Maori, woman, mother: #IamMetiria

I hate election year. I hate elections. They are the epitome of colonial control. A year when the height of white privilege is guaranteed to reign supreme in its effort to demean anything Māori. National elections are our constant reminder of the failure of the Crown as a Treaty partner to accept the tino rangatiratanga, the inherent sovereignty held by our hapū and iwi in Aotearoa. In fact issues of the failure to honour tino rangatiratanga, mana motuhake or Māori sovereignty is rarely even discussed in election year, unless asserted by those that the government then marginalise as ‘trouble makers’ ‘seditious’ or ‘haters and wreckers’.

In election year, anything and everything Māori is considered a target. There are the predictable issues, the Māori seats, Treaty Rights, Māori engagement with health, education, social welfare, justice. Then this year we can add the attack on Whare Wānanga by a bunch of overly entitled universities led by overly privileged white men who assume that white knowledge is the only knowledge worthy of transmission in a higher education context. We can add the ongoing attack on te reo Māori and the racist view that maintains only the colonisers language as requiring compulsory learning in schools, and the equally mono-cultural view that Māori perspectives on the colonial land wars are not important enough to be compulsory in the history curriculum and therefore we continue to graduate from our schooling system ignorant monolingual students for the next generation of Māori to have to deal with. It seems that everywhere I turn there is a upsurge of white supremacy expressed as white privilege.

But even more disturbing has been emergence in the past weeks of a kind of punitive, vindictive, mean-spirited media gang led by primarily privileged white men who have no idea what it means to live in a level of poverty that many in this country exist in every day. This is a media pack with a focus in the election year on destroying a Māori woman leader, Metiria Turei, for something she did as a young single parent mother. And like any other pack they have been driven to collectively hunt and devour. These entitled white male journalists have been relentless in their desire to affirm their pack behaviour and to prove that they are rightfully engaging in acts of journalism. They are asking questions, they are probing, they are seeking answers. And some of them even speak with lulled voices that give an illusion that they give a shit. When they don’t.

I don’t expect everyone, or anyone particularly, to agree with this view. But let me say this, when a major newspaper like the NZ Herald prints an article titled – ‘Fact or fiction: Do Green co-leader Metiria Turei’s sins compare with Bill English and John Key?’ ( that seeks to position itself as undertaking equitable reporting then we have to ask some serious questions about if that is really the case. One may conclude that the NZ Herald does ‘protest too much’. This type of self-validation on the part of mainstream media should have us all concerned. Lets look, as an example, at one of the claims and conclusions that the Herald provides to vindicate itself.

Claim 3: That Turei was subjected to much more scrutiny than English and Key.
The Facts: English’s case was widely covered in the media in 2009 and English was the subject of attacks by Labour MPs in Parliament on the issue as well as being put through an Auditor-General inquiry. It earned him the nickname “Double Dipton” and cost him more than $30,000 as well as years of future accommodation allowances he could technically have qualified for.

A search through the archives shows the NZ Herald wrote a story in 2002 before Key entered Parliament on his plans to base his family in Parnell while buying an “electorate home” in Waimauku. A further story was written in 2005 when Key swapped his enrolment to the Epsom electorate and then Labour President Mike Williams said he would complain to the Electoral Commission about Key’s earlier enrolment in Helensville.”
Conclusion: English was subjected to as much scrutiny as Turei. Key was not, partly because he moved to address the situation and was still an Opposition MP rather than leader. (”

It is difficult at this moment to ascertain if, as the Herald states, English’s case was ‘widely covered’ but we can get some idea of the construction of the coverage when looking at some of the headlines related to Bill English’s accommodation allowance claims:
• Bill English buckles over housing allowance
• Bill English defends taxpayer cash for house
• Come clean on trust, Bill English told

Then lets look at some other headings relating to housing and in particular those related to people on benefits and the reporting related to Metiria Turei.
• Auckland emergency housing fraudsters rip off taxpayer
• Patrick Gower: Metiria Turei’s political fraud is ripping off the New Zealand public
• Metiria Turei explains silence on flatmates in fraud case

The Herald note that in English’s case it “cost him more than $30,000 as well as years of future accommodation allowances he could technically have qualified for.” So, in fact, the Herald assumes Bill English’s right to take accommodation funds by indicating that his repayment of those funds “cost him”, and then continue that assumption in regards to his “technical” ability to claim costs. This is not a 23-year-old single parent on a benefit raising a child. This is a middle class privileged white man using lawyers to defraud the system, albeit in a “technically” accepted manner, who was also the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. In regards to John Key, the Herald justifies his actions as he “moved to address the situation” and was only an “opposition MP rather than leader”. Interestingly there is no statement that Metiria Turei also “moved to address the situation” and in fact her move was to address the situation not solely for herself (as was Key’s self serving actions) but to address the issue of poverty and systemic failure to provide for all people that have to survive on a benefit.

So, Yeah… Nah… NZ Herald, you did not come anywhere near giving justification for the unjust and inequitable treatment of Metiria Turei over the past weeks. And you never will, just as those privileged white male pack of journalistic hounds can never justify their unbalanced and toxic reporting that dominated mainstream broadcasters reports. As Green MP Julie Anne Genter highlighted in regards to the reporting
“the media’s focus on Ms Turei’s benefit fraud and calls for her resignation are “completely disproportionate to what she actually did”.
“I think the media’s focus on what happened 25 years ago in a kind of punitive way is a distraction,” she told media on Tuesday afternoon.
“Metiria told her story voluntarily in order to be able to raise this question of our welfare system and how it’s broken and it hurts people who are living in poverty. That’s what we should be talking about.”


And it is election year. A year when all of these issues and their reporting increase in impact significantly. As those voters that are yet undecided or considering changing their vote are looking for those policies or reasons that will inform their decision there has been a dire lack of journalism that actually deals with the issues that Metiria has raised. We have to ask why there has been such an obsession with Metiria and virtually no engagement by those same reporters, in the past weeks, on the underlying issues at hand, poverty, systemic failure to care, MSD and WINZ continuing to abuse those who are most vulnerable. The continued emphasis on fraud and virtually no focus on the fact that Metiria had commenced a process to pay back. The continued digging around the past of a 23 year old Māori woman single parent and the constant raising of questions that come from unknown, unnamed sources that comment on her whānau and life, where journalists imply that you can’t possibly be in poverty if you have not turned to prostitution or drugs, would take its toll on any one. And I have to say that no amount of asking that type of question with a softly spoken tone makes that any more valid a question.

