The Māori Roots of a
Multicultural New Zealand
Professor Margaret Mutu
Department of Māori Studies
University of Auckland
Bananas NZ Going Global
International Conference
18-19 August 2007
University of Auckland Business School
• Aotearoa/New Zealand has been inhabited by
humans for at least 50 generations.
• For more than 40 of those generations, those
inhabitants were all of Polynesian origin and
were organised into numerous tribal
• About 7 generations ago Europeans/Pākehā
started settling here with the agreement and
under the authority of various tribal groupings
who became collectively known as Māori.
• In 1840 Māori handed over responsibility for
Pākehā to the British Crown because of their
increasing lawlessness, but agreed by Treaty
to let them continue to settle here provided the
Crown controlled them and stopped their
Introduction (cont)
• About 6 generations ago Chinese started arriving.
• Many built lasting relationships with Māori.
• There is no record of problems of lawlessness and
disrespect for Māori by Chinese.
• Māori do not have a formal treaty with Chinese or
any of the other ethnic groups who have arrived
• Since Pākehā and Chinese arrived, many other
ethnic groups have also come and settled here.
• Hence New Zealand is a multicultural country.
• However it has yet to learn how to recognise,
respect, and provide appropriately for each and
every culture so that we can all share the country’s
resources and all contribute fully to its well-being.
Introduction (cont)
In this presentation
1. Role of Māori in Aotearoa/NZ
2. Māori responsibility for our guests
3. Māori experience of Chinese
4. Māori Agreements with Pākehā
5. Māori experience of Pākeha
6. Biculturalism
7. Multiculturalism
Māori Role in Aotearoa/New Zealand
Defined by tikanga (our laws)
• derive from a world view that we inherited from our
• rooted as much in the spiritual aspects of this world
as the physical.
• based on underlying values which include
– Mana – authority, power, control, ownership, status,
influence, dignity, respect all derived from the gods
Tapu – sacredness, spiritual power or protective force
Whanaungatanga – kinship, relationships through
genealogical bonds
Kaitiakitanga – inherited responsibilities to take care of all
our natural resources including our lands, waters, seas and
other taonga
Rangatiratanga – chieftainship including sovereignty,
rights of self-determination, self government, authority and
power to make decisions and own and control resources
Our tikanga determines that
• We are tangata whenua – we are the hosts for all
who visit this country (and hence need to determine
immigration policy)
• We have a duty of manaaki manuhiri - we are
obliged to look after our guests and ensure they are
well-treated and respected.
– And if they decide to stay then they need a good
understanding of our tikanga so that we can all live
here in harmony.
– We also need a good understanding of our guest’s
tikanga so that we know how to look after them
• Pākehā settlement and introduced legal system
has not and can not change these fundamental
values and principles but it has made it very
difficult for us to carry out our responsibilities.
Māori Experience of Chinese
Similarities between our cultures have always
been recognised. We both
Promote well-being of group over individual
Descend from common ancestors
Have tribal or clan structures and extended families
Support and look after our own
Respect our elders
Revere our ancestors
Pursue decision-making by consensus
Shared experience of Pākehā racism.
Numerous Māori-Chinese marriages despite
strong attempts to ban them in 1920s and 30s.
Relationships between Māori and Chinese
generally good.
Māori could still learn a great deal from, for
example, Chinese expertise in business, Chinese
pursuit of academic attainment.
• Some Māori have and do speak out against Chinese
but they are a very small and non-representative
• However it has impacted negatively on Māori
perceptions of Chinese, particularly those who have
had no or limited contact with Chinese.
• Information and education would help resolve this,
as per Māori Television.
• It is very important that the history of ChineseEnglish contact is known and understood along
with the history of Chinese settlement in New
• It is also very important that Chinese language and
culture is recognised and respected in this country
and that the Chinese contribution to this country is
known and acknowledged.
Māori Experiences of Pākehā
Māori Agreements with Pākehā
1. 1835 Declaration in Independence
Declares that the rangatira of the hapū hold
mana (includes sovereignty) over all their
lands on behalf of those hapū and would
never give law-making powers over their
own lands to any other persons.
recognised by the British Crown.
Confirmed by the Treaty of Waitangi.
2. Tiriti o Waitangi /Treaty of Waitangi
• Treaty between two sovereign nations (United
Nations recognised)
• Signed by leaders of tribal groupings and the
British Crown
• Two versions: Māori version authoritative at
international law
Agreed that
• British Crown has rights of governance (make
laws and keep the peace in respect of Pākehā)
• tino rangatiratanga of Māori is recognised and
will be upheld by British Crown
• Māori have all rights and privileges of British
citizens and the Crown guarantees protection of
Post-Treaty of Waitangi
• The British government issued clear
instructions to emigrant settlers to adhere to
the Treaty.
• Settlers ignored the Treaty and set up a
parliament which excluded Māori and passed
legislation designed to entrench Pākehā
political and economic dominance and
control in New Zealand.
• Māori resisted but became outnumbered,
marginalised and stripped of ownership and
use of our resources. Finally achieved
minimal representation in Parliament in 1867.
• Māori resistance continued nevertheless but
was either suppressed or ignored.
