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Mana Tangata: Politics of Empowerment

Mana Tangata: Politics of Empowerment

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Mana Tangata: Politics of Empowerment

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Aug 26, 2013


This is a collection of papers by senior Maori academics who are experts and have considerable mana in their chosen fields. The ten contributing authors, who are academics at Massey University, discuss the Maori language, marae, religion, the Treaty of Waitangi, the State and Maori, citizenship education, mental health, the health workforce, kaitiakitanga and horticulture. The book discusses Maori development and contemporary issues concerning Maori, both from the authors' perspectives and across different disciplines.
Aug 26, 2013

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Mana Tangata - Huia Tomlins-Jahnke



Huia Tomlins-Jahnke

Conversations about mana tangata are nearly always about human authority and upholding the dignity and wellbeing of a person or persons. The concept itself is deeply embedded in a dynamic system of kinship relationships and ancestral precedence that is mediated and guided by the value the community places on mana. Mana has to do with prestige, power and authority, and with both individual and collective wellbeing. Māori Marsden points out that included in the concept of mana are ideas inherent in words such as the Greek ‘dunamai’, from which are derived the words ‘dynamic’ and ‘dynamo’. The derivative means ‘to be capable or to have power’, ‘power in action’ and ‘the power of the spoken word’ (Marsden 1997: 145). Interestingly, Marsden speaks about mana in terms of ‘power to’, ‘power in’ or ‘power of’, and not ‘power over’, because customarily power was considered to be derived from higher forces – ngā atua or gods. People are never the source of power, but are agents through which the power of the gods may be expressed. Furthermore, the Māori view is that nature is not an object to be mastered by humankind, because in the Māori cosmos, humankind is the younger relation to flora and fauna. From this perspective it is possible to see how the notion of mana tangata focuses on the development of human potential. This includes providing opportunities for people to reach their full potential in efforts to ensure the health and wellbeing of their communities and of the generations to come.

Philosophies which underpin the concept of mana tangata are long standing and reinforced in customary traditions, socially founded values, ideals and norms. They are often manifest as legitimating charters against which, for example, it is possible to evaluate progress and assess the wellbeing of the collective and the contribution of an individual to society. Expertise, skills and knowledge are acknowledged as essential requisites for leading one’s community; thus people with mana, besides those who have hereditary entitlements, tend to be in leadership roles. Proven works, skills and contributions made by an individual in the pursuit of collective aspirations provide human authority, or mana tangata.

This book is about Māori development and human authority associated with the collective – whānau, hapū and iwi – and in the broadest sense highlights the social quality of mana tangata as requiring the recognition of achievement and of according respect where it is due (Mead 2003: 51–2). A basic premise of contemporary Māori endeavour in social, cultural or economic affairs is an expectation that state institutions and societal responses to aspirational ambition should enhance mana rather than diminish it. The negative impacts of colonisation exacted on the lives of Māori people and their communities since early contact, which some would argue still continue, have been those of profound loss, dispossession and disintegration – economically, socially, culturally and psychologically. Despite this, Māori agency has remained complex and vibrant.

The underlying assumption of this text is that Māori people are best equipped to find solutions to challenges affecting Māori, based on a long history of endurance, resilience and survival power (Durie 2005). In order to redress injustices associated with a century and a half of colonial and neo-colonial government and state power, and if upholding the mana of the people is the primary aim, Māori agency in Māori affairs is critical.

The genesis of Māori development can be traced to the period of first settlement, when, far removed from the temperate island environment they had known, Māori learned to adjust to the challenges of a harsh climate and the relative vastness of a difficult terrain. Innovative techniques and technologies were developed, and over time a highly efficient economy evolved, based on imports and exports of food, technology and natural resources. The trading of produce and other goods between tribes was carried out mainly through a system of barter (Gardiner 1994). Following contact with Europeans, tribes in favourable locations prospered by growing and shipping produce for export as well as for local markets and settler communities. Some tribes invested in the purchase of capital goods such as shipping fleets and flour mills (Walker 1990). Although this tribal economic boom lasted little more than two decades, Māori were quickly able within that time to adapt to new corporate trading entities (Jahnke 2005).