What we have is a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right wing ideologies of race, gender and class that serve the interests of domination and which reproduce systems of inequality and disparities. Metiria Turei embodies all of those things that white supremacy seeks to destroy. She is Māori, she is a woman, she has been on a single parent benefit and she has done all she needed to do for herself and her child to survive, to live and to flourish. For many, she has beaten the odds and in any other context she would be considered the model of what we aspire all single parents on benefits to experience. However, in this context she is a direct challenge to the existing order. Metiria Turei has for many years shown that she can lead a party that can take down this right wing neoliberal government. She has been a threat for years, and she will remain a threat for many more. She is powerful and all of those in power, and those that hold privilege, recognise that. So, Metiria Turei does not get the opportunity to pay back the benefit and keep her leadership role, the way that Bill English got to pay back the $32k he took knowingly and through a technical loophole and then become Prime Minister. Metiria Turei does not get let off for voting in an electorate she didn’t live in the way that John Key was let off for standing in an electorate he never lived in, and become Prime Minister.

Those leading the right wing media attack were always going to ensure that Metiria Turei would never be treated with any level of respect because Metiria does not look like those privileged white male journalists that have made it their duty to ensure that she doesn’t ‘get away with it’. Everything about these past few weeks should serve as a reminder that racism, sexism and classism are alive, well and thriving in this current neo-liberal economic context and that we only need to look to what is happening internationally to know that this will worsen and deepen if we do not stand up and make change.

So it is election year. And I hate election year. But this year I will vote. And I will work to ensure that everyone I know makes their vote count.And I encourage anyone who sees their experiences in the experiences of Metiria Turei to also make their vote count. If we are to ensure that we have any hope of living in a country that works for the collective well-being of all, that seeks to honour the Treaty relationship that our ancestors committed to, that cares for our environment and the well-being of this land, its mountains and waterways for current and future generations, that will stop the ongoing commodification and exploitation of our lands and seas, then we must reject this current right wing government.

At the moment the only mechanism for that is this oppressive election process. One day that may also change.

The lack of meaningful reporting that highlighted the issues at hand has thankfully being filled through blogs, opinion pieces and social media outlets. Here are some links that engage the issues raised by Metiria Turei in more depth.

The sins of Metiria, Bill and John: sense-checking the fact checkers. Simon Wilson

Metiria Turei debate: It’s all about class, Dr Claire Timperley

The morality of poverty and the poverty of morality – The Political Scientist

The importance of what Metiria has done and why we should all support her

Political Roundup: In defence of Metiria Turei – Bryce Edwards

Martyria No Right Turn

On Whited Sepulchres – Brian Edwards

Violence, Abuse and The Theft of Waitara Lands

One of the ways that abusers maintain their power and ability to continue their abusive behaviour is through silencing their victims. Ensuring the secret is kept, that the silence is maintained allows abusers to hold their power and control over those that they are victimising. Silence is a mechanism of control. It stops others from challenging or intervening in the oppressive relations that abusers perpetuate on those around them. Silence is a means by which to deny the existence of abuse. It is a veil that shrouds the abuse in order to render it invisible. In doing so it ensures that those abused are also rendered invisible and marginalised. Abusers are at their most powerful when those around them either do not know, chose not to know, or for many reasons they turn a blind eye to what is happening within their midst.

When I look at the Treaty settlement process imposed through the Fiscal Envelope process of the mid 1990’s I see silence and abuse at its core. The Crown in its so-called negotiation process is the most powerful abuser in Aotearoa. Through it’s representative negotiating agency, the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS), the Crown (which includes successive right wing and left wing governments) continues to abuse whānau, hapū and iwi. Silence as power, and silence as abuse, is reproduced through demands by OTS for ‘confidentiality’. In the context of the Treaty Settlement process the imposed process of confidentiality has enabled the Crown to abuse and re-abuse our people for over 25 years of Treaty settlements. The notion itself of settlement is a breach of the fundamental premise of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Moana Jackson reminds us constantly that “treaties are not made to be settled. Treaties are made to be honoured”. Since the instigation of the Fiscal Envelope process we have seen consistent moves by the Crown to invalidate the treaty. It is evident throughout government policies of removing fundamental treaty rights from legislation; placing deadlines on the right of our people to lodge treaty claims; whitestreaming of Māori specialist or dedicated roles across sectors to name but a few examples. The abusive power of the Crown may have changed form over 200 years, however it remains exactly that – State abuse. Graham Smith has talked of this as the new formation of colonisation. That is, it is colonisation under a different guise, in a different shape, but nonetheless Colonisation it remains. The silence that is confidentiality in the Treaty settlement process is reflective of the silencing imposed by an abuser that seeks to maintain their power and control. That is the nature of the current Crown – Māori relationship, it is a deeply embedded abusive and oppressive one.

This takes me to a key process that impacts directly upon the whānau, hapū and iwi of our lands, the Pekapeka Block in Waitara. The abuse relationship upon the whānau, hapū and iwi of Waitara is one that the Crown began in the 1860s. We remember, the history of the lands in Waitara, the theft and confiscation as a result of the Crown creating legislation to empower itself to steal the lands of Manukorihi and Otaraua hapū of Te Ātiawa iwi. The Crown later passed the lands to its colonial cousins that are now known as the New Plymouth District Council and Taranaki Regional Council. This makes it an intergenerational abuse as it continues to abuse the descendants of those that the Crown abused, imprisoned and murdered in the 19th century. This abuse was described by Awhina Cameron as follows, in relation to Taranaki, and in particular events surrounding the Waitara lands –

“When I sat down to write my korero today, I was struck by the glaringly obvious parallels between what I do, the work we do on an organisation level and what is currently going-on on a community and collective level between hapu, iwi and the various governing bodies of this land…
Violence is not ok, the further marginalisation of victims is not ok, interpersonal intentional harm is not ok, be it on a physical, psychological, emotional, financial or spiritual level, it is not ok. The dehumanising of the victim, the minimising of the harm, the rationalising of the violence is not ok. Nor is it ok for someone to use for their benefit the rewards of the harm of other, intentionally benefiting from that trauma, because this further victimises the victim and reinforces the perpetrators actions…
What I would say to you all here today, is that what is true on an individual level should also be true on a group and collective level. I would like to explore how our approach to intentional group collective harm has up to this day, minimised, dehumanised, marginalised and in no way resembles a meaningful restorative or healing approach to harm and the impacts and effects of that harm.”

