Kia aha te Maori kia Maori ai? Perspectives towards Maori identity by Maori heritage language learners.
With one in seven people in New Zealand identifying as Maori in 2013 (Statistics NZ, 2013), the way in which Maori view identity is of particular relevance to understanding Aotearoa as a nation. Maori identity has been labeled in numerous ways that were consistent with Western constructs of ethnic identity categorisation across various times. Postcontact, Maori were identifiable as Maori based 'lifestyle'. Subsequently, Maori identity was measured through blood quantum (using a fraction based system) (Pool, 1991). The current government trend of ethnic identification offers two options for measuring Maori ethnic identity. First, Maori are Maori if they have Maori ancestry, and second, if they choose to identify as Maori (Kukutai & Callister, 2009). One of these identity types can be thought of as ascribed (i.e. whakapapa based/having Maori heritage) and the other achieved (i.e reaching a state where one chooses to be Maori) (Marcia, 1966; Phinney, 1989).
Given the historical context of colonisation in New Zealand (as docmented in numerous Waitangi Tribunal reports) exploring Maori identities requires an understanding of the history in which contemporary Maori identities evolve. In the context of reclaiming Maori identity, Pitman (2012, p. 46) indicated:
"Defining who you are [as Maori] is important. We must reclaim the right to define ourselves because it's that constant redefining of us by the coloniser that causes schizophrenia, confusion and separation from each other."
Reclaiming a 'right' to claim a Maori identity has been studied in detail. McIntosh explains that Maori choose to identify as Maori, the individual is engaging in the act of "claims making" (2005).
Following the concepts of social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986), rather than making self-proclamations of one's preferred identity, others must agree with the identity claim that is laid. Through processes of colonisation, including the labeling and categorisation of Maori, the personal act of claiming a Maori identity can be difficult for those who believe in a set of criteria and perceive themselves to have failed to meet aspects of a set of criteria for in group membership.
Of Maori who claim to be ethnically Maori, 46.5% identified Maori as their sole ethnic group, this percentage fell from 52.8% in 2006 (Statistics New Zealand, 2013). With 45.6% of Maori indicating that they had one other ethnic group other than Maori, these statistics highlight the increasing diversity of Maori identity profiles. Those who are interested in claiming a Maori identity may feel more or less comfortable to make a claim depending on their acquisition of a range of identity markers. Some familiar markers of Maori identity include knowledge of whakapapa, matauranga Maori, te reo Maori, and visible features (including physical racially defining characteristics and in some cases ta moko (1) or the display of taonga (2)) (Durie, 2001; Higgins, 2004; McIntosh, 2005; Penetito, 2011). In addition to the features mentioned above, contribution to the wider group by being 'seen' in Maori contexts, such as marae (kanohi kitea) or maintaining relationships with your turangawaewae ahi ka (keeping the home fires burning). Maori who are investing in learning their heritage language are likely to incorporate aspects of these identity markers into their descriptions of central components of Maori identity. Furthermore, Maori HL2 learners' views of identity may contribute to their personal motivation for language learning. Alternatively, language learning could be a catalyst for broadening aspects of Maori identity, including relationships
Whakapapa as a central marker of Maori identity.
A common culturally mandated form of Maori identity is through the role of whakapapa (3) (Durie, 2001; Lawson-Te Aho, 2010; Mead, 2003). Whakapapa, by definition, insinuates a set of relationships with the living and the departed, and the individual and their environment in a wider sense of the meaning. Mikaere (2010, p. 225) indicates that whakapapa:
"establishes that everything in the natural world shares a common ancestry. With this knowledge of interconnection comes an acute awareness of interdependence which, in turn, fosters the realisation that our survival is contingent upon the nurturing of relationships, both with one another and with the world around us."
Whakapapa spans over time and space giving those with shared whakapapa a shared history and narrative (Walker, 1989). Whakapapa claims to identity are founded on relationships that a person has with their whanau (4) or wider groupings (including hapu (5) and iwi (6)) who equally share a common whakapapa. When discussing the importance placed on representations of Maori ancestors, Mead (1993) explains:
"... as individuals we have no identity except by reference to them (7). We are beings only because they prepared the way for us, gave us a slot in a system of human relations, a place in the whakapapa lines, and membership in a whanau and in an iwi."' (p. 206)
From this view, whakapapa connections provide a place of belonging for those who share mutual whakapapa connections.
For individuals who hold secure bonds within their whakapapa relationships, these individuals are likely to enjoy a sense of belonging that such relationships provide. Traditionally, the place of whakapapa in Maori society was highly valued as it provided individuals with direct guidance about their role and status within a group (Mead, 2003). Brewer and Yuki (2007, p. 314) describe that:
"In cultures where ingroups are defined primarily as relational networks, well-being and self esteem may be more closely associated with enhancement of the quality of relationships."
Similar to the principles of relational selves (Brewer & Yuki, 2007), for Maori, the self was made meaningful through the web of interpersonal connections between whakapapa ties.