Māori development has continued to evolve in different forms, offering opportunities for Māori to contribute substantially to the cultural, social and economic progress of New Zealand. Many of these opportunities have been provided by global phenomena such as world recessions, financial crises, wars and poverty (Sorrenson 1992). At the dawn of the new millennium Māori initiatives are increasingly geared towards such environmental matters as climate change, global warming, a worldwide energy crisis and environmental sustainability (Tipene 2010). However, projects initiated by Māori for Māori are not simply a reaction to global imperatives or localised state agenda, but are ventures embedded in place and in whānau, hapū and iwi histories, and based on the vision and aspirations of the communities they serve. This is what sets a Māori development agenda apart from one imposed by the state. The early twentieth century work of Sir Apirana Ngata in land and cultural development and Sir Māui Pōmare in public health saw Māori agency focused on health, education and land development initiatives as solutions to challenges to tribal self-sufficiency and autonomy and the maintenance and application of customary social and cultural institutions. Unfortunately, their vision for Māori development was not necessarily what the government or mainstream society of the day envisaged, so very few of their initiatives were implemented. In fact the development work of leaders like Ngata and Pōmare was undermined by Crown policies, institutions, systems and practices that served to mitigate the mana of Māori people in every social and cultural sphere well into the latter years of the twentieth century, generating strident resistance and politicisation, particularly among the new generation.

The public expression of political consciousness among Māori came to a head in the 1970s through the radical activities of Ngā Tamatoa, a group of university-educated Māori youth, who petitioned for the inclusion of Māori language in the education system. The more conservative New Zealand Māori Council (NZMC) complemented the approach taken by Ngā Tamatoa through submissions to Government. In particular, the NZMC cited statutes that contravened Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi. This invigorated political consciousness paved the way for a powerful Māori land rights movement. The groundswell of Māori resistance manifest during the 1970s intensified throughout the 1980s and beyond as Māori challenged the pace and scope of free-market capitalism. The reforms, incorporating free-market economic policies, resulted in the devastation of whole Māori communities rendered unemployed in the name of economic efficiency. Paradoxically this climate also provided opportunities for tribes and other Māori groups to move towards greater economic self-sufficiency. To some extent it has allowed iwi to turn their attention to the social and cultural needs of whānau and hapū in terms of language revitalisation, development of marae and the provision of health, education and other social services.

Mana tangata is a fundamental principle in the Māori world that deals with, among other things, the diversity of human endeavour. Philosophically, the principle of mana tangata provides a basis for a Māori development discourse, some aspects of which are broadly categorised in this book within the following sections: Māori culture, the Treaty of Waitangi, Māori health and the environment. Though broad, each section contains a range of views across diverse disciplines which serve to demonstrate the wide scope of Māori aspirations embedded in philosophical traditions, experience and understandings that are in the main positively focused on Māori futures.

Tensions between tribal organisations and the state are of long standing. In Chapter One, Huia Tomlins-Jahnke argues that many tensions are embedded in deep-seated Eurocentric assumptions of the state that have their origins in the writings of early contractarian theorists, among them Hobbes, Lock, Rousseau and Kant. Past ideas about the nature of the state drawn from these early theorists have helped justify colonial policies in the development of New Zealand’s nationhood that have continued to be perpetuated in neo-colonial form by successive governments, and that remain a source of Māori discontent.

In Chapter Two Bronwyn Campbell posits the Treaty of Waitangi as a blueprint for a bicultural governance model such as that adopted by the Anglican Church. She considers the significance of language as the basic foundation of future bicultural relationships and collaborative synergies.