There has been much debate about what “to do” with the Pekapeka Block that the Crown and Councils refer to within the generalised term ‘Waitara Endowed Lands’. The constant denial of the abusive parties to refer to specific lands as ‘Pekapeka’ is another process of marginalising the history and the oppressive actions that lead to Waitara being then passed on by the Crown to the two Council bodies, The New Plymouth District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council. “Endowed lands” creates a sense that the land was “gifted” “bestowed” or “donated” when in fact the lands were stolen and illegally confiscated. There was no act of endowment or gifting, there were acts of abuse and theft. This is not debatable, this is an historical fact. We now see, those acts of violence against the hapū and iwi being repeated today in 2017 with the current assertion of the NP District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council that they now have some right to sell “their gift”. That is very clearly an act of intergenerational violence and abuse.

Let me return, for a moment, to the notion of abusers, secrets and silence. For many generations these councils have forced whānau, hapū and iwi of Waitara to not only live watching these abusive institutions control the lands, they have also forced us to pay leases to live on the Pekapeka block. Throughout those years the councils have served their own interests in regards to the use of lease funds and in many instances have sold (and made freehold) sections of the Pekapeka block, and other confiscated lands in Waitara, with no indication to the hapū and iwi that they were doing so. It was their secret.

Silence through confidentiality continues to be imposed by the Crown agency, The Office of Treaty Settlements. OTS has a reputation of being the Crowns bully and there is no doubt that is the case in regards to Waitara. One of the most detrimental processes related to the Pekapeka block and other hapū lands in Waitara is silence being presented as confidentiality. Abuse relies on the secret and silence. We have seen this for over 200 years in Aotearoa. If we are to resolve the historical trauma that has impacted upon whānau, hapū and iwi within Waitara then we must ensure that all discussions are open and that the Crown and Councils do not impose their processes of secrecy to deny meaningful engagement.

None of the abusers in this scenario want to relinquish their power. The Crown, NP District council and the Taranaki Regional council want to place some part of the responsibility of this issue at the feet of the Iwi and the existing Te Atiawa treaty settlement. It is also clear that the Taranaki Regional Council have sat in arrogance throughout this process and have positioned themselves actively against the return of any lands.

So this is a message to the Crown, NP District council and the Taranaki Regional council – NO WE DO NOT ACCEPT THAT. We do not accept that the Iwi should ever have to buy back lands that were stolen from our ancestors.
You stole the lands, you took Waitara through illegal acts of violence and confiscation, you have all benefited millions of times over through financial and economic advantage from the theft of those lands. You do not deserve one cent more, NOT one cent more should be extracted from the lands of Manukorihi and Otaraua hapū.

The colonial government commenced the colonial land wars in Waitara. Successive governments and councils have never done right by the whānau, hapū and iwi of Waitara. They have constantly abused, oppressed and bullied those of Waitara. It is time for this government to call the Office of Treaty Settlements to heel and to take the time that is needed for the hapū and iwi of Waitara to take the time needed to ensure that these historical atrocities are dealt with in ways that meet the aspirations of their people. This can not be rushed to meet an election date, to do so would merely create yet another issue that the next generation will be left to deal with. Only then will there be meaningful negotiations to ensure the return of Waitara lands to their rightful guardians. It is time to make this right.

Excerpts from Submissions to the Māori Select Committee

Manukorihi Hapu o Waitara Submission
We oppose the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill in its entirety and would like all the Lands be returned to the Hapu o Whaitara at no cost and with no strings attached. We request that this Bill not be reported back to the House. Our main concern in relation to the Bill: The land was stolen: Hoki mai Te Whenua, therefore return it. At a recent hui, a question was asked, what do you do when you steal something? A child replied, “You give it back”. Do the right thing: Give the land back.

Patsy Bodger, Manukorihi Hapu oral submission
“The position of the Manukorihi hapu regarding the return of the Pekapeka block has always been clear as it was to our tupuna. We will never be distracted from that point of view. We are not interested in money. We see beyond the leases. The whenua is the most important thing. During the Treaty negotiation process we were asked, time and time again, what we wanted from the settlement. And we always responded by saying “Return the land. Hoki mai te whenua.”

Tu Tama Wahine o Taranaki Oral Submission
It is not helpful to forget our past. Whaitara has been earmarked by colonial imperialist history to be marginalised and to be fragmented, lost and confused culturally, socially and economically because our Tūpuna initiated a passive resistance movement – meaning resistance to government, law etc without violence by fasting, by demonstrating, and by refusing to cooperate. The passive resistance movement of Taranaki originated from Whaitara when Te Rangitake sent the women out to pull up the survey pegs. Thus began Te Pahua Tuatahi – Te Pahua o Whaitara – the plunder of Whaitara.

Dr Leonie Pihama Submission
The Bill will remove any hope or realisation of the aspirations of our tupuna that is encapsulated in the saying ‘I riro whenua atu, me hoki whenua mai’. Many generations of those of us that have lived on the Pekapeka Block have waited patiently for the return of those lands to our people. We have watched the struggle and pain of those who have had to lease lands back from those that represent the colonial forces that confiscated the lands of our ancestors. It is critical that this Bill be halted and that the Crown, the Council and hapū and iwi representatives resume discussions in regards to the return of these lands to mana whenua.

Community Taranaki Submission
The Waitara Lands Bill before you is nowhere near an instrument of doing the right thing. It is simply the perverse result of having the same conversation again, again and again. This is the conversation that speaks of the money that is still to be made at this final leg of a very old landgrab. It speaks of deal-making and how to weigh up the various players and competing interests, and how to extract compromise from the weakest participants. And it speaks of how to continue to avoid facing our real history, and the grief and trauma that still exists as a result of that history. Our advice to this Select Committee is to stop and to step back. We need a new conversation about the Waitara Lands.

Professor David V. Williams Submission

Harbour boards and local government entities in Taranaki have benefitted hugely over many decades from endowed lands that were wrongly, unfairly and unlawfully confiscated from hapū in the 1860s. There is no good reason for local government entities to continue to reap rewards from the endowed land assets and there is even less reason for those entities to obtain unearned capital gains from the freeholding of leasehold lands over which they should never have had a legal interest in the first place. If the land was wrongly taken, then the most obvious starting point for a peace and reconciliation conversation in our own time should be to find a way to return the lands to those from whom they were taken.