Findings from Te Kupenga, a study of Maori wellbeing, also indicated that 89% of Maori were able to identify their iwi, and 62% had been to the marae that they had whakapapa connections to and of those 62%, there were 34% who had visited in the past year (Statistics New Zealand, 2014). These results could be interpreted to demonstrate that a number of Maori may know how to identify their iwi, however, the centrality of those relationships to their identity may not be salient, particularly in instances where they are operating in mainstream settings. Reid and Robson (2001) take the position that:
"central to tangata whenua identity is whakapapa. Whakapapa is used to connect with or differentiate oneself from others. Many view hapu and iwi identity as a prerequisite to Maori identity.... However, while being identified by hapu or iwi is fundamental for some, it may be inaccessible for others"" (p. 3).
Statistics New Zealand research has explored the notion of whanau and the centrality of both whakapapa whanau (a collective with shared ancestry) and whanau whanau (those with a common purpose or goal) inclusively (Statistics New Zealand, 2012). Findings indicated that four-fifths of respondents indicated that they viewed their whanau through whakapapa only, where as the remaining participants viewed their kaupapa-based relationships (friends and others) as inclusive of their whanau. It is possible that there are a number of Maori who may rely on kaupapa whanau (of which include a Maori language speaking community) to provide the individual with a sense of collective Maori identity.
Te reo Maori and Maori identity
Te reo Maori is commonly considered a central aspect to Maori identity and has been closely linked with the concept of personal mana (8). Revered Maori language expert and advocate, Karetu (1993, p. 226) explains:
"... for me language is essential to my mana. Without it, could I still claim to be Maori? I do not think so, for it is the language which has given me what mana I have and it is the only thing which differentiates me from anyone else."
These sentiments have been shared with other well-known Maori leaders, exemplifying the intrinsic connection between the language and Maori identity. Dewes (1977, p. 55) notes "Ko te putake o te Maoritanga ko te reo Maori, he taonga tuku iho na nga tupuna (9)". Underlying these positions is the idea that Maori are custodians of the culture, and the te reo Maori is an inheritance from ancestors, and the gods (Mead, 2003).
Although some Maori speakers view te reo Maori as closely tied to Maori cultural ingroup membership, through processes of colonisation, many Maori do not possess the skills to engage with their culture through Maori language. Pihama (2001, p.71) indicated that ensuring the assimilation of Maori was enacted through
"the replacement of te reo Maori me ona tikanga, or what is described as the 'habits and usages of the Natives' with the customs and language of the Pakeha colonists."
There is an acknowledgement that by removing te reo Maori from the mouths of its native speakers, the colonial agenda was achieved more readily. The oppression of indigenous native languages has been used in numerous occasions by imperial/colonial forces (Wa Thiong'o, 1986) for cultural assimilation or inhalation (Memmi, 1965).
With merely 21.3% of Maori self-reporting that they are capable of conversing about "a lot of everyday things in te reo Maori", this means that essentially, four out of five Maori are unable to use the language on an everyday level (Statistics New Zealand, 2013). Furthermore, 21.3% appears to be slightly optimistic given that Te Kupenga 2013 (Statistics New Zealand, 2014), indicated that merely 11% (50,000) Maori adults indicated that they could "speak te reo Maori very well, or well". The low rate of Maori language speakers raises issues for both the health of the language, but it also raises questions about criteria for claiming Maori cultural ingroup membership based on language abilities.
If te reo Maori is a central marker of identity, yet four-fifths of the population do not posses such skills to meet the criteria, this leaves a number of Maori in a vicarious position. Those who are capable of speaking te reo Maori, have knowledge of matauranga Maori and their whakapapa connections are defined as a small elite minority holding social and political power in some Maori settings (Penetito, 2011).
On the other hand, the small proportion of Maori language speakers means that the survival of the language falls on the shoulders of the few, which is a heavy responsibility to uphold for future generations. It is likely that some Maori language speakers would be supportive of Maori identity definitions that are inclusive of being a language speaker, as this may be believed to prompt other Maori, who are non-Maori speakers, to learn the language.
Impact of discrimination on Maori cultural identities
McIntosh (2005) suggested that Maori identities in contemporary settings vary in the centrality of cultural connectedness. Her identity model is located within a contemporary Maori-specific context and incorporates three categories: fixed, forced and fluid identities. Fixed identities include those that are described as 'traditional' identities, involving a set of beliefs that some Maori view as necessary in order to claim authentic group membership. Within this fixed 'traditional' identity, knowledge of whakapapa, te reo Maori and matauranga Maori are prioritised. The fixed identity profile is perhaps highlighted in the sections above. Moving to the second identity profile, fluid identities include those who intertwine mainstream Europeanised identities with traditional identities, whereby new fused identities are possible. The final category includes those who occupy a forced identity profile, which is characterised by deprivation and marginality. Those operating from a marginal profile are unlikely to see value in their Maori identity or in te reo Maori, as their view of being Maori is largely clouded by discrimination and poverty.
There continues to be a great proportion of individuals with Maori ancestry who prefer not to identify as Maori (Durie, 2005; Kukutai & Callister, 2009). Reasons for Maori choosing not to identify as Maori are likely to come from the high rates of discrimination enacted toward Maori by the dominant culture, Pakeha. Health research findings have indicated that Maori experience discrimination at rates higher than any other ethnic group in New Zealand (Harris et al., 2006).