While acknowledging colonial relationships of dominance, she calls for a mutual recognition of mana and a partnership approach to governance and what that means in practice. Whatarangi Winiata’s ‘partnership – two cultures’ model provides a framework within which to imagine a truly bicultural nation forged in mutual respect.

One lever for Māori discontent at the level of the political is the experience of exclusion, abstention or low-level participation in electoral matters, more often than not in the case of indigenous youth. In Chapter Three Veronica Tawhai draws on research that explores the engagement in electoral decision-making by Māori youth in Aotearoa. Tawhai argues that citizenship education is important, to ensure a society of well-informed voters to sanction the legitimacy of governing institutions. She examines the nature of citizenship education Māori youth have received in the context of electoral reform in New Zealand, and the implications this has for Māori engagement in the political system. Online technologies have a particular potential to engage Māori youth in electoral matters.

The revitalisation and maintenance of the Māori language has been a priority since the language was found to be at the point of extinction. However, despite various Māori language strategies in education and broadcasting and tribal initiatives instigated over the past forty years, te reo Māori remains under serious threat. There are concerns too about the nature and standard of contemporary Māori language, as the number of native speakers declines and the number of fluent second-language learners increases.

In Chapter Four, Darryn Joseph focuses on strategies to assist second-language speakers of te reo Māori move off their ‘linguistic plateau’ and away from regurgitating well-worn figures of speech and enable them to create their own metaphors and similes, aimed at reaching a higher command of the language. This requires a mind shift for language learners, from playing a role in the survival of te reo Māori to being able to invent exciting, innovative and imaginative ways of speaking. Drawing on his research on native language excellence, Joseph introduces some of the principles advanced speakers of te reo Māori employ in generating imagery in the mind of the listener.

Marae development, which flourished under Ngata’s leadership in the early twentieth century, has continued to be a major item in some form or other on every marae committee agenda. Ngata considered the maintenance of marae a priority, especially as a means to revive the art of carving and in terms of internal refurbishment making use of customary art forms (Sorrenson 1992). The relationship of whānau and hapū to tribal marae is based on whakapapa, and the marae itself is a concrete expression of mana tangata and mana whenua. In Chapter Five Robert Jahnke explores the hapū politics involved in the refurbishment of a particular marae. He highlights the dynamic interaction that evolved between the elders and the artist, and how the mana of each party was upheld. The translation of tribal narratives into final art forms within the meeting house is challenged when decisions deemed unconventional threaten to undermine what counts as traditional and therefore acceptable to the hapū. The principles of mana tangata and mana whenua determine relationships within the marae, within a paradigm of cultural inheritance.

Cultural inheritance incorporates influences from both the Māori and non-Māori world, and none more so than the Christian religion introduced to Māori society in the early nineteenth century. Some consider the ‘civilising’ practices of early missionaries as having had a damaging effect on Māori society, alongside state assimilationist policies and large-scale land alienation. On missionary involvement in education, Ranginui Walker’s Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou, for example, is uncompromising in the view that missionaries were the advance party of cultural invasion.

In Chapter Six Nathan Matthews examines the impact that Christian religious belief and observation, particularly within Catholicism, have had on Māori culture, and accordingly on a modern understanding of mana tangata. Matthews argues that the effect religion has on culture is manifest in practice, beginning with concepts of self-perception and identity beyond kinship and familial groups. He explores the role of Māori boarding schools founded by the church in transmitting Māori Catholicism.

In Chapter Seven Te Kani Kingi focuses attention on Māori responses to Māori mental health over time, and the contemporary achievements that have influenced innovative approaches to mental health promotion, treatment and care. Kingi raises questions about the nature of Māori mental health, including reporting and admission patterns from the early years of the twentieth century to the late 1970s, when the prevalence of mental disorder within Māori communities was extremely low. Kingi advances a number of possible explanations for the drastic change in this pattern ever since, which include the issue of alienation; the impact of unemployment; the problem of misdiagnosis; the preference of Māori to care for their own within the whānau; and the impact of alcohol- and drug-related disorders. Through initiatives and work development programmes, Māori are now actively encouraged to consider a career in mental health, which has led to a proliferation of Māori health and social service providers promoting new modes of care in line with kaupapa Māori sensibilities.

