We had the good fortune of connecting with Amelia Butler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amelia, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Osiyo! Kia Ora! Before I introduce myself I would like to acknowledge the Cherokee and Muscogee Nations, the indigenous peoples of the lands of the Atlanta area. I stand in solidarity with our indigenous brothers and sisters of these nations and all of the great nations of Turtle Island (USA).
My name is Amelia Butler and I am an indigenous Māori woman from New Zealand. I share the Māori culture, dance and language throughout the USA and globally. My business is called Learn Māori Abroad.
I’ve been living in the US for about 15 years, initially moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in hiphop dance. After getting married and having kids my priorities changed and I wanted to connect a lot more with my cultural heritage while live on Turtle Island as well as make sure my children grew up knowing about the Māori culture. At the time I also wanted to start my own business but I wasn’t sure what kind of business I should start! I was thinking about the different things that I was good at and I came up with the idea of teaching the Māori language to Kiwis living in the US since this was something I could do. (I studied te reo Māori in high school and majored in Māori language, culture and performance in my Arts Degree at the University of Auckland.) After asking in a few “Kiwis in the US” Facebook groups to see if there was interest in Māori language classes and receiving a positive response, I created a Māori language curriculum and began teaching. My first class was a group of 10 kiwis living in New York who I taught via live video. The following year I started teaching haka, our traditional war dance, poi (“poi balls”) and eventually added cultural workshops to our offerings. Now, 5 years on, Learn Māori Abroad is the number one source for “All things Māori” in the USA. It’s an honor and privilege to share my culture here and around the world!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am the only one sharing the Māori language and culture here on Turtle Island. This is something I am very proud of. It was definitely not an easy journey as I have had to deal with negativity from some Māori living in New Zealand who think that our culture should not be shared with non-Māori. This is something that I firmly disagree with.
It is my strong belief that Māori culture, alike many indigenous cultures, holds values and perspectives that can change the world. This is because the culture allows people to connect with themselves, each other, the environment and their ancestors in a way that those who live and/or were raised in Western culture have never done before. People experience a deep spiritual connection from my work. This is why my classes are and always will be open to everyone.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to acknowledge my ancestors for supporting me on this journey to share the Māori language and culture with the world. Like many indigenous peoples, my ancestors were beaten for speaking our language and practicing our culture to the point where our language and culture was almost wiped out. Our ancestors (as well as my mother) endured a lot of pain and suffering and fought for the survival of our language and culture. For that I will be forever grateful. I also acknowledge my mother, June Wells, for her strong commitment to make sure I knew my language, culture and identity as a Māori woman.
Youtube: Learn Māori Abroad