Social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) may help to understand why it might be advantageous for Maori reduce the number of Maori identity markers when they are constantly operating in discriminatory environments. Social identity theory recognises that individuals are motivated by a need to see themselves favourably in comparison with other groups. For groups of lower status (which usually includes migrant and indigenous groups), positive social comparison is not necessarily achievable if they are being compared to high-status groups. Groups holding low status positions in society may attempt to "pass" as members of higher status groups in order to achieve a positive view of the self (Tajfel, 1978). However, those who attempt to 'pass' can experience negative psychological consequences (Phinney, 1990). Individuals who are operating from within this profile are unlikely to invest in learning te reo Maori.
This study will explore how Maori view their identities as Maori. As this is an exploratory study, set hypothesis will not be tested. However, drawing from previous research, it is possible that Maori HL2 learners may share in a common view that te reo Maori is central to Maori culture. Given the high rates of discrimination found in other studies, Maori in this study are also likely to have experienced racism and prejudice. Maori HL2 learners who have begun investing in relationships that are founded on a common understanding of the value of Maori culture and language are likely to find shelter within their whanau whanau of Maori HL2 learners. As whakapapa is one of the most commonly viewed culturally mandated forms of Maori identity pre-requisites (Lawson-Te Aho, 2010; Mead, 2003), it is likely that whakapapa will play a role in the process of Maori cultural identity formation and negotiation.
The participants involved in this study were those from both the advanced and undergraduate groups. Participants included 11 undergraduate students from Victoria University of Wellington, with introductory to conversational levels of language proficiency with a mean age of 22 years. Advanced level learners included eight participants, who were graduates of Te Panekiretanga o te reo Maori, a programme for Maori language excellence, established to train already proficient Maori language speakers in the art of whaikorero and karanga. Gloyne (2014, p. 306) indicates that Te Panekiretanga o te reo is a whare "hei kainga mo te matatau kia matatau ke ake ai (10)". This group had a mean age of 37.1 years.
Materials and procedure
The structured interview schedule was developed based on findings from the literature review and the personal observations of other Maori HL2 learners who indicated a range of possible Maori identity definitions. The interviews were designed to enable participants to freely discuss how they viewed the combination of language and identity. Interviews were recorded using an Olympus Voice-Trek V-51 Digital Voice Recorder. These were then transcribed, initially including stammers and stutters (in accordance with Braun and Clarke, 2014) and sent to participants for review consistent with a Kaupapa Maori guiding principle of 'Manaaki ki te tangata (11)' and 'Kaua e takahia te mana o te tangata (12)' (Smith, 1999, p. 120). Of the 19 participants, only one chose to make an addition to their transcript, however, the remaining participants chose not make changes.
Once interviews were approved, transcripts were coded using a combination of processes including thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2014). An interpretative phenomenological approach (IPA) (Smith, 2004) was also applied which is a qualitative research method commonly used in psychology. The IPA acknowledges that the researchers lived experiences interact with the data. Rather than assuming that the researcher is capable of being objective, the subjective nature of qualitative research is acknowledged and appreciated within this approach. NVivo software was used to manage the large quantity of interview data. The School of Psychology Human Ethics Committee at Victoria University of Wellington provided ethical approval for this study.
Interviewees were provided with the opportunity to select a pseudonym of their choice. Names were applied in order to make the reader connect more with the text. Two participants, preferred to keep their own name rather than use a pseudonym. Individuals were interviewed in Maori centered spaces (such as Maori language tutorial rooms, or indigenous psychology rooms) or in the participants workplace due to the convenience for the interviewee. Interview locations were chosen specifically to allow the process of power-sharing between the researcher and participants to take place consistent with Kaupapa Maori principles (Bishop & Glynn, 1999).
Each of the recordings was listened to at least three times before being imported into the NVivo software. The interviewer was fairly familiar with the transcripts prior to coding. As transcripts were analysed, sematic nodes were created. These nodes were reviewed and refined using visual maps of how these individual nodes contributed to conceptual level themes. Nodes were then grouped together into larger clusters, which became the themes of the study consistent with thematic analysis (see Braun & Clarke, 2006, 2012).
Responses from advanced- and undergraduate-level learners were initially analysed separately but, after cross-references were made, it was clear that the discussions from both the undergraduate and advanced participants overlapped. Once initial stages of coding had been completed, each of the codes was scrutinised for consistency. This was largely a difficult process, as individual nodes appeared to overlap in a number of places. In order to ensure that themes were indeed discrete from one another, and internally consistent, a group of three Maori researchers were asked to provide comment on the extent to which the themes appeared internally consistent and discrete from other themes. The researchers comments were taken into consideration, and included in the following results.
Theme 1: The centrality of whakapapa in the journey of identity exploration; the self in connection to whakapapa
For many participants, whakapapa relationships were central to their Maori identity development. Individuals who were raised outside of their tribal region were able to find a connection with their Maori identity through learning more about their whakapapa whanau connections.
Herewini: I would have only been about 12 at the time... that I used to write back to my kaumatua and used to learn te reo, well not so much te reo, but more whakapapa, that was the real... my whakapapa. "Who am I where am I from? " those sorts of things. (Advanced)
Similar to the assertions of Mikaere (2010), many participants described whakapapa as a means of understanding the self through a wide set of connections. Such a holistic worldview is consistent with other relationally oriented cultures (Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001). The ability to understand how an individual is connected through an expansive web of relationships was viewed by some participants as central to understanding one's identity.
