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Maori and the State: Crown-Māori relations in New Zealand/Aotearoa, 1950-2000

The Maori Renaissance

page 149

The Maori Renaissance

By the 1970s, the old ‘politics of stability and consensus’ in New Zealand was rapidly being superseded by a ‘politics of volatility and increasing political polarization’. While this reflected an international western phenomenon, it was given an antipodean edge by a growing propensity among pakeha citizens to see themselves as New Zealanders rather than ‘British’. This trend would escalate after Britain joined the European Economic Community in 1973, foreshadowing the ultimate demise of its protective economic relationship with New Zealand –and hence of New Zealand’s ‘colonial’ relationship with its Mother Country, except in terms of residual sentiment. Such was the socio-political context in which Maori matters came to have much greater prominence in New Zealand than any time since the wars of the nineteenth century. In fact, Maori voices had been heard in the many and various protest movements arising in New Zealand in the late 1960s.

Increasing Maori demands for recognition of rangatiratanga gelled with strong challenges to the status quo from many quarters, with the ‘founding myths’ of New Zealand (including those of paradisal race relations) placed under especially wide-ranging critical scrutiny. It was an exciting intellectual and social time for many (particularly young) people, including Maori youth growing up in the cities with access to educational opportunities denied their forebears. The mood of strengthening Maori assertion was reflected in a commentator’s words in the Maori Council’s newspaper in 1968:vocal Maori demands were based on countering ‘denial of [their] separate identity’ and ‘establishing their identities as Maoris’. As an activist said in 1971, ever greater numbers of people of Maori descent were beginning ‘to review the validity, the justice of this present system, and question it’. A growing ‘renaissance in Maori awareness’ meant that ‘[c]onsciousness of being Maori is reviving’. Auckland- based radical activist group Nga Tamatoa declared in 1973 that assimilationpage 150 had ‘failed’ and detected instead ‘a feeling of Maoriness in the air’. By then, campaigns for ‘Maori rights’ had gathered great momentum.1

Ironically, the offerings of urban life, rather than leading to full assimilation, had (in Tipene O’Regan’s words) ‘dramatically fuelled’ Maori political consciousness. This was intensified when the economy began to falter: now, even Maori who had been drawn into the ‘equality’ myth could see that their people constituted, in general, a subset of the New Zealand working class and suffered disproportionately within the capitalist political economy. Much public attention was drawn to both class and social-racial discrepancies, and Maori workers with trade union or similar organisational and ideological backgrounds gained experience which helped bring them to the fore of the ‘new ethnic activism’. So too did Maori tertiary students, many of whom were members of the New Zealand Federation of Maori Students, founded in 1959.

Among the various groupings which younger Maori contributed to, founded or joined were both pan-tribal or detribalised voluntary activist associations and a host of new cultural clubs and societies. Such organisations constituted a key part of the outer geographical limits of a worldwide ‘ethnic revival’. As indigenous politics were increasingly globalised, young Maori activists gained ideological and organisational insights into ways of furthering their causes. Models ranged from the ‘black power’ and American Indian movements in the United States to Marxist, unionist, feminist, anti-racist, gay rights and environmental movements there and elsewhere. This international upsurge of ethnicity and of the ‘New Left’ and other movements had precursors in New Zealand among both Maori and pakeha. Dick Scott’s The Parihaka Story, and later publications, were to help inspire new generations of radicals such as Syd Jackson, a founder of the Tamatoa Council/Nga Tamatoa in 1970.2

In the rural-based past, and during their post-war displacement to the cities, many Maori had not seen themselves as part of ‘a separate national community’. Cultural and linguistic identification as Maori had gradually been joined by the realisation that the more united their activity, the more likely they were able to advance the struggle for rangatiratanga – at whatever level and however this might be manifested. With the advent of the Maori Renaissance, in the early 1970s united action intensified, and new political demands and renewed cultural vigour complemented the ever-present fight for better housing, pay, working conditions, health services and so forth.