Tamaki Treaty Workers Submission
In addition to retaining ownership of the land itself, the local council and the public have had over 140 years of lease payments for these lands used for the benefit of Waitara. Nowhere in the Bill is this level of generosity recognised, acknowledged or compensated for. The fact that a calculation of the amount has not been undertaken and full provenance not completed, shows that this has been taken for granted.

Tamaki Treaty Workers Oral Submission

When communicating to the public about the betterment they will receive from the funds from the sales of the stolen land, NPDC is not communicating what benefits they have already received.

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Submission
This is iconic land, where the Crown launched the New Zealand Wars, the start of a tragic period of loss and dispossession. It is crucially important that the injustices of that time are not repeated in the present day, and the opportunity should instead be taken to provide a resolution to the confiscation of land. Since the land was stolen, we believe with Manukorihi and Otaraua that it should simply be returned.

New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists Submission

Reconciliation, genuine peace and goodwill are not possible when decisions made are only based on the majority view point without dialogue with minorities, a clear understanding of their cultural perspectives, historical experiences and empathy for their suffering. We believe that the original decision made to confiscate the land, then to lease the lands and make money from them have broken the Treaty partnership and dishonoured both Pakeha and Maori in the process.

Native Affairs – Selling off Waitara

Peace For Pekapeka

Submissions to Maori Affairs Select Commiittee Against the Waitara Lands Bill

Inquiry into Abuse within State Welfare Institutions Critical: A Press Release in Support of Ngā Morehu – Survivors of State Abuse

“The issue and impact of the removal of Indigenous children is on the agenda of virtually every Indigenous nation globally” states Associate Professor Leonie Pihama, Director of Te Kotahi Research Institute, University of Waikato. “We have an opportunity in this country to take a lead and say ‘no this will not continue’ by placing the needs of tamariki and their whānau at the forefront and to do that in a meaningful way we must start with removing the silence of what has happened to many generations that were placed into the State Welfare system”.

Dr Pihama believes that it is critical that a formal inquiry be held into the abuse of children within State institutions and it must take place before any changes are made to the Investing in Children Legislative Reform outlining legislative changes to Children Young Persons and their Families Act 1989 and related legislation.

The report ‘Some Memories Never Fade: Final Report of
 The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service’ by Judge Henwood (2015) highlights that over 60% of children that enter into the State system ‘cross over’ into the Juvenille justice system. The Henwood report states:
“As many boys as girls were sexually abused. About 57% of the men we saw had been sexually abused and 57% of the women. The damage done sometimes seems to be irreparable. Many people reported that they felt helpless and enraged that there was no one to whom they could report it. Many of the children who had been abused in State care fell into anti-social and criminal behaviour and ended up in prison or psychiatric hospitals in later life. It is estimated that about 40% of prisoners grew up in state care. Their lives were set on a dangerous and damaging path during this time. There are many people who have been living on the edge ever since their experience of State care as children.” (p.12)

The 1988 report Pūao Te Ata Tū highlighted the lack of successive governments to understand these issues,
“At the heart of the issue is a profound misunderstanding or ignorance of the place of the child in Māori society and its relationship with whānau, hapū iwi structures.“ (Preface)

It has been advocated by the vast majority of organisations that presented in the Social Services Select Commmittee process that Māori children that are raised within whānau with connections to their cultural identity and strong support systems in place thrive, whereas those that the State place into contexts where they are institutionalised and disconnected from their whānau are more likely to have longer term traumatic impacts upon their lives.

The call for an Inquiry has been at the forefront of the current debate surrounding the legistative changes proposed and to be reported on by the Social Services Select Committee. The organisation ‘Ngā Morehu – The Survivors of State Abuse’ held a rally at Parliament on July 6th to call for justice for the many thousands of children that were placed by the State into institutions and homes where they experience psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

“The institutional racism and abuse within the State system must be formally investigated in order to ensure that this does not continue to happen to Māori children, that are forced into state institutions and processes through no fault of their own.“
states Associate Professor Leonie Pihama.

“The testimonies of the survivors of this system of State removal tell us over and over again that this system does not, and will never work, and it is time to hear those voices and to develop ways of caring for tamariki and mokopuna in ways that ensure their wellbeing”


Ngā Mōrehu – The Survivors

The Government should not keep refusing to deal with this appropriately and properly. Enormous damage has been done. And much of the damage is unresolved and ongoing. 100 thousand NZ children were removed from their homes and placed in state care facilities. Many suffered physical, mental and sexual abuse. Tomorrow (now today Sunday), we dedicate our programme to four former wards of the state. We call them Ngā Mōrehu – The Survivors. This is their story… #TheHui Sunday, 9:30am on Three.
Ngā Mōrehu – The Survivors

#Hands Off Our Tamariki : An Open Letter
Posted on October 9, 2016 by Te Wharepora Hou
An Open Letter to Whānau, Hapū, Iwi, Iwi Leaders Forum, Māori Members of Parliament, Māori National and Iwi Organisations

Video Clips by Paora Moyle

#Resistance 150 : In Solidarity with our First Nations Relations

“Canada 150 is just a year of revictimization. Like it wasn’t enough to colonize once, now we are going to shove it down your throat.” Romeo Saganash


Today on Turtle Island July 1 is a day that marks 150 years of the imposition of the colonial state known as Canada, and has been promoted as Canada150 with a range of ‘celebrations’ across the country. But Canada150 is not a celebration for First Nations, and as Māori we know that these colonial activities merely serve to further entrench the racism and imperialist views of colonisers on Indigenous lands. These events are constructed to do exactly that. To reinforce the hegemonic view that colonial states are on our lands legitimately, when they are not. The colonisation of Canada reflects the colonisation of other Indigenous nations including Aotearoa.

In the article “Untethering colonial rule for Canada’s 150th birthday”
Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel writes:

“Canada’s sovereignty is based on legal fictions like the Doctrine of Discovery, Terra Nullius and the Doctrine of Conquest, which have been used to justify the forceful occupation of land that has not been subject to the conqueror’s narrow definition of ‘sovereignty.’
But today, hundreds of years after some of these documents were written, Canada remains steadfast in its insistence of sovereignty over Indigenous peoples’ lands. The preamble of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — adopted unreservedly by Canada in spring 2016 — states:
“Affirming further that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust…”
Canada must today repudiate these racist doctrines instead playing a waiting game that will leave it to another generation of politicians.”