Hori: [Whakapapa is] fundamental to where we come from and everything in and around us, everything has whakapapa. (Undergraduate)
Some participants viewed whakapapa as a means of providing guidance for future generations. Notably, only one participant discussed having a specific whanau strategy, however, a number of participants discussed the importance of retaining knowledge of whakapapa for supporting future generations.
Riria: [In developing our whanau strategy] we looked at the language health, our physical health, and where we're going to. So it's almost like the 3 W's: whakapapa, whenua, and waiata as the devices to guide you. Faces, places, and traces, that's kind of how I would describe the journey. (Advanced)
Consistent with other Maori authors, health and wellbeing were viewed as intertwined with culturally significant concepts of whakapapa, whenua and waiata (Durie, 2001; Ngata, 2014). Furthermore, Riria's perspective indicated that not having access to whakapapa relationships had detrimental effects for individuals who may have been left without a sense of belonging to a wider group.
Riria: [No te whakapapa] he mohio no te tangata no hea ia, no wai ia, e haere ana ia ki hea (13). [...] knowing where you are, knowing where you fit, belonging, and having a place. Koina te tino raruraru o nga mea taka ki te he. Kore mohio no hea, no wai, ay. Era ahuatanga (14). (Advanced)
Theme 2: The impact of 'others ' on Maori identity development.
Theme two explores how Maori identities interact with their social environments. The choice of being categorised as Maori comes from both an individual choice, but also from others' recognition. The following subthemes describe why individuals may adopt a variety of identity positions as Maori.
Subtheme 1: Developing a Maori identity in the face of racism
Maori identity is likely to be developed in a range of social environments, some of which are discriminatory. As explored in the previous theme, whakapapa whanau provided some Maori with a positive group level identity. Reaching a place where Maori want to identify as Maori may be difficult for some who are coping with discrimination based on their Maori ethnic identity. Maori who are choosing to engage with their culture may do so despite the experiences of racism.
Kura: There are a lot of times when I'm in a Pakeha situation, like sporting for instance, me and my sister [name], we're sort of the only Maori in our crew. Especially I find in older generations, not so much in our generation but there's still sort of this racist undertone. Like they don't mean to be outwardly racist, but just sort of comments like "those Maorees". (Undergraduate)
Aotea: I felt a lot of positive and negative vibes being a Maori in the [state organisation that I worked for]. [...] I was [working] here in Wellington through the 80s and 90s through some pretty harsh times for Maori who were um, I mean the culture wasn't represented in any way, other than [negative social] statistics. (Undergraduate)
The impact of developing a Maori identity in a discriminatory environment may be that some individuals choose to assimilate, reduce the number of visible or behavioural markers of Maori identity in order to protect the self from discrimination. Some may choose not to participate or contribute to the collective.
Issues of authenticity are commonly barriers experienced by Maori who may have chosen to identify as Maori. The prolific extent to which Maori tend to need to justify their identity for authenticity based reasons led to the inclusion of a 'authenticity beliefs' subscale in Houkamau and Sibley (Houkamau & Sibley, 2010) MultiDimensional Model of Maori Identity and Cultural Engagement (MMMICE). Many Maori may desire to be considered authentic ingroup members and achieving a level of te reo Maori, or strengthening whakapapa ties may contribute to providing justification for Maori identity claims.
With this said, there are likely to be a number of individuals who may not view being 'inauthentic' Maori as detrimental to their identity, particularly when the ingroup is not viewed as holding high social value (Pratto, Sidanius, & Levin, 2006). When Maori are surrounded by discrimination, distancing oneself from the people who were being discriminated against acted to protect the self, which is consistent with self-categorisation theory (Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987).
Ana: You come from intermediate, and high school and stuff and you've been labeled plastic Maori and you don't really care about it, because Maori's not a cool thing to be anyway. (Undergraduate)
Although some Maori have the choice of 'passing', this is not always an option for Maori with physically Maori characteristics.
Puawai: I can remember when I was a child growing up in [predominantly Pakeha region] I was a Maori firstly because of my skin, because of my lips, my nose. (Advanced)
Maori who were physically/racially distinguishable as Maori reported long-term exposure to racism and discrimination. For those who were forced into such identity positions, being a member of a wider whakapapa group, as well as having cultural and linguistic knowledge provided strength to assert a Maori identity in the face of discrimination.
Mahinaarangi: [I experience racism] all the time, no, actually I was only a kid then, I came up with more racism than that, yeah a bit different. I still get it sometimes. Not here so much, Wellington's pretty good [laugh]. But I always get "[name pronounced incorrectly]", "oh I thought it would be one of those names". What?! But I really don t react to it, until afterwards, it's like oh fuck'n hell. I guess my Maori identity comes from toku ingoa, no taku kuia taku ingoa, he ingoa hoki no te kainga. He ingoa whakapapa nei a Mahinaarangi (15). Um, and ae, ko taku reo me nga tikanga (16). (Advanced)
As mentioned in the above quote, the characteristics of the town often had an impact on the extent to which Maori experienced racism. Wellington, in particular, is a region where Maori hold a higher level of income than other regions (Statistics New Zealand, 2006), which could be attributed to some degree in lower rates of discrimination by the participant above.
Subtheme 2: Factors that support claims to a Maori identity
Results indicated that for Maori who choose to be classed as Maori by others, there were a number of ways in which this could be achieved. As described by a number of authors (T. Karetu, 1993; Mead, 2003; Walker, 1989), Maori identity markers commonly included knowledge of te reo Maori, and whakapapa.