Many would argue that a Māori workforce, whether in health, education, agriculture, business or science, is critical for positive Māori development. In Chapter Eight Annemarie Gillies rejects the assumption that others can work on behalf of Māori in the health field, and argues that distinct Māori approaches will advance Māori in this area. Gillies examines the history of Māori participation in the health workforce, and the contributions of early pioneers. To be effective, she argues, health interventions for Māori should reflect clinical, cultural, community and leadership skills. Leadership in the field calls for the ability to bridge the gap between the Māori world and that governed by professional, institutional and political ambitions.

‘Bridging the gap’ requires interaction between Māori society and that part of the larger world often referred to as the ‘west’. In Chapter Nine, Margaret Forster turns our attention to environmental concerns, and how Māori engage with the ancestral landscape and manage natural resources within a ‘western’ frame.

The ‘ancestral landscape’ refers to the geographical area within which hapū historically exercised mana tangata and mana whenua. Māori environmental knowledge has been severely disrupted through imperial and colonial enterprises; what is now required is recognition of indigenous rights and a restoration of the institution of kaitiakitanga. Forster argues that the recovery and use of customary environmental knowledge has implications for enhancing the mauri or life force of species and the ecosystem, thus ensuring that ancestral places, native flora and customary knowledge are retained and developed for future generations.

Furthermore, conferring the role of kaitiaki upon Māori offers hapū the ability to be actively involved in the protection and management of natural resources.

The issue of how Māori should interpret and apply the concept of mana tangata in today’s society is complex. In Chapter Ten Nick Roskruge explains how he applies principles of mana tangata such as whenua, tinana and mātauranga to his practice as a horticulturalist working among Māori and indigenous communities. Mana tangata entails the ideals a community considers important in order to ensure positive relationships. As a concept, mana tangata implies strength of a person or a collective that is drawn from the landscape: physically nourished from the food people grow and consume, mentally nourished through knowledge, and spiritually nourished through the ancestors and social relationships.

It is apt that this book should conclude with a personal view of mana tangata. For the most part, this collection of essays represents a departure from the way in which many previously published works about Māori are written: most often around a key topic or theme. The concept of mana tangata forms the organising principle and philosophical orientation for this book, which thereby encompasses not only a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, but also the strength of Māori development discourse as it has evolved over the past 150 or so years. The fact that mana tangata can be applied to any number of contemporary Māori situations demonstrates its universal appeal.

Section One

The Treaty of Waitangi

Chapter One

Colonial Theories of the State: Māori/State Relations

Huia Tomlins-Jahnke

When the Europeans came we had no idea that they had come

because a king across the sea had scratched on a piece of paper

saying that he ‘gave’ our lands to his cousin Prince Rupert.

Matthew Coon Come,

National Chief of the Assembly of

First Nations of Canada 2003¹


Persistent outcomes that have emerged at the interface between iwi organisations and the state are tensions concerning the distribution of state power and authority, the wider political and ideological dimensions that underpin them and the imposition of external mechanisms to regulate and control Māori affairs. These factors are often seen as undermining the central task of Māori and tribal organisations to realise the goals and aspirations of Māori generally, and their constituents in particular. Despite a dependency on government contracts, many iwi organisations perceive the state as detached and outside Māori frameworks, and feel excluded from its processes. References by Māori to the state or the government are frequently prefaced with specifically identifiable terminology: ‘the Crown,’ ‘Western,’ ‘Pākehā,’ ‘European’ or ‘mainstream.’ These terms are often used interchangeably as descriptors to qualify constitutional language and as analytical categories for ‘Pākehā laws,’ ‘European systems,’ ‘mainstream society,’ ‘western judiciary’ or, simply, ‘the Crown.’

