Dispelling the myths, Anaru Vercoe

Te Mana Te Kawanatanga: The Politics of Maori Self-Determination
Mason Durie
Oxford University Press, $39.95
ISBN 019558367 1

Mai i Rangiatea: Maori Wellbeing and Development
Pania Te Whaiti, Marie McCarthy and Arohia Durie (eds)
Auckland University Press and Bridget Williams Books, $34.95
ISBN 187713301 9

The politics of Mana Motuhake and Tino Rangatiratanga have been largely manipulated by the media and the state. What the average New Zealander knows about these notions is most likely to be shallow and misinformed. Mason Durie’s book is a volume which in many ways dispels the myths that have been disseminated in schools and universities.

Durie displays his vast knowledge of Maori social, economic and political issues in the context of the Treaty of Waitangi and its central place in the effort to obtain Mana Motuhake. While the book revisits many of the events which have shaped the present day (like the Sealord’s deal and the Fiscal Envelope), Professor Durie elaborates on this history within the framework of a new Maori consciousness.

Te Mana Te Kawanatanga fills a space left by eminent academics like Ranginui Walker and Jane Kelsey, informing the reader on the latest developments occurring in Maori communities. The difficulties faced by Maoridom in relation to political unity, educational achievement and economic advancement, are woven together in such a way that each one of these areas is revealed clearly as mutually dependent and globally profound.

Clearly, this publication stands as a benchmark detailing many of the complexities in the struggles Maori have had and are having not only with the Crown, but with themselves as well. Such is the nature of Maori politics, particularly when the new consciousness challenges a colonial mentality often perpetuated by Maori organisations.

Durie’s deliberately methodical and analytical style presents the reader with a clear picture of what many Maori at the cutting-edge of social and political reform are attempting to achieve. From the woes of Maori broadcasting to the tensions developing in Kohanga Reo, the concerns of Maoridom are articulated in a non-threatening manner. Consequently this volume positions itself as an important tool to educate all New Zealanders.

If the country is to move forward into the 21st century as a leader in the South Pacific, then all citizens have to face the call by Maori leaders to honour the Treaty of Waitangi by making it become a living testament of faith between two cultures. By building on the most important compact between the Crown and Maori, the constitution that many are demanding may finally allow the country to turn the corner on racism and establish an environment that will promote the nation envisaged by King Tawhiao. The constitutional and social principles advocated by Durie are universal and suggest that if Pakeha and Maori adopt a more informed and open-minded position, their relationship will improve.

Although Durie does not openly declare his politics, his passion for Maori development betrays his centre-left sentiments, yet he manages to comment authoritatively across the political spectrum without offending anyone. His claim that the “Maori prerequisite for advancement depends on access to cultural and physical resources, the level of organisation, and leadership and expertise” sends a clear message to the power brokers that Maori are no longer prepared to be dependent on the state. Durie advocates a Maori self-determination that promotes the advancement of all New Zealanders rather than one that calls for a radical overthrow of a post-colonial regime.

One would be foolish not to consult this publication before forming an opinion on Maori self-determination. Te Mana Te Kawanatanga should become a standard text for all Education and Social Science departments in New Zealand universities. Indeed it is a text that has a place in all education institutions. The Maori litigants who want the High Court to tell them what an iwi is could have saved themselves a lot of time by reading this book.


Mai i Rangiatea is perhaps an apt title for this publication since its philosophical underpinnings clearly articulate a call for Maori to reconsider their cultural heritage more profoundly.

All of the contributors share the common theme of well-being associated with identity. What makes this book an important addition to the developing Maori discourse is that it embodies a range of views from the academic to the traditional. At times the juxtaposition of these two paradigms leads to mild contradictions in epistemological foundations, highlighting the struggle or tension between the developing Maori discourse and the pre-colonial authenticity that the discourse attempts to resurrect. But the literary spectrum provided here demonstrates a breadth of knowledge concerning Maori health and development which does acknowledge attempts to move kaupapa Maori forward in light of the problems caused by colonisation and the policies of assimilation and integration.

The effect of the positions propounded here provides the ingredients for a clearer project on decolonisation or deconstruction followed by re construction of Maori identity. These aspects are enlarged upon in many of the chapters but especially by the contributions made by Arohia Durie concerning Te Aka Matua and Aroha Mead in “Human Genetic Research and Whakapapa”. The issue of identity inevitably raises the debate over the parameters for determining racial or ethnic affiliations. This is offset by the dynamics of culture which complicate the distinctions many authors have attempted to articulate.

For those Maori who are actively involved in raising the collective Maori consciousness, the book intimates the awesome task before them to educate the vast majority of the tangata whenua who may never have the opportunity to reflect on the ideas presented here. This is in fact a major consideration: to reach the masses, so to speak, so that the aspects of well-being discussed in the book become pragmatic objectives for all Maori.

One of the outcomes of Mai I Rangiatea is that there are voices which speak to Maori, offering suggestions which will move Maori society forward. The interview with Iranui Te Anonohoriu Haig is a moving portrayal of one woman’s life growing up with the traditional repositories of knowledge, which reaches to the core of the Maori spirit. But there are also other voices that re-create the traditional text within an academic, and at times post-modern framework, that will alienate the Maori reader who is seeking a general understanding of what Maori well-being is.

Despite these small anomalies, the contributors address a range of social, political, economic and cultural issues that have had a significant impact on the health of Maori people.

The degree to which Maori are able to become healthier is dependent on the amount of power that is re-invested in Maori to bring about a radical improvement. This essentially is the theme underpinning the book.

While the focus of the book is on the improvement of Maori well-being, the arguments generated by the authors may at first seem narrow in their application, but it soon becomes apparent that these debates form the central core of concern to such political aspirations as Maori self-determination.

The holistic emphasis and alternative paradigm that is fostered here challenges the dogmatic, Eurocentric world view that is propounded not only by the state and its associated agendas, but also by Maori organisations which superficially purport to promote Maori interests.

There are developing shoots of hope here which reaffirm the progression of a discourse centred on revisiting societal constructs like hapu and iwi. By adapting this approach the writers perhaps collectively devise a new strategy by which the culture becomes the main consideration when articulating not only the theory but also the pragmatic solutions to the array of problems which beset Maori today.

Mai i Rangiatea declares that Maori development and well-being are much more than an affirmation of the Maori cultural renaissance: they are also a measure of the philosophical momentum gathering in a new Maori society.

Anaru Vercoe (Whakatohea, Ngai Tai, Ngati Pikiao, Tuhoe) is the author of Educating Jake and lectures in Maori education at the University of Waikato.

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Posted in History, Māori, Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review
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