graduate school and a future career in law.