Monday, May 31, 2010

Ill-equipped to understand Maori, lecturer claims

Its a natural reaction to scrutinise a claim based on our own experience.

One-sided teaching of our history has left New Zealanders ill-equipped to understand the feelings of Maori, the head of Victoria University's School of Maori Studies said yesterday.

Of Maori, and Maori history, I was taught very little. At primary level I remember learning about waka and whares and going to see such things at the museum. We made those stick things out of newspapers and pois and sang Maori songs, which I particularly enjoyed.

By the time we were nominating our subjects I had enough interest in history to chose it in the fifth and sixth form. My memory can dredge up extensive teaching about apartheid in South Africa, the origins of the first and second world wars, the introduction of the old age pension, feminism and women's suffrage - but nought about Maori.

And to this day I still feel my knowledge of Maori history is sketchy - but it's a great deal better than many others.

Things I have taught myself about are the first Maori Party, the paucity of public health services to Maori, the physical separation of the races due to geography and how that changed, the role Maori played in the World Wars (which varied between tribes) and their lack of recognition for it, the actual discrimination against Maori in the granting of old age pensions, the role that missionaries played in Maori education, the cooperative interaction between the Maori and early settlers which enabled the settlers to survive, the fascinating history of Ngati Porou and Apirana's efforts to reform land ownership to Maori advantage (consolidate title to allow for development), the development of the Ratana movement, the ethos behind Parihaka before it was destroyed by the government, what was behind the establishment of Maori 'royalty' and how the royalty isn't universally recognised by Maori, how difficult it was for Maori to get into a hospital, how devastating the introduction of diseases they had no immunity against was, how Pakeha were indifferent to Maori need during the depression because they considered them able to survive off the land, how Maori had their own hierarchical system and treated their weakest quite abominably, how storekeepers ripped off Maori pensions, the barring of Maori from pubs, the institutions of whangai and customary marriage, the acceptance verging on embrace of paternalistic leadership.

I could go on. But the result of learning about Maori history is, I have developed a sympathy for their disadvantage and a appreciation of our differing world-views.

That doesn't mean I go for the victimhood approach. But it does leave me with a slightly different mindset to many other Pakeha. With the Tuhoe business, for instance, I was out on a limb.

So the upshot of my rambling is, yes, I agree with Peter Adds.


Manolo said...

Lidsat said: That doesn't mean I go for the victimhood approach..

neither do I.

Unfortunately, history is written by the victors, not the vanquished.

Maoridom appears stuck on past grievances and have shown little inclination to move on.

Historical abuses must be addressed and settled, no doubt. But it does require a honest effort from the two parties involved.

Manolo said...

My apologies for the mistake when spelling your name, Lindsay.

Anonymous said...

If my memory serves me well you could also add to your list Maori were unable to vote until the 1940's. Though I'm a tad older, your experiences with things Maori mirror my own.

I was mulling over my memories of stick games with rolled up newspapers and papermache pois just the other day. A treat at
primary school was to watch the black and white movie Rewi's Last Stand. It was a favourite of the Headmaster at Wilford school in petone. By the time I'd left I must have seen it 20 times.
The Headmaster was fluent in the reo. He would give tuition to top students.Needless to say I struggled on with english.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the articles sentiments. Speak to non-Maori about Maori history from a Maori experience and faces go blank. People either look on uncomfortably and say stuff like 'but thats in the past'or they say stuff like 'well thats YOUR opinion'. As if history from a Maori perspective is only an opinion and not a lived reality.
The key to it is more than gathering an appreciation for the historical abuse and policy based exclusion of Maori, it is more than saying 'oh how sad', it has to be 'OK I GET IT NOW.'
In order to change the implicit attitudes of Non-Maori who don't know and don't understand it is up to those of us who do know to pass this knowledge onto our children in a positive and responsible transmission.

Anonymous said...

Cripes, lets throw more taxpayer money at this "problem"
Lets close the gap a bit more by creating some more bullshit jobs and wasting more young peoples time lecturing them about how bad white men were.
Teach them they must respect stone-age beliefs and that it's ok to have such beliefs stand in the way of prosperity.
This garbage is shoved down kids throats on a daily basis. The history taught is completely unbalanced already, it does not need to be made more so.
Maori are people just like the rest of us and I see no good reason to respect their feelings any more than I respect the feelings of any other person.
I'm not interested in having any respect for people who hold a grudge or feel some angst for things done to other people by other people long ago.

No maori in NZ is prevented from becoming wealthy by any law in NZ
if they are prepared to work hard and be sensible with their money.
Just as it is for the rest of us.
There are no laws in NZ that discriminate in any way against maori, quite the reverse actually.

That's how I live, in the present,
the only place anyone can live.

Anonymous said...

Anon - "There are no laws in NZ that discriminate in any way against maori, quite the reverse actually."

you have clearly been out to lunch for a while.

the rest of this post is cliches stuck together in sentences. You imply history will become 'more unbalanced' if Maori history gets taught at school. How? and more importantly Why?

you refer to 12% of population as a homogenous 'they', as if hard work eludes an entire section of the community. A falsity,and a myth.

'stone age beliefs' - tells me you know nothing about maori tikanga at all, nor do you give any credit to the amazing adaptability Maori have had to employ in order to stay afloat in a non-Maori world.

you don't respect people who hold a grudge - again you apply this reasoning to all who identify as Maori, with no understanding of what said grudge might actually be.

'be sensible with their money' instead of talking about Maori as if they don't know how to manage a dollar, perhaps you could point this in Mark Hotchins direction while he languishes in 43k perday hawaiian hotel without paying back a cent to his mum and dad investors.

brian_smaller said...

Anonymous - if Maori were unable to vote until the 1940s, then why were Maori seats were created in the 19th Century? Perhaps it was to get around the land ownership rules that governmed if you had a franchise to exercise. Maori men had universal suffrage before European men in New Zealand.

Mo said...

I don't sympathize with them and see no reason to do so.

Anonymous said...

I should have been more specific.
Maori were unable to vote on the european role unless they were at least half caste and could prove indiviual land ownership. other than that they were allowed their vote on the Maori role which was cast by a verbal vote to the returning officer. Full voting rights for Maori didnt come until the 1970's
I'm off to a Port Nicholson Tenths trust meeting this evening in Palmerston North to hear what the two hundred odd million is going to be spent on. They always have a grouse feed at the end, yummmm.