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Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays


How then does Maori culture differ from our own? It is not a matter of carving, and genealogies, mooteatea and patere, though the old people still sing them, or of pois and action-songs. It is a matter of a different kinship system, different values and aspirations, a different system of child-rearing. There is the attachment to the land; the sense that (unlike the pakeha) one's ancestors have lived here for nearly a thousand years and that this is the home of one's descendants. Beyond the household family there is the wider whaamere, which as Pat Hohepa defines it, consists of all the descendants (with their spouses and adopted children) of an ancestor who has died within living memory (usually the father of the oldest living member).18 Beyond the whaamere there is the sense of belonging provided by his membership of the tribe. There is the preference for spells of hard, long group work for a group purpose which can be achieved in foreseeable time, rather than for sustained, regular work for oneself. There is the concern for the immediate, rather than for the distant future; the admiration of generosity and sociability and hospitality, the deliberately happy-go-lucky attitude to time and money, the high value placed on personal relations, and the consequent preference for the company of others who feel the same way, that is (usually) for other Maoris. There is the preference for sea-foods and food cooked in a haangi. And in spite of local factionalism, there is the loyalty to one's tribe, and then to other Maoris as against the pakeha. To be a Maori is to know and feel for each one of the hundred-odd members of one's whaamere, to expect a welcome when one visits them, wherever they are; to feel the obligations of aroha and feed and accommodate a guest and help any relative or friend in difficulty. At the present time too, it is to be more familiar with bereavement—since a number of one's relatives, even younger ones, will have died. It is to be more understanding towards the criminal, since one probably has a relative page 121 or two who have been 'in trouble'. There are, too, the ceremonial of the marae, the big huis, the religious hui toopuu, the opening of meetinghouses, the tangi, the formal meetings of representatives of two whaamere to arrange a wedding, and the distinctive character of Maori weddings, unveiling of tombstones, Maori church services, twenty-first birthday celebrations, and parties with their endless repertoire not only of action-songs but songs in English that everybody knows but few pakehas have ever heard of. What can be called Maori culture today is closer to European culture than to Maori culture at the time of European contact; in its informing spirit, however, it is quite distinct and is not likely to be 'integrated' away by administrators. Most Maoris participate in at least some of its expressions. It is made up, as Maharaia Winiata put it in a data paper prepared for the Auckland conference in 1959, of 'those things in the modern world to which the Maori clings to help him keep his sanity in what for him is a confused and confusing world'. It is a source of security and stability, and in districts where it is abandoned there is more drunkenness and demoralisation: if youths in the cities are bereft of it there will be more crime.

It is on this question that the Hunn Report has been most severely criticized—by the Presbyterian Maori Synod, by Bruce Biggs and by Richard Thompson, who called it 'essentially a European document'.19 Mr Hunn sees no more of Maori culture than a few 'relics'—language, arts and crafts, and the institutions of the marae. He is in a hurry to promote integration by swifter urbanisation, but his conception of integration is close to assimilation. At Waitetoko marae he illustrated his view of its pace with the hypothetical case of a Maori girl who at 20 married a pakeha, whose daughter at 20 another, and her granddaughter likewise, so that the woman at 60 would have eighth-caste grandchildren. It is hardly a typical case. The Hunn Report is to be commended as the most important official statement in years on Maori inequalities in housing, health and educational achievement. It has resulted in increased housing allocation, a committee on Maori health, plans for more vigorous land development and the Maori Educational Foundation. In some of its suggestions on land title it overrides Maori sensibilities, though it contains the inspired suggestion for the incorporation of tribes. But in its theoretical basis it is confused and over-simplified and unacquainted with the spirit of Maoritanga.

18 Hohepa, op. cit., p. 93. Also Joan Metge, The Maoris of New Zealand, Rou-tledge and Kegan Paul, London 1967, pp. 130-4.

19 In Comment, Winter 1961.