Puawai: A Maori identity is what you make of it, it's a way of life. If you want to be a Maori and call yourself a Maori then you can, however, you need to be prepared for people to call you on it, and be able to back yourself.
Int: What would you need to back yourself?
Puawai: Te reo.
Puawai: Absolutely. [...] Whakapapa is important, dare I say, one of the most important things you need to have in order to have a Maori identity. (Advanced)
Consistent with self-categorisation theory (Turner et al., 1987), Puawai explained that although one may make a claim to an identity, the wider community must support the preferred identity. Two ways in which such a claim could be upheld is through te reo Maori, and through whakapapa. Notably, the interviewer prompted whakapapa as a concept for identity claims making. Therefore, it is not clear whether that a whakapapa-based identity was assumed knowledge, or whether whakapapa may have been an after thought. Given that Maori language learners were the target participant group, this may have promoted te reo as a central aspect of identity.
Similarly, the participants below demonstrate the point that claiming a Maori identity is based on others' agreement consistent with findings from research in other relational cultures (Heine & Lehman, 1999). Te reo Maori and knowledge of the culture provided some beginner level HL2 participants with greater capacity to gain recognition for their in group membership.
Ana: If I speak te reo then it will be much more easy for me to blend straight away [...] rather than just be this one that shows up, I might have the blood but don t know any of the culture. (Undergraduate)
Those who have experienced being outsiders within their culture noted that there was a difference between having whakapapa Maori and being recognised as Maori, particularly when they were not regularly in contact with their haukainga (17). Te reo Maori provided a bridge for creating greater feelings of ingroup membership.
Sam: I guess, it's just the whole combination of factors, the cultural knowledge, te reo, that contributes to a Maori identity, but also being recognised by others, particularly being recognised by the haukainga (18). (Undergraduate)
Being recognised as being a valued member of a cultural group by other ingroup members is possibly more testing for individuals who have experienced some form of misunderstanding about their position as Maori by others.
Sam: I think my experiences have always been quite positive in [terms of recognition], so if you say you're Maori and you can demonstrate some of the values or connections through, Maori are generally accepting of people, perhaps that's because we're in an urban environment, I'm not sure if that works in other areas. But um, so, I have kind of found that people are accepting of if you say you're Maori, they respect that you have that Maori identity. (Undergraduate)
It is possible that regions vary in the extent to which they adhere to fixed definitions about who can claim ingroup membership. In some regions, Maori who may not appear visibly Maori may assert their identity based on their whakapapa.
For some Maori participants who had knowledge of and access to their whakapapa connections, being able to rely on these relationships as a foundation for their claim to a Maori identity meant that te reo Maori was not a necessary prerequisite prior to learning te reo.
Heni: I could rely on having, up until that point I was definitely Maori and my mother was Maori, I could recite my genealogy back to Ranginui (19). I could give you the paper, here we go. I didn t need to speak Maori, I didn t need to be able to do anything. I could validate being Maori solely on the basis of. (Advanced)
Although there was a shared acknowledgement by all participants that te reo Maori was of significant cultural value, there was also an awareness that te reo Maori was not always strictly necessary in order to identify as Maori. Individuals who were not racially distinguishable as Maori, or did not have a strong grasp of te reo Maori were able to rely on other aspects of the self, such as behaviour and understanding of Maori cultural values, to provide themselves with a secure ingroup Maori identity.
Sam: I think behaving Maori is actually a lot more important in terms of perception instead of being able to speak Maori. Because [...] I'm not very good at speaking Maori, [but] because I believe in those values of manaakitanga, and ngatanga, and then when I go into a Maori context, such as a marae, then you get in there and you do the work, and that sort of thing. People accept you as Maori. I think even if you don't have te reo, but you still behave Maori, a lot of people will respect that. (Undergraduate)
Many participants were uncomfortable with nonnegotiable definitions of Maori identity and preferred inclusivity over exclusivity. Where participants acknowledged that there are instances where Maori were unable to speak te reo Maori, whakapapa was emphasised.
Pania: Maori identity, hmmm . is for me one word answer. Kei roto i te toto o te tangata (20). (Advanced)
Te Rina: I'd just go whakapapa every time. (Undergraduate)
The position of whakapapa allows individuals to claim a Maori identity irrespective of their language skills. Identity based on whakapapa also gives Maori a position of belonging within a wider whanau without other pre-requisites. Te Rina's view of identity was one of inclusivity. She explains why she chose whakapapa as being central to Maori identity over other descriptions:
Te Rina: I don't think you have to korero Maori and understand it to identify as Maori, but if I come back to your feeling confident and comfortable in [Maori] spaces, then I think te reo does help, because I don't have that fear that somebody's going to come and speak to me and I'm going to look like a dickhead sitting there "playing Maori". (Undergraduate)
The level of comfort that newly proficient Maori language speakers experienced in Maori language governed domain was a shared experience among participants.
Te Aowhltiki: I think your avenues [open] up and you justfeel a lot more comfortable doing Maori events and Maori hui rather per se, if you came in just being Maori. I'm not saying you can t just be Maori (and not a Maori speaker) and go to hui, but for me, I feel a lot more at ease and more comfortable in a Maori context where able to, if ever needed to, speak te reo and I can. (Undergraduate)
Due to the impacts of colonisation on Maori (Waitangi Tribunal, 1986, 2011), some participants indicated that it was not appropriate to suggest a Maori person was not Maori based on cultural knowledge. However, on the one hand, Maori can be categorically or ethnically Maori because of their whakapapa, but on the other hand, they can become more culturally Maori by learning more about their culture and language.