The celebration of colonial days such as Canada150 work to conceal this history, not to reveal it, and in doing so the ongoing oppression of Indigenous Peoples remains at the center of the colonial project. The obsession with having a national party to celebrate colonial oppression is well entrenched across the world. They are parties that we are invited to as Indigenous nations, only if we play the party game, which means leaving any unresolved issues of colonial oppression outside the gate. We are constantly reminded that this is a party to celebrate “how far we have come” and “to look forward to the future with hope”, based on 150 years of “progress”. We know these kind of parties, because we are about to have one thrown here as well, Cook250, where we, as Māori, will also be told that if we want to be invited then we will need to behave. That is the colonial paternalism that is Canada150 and it will be Cook250. It is an oppressive, imperialistic, misogynist, racist paternalism that remains unchanged over 150 years.

For Indigenous peoples these are parties we should not be attending, and that we must respond to when the invitations are sent, as Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel and Romeo Saganash state clearly;

“For many of us, our refusal to celebrate is not a disdain for Canadians, but rather to send a message that we as a distinct peoples, indigenous to these lands, also have a right to control our destiny through the enjoyment of our right to self-determination. From our elders who endured the terrible and horrific conditions brought on by colonial-rooted poverty, to the present generation speaking out in attempts to decolonize Canada and our communities, there are countless urgent crises signifying that we can no longer tolerate colonial and racist laws, nor the exploitation of our lands, resources and peoples.” Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel

“The real problem with Canada 150 celebrations are the stories that the state is attempting to tell itself and everyone else. Specifically, that it has legitimate authority to make laws and policies, or even imagine a future, without Indigenous partnership. Any celebration of the state, the nation with its assumed sovereignty, stories of expansion and settlement or nation-building in general, replicate settler colonial narratives and are an insult to my ancestors, to my people, to me.” Romeo Saganash

Having recently visited Vancouver I am thankful for the powerful critique and discussions that we were invited in to as Indigenous scholars. It was clearly stated that reconciliation will never take place until such time as the colonial government deal directly with the fundamental issues of the denial of First Nations sovereignty and that the lands stolen are return to enable nations to return to full self-determination. In Aotearoa we are also thankful to the powerhouse women who founded the Idle No More movement, in particular our Indigenous sister Sylvia McAdam who spent time and shared so generously with our people here in Aotearoa. (

The dominant articulation of ‘reconciliation’ within Canada is linked directly to the Canada150 party and functions to marginalise any meaningful engagement related to sovereignty and self-determination for Indigenous nations. The construct of reconciliation will always be problematic for Indigenous nations when defined, controlled and determined by the colonial state. Even if the underpinning of the concept of reconciliation is to restore relationships, to bring together groups in disagreement to a place of agreement., that can not, and never will, be accomplished in a context where the group in power, the oppressor, determines what reconciliation is, and controls the process. If reconciliation was truly a process of restoration within a colonial context then it would be defined, determined and controlled by Indigenous peoples, and the colonial state would be held accountable and would return what was stolen. Clearly in the context of Canada150 that is not the case and was never the intention.

In an article that reflects on the powerful work of Sylvia McAdam in reoccupying the land, Steve Newcomb writes on the terms reconciliation and colonization in the context of Canada150.

“Reconciliation is a false-word that makes it appear as if something positive is being done without once addressing the persistent and ongoing process that is causing the problems experienced by Original Nations of Great Turtle Island in the place now commonly called “Canada.” The question of causation leads us to the issue of the language system which has created and continues to create such horrifying and traumatic experiences for our Original Nations.
More than 60 percent of English is derived from the Roman Empire’s language of Latin. War was the raisón d’etre of the Roman Empire to expand the geographical reach of its domination, and its Latin language was designed for that purpose. The British Empire and its Crown system has followed in that very same tradition, and the history of the British Empire’s “possessions” and “provinces” on Great Turtle Island follows in that grand tradition of imperialism.
This is made clear by the fact that until the late 1960’s it was a place officially known as “The Dominion of Canada.” Drop the ‘n’ on the end and you get dominio, which indicates a place that has been “subjected” (dominated) by some power such as an empire. The word dominio is part of a large family of Latin words for domination. Together those words and the ideas that go with them constitute an overall idea-system of domination. Take for example the word domo: “to subjugate,” “to subdue,” “to force into subservience,” “to tame,” “to domesticate,” “to cultivate,” and “to till.” The Latin word for “cultivate” is colere, which also means “to colonize” and “design.”
The root of the word “colonize” is “colon” which is “a digestive tract.” Colo means “to filter out impurities in the process of mining.” Colonization is a digestive process. The invader body politic seizes, consumes, and digests. Ironically, Christopher Columbus’s Latin name was Cristobal Colón (Christ Carrier Colonizer). To colonize involves “the digestive tract of the invader body politic,” such as the British Empire, well-symbolized as a lion with the globe (Mother Earth) under its paw.”

The amazing Arthur Manuel wrote of reconciliation as a flawed notion in January 2017:
“The first step is to repudiate the concepts behind the Colonial Doctrines of Discovery and recognize that every Indigenous nation in Canada has underlying title to their entire territory. Plus recognize we have exclusive rights to a land base starting from 3-to-5 million acres so we can protect our language, culture, laws and economy…
I believe that under the existing colonial system in Canada, Indigenous Peoples are not Canadian because of the systemic impoverishment we are forced live in because we are alienated from our traditional territories. If we accept colonization as a foundation of our relationship to Canada we are endorsing our own impoverishment. You cannot have reconciliation under the colonial 0.2 per cent Indian Reserve System. It is impossible. Nothing can justify that kind of human degradation. The land issue must be addressed before reconciliation can begin.”


Our connection to our lands, is our connection to ourselves and to each other. Until such time as our lands and our fundamental rights to be Indigenous are fully restored there can never be reconciliation. The return of stolen lands is central to Indigenous self-determination, sovereignty, mana motuhake, tino rangatiratanga.