It can be argued that the word ‘renaissance’ is, in some senses, a misnomer. As we have seen, ‘the spirit of ethnicity ha [d] never died’ within Maoridom. But while its roots were embedded in tribal-based custom, polity and struggle, significant portions of the renewed consciousness were urban based and focussed on ‘Maoriness’ rather than on tribal identity. Young Maori activists,page 151 in particular, would often combine their tikanga knowledge and their in-depth experience of the ‘alienating culture’ with the application of protest methods influenced by borrowings from overseas. These methods, often founded in urban indigenous experiences, made the ‘Maori protest movement’ a new phenomenon, even if many of the customs it sought to revive or procure respect for were ‘traditional’. Activists brought new tools for, and modes of, expressing Maoriness. They joined and reinvigorated the ongoing Maori struggle for autonomy in its varied configurations, tribal and non-tribal, rural and urban, cultural and political. Given this vigorous politico-cultural renewal among Maori, complemented by a rapidly increasing pakeha interest in Maori arts, craft and literature, it is legitimate to speak – as people did at the time – of a ‘renaissance’ within Maoridom. This renaissance needs to be seen in the context of a broader social, political, cultural and intellectual regeneration, with ‘intersectional’ links being made nationally and internationally on issues of race, gender and class.3

The Maori campaign to ‘reconcile Aotearoa with New Zealand’ accompanied, informed and stimulated post-colonial nationalist debate and ‘nation-building’ discourse and terminology. Increasing numbers of non-Maori were coming to see themselves as ‘pakeha’ rather than ‘European’ or ‘British’. In the 1970s, observers were noting a sense of unease, dislocation or ‘homelessness’ among sizeable sectors of non-Maori New Zealand. In response to the Maori assertion of indigeneity, many native-born pakeha stressed their strong identity with the land of their birth. Significant numbers began, consciously or otherwise, to seek a new pakeha identity, one which drew both on critiques of the assimilationism and racism of ‘monocultural’ white New Zealand and on a willingness to concede that Maori society, culture and organisation would and should survive and thrive. But large numbers of other New Zealanders were antagonistic to Maori activists and their increasingly vocal demands. In this environment, anti-racist and indigenous support organisations were revived or established.

The self-imposed challenge for white liberals was first to ‘examine critically their own attitudes and institutions’ and to develop ‘a new consciousness’. Then they could set out to undermine the old ethnocentric pakeha beliefs and to combat ‘institutional racism’. As a joint paper by the Citizens Association for Racial Equality (CARE) and the Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination (ACORD) stated, the aim was ‘to build a truly multi-cultural society’ and to stop the authorities and white citizens attempting ‘to enforce mono-cultural uniformity’. In fighting for a multicultural world – talk of ‘biculturalism’ often occurred within a broader discourse on ‘multiculturalism’ in the 1970s, and often the terms were used interchangeably – pakeha activists sought, then, to situate themselves at a ‘progressive’ location within mainstream culture. They worked alongside and with Maori co-thinkers and organisations,page 152 and were to have an important role to play in complementing or assisting the new Maori activist movements.4

While some Maori protest groups tended to eschew pakeha membership, many Maori activists quickly recognised that their struggles resonated with other progressive causes and that immediate goals needed contextualising within a broader politico-economic framework. Work with and within different types of pakeha-dominated bodies could well be fruitful. There was, in particular, a close working relationship in the 1970s between Maori activists and pakeha-led anti-racist organisations such as CARE, ACORD and HART (Halt All Racist Tours, which arose out of the campaign to stop sporting contact with apartheid South Africa). Maori women participated in the broader women’s liberation movement, adopting feminist theoretical analyses which saw them struggling on several fronts, both for ‘Maori liberation’ and against the oppression of women within Maori and pakeha society. Activists from groups such as the Maori Organisation on Human Rights (MOOHR) were also working within the trade union movement, and ‘advocated an alliance between Maori and progressive elements of the working class’. The aim was to unite the various races, ‘Maori and Pakeha and all’, but ‘especially all working people’. Linking the ‘struggle for Maori rights with the class struggle’ was particularly pertinent at a time of recessionary trends which hit Maori disproportionately.5

MOOHR sought pan-racial workers’ unity in combating racism, exploitation and oppression. The organisation emerged in tandem with a Wellington-based underground newspaper called Te Hokioi, which was ‘written for Maoris along with their Pakeha class brothers’. Reviving the name of a Maori resistance newspaper from the previous century, Te Hokioi first appeared in August 1968, that momentous year of socio-intellectual upheaval in many parts of the world. The newspaper saw racism as the inevitable outcome of class inequality, and conceived of Maori as particularly oppressed members of the working class. Like Te Hokioi, Nga Tamatoa and later others, MOOHR’s focus was on raising Maori consciousness. In addition to its class analysis, it declared that Maori were oppressed as an ethnicity as well – through contemporary happenings such as pollution of seafood beds as well as due to historical actions by Crown and settlers. It was very much concerned with the way Maori rights, identity and culture had been denied by decades of ‘assimilationist’ policy and ‘monocultural attitudes’. Language, which was seen as underpinning culture, was a major issue. MOOHR ‘accused the education system of “cultural murder” of the Māori language’, and campaigned for the revival of te reo Maori.

