Thu 3 May 2018

Celebrating Maori

A century ago Urenui-born Te Rangi Hīroa (Sir Peter Buck) wrote it was right that elders who withheld information were censured.

He called it a treacherous abuse of custom and added “provide us with the stories and the knowledge of the past as a weapon for us to combat the Pākehā who say that the Māori are an ignorant people. Don't leave it for the Pākehā to talk about Māori customs in English newspapers, but it's for us, the Māori, to talk about them in our Māori newspaper, 'Te Pipiwharauroa'.

Hīroa, who in 1905 was appointed as a medical officer to Māori under Māui Pomare, died in Hawaii in 1951.

His call for Māori to learn from their tupuna remains alive and relevant.

Almost 30 kaitakawaenga (Māori liaison staff) from tertiary institutes all around the country gathered in Auckland recently for their annual hui where they reviewed pastoral care.

WITT’s Allana Prestney said it “had us all thinking mātauranga Māori as the driving force to supporting Māori students in a way that they understand best”.

The AUT website notes mātauranga Māori literally means Māori knowledge and is closely aligned to the period of pre-European contact as it encompasses traditional concepts of knowledge and knowing that Māori ancestors brought with them to this country.  It notes after the arrival of Europeans, mātauranga Māori evolved in important and significant ways as the ancestors encountered new environments and contexts such as flora and fauna, climate and geography and in terms of the need to respond to new technology, languages and cultures they had not known or experienced before.

Allana Prestney said the hui emphasised the importance of the teachings of tupuna, relationship building, understanding of things Māori as a way forward and aligning them with the Treaty of Waitangi under the Māori version and not the translated version.

The impediment for many Māori students who struggled was that they were not proud to be Māori – they saw themselves as failures.

“From the Māori perspective the spud peeler on the marae is regarded as just as important as the kaumatua, but the Western perspective has that person at the bottom of the heap,” she said.

“Our young people are constantly challenged to be top of the class. The goals are often unrealistic, and the consequence is that they are branded failures, and consider themselves failures.  So they have no incentive to achieve.”

She said those students often came from whanau where there was no history of “success” as viewed through a Western lens.

That was another reason to enrich them with an understanding of their history.

“We want to change the mindset of negativity and encourage our young people to embrace the proudness of being Māori.”

The hui, hosted by Auckland University and AUT was a good vehicle for the whole country to have a view of mātauranga Māori, she said.

Speakers – entrepreneurs, marketers and digital exports – discussed the significance of “things Māori by Māori”. The challenge was to change the mindset of Maori who did not see the value and significance of mātauranga Maori.

The challenge she wanted to confront was to identify the students who needed help, determine their whakapapa and work to change the mindset which left them tagged as “dumb”.

She said there was an additional challenge to bring Māori students into a new age of learning and understanding because many had no embraced their heritage.

“We are telling students they should not feel downgraded, that they should not set targets which they cannot achieve – they simply have to achieve. When you go for a job interview you are not asked what your pass mark was, they simply want to know you passed.”

She believes that more Maori students would celebrate their success if they used that measure instead of feeling they had failed because they were not top of the class.

“We have to make students more comfortable, and a lot of non-Māori students would benefit from not having extra pressure placed on them.”