“Development has been at the expense of the way of life of Indigenous peoples whose languages cultures, stories and traditional forms of governance are land based designed to strengthen our relationship with the land. Land dispossession remains a key issue as it disrupts the relationship we have with Mother Earth and all our relations. The pillars of our identity— our languages, customs, health, ceremonies, and traditional forms of governance — are all inter-related and interdependent upon the health of our environment. Our languages teach us how we approach our relations like the four-legged, the fish, the waters, our medicines, and our celestial relations in the sky. “
Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel

There is no celebration for Canada when First Nations remain the most impoverished people on their own lands, where colonial governments continue to deny the impact of historical and intergenerational trauma imposed by their genocidal and ethnocidal acts upon Indigenous nations, when First Nations peoples hold only 0.2% of traditional homelands, where successive governments continue to devastate the environment with clear cutting forests and laying pipelines, where racism in the police and associated agencies culminates in the murder of Indigenous Peoples, where thousands of Indigenous women are missing and murdered and they and their families are denied justice, where First Nations children continue to be forcibly removed by the state, where the survivors of the Residential schooling system, and their descendants, continue to be faced with the impact of that oppressive and genocidal system.

As an Indigenous woman of Aotearoa who stands with many of our people in our struggle for the return of our lands and to stand as self-determining in our own territories, this is a message of solidarity with our Indigenous relations in the call for the return of your lands and your rights as sovereign nations. We are here. We are watching. We continue to bear witness. We stand in solidarity with you, our relations.
Me whawhai tonu mātou, ake ake ake.



This year Canada is commemorating it’s 150th anniversary. But for indigenous people there’s nothing to celebrate. In honour of Art Manuel and the integrity with which he always began with the land and honoured the grassroots people, the #Unsettling150 crew are proud to launch this video filled with Art’s words, read by his daughter Kanahus Manuel, to launch the final lead-up to the national day of action, education, and reflection.

In Honour of Parihaka

I traveled home to Taranaki today reflecting on the events that are about to unfold, events that mark a significant historical moment.

This trip is to join our whanaunga of Parihaka at the He Puanga Haeata, Parihaka-Crown Reconciliation Ceremony. Parihaka Pā was a thriving Taranaki community under the guidance and leadership of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi. It is a community that developed from a position of strength and conviction to hold the whenua and to resist colonial confiscations through a committed and active peaceful resistance movement. It is a story of mana motuhake and Taranaki resistance that has deeply influenced my own understanding and commitment to justice for our people. It is also a history that we were never told as I grew up just 45 minutes away from Parihaka. It was an untold story for many generations, not only in Taranaki but within Aotearoa more broadly.

We never went to Parihaka as children, we heard little of the history, but I felt a deep sense of pain every time I heard the name mentioned by adults. It was not until I was a young adult that I first went to Parihaka. I drove there with friends and we sat inside the Pā wondering why we had never heard about what happened on those lands. I remember thinking that I should feel angry about that denial of our own history, but instead I felt firsthand an excruciating sense of pouri, a deep, deep sadness that was not only mine but was a part of an ancestral memory that sat within every ira tangata, every cellular memory within my soul, my entire being.

Tommorrow is He Puanga Haeata, the Parihaka-Crown Reconciliation Ceremony. This ceremony is over 150 years in the making since the initial establishment of Parihaka in 1866 and the invasion of the pā in 1881 by 1500 militia under the direction of John Bryce, the Minister of Native Affairs and the forced removal and imprisonment of the men of Parihaka in Otakou, Te Waipounamu ( Otago, South Island). The military occupation of Parihaka by 1500 colonial militia meant an ongoing experience of abuse and oppression for those remaining, those being 600 children, women and kaumātua.

The Parihaka website notes:
“Over more than two weeks the constabulary arrested groups of people who were from other regions and forcibly returned them. Because no person responded the process was largely guess work. On the 22nd the last 150 men were removed leaving just 600 people (mainly kaumatua, women and children). A system of passes was put in place to stop people from outside entering Parihaka or providing it supplies. Buildings were burnt and demolished and newly planted crops were destroyed. Those who remained faced severe deprivation and ongoing abuse from an occupying force of constabulary based in a fort erected in the community to enforce riot act restrictions of movement.”

The ceremony, tomorrow, is a part of a broader reconciliation process for Parihaka. It is a part of a process to move Parihaka into a future that celebrates the power and resistance that is Parihaka. As it is noted within the Parihaka documentation it is a future where “together, we are focused on re-building a sustainable and healthy community” that is grounded upon the philosophies of Te Whiti and Tohu and that embrace a ‘Legacy of Hope’ that is described as:
“The tikanga that was established by Tohu and Te Whiti at Parihaka can be characterised by five key elements which helped give rise to the notion of the Parihaka Movement:
1. Equality: Previous status held by people of high birth or their positions of authority were put aside and all people were expected to actively participate in roles that would otherwise be previously considered menial or debasing their mana.
2. Collectivity: All the benefits of activities within the settlement were contributed toward the betterment of the collective. While individuals may own possessions and accumulate resources, they were shared freely to ensure the collective goals were achieved.
3. Identity: People in the community had a diverse range of whakapapa connections and points of identity. Parihaka did not dismiss their identity but subsumed individual identity within a collective identity of Parihaka. Iwi were able to build a marae for their people in the settlement but outward symbols of their identity such as carvings were actively discouraged. Iwi were also encouraged to form poi groups to perform waiata at events but most of the waiata were related directly to Parihaka, its principles and experiences. The waiata ‘E Rere Rā’ composed by Muaūpoko is an example.
4. Goodwill: Compassion and non-violence were core concepts repeatedly reinforced in statements, practices and waiata. Eg Pōwhiri with the hongi before speeches reflects the acceptance of people to the community regardless of their intentions or past indiscretions.
5. Self-sufficiency: Intentions in the past were for Māori in Taranaki to retain ownership and authority over their lands and resources. Parihaka held to this view and believed that over-reliance on resources from external sources placed communities at risk hence the innovation they put into place.” (Parihaka website:

He Puanga Haeata is a ceremony that marks another critical moment in Parihaka and Taranaki history. It is a moment in time that highlights the commitment of the current generation of Parihaka to seek a process of reconcilation that honours the tikanga that has been laid down by Te Whiti and Tohu. A part of that tikanga is also the openness through which the process has been undertaken by those involved in the negotiation process.

