A Pākehā journey

One of many useful resources from Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori language week) is this user-friendly online quiz put out by Newshub, described as the “100 words and phrases the Ministry of Culture and Heritage says every New Zealander should know.”  Have a go!   But let’s not succumb to either shame, if we don’t get many right, nor pride, if we score well.  The real point of the quiz, I think, is that it provides indicators for building an understanding of the culture and heritage of the land in which we live.  And this is a journey everyone living in Aotearoa NZ should travel some distance along; one that starts with knowing zero of these 100 key concepts, and extends way beyond 100% right; in fact it is a journey without end.

I am not very far along this path, but in the spirit of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, here is my journey so far.

  • Step one was doing a workshop on Te Tiriti, the Treaty of Waitangi. Actually I am about to do my fourth Treaty workshop – there are quite a lot to understand in our founding document and its implications.
  • Step two was learning and committing to pronounce Māori words as correctly as possible. A good start is to ensure we say commonly mispronounced place names correctly.  Here’s a couple of helpful movies for pronouncing Tauranga and Taupō.
  • Step three is to learn more of our history. I still have much to do here, but books by Claudia Orange about the Treaty of Waitangi (for example this one), and the beautiful and informative Tangata Whenua – a history are a helpful start.
  • Step four was taking classes in Te Reo Māori. There are many good ways of doing this and I have tried several options, – starting with a two-day introduction to Māori language and culture (reo and tikanga), then doing an adult education course at our local high school, then having weekly lessons at the office, and now I am studying through Te Ataarangi, an immersion method of language learning developed by Māori in the 1980s to revitalise Te Reo.  All of these have been useful, but for me the most helpful and enjoyable is Te Ataarangi, especially now that I am supplementing classes with weekly practice sessions and some of the excellent Māori TV resources.  I am still whakamā (shy) about speaking and have a long way to go but I can finally see the possibility of becoming functional in Te Reo at some stage…
  • Step five has been building relationships and taking opportunities to connect and participate. I am fortunate to have Māori colleagues and friends who are supportive, and attending events like the Te Ataarangi hui-a-rohe (weekends spent staying on a marae and learning), Matariki (Māori New Year) celebrations, Waitangi Day celebrations and Kapa Haka competitions are easy ways to start.
  • Step six is to find ways to make what I am learning relevant to my everyday life. As an example, we are currently reinventing our own small charitable trust to be more culturally appropriate for Aotearoa NZ.  This includes 50/50 Māori / Pākehā representation on our board, changing our purpose to support social cohesion and the central place of Te Ao Māori in Aotearoa NZ, exploring more culturally appropriate ways to be a philanthropic funder, and we are about to formally adopt a new Māori name which is being gifted to us.  (More on this in a future blog.)

I know that I have a long way to go in this journey. I am aware that as a Pākehā I need to take care to be “culturally appropriate without cultural appropriation” (as my friend Lissa Chong puts it).  I know that I will continue to make many mistakes and that every step must be taken with a ngākau māhaki – a humble heart.  But I also know that this journey, which began, if I am honest, from a sense of duty, is now exciting, enjoyable and enlightening.

So, take that Newshub quiz, and kia pai ō tatou haerenga (may our journeys be good).

PS Additional tips and suggestions  gratefully accepted.

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  1. Kate, I valued your mix of reflections on your journey and advice re practical steps. Like all journeys much is unknown. What I find exciting his how as we Pakeha travel down this track our ‘pakeha’ness’ is remolded. What may appear two distinct world views begin to influence each other.

  2. Beautiful post Kate, and a very important one. Kua ako ano ahau i te reo Māori. Me kōrero tāua etahi wa!

  3. Beautiful post Kate, and a very important one.

    Kua ako ano ahau i te reo Māori. Me kōrero tāua etahi wa!

  4. Tena koe Kate,
    I too am embarking on a similar journey and am finding the resource links you have provided very helpful – Thank you.

    Ka kite ano

  5. Kia ora Keita. Another great blog post. The wananga at Otaki last weekend was awesome. See you at Te Ataarangi in a couple of weeks after the school holidays for the last six weeks before the end of the year. Arthur

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