Written by Daz Burns
Picture by my 8 year old son
A fledgling journey of understanding my identity and generations from 321 years ago.
We all need to embark on a journey of identity to connect to our roots and understand nuances that make us who we are.
Knowing that some of my whānau in 1700, somewhere in Norton, Suffolk, England were living their lives, not knowing that in 2021, 321 years laters, their names would be said, their legacy would be influencing an 8 year old young man who is beginning his journey of understanding who he is. That is the unicorn effect.
He honestly feels like a mythological character when you are in his company.
His energy is peaceful, but energizing.
Calm, but electric.
Strong, but gentle.
So, I will refer to him as a unicorn that I somehow had the good fortune to come across!
And someone who has inspired me to connect to and understand more about who I am.
I have always loved stories.
I have loved hearing them.
Loved writing them.
Loved learning from them.
And just like my Dad, loved telling them.
Especially funny ones to get the build up just right for belly laughs to roar.
And profound ones that get people’s brains ticking and a little smoke coming out of their ears.
So, it is no surprise that I love to ask questions.
Questions that stretch my understanding and help me dig into the crux of ‘why’.
Yet, when it comes to my identity.
There has been a disconnect for a long time.
I have a surface understanding of my whānau history.
But no deep connection.
No stories to share with my children.
No true history of how I became, well, me.
Speaking with Dan Walker.
(And trust me you can literally feel his mana and Mauri through the screen when you watch it)
He took some time in his journey before he truly connected to his whakapapa.
When he did.
What a difference that has made to him.
To his life.
To his whānau.
To his resilience.
To his connection to his whenua.
To who he is as a man.
To how he approaches situations.
And also to what he wants to do with the time he has in this world, to leave something for generations 600 years from now.
Without using a big paint brush to paint us all the same.
I will say, from my experience, that New Zealand Europeans are not good at connecting to their history.
We might know our generations.
But what do we know about them past their names?
Past their dates of birth?
Past the places where they died?
Were they good humans?
Did they have a sense of humour?
Did they make an impact on the world?
Were they farmers?
Did they love to travel?
That depth of storytelling is not a foundation we build ourselves on.
We forge our own ways, our own paths.
And don’t really connect to and learn from the past.
I am 36 years old.
And for me, the journey to understanding is just beginning and for the most part I feel a great depth of sadness that there are only limited stories I can learn about with generations gone and things not shared.
For some, the wars really closed doors to storytelling and sharing.
For others, family rifts meant that some stories would never be shared.
But, for me, my parents and Uncles are the only connections to these stories.
So, my Uncle who has worked hard to sus out our family tree on my Mum’s side has managed to get back 320 years.
Which is pretty epic.
My 8 year old son drew a beautiful heart showing his heart in the middle and all the generations that all have contributed to it.
He knows the names of his Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandparents.
He knows he is part of something bigger.
So much bigger.
And he is so proud of that.
That understanding will serve him well and I hope that we can strengthen this connection and understanding by trying to find stories.
There is SO much to find out.
We have questions.
We also have time which we are grateful for.
There is so much to learn.
So much to connect to.
So much knowledge to guide us.
The Unicorn Effect
So Dan Walker, thank you.
Thank you for your kindness to share so much of yourself to inspire others.
You inspired me.
In so many more ways than one.
But this journey of identity.
This hikoi of understanding and connection.
Is so so so important in understanding who I am.
And in helping my children understand who they are.
I am so grateful to be on this journey and I wouldn’t be prioritising it if it wasn’t for you.
Just knowing that some of my whānau in 1700, somewhere in Norton, Suffolk, England were living their lives, not knowing that in 2021, 321 years laters, their names would be said, their legacy would be influencing an 8 year old young man who is beginning his journey of understanding who he is.
That is the unicorn effect.
Find out things to fill your heart and build connections.
Share with your Friends
If you know someone who would benefit from reading this article, please share it to open up those conversations and safe spaces. There is power in those small moments of connection. There is peace in understanding where we come from and what life was like for people we carry with us everyday.