In a rare showing of transparency and collective accountability the Parihaka Papakainga Trust have placed all key documentation and letters between themselves and the Crown negotiators, including the Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, online for all to read and reflect upon. They also gave numerous kanohi ki te kanohi presentations and produced online video for those unable to attend in person. This aligns with the tikanga of Parihaka where Te Whiti and Tohu engaged with government agents openly in front of all gathered. This is an act of collective accountability that is rarely seen in any negotiations with the Crown, who have an obsession with operating behind closed doors and in secret under the guise of ‘confidentiality’. Those working on behalf of Parihaka have created an open, accessible archive of information and documents that I have no doubt will be the basis for the future documenting of this contemporary, and yet historical, event.

A part of the process is a Crown apology. I have never been keen on apologies by those in power when they fail to meaningfully address and honour the fundamental intention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Apologies by the Crown in one context often does not mean changes in the ways in which they deal with our people and issues in the wider context. We know that apologies have little meaning if governments continue to act in ways that maintain the oppressive systemic and institutional racism which is a part of the fundamental ways that the existing colonial structures that dominate on our lands are constituted.

However, tomorrow, the apology of the Crown is not only about the Crown purging its guilt. The apology is an historical record for Parihaka and for Taranaki. It is a record that the acts of war, ethnocide and genocide that occurred at Parihaka were illegal and immoral acts of violence against our tupuna. That record will stand as both an apology and an admission of the act of war by the Crown on the people of Parihaka.

The process of reconciliation undertaken by our whanaunga of Parihaka stands as a model for healing of relationships that is informed by the values, practices, protocols and ceremonies of our tupuna. It provides a pathway for determining the healing journey for past, present, and future generations of our people within Taranaki. It gives a foundation for moving to a space that deals directly with the historical trauma impacts that have been experienced inter-generationally since the 1860’s. It enables pathways that honour our ancestors and that enable the dreams and aspirations for future generations.

It will be a powerful day. It will also be a day of grieving for all that our people have suffered up to this point in time. It is also a day that marks the opening of the Parihaka Puanga Kai Rau festival, a festival that celebrates movement towards the Māori New Year, a time to farewell those that have passed on, a time to celebrate new beginnings, a time of new growth and of new hope for the well-being of current and future generations.

It will be a good day to be Māori, it will be a good day to be Taranaki.

Challenging homophobia is a collective responsibility

We really should not have been surprised when Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene wrote a post this week criticising Māori Television and the programming and stated there are “too many men running around in skirts and make-up”. Why? Because the Labour MP also voted against the Marriage Equality Bill in April 2013. ( )

Tirikatene had voted yes in the first two readings however when it came to the final reading he voted No, stating, “Primarily I didn’t see this as an equality issue. To me, marriage is between a man and a woman” (

So, what exactly prompted this new rise of ignorance from the Te Tai Tonga MP?

When I read the quote to a whanaunga travelling with me, she responded:

“What? Does he mean kapa haka? Is he saying piupiu are skirts and moko are makeup?”

Clearly she does not watch a lot of Māori Television other than kapa haka and Matatini, but the fundamental point she was making is that many Māori men today do wear piupiu and make up as a part of our cultural ways of being, and as such the ignorance of Tirikatene’s statement was even more pointed. The issue, however is that he was not referring to kapa haka, rather he was referring to those programmes on Māori Television such as ‘Queens of Pangaru’ and ‘The Ring Inz’ both of which include and affirm takatāpui.

For some the remark made by Rino Tirikatene may seem flippant or unthinking. However, in light of his voting against Marriage Equality it is clear that these views are firmly held. Statements such as this made by a Māori politician can not go unanswered. Such comments serve to validate the homophobia that is deeply embedded within Aotearoa and fails to recognise the pain that is inflicted upon those that identify as takatāpui or Māori LGTBQI as a consequence of those homophobic views.

The idea that Māori men should not wear skirts or makeup links directly to broader hetero-normative beliefs that were brought to Aotearoa by the colonial invaders.

Let’s be clear, all of our people wore piupiu or maro, as Awhina Tamarapa and Patricia Wallace write;
“Traditional Māori dress was both varied and complex. Māori wore a wide range of hairstyles and ornaments, skin colourings and oils, as well as facial or body tattoos. Clothing consisted of shoulder and waist garments, belts and sometimes sandals. People adorned themselves with a range of neck and ear pendants, and carried prized weapons in formal situations.Shoulder garments included capes and cloaks, ranging from practical rain capes to full-length cloaks with stitched or intertwined attachments, or with intricately woven tāniko borders. Waist garments comprised maro (frontal aprons) and a variety of kilt-like garments.While items of dress gave protection against physical elements, they could also hold spiritual significance. There was little difference between the clothing of men and women, aside from those of high status.”

The implantation of victorian colonial nuclear domesticated ideas of gender have had a destructive impact upon our people for over 200 years. Imposed colonial dress codes are a part of a wider embedding of patriarchal domination on Indigenous women and children. It was the coloniser that created the idea that only Māori women and girls wear skirts, it was the coloniser that worked to determine who was considered important enough to talk Treaty with, it was the coloniser that sought to elevate Māori men over Māori women in line with their worldview of the subjugation of women, it was the coloniser that instituted structures to domesticate our whānau into a tidy nuclear family structure that creates an environment which enables oppression and violence, it was the coloniser that has been systematic in the implanting of homophobic belief systems that deny the fluidity and multiple ways in which we express our selves and our sexuality.

The impact of colonisation has been immense in regards to gender, gender expression and sexuality. It has also had a significant impact on how many of our own whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations view and treat takatāpui. Where I have heard many stories of total acceptance of takatāpui within our communities I have also heard many painful and disturbing stories of violence, both psychologically and physically, against whānau members once they have ‘come out’. We are well aware of the high levels of self harm associated with the impact of violence and rejection of takatāpui amongst our people, including as a direct result of homophobic bullying and psychological abuse in organisations.

These acts of violence can not be tolerated by anyone. We are all collectively responsible for the wellbeing of all members of our whānau, hapū, iwi and communities. We are all collectively responsible for challenging the colonial belief systems that create contexts of hatred and violence against members of our whānau, hapū, iwi and communities. We are all collectively accountable for the perpetuation of any discourses or belief systems that contribute to the maintainance and reproduction of systems of oppression against our people. Homophobia and transphobia can never be tolerated within Aotearoa, and anyone that holds a position of power such as that held by Rino Tirikatene must be directly challenged for such views.

Waitara & the struggle for the return of the Pekapeka Block.