The Tamatoa movement arose out of discussion at the 1970 Young Maori Leaders’ Conference in Auckland, whose attendees were especially concerned about the alienation of urban youth from their roots. Tamatoa membership was dominated by university students who tended to elevate race above class.page 153 Initially they focused on advocating the teaching of the Maori language in schools, but other demands made at the founding of Nga Tamatoa (as well as its name, meaning Young Warriors) pointed towards the more ‘political’ package of goals which soon emerged. As it declared in 1972, Nga Tamatoa wanted Maori ‘control over those things which are particularly Maori, including Maori monies and their distribution, Maori lands [and] the integration of Maori language and culture in the New Zealand education system’. A year later, it proposed that ‘the education of Maori people … be in complete and autonomous control of the Maori people’. It would call for equal Maori representation in Parliament, the return of confiscated land, and Crown ratification of the Treaty of Waitangi.6

The various protest groups, Maori and pakeha, had linkages in ideas and personnel. At the 1968 conference of the Federation of Maori Students, Syd Jackson initiated protest action over the scheduled All Black rugby tour of South Africa, regardless of whether Maori players were allowed to be included in the team. The resulting multiracial campaign was both internationalist, in solidarity with oppressed indigenes elsewhere, and New Zealandist in orientation. The voice of Maori, campaigners stressed, needed to be heard by national institutions, private and state. Other Maori organisations and sectors joined the cause, including trade unionists, churches, the Ratana Youth Movement and the Maori MPs. Even relatively conservative organisations took up the call, such as the Maori Graduates’ Association and the MWWL (although the NZMC felt that South African acceptance of non-white players would be adequate).

1 McRobie, Alan, ‘The Politics of Volatility, 1972–1991’, in Rice (ed), Oxford History, p 385 (for ‘politics of stability’ and ‘volatility’ quotes); Butterworth, ‘Men of Authority’, p 39 (for ‘denial’ and ‘identity’ quotes); Te Awekotuku, Ngahuia, ‘He Wahine, he Whenua, e Ngaro ai te Tangata: By Women, by Land, Men are Lost’, in Mana Wahine Maori: Selected Writings on Maori Women’s Art, Culture and Politics, Auckland, 1991 (original article:1972), p 46 (for ‘[c]onsciousness of being Maori’ quote), pp 46–7 (for ‘review the validity’ quote), p 47 (for ‘renaissance’ quote); Nga Tamatoa, ‘Submissions on the Broadcasting Bill 1973’, MS Papers 1617, Folder 667, Maori organisations–Tamatoa and Nga Tamatoa Council 1971–73, Alexander Turnbull Library (p 2); Wood, Anthony, ‘Holyoake and the Holyoake Years’, in Clark, Margaret (ed), Sir Keith Holyoake: Towards a Political Biography, Palmerston North, 1997, p 44; Belich, Paradise Reforged, pp 425–35; for a summary version of Belich’s argument concerning New Zealand’s colonisation, see Belich, James, ‘Colonization and History in New Zealand’, in Winks, Robin W (ed), The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume V: Historiography, Oxford, 1999; Bedggood, Rich and Poor, pp 7–8 (for ‘founding myths’ quote); King, Michael, Nga Iwi o te Motu: One Thousand Years of Maori History, Auckland, 1997, p 100; Walker, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou; p 222; King, Michael, Being Pakeha Now, Auckland, 1999, Ch 5.