When comparing differing perspectives, some individuals saw the place of te reo Maori as more central to being able to claiming a Maori identity than others. In particular, te reo Maori was viewed by some as being a central mediator between the depth of cultural understanding that was achieveable.
Hoani: He whakautu i tua atu i [te reo], ko to toto. Mehemea he toto Maori, he Maori koe. Engari, mena e korero tatou e pa ana ki te tuakiritanga he aha nga ahuatanga e whakaatu ana ki to tuakiritanga, maku tonu e ki atu, ki oku ake nei wheako ae, ko to reo. Ko to reo, me nga ahuatanga Maori, pera rawa i nga tikanga me te kawa, me te tapu (21)... (Advanced)
Others viewed the link between whakapapa and te reo Maori as intrinsically intertwined. The participant below described that he viewed whakapapa as a concept as uniquely Maori. Some participants considered Maori knowledge and use of te reo Maori as being an obligation arising from having whakapapa Maori.
Timothy: Whakapapa is Maori identity, but in my view, to strengthen your whakapapa and that, you need te reo Maori. [...] You sort of honour your whakapapa, where as you see some other iwi (22), you see some nonMaori, they don't have the honour in their genealogy, that's how I see it. (Undergraduate)
Although some of the concepts discussed above were unique to this participant, the participant acknowledges the cultural importance that Maori traditionally placed on whakapapa and views te reo Maori as an interconnected feature in need of maintaining cultural distinctiveness.
Theme 3: Differing levels of access to extended whakapapa relationships Similar to the forced identity position described by McIntosh (2005), some participants were unable to access their whakapapa connections, which was a barrier to feeling justified to claim their Maori identity. As connected to the views above, Maori participants generally preferred to view Maori identities as inclusive over exclusive. Those who had less access to relationships with their whakapapa whanau found ways of achieving a Maori identity through exploring te reo Maori and expanding their cultural knowledge and relationships with kaupapa whanau, which were founded within Maori culturally affirming environments. Relationships with Maori HL2 learners support Maori to develop positive Maori identities.
Despite that some Maori participants experienced high levels of interconnection with their whakapapa whanau, it was also acknowledged that some Maori were unable to access such relationships as readily.
Heni: [Whakapapa is] tied with history. Because [...] I think whakapapa is critical, but it's also marginalising to people who haven't had access to understanding um, you know where they come from, or, yeah where they come from and what sort of whakapapa they might have. I think a route via the language and cultural practice will more likely assist somebody on a whakapapa journey than the other way around. I don't think having a whakapapa journey is necessarily going to have a language and a cultural practice yeah, I think people can have whakapapa and that's where it starts and stops. Whereas I think people without it embarking on a journey of language and cultural practice is definitely a step to whakapapa. So I think it's tied in with histories, where we come from I guess yeah. So I think I prefer history [...], which is inclusive of whakapapa but not exclusive which whakapapa might be.
For some Maori, access to family connections was not as readily available. Durie's (2006) Maori wellbeing model indicates that whanau are a crucial contributor to Maori wellbeing. Maori who felt isolated from their whakapapa whanau indicated that this lack of access left them with fewer claims to their Maori identity. This point is reified in the following excerpts.
Sam: I've always found it difficult to have an iwi identity because we were always a bit disconnected from the iwi. I mean, we live 10 minutes away from our marae, but we only went back for hui (23) or tangi (24) or that sort of thing. So we did grow up a little bit disconnected from our iwi identity, so I think I'm focusing on my Maori identity, but I do think eventually I do want to go back and live in [home town] and I think that will be the point where I strengthen that iwi identity. (Undergraduate)
Heni: [My spouse] struggled with his whakapapa, having been raised outside of his traditional boundaries, so he really sought the language, and that's facilitated his re-routing back to various hapu and that for him. (Advanced)
The barriers that Maori experience may be a result of physical access to their marae, but also for Maori raised geographically close to their turangawaewae (25), there may be issues related to internal whanau histories that prevent younger generations from gaining access.
Being engaged with a Maori HL2 community that values whakapapa relationships may prompt Maori HL2 learners to invest more in re-engaging with their whakapapa relationships at a later date than if they were surrounded by a social ingroup that did not value such concepts.
Bubbles: Kaore e kore ka mea atu au, he Maori ahau (26). I love the language, I love the culture, yeah I pretty much love everything about it. [...] a big part [of Maori identity] is having your whanau, your iwi, era momo mea (27), you know ... my parents aren t really for that. The only time we ever go to a marae, [is when] someone dies, and that's it. They don't really push us to get to know our whanau. So koinei te take kaore au i te tino (28)... (Undergraduate)
Further on in the discussion with Bubbles she noted that "[having access to extended whanau/whakapapa relations has] never been a problem for me until like now." Similar to Yashima's (2009) research, individuals who become fully immersed in the learning of a second language tend to adopt cultural values of the target language group. Being surrounded by Maori language speakers who may view cultural concepts, such as whakapapa, in high regard, may make Maori HL2 learners own whakapapa relationships more salient than before they had become immersed in a Maori HL2 community.