Concomitant with this language of disassociation is a persistent discourse that depicts the state as a self-fulfilling edifice uncommitted to Māori development, practising a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to Māori affairs by imposing ‘Western/Pākehā/European/mainstream/Crown’ structures and regulatory controls with little opportunity for negotiation. Māori often feel they must wear dual ‘cultural hats’ (Māori and Pākehā) in order to comply with and adapt culturally inappropriate structures and processes to meet the needs and aspirations of Māori people. Although overly generalised, this storyline summarises a perception articulated in the historical experience of indigenous peoples colonised during the imperial age.² In order to better comprehend the impulses that lie behind such perceptions it is necessary to consider them within a longer historical and social context.

The aim of this chapter is to understand the origins of European assumptions of the state that underpin Māori discontent. The intention is not to discount the gains that Māori have made as a consequence of state programmes, constitutional provisions (through parliamentary representation and statutes) or Treaty of Waitangi-based arrangements, but rather to present a discursive approach to the historical and contemporary complexities associated with Māori and the state, and the constitutional environment within which Māori organisations must operate.

There are three parts to this chapter. The constitutional relationship between Māori and the state has its roots in the colonising processes of British imperialism. Therefore, part one begins with a historical overview of the traditions of imperialism generally and the processes and underlying ideologies through which the British Government sought to construct Māori nationhood in particular. Specific historical events before the 1840 annexation of New Zealand by Britain are detailed in order to demonstrate British assumptions of authority, humanitarian ideals and subsequent interventions by state functionaries in the affairs of New Zealand from offshore. It is argued that these assumptions formed not only the basis on which New Zealand’s nationhood was premised, but also the foundation on which the Crown’s relationship with Māori was largely determined. This has important implications for contemporary understanding of relations between Māori and the state.

This discussion provides a context for part two, which outlines the nature of the state and the basis for Eurocentric bias in modern constitutionalism as expressed in the writings of contractarian theorists Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Emmanuel Kant; in particular, concepts of the state that constructed the non-European as irrational ‘natives’ or ‘savages’ who remained in a perpetual ‘state of nature’. It was such ‘rationality’ that justified colonial policies of amalgamation and assimilation. Drawing on James Tully’s analysis of the philosophical work of modern constitutional theorists, some of the features of modern constitutionalism that demonstrate exclusionary and assimilatory devices are applied to Māori historical and contemporary experience, to demonstrate the way in which such ideas continue to be perpetuated.

The final part of this chapter discusses the notion of citizenship in relation to the idea of the ‘cult of equality’ as promoted by Ngata, and the emerging politics of indigeneity. It is argued that the concept of equality, a liberal democratic ideal centred on the individual, is difficult to implement in practice. It is necessary to transform the liberal democratic paradigm of the state and redefine citizenship to reconcile the dual obligations of fairness to all citizens and an endorsement of indigeneity. Indigenous peoples exercise their rights to pursue the collective goal of self-determination as a solution to their experience of an exclusionary kind of citizenship, and as a resistance measure to the paternalistic mechanisms of the welfare state.

Imperialism in a global context

The relationship between Māori and the state has a complex history, with roots in colonising processes and traditions of imperialism that continue to be experienced by indigenous peoples globally.

