Trip Down Under Deeply Spiritual

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Disney is right, "It's a small world after all."

Ask Teri Nanty, she has firsthand experience.

Nanty just returned from a month-long study trip to Australia and New Zealand. She said she was astounded by the similarities in the spirituality between the indigenous members of the tour group and the Aborigines and Maoris they visited.

The group included 11 students, all indigenous peoples, an instructor who was Kickapoo, and two nonindigenous instructors.

"Because we were all indigenous, we were the first group invited into the Maori marae (ceremonial center)," Nanty said.

While visiting the marae, they had an evening of storytelling.

One of the group was Kickapoo and began to tell his people's traditional story of how the stars were created.

The story says, "Before there were stars the people walked bent over and the gods were tired of seeing them like that and having them walk into the animals, so they took their walking sticks and lifted the skies up so the people could walk erect," Nanty related. "He was not very far into the story when one of the Maori started waving his hand and saying he had to interrupt, because they had a story exactly like that."

She said they heard traditional stories from both the Maori and Aborigine that were similar to the tales of their people.

Nanty's study trip was sponsored by Scottsdale Community College and earned her six college credits in art and intercultural communication. The group arrived in Australia June 3, then went to New Zealand June 20.

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Teri Nanty

The opportunity to participate in the trip was brought to her attention in January and she attended an orientation meeting in February, which included a digital program on the trip.

"When I saw that, I knew I had to go," Nanty said.

She had an interview with the selection committee at the end of April.

She resides on the Tonto Apache Reservation and works as a graphic designer for the marketing department of Mazatzal Casino.

Nanty feels the study trip was meant to be.

Nanty had the chance to meet with one of the Maori leaders who has worked for years to get the Maori language made the official language of New Zealand, even involving the United Nations. Now all government offices, hospitals and businesses must have people available to conduct business in the Maori language.

The Maori language is the only one used in the Maori schools. That makes it possible for the children to know their language, as well as English.

"If you want to preserve what you have, you have to do it now, the longer you wait, the more you will lose," Nanty said.

Another person she met, a medicine woman, also made a big impression on her. She said she learned that what we think is important is usually not.

"We can all contribute to our different communities and one person can make a difference if we choose that path and keep walking it," Nanty said.

She said the sense of family was a surprise, businesses only stay open until five on weekdays and nine on weekends. When they asked why, they were told it was felt employees would be better if they are allowed more time with their families.

"We all really enjoyed their slang down there and thought it was funny that they complimented us on our "lovely English accents." It was also funny to hear them try and imitate us," Nanty said.

She would like to return to New Zealand and spend time on the South Island, the group was only on the North Island.

Nanty had the opportunity, through Rotary, to travel to Malaysia a couple of years ago. She said she made a special effort to share her experiences with her community when she returned from that trip, and she will do the same with what she has brought back from this adventure.

"I want the young people in my community to know that these kinds of experiences are available to them, if they just stay open to the possibilities," Nanty said.

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