Ana: Now that I'm learning te reo and I can see, along with the language I'm learning the culture and how my whanau and my whakapapa and all that sort of stuff you feel much more alright. [...] Now I feel like, not only do I have this blood in me but I'm learning about what it means and I also want to help, it develops, learning te reo Maori here at university has developed my confidence in that area, [...] it shows me what's out there and it sort of reveals, you know, it brings out of the shadows the Maori identity, that I didn't really know. And the more I learn about it, the more I discuss it with people and you know, what karakias mean, and why we do certain things, and why there's tapu this, and like you know, I felt much more confident learning te reo.
The quote above perhaps illustrates that there are a number of overlapping elements between identity markers that are relevant for Maori HL2 learners. Whakapapa, te reo Maori and the support systems that are developed within each of these culturally affirming groups may act to promote the desire to accentuate aspects of the self that promote a Maori identity.
This study aimed to explore how Maori identities are negotiated in contemporary times, particularly, through the experiences of Maori HL2 learners. Results indicated that many Maori may be exploring their identity through a variety of avenues, of which relationships play a central role. The act of claiming a Maori identity appears to interact with the wider social group and community. Consistent with other research, findings from this study demonstrated that Maori are constantly negotiating their identity position, often in situations clouded by discrimination. Having a support network, and sense of belonging provides some Maori with resources that are needed in order to cope with being Maori in discriminatory societies. Furthermore, feeling good about being Maori within Maori contexts may enhance individuals feelings of belonging which in turn have a positive impact on health and wellbeing.
Building on findings from other Maori researchers findings (Borell, 2005; Rata, 2012), Maori who have become disaffiliated from their iwi relationships through processes of colonisation, are likely to seek other avenues to achieve a positive collective Maori identity. While Maori in Borell's study (which included Maori youth in South Auckland) preferred to make salient their geographical location of residence (South-sider identity), and more-so their ethnic identity, Maori HL2 learners in this study chose to invest in relationships with other learners of te reo Maori to enhance their collective identity as Maori.
Findings indicated that te reo Maori acted as a tool for building relationships within their HL2 whanau whanau. The ability to create relationships is central for cultures that value interdependence (Markus & Kitayama, 1990). Furthermore, being surrounded by other Maori who were culturally affirming of Maori cultural values, including the value of whakapapa relationships, promoted the culture and language as something that was worth investing in. Relationships with both the kaupapa whanau and whakapapa whanau may be especially important for Maori who are seeking affirmation of their Maori cultural identity.
This research suggests that while there are multiple identity positions that Maori occupy prior to engaging in te reo Maori acquisition, there is a tendency towards relational values as they progress in their language studies. Maori cultural values traditionally favour personalised relational collectivism (Durie, 2001) over individualism or depersonalised group collectivism (Brewer & Chen, 2007).
Related to Brewer and Chen's (2007) relational self-construal, Heine and Lehman (Heine & Lehman, 1999) indicated that in collectivist cultures (i.e. those cultures that prioritise personalised relationships) feeling good about oneself has less to do with "an individual's personal feelings and self-evaluations" and "more to do with the feelings and evaluations of others" (p. 916). For Maori who are seeking ingroup belongingness, feeling positive about their Maori identity largely relies on the agreement and support of significant others instead of self-proclamations of ingroup membership.
Challenges: Discrimination as a barrier to accentuating a Maori identity
For some Maori who have experience repeated exposure to racism and discrimination, it may be a long process before they even want to consider being identified as Maori. Living in an oppressive society has an influence on how indigenous people feel about claiming their identity and, for some, it is simpler just to dis-identify and assimilate into the mainstream (Phinney, Horenczyk, Liebkind & Vedder, 2001). Given the fact that many Maori identify as being both Maori and Pakeha (Kukutai & Callister, 2009), those who can 'pass' as Pakeha may choose to do so to avoid discrimination (Tajfel, 1987).
Maori who participated in this study had all made the first step to learn te reo Maori, and some had achieved very high/near native levels of Maori language fluency. Therefore the identity positions of this group perhaps do not reflect Maori who have not begun engaging with their heritage language or do not have high levels of access to aspects of Maori culture. Despite these limitations, the collective experiences of this group provide perspectives that are not currently widely articulated in psychology literature.
Challenges: Essentialist/ Authenticity beliefs
Authenticity beliefs tended to be both implicitly and explicitly referred to within the results of this study. Authenticity beliefs tend to act to restrict the number of Maori who feel comfortable claiming a Maori identity, as claiming an 'authentic' identity requires the individual to meet a set of pre-defined criteria. These results were consistent with observations from Vedder and Virta (2005) whose research indicated that when a culture views the language as central to its identity, the language gains importance as a qualifying factor for ingroup membership.
Durie (2001, p.83) acknowledges that "mana tangata refers to the authority which comes from communities and their people ... Collective responsibility, rather than individual brilliance is the norm" As a cultural group, it is necessary to take collective responsibility to ensure that all members feel that they have the right to being Maori. Maori within this study were largely supportive of definitions that inclusive of varying realities as opposed to viewing Maori identities as strict.