The imaginary line drawn in 1493 by a papal bull to delineate ‘west’ and ‘east’ re-inscribed the world into political divisions creating struggles between western states for what Said has termed ‘positional superiority’³ (Said 1978: 7–9; Smith 1999: 59–60). According to Tuhiwai Smith, Said’s notion of positional superiority is useful in conceptualising the traditions of imperialism as encompassing not only the appropriation of raw materials and the use of military strength, but also the mining, extracting and distribution of knowledge and culture through, among other things, systematic colonisation (Smith 1999: 58). In the process of colonisation and traditions of imperialism, indigenous peoples were:

… classified alongside the flora and fauna: hierarchical typologies of humanity and systems of representation were fuelled by new discoveries; and cultural maps were charted and territories claimed and contested by major European powers. Hence some indigenous peoples were ranked above others in terms of such things as a belief that they were ‘nearly human’, ‘almost human’ or ‘sub-human’… (Smith 1999: 60)

Viewed as a system, imperialism underpinned the development of the philosophy of liberalism, the disciplines of the sciences and public education by appropriating knowledge and resources and also distributing materials and ideas outwards (Smith 1999: 58). Such systems were institutionalised and maintained through colonial projects manifest in the establishment of hegemonic organs and functions of the state (such as the economy, law, the judiciary, the legislature, parliament, the police and the military) and of society (such as religion, education, health, welfare and labour).

With the process of discovery, a total discourse was forged, which, Sophie Bessis argues (2003: 13), gave meaning to consequent expulsion and taking of possession, constructing a history that remains the basis of western thought. A history invented ‘at the moment when Europe lay claim to Reason [which was the moment at which] it developed its own founding myths’, each based on a rejection. Influences from the east were systematically erased,⁴ disregarded,⁵ obscured⁶ and passed over in silence⁷ (Bessis 2003: 13)

Contemporary imperialistic traditions have taken shape within the monopolistic activities of multinational conglomerates. Imperialism, according to Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o, is the rule of consolidated finance capital that continues to affect the lives of indigenous peoples in the remotest corners of the world. In relation to the indigenous peoples of Africa, Thiong’o maintains, ‘imperialism is not a slogan. It is real, it is palpable in content and form and in its methods and effects … Imperialism is total: it has economic, political, military, cultural and psychological consequences for the people of the world today’ (Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o 1986: 2).

Colonial relations – Māori and the Crown

The relationship between Māori and the state has its origins in colonial relations between Māori tribes and the British Crown from about the turn of the nineteenth century. This episode in the political history of New Zealand is well documented (Cox 1993; Oliver & Williams 1981; Orange 1987; Walker 1990; Ward 1974). However, a brief discussion of several key events in the lead-up to Britain’s annexation of New Zealand offers a useful insight into the nature of the burgeoning relationship between Māori and British authorities, which formed the basis upon which an embryonic New Zealand ‘nation’ state was constructed.

Before 1840 the relationship was characterised by an economic (for example trade, sealing and whaling industries), social (for example missionary activity) and political (for example petitions to the King of England) interaction between various tribes and their leaders and a growing European presence. These interactions were based largely on Māori terms. By enlisting Pākehā expertise, Māori became highly capable and competitive entrepreneurs of large-scale commercial enterprises (King 2003: 127). Iwi trading with Europeans were not only acquiring new livestock, produce, technology and religion, but also muskets. This gave them a capability that altered the balance of power and was considered a threat by European colonists and traders intent on protecting the lucrative profits made in the New Zealand market (Cox 1993: 40).

For the most part, these early social and political relationships were influenced to some degree by nineteenth-century liberal sensibilities that had gained considerable currency in Europe and particularly among the British secular and religious establishment by the time Britain sought colonial expansion in the southern Pacific. This was largely expressed as paternalistic, humanitarian and evangelist concerns for the care, protection, welfare and salvation of the poor, the indigent and, in the colonies, native people. In the colonies the principal concern with natives lay in the pursuit of a civilising and assimilatory mission (Adams 1977). The source of such concerns, in respect of Māori, lay with state officials who included successive governors of New South Wales in Australia and, in London, officials of the Colonial Office,⁸ church leaders from the Anglican and Wesleyan mission societies, and members of the Aborigines’ Protection Society (King 2003: 151–2; Orange 1987: 2).

The appointment of James Busby as the first British Resident in New Zealand in 1832 was initiated by the British Government in response to a formal request for protection

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