2 Sissons, ‘The post-assimilationist thought’, p 58 (for ‘new ethnic activism’ quote); New Zealand Press Association, ‘Maori influence growing – Sir Tipene’, 3 Dec 2004 www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/print/0,1478,3117011a8153,00.html [accessed 6 Dec 2004] (for ‘dramatically fuelled’ quote); Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, p 245; Mulgan, Richard, Maori, Pakeha and Democracy, Auckland, 1989, p 5 (for ‘ethnic revival’ quote); Hazlehurst, Political Expression, p 19; Pearson, David, The Politics of Ethnicity in Settler Societies: States of Unease, Basingstoke, 2001, p 188; Coates, Ken S, ‘International Perspectives on Relations with Indigenous Peoples’, in Coates, Ken S and McHugh, P G, Living Relationships, Kōkiri Ngatāhi: The Treaty of Waitangi in the New Millennium, Wellington, 1998, p 35; Poata-Smith, E S Te Ahu, ‘He Pokeke Uenuku I Tu Ai: The Evolution of Contemporary Maori Protest’, in Spoonley, Paul, Pearson, David and Macpherson, Cluny (eds), Nga Patai: Racism and Ethnic Relations in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Palmerston North, 1996, pp 98–103 (p 98 for ‘New Left’ quote); Harris, Hīkoi, p 15; Scott, A Radical Writer’s Life, pp 204, 208.

3 Pearson, A Dream Deferred, p 211 (for ‘the spirit of ethnicity’ quote); Vasil, Raj K, Biculturalism: Reconciling Aotearoa with New Zealand, Wellington, 2000 (rev ed), pp 19–20 (for ‘national community’ quote); Walker, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou, p 209 (for ‘alienating culture’ quote).

4 Vasil, Biculturalism (see title for ‘reconcile’ quote); Johnson, Miranda, ‘“The Land of the Wrong White Crowd”: Anti-Racist Organizations and Pakeha Identity Politics in the 1970s’, New Zealand Journal of History, 39(2), 2005, pp 137–8, 152–3; Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination, information leaflet, nd [c1973], 94-106-19/07, Polynesians in New Zealand, Herbert Otto Roth Papers (MS-Group-0314), Alexander Turnbull Library (for ‘examine critically’ quote); Citizens Association for Racial Equality and Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination, ‘Maori Representation – Joint Submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee established to revise the Electoral Act 1956 and Amendments thereto’, nd [c1973], 95-222-1/06, Maori Struggles, David Wickham Papers, Alexander Turnbull Library (p 11 for ‘to build a truly’ quote).

5 Poata-Smith, ‘He Pokeke Uenuku I Tu Ai’, pp 99–101 (p 101 for ‘advocated an alliance’ quote); Maori Organisation on Human Rights, ‘Waitangi Day’ Newsletter, Dec 1970, MS Papers 7888-233, Newsletters–Maori, E W G Craig Papers, Alexander Turnbull Library (p 3 for unite the various ‘races’, ‘Maori and Pakeha and all’ quotes, p 5 for ‘especially all working people’ quote); Harris, Hīkoi, p 35; Walker, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou, p 209 (for ‘struggle for Maori rights’ quote); Nightingale, ‘Maori at Work’, pp 219–20.

6 Te Hokioi: Te Reo Ote Iwi Maori, Issue 4, vol 1, Feb/March 1969, MS Papers 7888-233, Newsletters–Maori, E W G Craig Papers, Alexander Turnbull Library (p 1 for ‘written for Maoris’ quote); Nga Tamatoa, ‘Submissions on the Broadcasting Bill’ (p 4 re ‘monocultural attitudes’); Walker, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou, pp 209-12; Walker, ‘Maori People Since 1950’, pp 508, 511-2 (p 512 for ‘accused the education system’ quote); Nga Tamatoa, in Maori Organisation on Human Rights, July Newsletter, 1972, 99–278–05/06, Papers re the Race Relations Bill, Trevor Richards Papers, Alexander Turnbull Library (pp 1 and 6 for ‘control over those things’ quote, emphasis removed); Minutes of the Annual Conference of the Race Relations Council, Massey University, 9-11 Feb 1973, 99-278-08/09, New Zealand Race Relations Council, Polynesian Panthers, Trevor Richards Papers, Alexander Turnbull Library (p 2 for ‘the education of Maori’ quote); Rei et al, ‘Ngā Rōpū’, pp 11–2; Department of Maori Affairs, The Maori Today, 1964 (‘The Maori Language’ section); Harris, Hīkoi, pp 26, 38, 44-8; Walker, ‘The Treaty of Waitangi’, pp 57–58; Nightingale, ‘Maori at Work’, p 220.