Post-Treaty of Waitangi
• Pākehā openly and unashamedly maintained
a White New Zealand policy until World War II.
• Māori were permitted to be honorary whites.
Some accepted and assimilated. Some also
mimicked Pākehā racism. Most did not.
• Chinese were openly subjected to racial
• All Māori continued to be subjected to racial
• Māori attention was concentrated on to trying
to sort out our Pākehā guest.
• Post World War II – United Nations’
conventions on human rights and elimination
of racial discrimination.
• 1971 – New Zealand appoints a Race
Relations Conciliator.
• Māori protest at on-going violation of Treaty
causes international embarrassment.
• 1975 – Waitangi Tribunal established to
investigate breaches and recommend
• 1987 – Court of Appeal rules that Treaty is
“part of the fabric of New Zealand society”
and “the country’s founding constitutional
• New Zealand’s bicultural Māori – Pākehā
make up becomes more widely recognised.
• 1980-90s – Waitangi Tribunal issued reports
upholding claims that are serious and very
extensive, recommending urgent and comprehensive
• 1990s – Governments began to comprehend the
enormity of their liabilities as result of breaches of
Treaty and started back-tracking to avoid them.
• 1994 – Government announced its Treaty of Waitangi
settlements policy which is designed to absolve
governments of their Treaty responsibilities and
systematically extinguish Treaty claims as cheaply
and as quickly as possible.
• Provoked very strong Māori reaction against yet
another treaty breach.
• Māori commenced a wide-spread educational
programme of decolonisation.
• 1990s-2000s Governments reduced and started
removing Māori funding across all sectors –
“mainstreaming” Māori programmes and returning
to assimilationist policies. Limited responsibility15
(but full blame) for Maori problems was devolved to
Māori organisations but with minimal or no
• Government played Māori off against our nonPākehā guests, issuing propaganda that Māori are
just one of many ethnic minorities, we should be
treated the same as other ethnic minorities and
should assimilate into the Pākehā majority. Asserted
that New Zealand is now multicultural, not
bicultural, with Pākehā the dominant and
determining culture (white supremacy).
• Māori fought back litigating endlessly, protesting on
streets and throughout the country, referring
matters to the United Nations and working there to
develop the UN Declaration of the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples.
• Government retaliated by fostering racist animosity
against Māori, using assimilated Māori against their
own relations. Carries on to this day. NZ Race 16
Relations Commissioner aware but unable to
• 2004 – Māori anger boiled over with confiscation of
foreshore and seabed – that legislation denies Māori
access to the law which applies to all other New
Zealanders (protection of property rights).
• 2005 – Māori Party elected to 4 seats in House. For
the first time, Māori have independent, informed
voice in House. Had some effect in pressuring
government to stop its racism against Māori.
• Government currently supporting legislation to
remove principles of Treaty of Waitangi from all
legislation and opposing adoption of the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
• 2005 – United Nations Special Rapporteur visited.
• Two United Nations reports issued confirming that
Treaty of Waitangi is recognised internationally
and condemning racial discrimination against
Māori by New Zealand government, by opposition
parties and by media. Numerous
recommendations made. Government ignores
both reports. So does media.
• Government appeared before United Nations
committee last week saying New Zealand is now
multicultural and Māori have no special place.
• Māori were also there refuting government claims.
• Māori will keep fighting to stop Pākehā racism, to
have our true status recognised and respected
and to have all our guests properly respected and
included within New Zealand society. Māori and
Chinese need to discuss how best to achieve that.
Selected References
Ballara, Angela. 1986. Proud to be White? A Survey of Pakeha Prejudice in
New Zealand. Auckland, Heinemann.
Chang, James I-Hsuan, 2004. “Māori Perceptions of Contemporary Asian
Immigration”. Upublished MA thesis, University of Auckland.
Ip, Manying, 2003. ‘Māori-Chinese Encounters: Indigine-Immigrant Interaction
in New Zealand’. In Asian Studies Review Vol 27 No.2.
Ip, Manying and Nigel Murphy, 2005. Aliens at my table – Asians as New
Zealanders see them. Auckland, Penguin.
Lee, Jenny Bol Jun, 2007. Jade Taniwha: Māori-Chinese Identity and
Schooling in Aotearoa. Auckland, Rautaki.
Liu James Hou-fu et al, 2005. New Zealand Identities : Departures and
Destinations. Wellington, Victoria University Press.
Mutu, Margaret, forthcoming. ‘Māori Media Depiction of Chinese’ in Manying
Ip (ed) Māori-Chinese Encounters. Auckland University Press.
Ng, James, 2003. ‘Characteristics of Chinese culture and aspects of health
care’. Available on
Spoonley, Paul, 1993. Racism and Ethnicity. Auckland, Oxford university
Stavenhagen, Rodolfo. 13 March 2006. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on
the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous
people: Addendum: Mission to New Zealand”. Geneva, Switzerland, United
Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Walker, Ranginui, 2002. ‘Māori News is Bad News’ in Judy McGregor and
Margie Comrie (eds) What’s News? Palmerston North, Dunmore Press.
Young, Steven, n.d. ‘The Chinese in a Bicultural New Zealand’. Available at

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