A marae is able to gain mana as a result of extending hospitality, and also by "maintaing a noticeably high level of activity at the marae" (Department, n.d) as expressed in multiple whakatauki, including, for instance, "he tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu, he whare pungawerewere (29)" A marae puehu can be interpreted as a marae at which only dust remains (ie without people or interactions), which is a disadvantage to the haukainga on a number of levels. In contemporary contexts, if Maori do not feel that they are able to confidently engage with a space that they have ancestral connections to, due to perceived cultural or linguistic inexperience or inadequacies, such spaces are endanger of being "marae puehu". The outcome of such disconnection could result in negative wellbeing (through a loss of mana) for both parties
Furthermore, Maori who view either te reo Maori or close relationships with whakapapa connections as strict criteria for ingroup membership, but do not have such language skills or access to relationships, may experience detrimental health and wellbeing outcomes. Maori generally already experience discrimination at a rate higher than any other ethnic group in the country, which Maori are indigenous to. For Maori who experience marginalisation in the mainstream, feeling that they are unable to participate in Maori contexts due to processes of colonisation may only enhance such experiences of marginalisation.
The difficulty that Maori language speaking communities have is that authenticity beliefs that linked knowledge of te reo Maori with being Maori were entrenched since the 1920s after Maori began speaking English in homes (Karetu, 1991). Authenticity beliefs appear to act as a threat to future generations who may not see the language or culture as worth investing in (King, 2007). From a behavioural perspective, authenticity beliefs use negative reinforcement as a warning to Maori who are non-Maori speakers of the danger of linguistic or cultural assimilation.
There are a number of challenges that lie ahead. From the perspective of linguistic survival, Maori language needs more language speakers and also, Maori need to feel comfortable identifying as Maori without cultural or linguistic pre-requisites given New Zealand's colonial history. There appears to be a two-pronged approach that is necessary. Maori language speakers appear to hold the power position in Maori dominant environments, therefore, due to the position of power, it is necessary that they are welcoming of non-Maori speakers in such environments. On the other hand, non-Maori speakers must accept that Maori language speaking domains need to be protected in order for the goal of language revitalisation to be achieved, and as such, it must be agreed that there will be times that this group are unable to understand what is being said in Maori language speaking spaces.
Although this study does not assume to generalise the experiences of Maori HL2 learners for other indigenous populations, there are perhaps similarities that could be drawn from this research. Indigenous languages globally are under threat (Fishman, 1996; Simons & Lewis, 2013). For cultures who view language as a central marker of in-group identity, it is necessary to understand how identity may enhance language learner motivations.
This study confirmed that Maori identities are dynamic and continue to evolve throughout various life phases. Maori who are engaging with their culture through heritage language learning develop a set of relationships with the others who are culturally affirming. For Maori language to survive and thrive, it is important that we understand how current language learners are encouraged to sustain their language behaviours. Positive affirmation for their identity as Maori is likely to come from environments that are supportive of a range of Maori identity profiles inclusive of those with perhaps little knowledge of the culture and or language.
Awanui Te Huia Victoria University, Wellington
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Awanui Te Huia
Victoria University of Wellington
50 Kelburn Parade, Kelburn, Wellington 6012
(1) Maori designed tattoos.
(2) Maori adornments
(4) family, including extended family
(7) 'Them' in this context is refering to the ancestors
(8) Mana has a variety of definitions (authority, control, influence, prestige, and power) to name a few definitions (Williams, 2010)
(9) The root of the Maori culture is in the language, a gift from our ancestors
(10) a house "that is a home for those who are already proficient to become even moreso". This translation is not that of the original author
(11) Translated directly as "share and host people, be generous". In this context, the process of manaaki ensures that the mana of the participant was upheld through transparency in the research process
(12) Translated as "do not trample over the mana of people"
(13) [Whakapapa provides] a person with understanding about where they're from, who they came from, and where they're going
(14) That's a serious issue for those who have fallen by the wayside. No knowledge of where they're from, or who they come from. Those types of things
(15) my name, my name comes from/belongs to my grandmother, it's also a name from home. Mahinaarangi is an ancestral name
(16) Yes, my language and customs
(17) The sense of the word here refers to the people who they share ancestral connections with who continue to participate regularly in marae affairs
(18) Literally translates to 'home' (Williams, 2010). However, the participant's use of the term appears to mean the people who are involved with the daily affairs of the marae
(19) Moorefield describes Ranginui as "atua of the sky and husband of Papa-tu-anuku, from which union originate all living things" (Moorefield, Te Aka online Maori-English, English-Maori dictionary, retrieved, 8 June, 2015)
(20) in a person's blood
(21) An answer other than the language is your blood. If you have Maori blood, you are Maori. However, if we are talking about identity, the types of things that identify your identity, then I would still have to say, from my own experiences, it is the language. The language, and the aspects of the Maori culture, for instance, the protocols, and customs, those things sacred
(22) The use of the term 'iwi' here could be referring to groups of people or cultures
(24) grief ceremonies
(25) A place where individuals can claim belonging through whakapapa ties
(26) There's no doubt I would say to others I am Maori
(27) those types of things
(28) that's the reason I don't really ... (The participant fades off here, however, it can be assumed perhaps she meant the she didn't feel as strongly comfortable saying that she had a strong Maori identity without having secure whakapapa relationships)
(29) A marae that does not adequately host its guests is likely to become dusty, a house for spiders
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|Author:||Te Huia, Awanui|
|Publication:||New Zealand Journal of Psychology|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2015|
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