E kore e pouri tonu, Waitara e mamae nei i te wa i mua rā.

At the end of May the Māori Select Committee will report back on the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill.

The title of the Bill is itself a misnomer. It really should be titled “The final confiscation of the Pekapeka Block and other Waitara Lands Bill”, which is a much more appropriate and truthful title for the Bill.

I have written before about the Bill and the fundamental objective which is to enable the NPDC to sell the final vestiges (780 properties) of Manukorihi and Otaraua Lands that were illegally confiscated in 1865 and were ‘gifted’ by the colonial government to the Waitara Harbour Board and Raleigh Town Board which later became the Waitara Borough Council. ( )

The Waitangi Tribunal clearly evidenced the illegal actions of the colonial government and successive acts of contemporary colonial governments (

The Bill provides a very limited and unsatisfactorily introduction to these issues before moving on to referring to the Pekapeka block as ‘Waitara Endowment Lands’ and advocating for processes of the freeholding of those lands.

Manukorihi and Otaraua hapū and Te Ātiawa iwi have strongly opposed this Bill through the Māori Select Committee process and called for the return of the Pekapeka block. Many other organisations stood with the hapū and iwi throughout this process and advocated for the return of the lands. (

The most recent release regarding the Pekapeka block and other stolen Waitara lands provides an overview of information regarding the NPDC and the “millions of dollars it has earned from land stolen from Waitara hapu in the 1860s”. (’s-earnings-from-waitara-land-bone-of-contention )

An Official Information Act application by Carl Chenery on behalf of Tāmaki Treaty Workers provides an analysis of the already huge benefits to the respective councils over the past 150 years. According to the material gained the group found that “the council had pocketed between $95m and $140m, excluding interest and any money from land sales”. (Tāmaki Treaty Workers Supplementary Submission with estimates of lease payments:

Within the submission process it is clear that the hapū, iwi and many other social service organisations see the return of the Pekapeka block as essential to the healing of the historical trauma experienced within Waitara. The continued economic gain by both the NP District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council over the past 150 years has been raised by hapū and iwi for many years.

The free-holding and sale of lands on the Pekapeka block and other stolen Waitara lands constitutes more Treaty breaches and calls into question yet again the ways in which successive governments have operated in relationship to their obligations in regards to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Māori lawyer Moana Jackson has consistently stated that “Treaties are not made to be settled, treaties are made to be honoured”. That is a critical point at the centre of this issue, that is the lack of honour on the part of the Crown and its agencies, the NP District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council. Whilst hapū and iwi continue to act in respectful, peaceful, dignified ways in regards to land issues in Waitara, the colonial institutions continue their deceitful, dishonest and dishonourable practices.

As the hapū and iwi await the report of the Māori select committee there are many questions that remain unanswered in regards to the Pekapeka block, including how the respective councils have managed to secretly sell sections of land and not provide any documentation or explanation to our communities. There is no doubt in our minds that the Crown, the NP District Council and the Taranaki Regional council have benefited many times from the theft of the lands in Waitara, including the Pekapeka block. There is also no doubt that the whānau, hapū and iwi of Waitara have never been prioritised in regards to resourcing and support from the $140million that has already been taken as profits from those lands.

This can not continue. The process of raupatu, the beating of our people hundreds of time over can not be allowed to continue in this generation or upon generations of our whānau, hapū and iwi of Waitara. As the Waitangi tribunal clearly stated ‘If war is the absence of peace, the war has never ended in Taranaki.

Challenging sexual violence imposed upon & within Māori communities.

This blog is first and foremost an acknowledgement. It is an acknowledgement to all Indigenous women who are at the frontline of challenging the increasing perpetuation of sexual violence against Indigenous Peoples, in particular women and children. It is an acknowledgement of the Indigenous men who stand alongside their sister relations in calling abusers to account and speaking out against abuse of all forms. It is an acknowledgement of those seeking justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. It is an acknowledge of all who stand in solidarity against all forms of violence, sexual violence against Indigenous Peoples and our lands and all that live upon this sacred earth, that our ancestors call Papatūānuku.

This week I sat here on Turtle Island and watched a Marae programme where Chanz Mikaere (Te Arawa) stood, in all of her whakapapa sacredness, and laid challenge to all that enable abusers to continue to be privileged by their whānau, hapū and iwi upon our marae.

In doing so, Chanz re-ignited a wero, a challenge to all of Māori society. I use the term ‘re-ignited’ intentionally as I have seen, over many years, Māori women lay this challenge to our people. Māori women formed Te Kākano o te whānau in the 1980s as a direct response to the exponential growth of lateral violence, domestic violence and sexual abuse within our communities. There are far too many of our women to name who were a part of that movement but they know who they are, and many of those Māori women continue at the forefront of seeking healing pathways for our whānau that experience violence perpetuated both within our own communities and upon our whānau, hapu, iwi and communities by the State.

This blog, Chanz Mikaere, is an acknowledgement of you and all Indigenous women who stand against violence within and upon our Indigenous women and children.

The enabling of known Māori male abusers to take a privileged role within pōwhiri has been actively challenged by many of those that were a part of Te Kākano o Te Whānau and those now working as part of organisations such as Ngā Kaitiaki Māuri, Tū Tama Wahine, Tū Wāhine, Te Puna Oranga and many others. I have seen Māori women stand within pōwhiri and upon marae at significant occasions and challenge directly known perpetuators of violence.

The state of whānau violence within Māori communities has been described as being at epidemic proportions (Kruger 2004). Both whānau violence and sexual violence is perpetrated laterally within our whānau and upon whānau through the violent actions of successive colonial governments. Colonisation has distorted Māori notions of whakapapa, tikanga, wairua, tapu, mauri and mana, and in doing so have disrupted the fundamental cultural templates through which healthy relationships were nurtured and sustained within our whānau, hapū and iwi.
The social position that Māori find ourselves in today is an outcome of both the internalisation of practices of colonial violence and the ongoing violence of the colonial state against our people (Balzer et al., 2007). Colonial invasion is one of violence. Violence against Indigenous Peoples and violence against Papatūānuku (Earth). Duran (2006) speaks of sexual violence within the acts of invasion and colonisation of Turtle Island stating that “the colonial process experienced by these people can be described as a collective raping process of the psyche/soul of both the land and the people” (p.21).

Colonisation creates a context whereby Indigenous cultural structures and relationships are actively targeted for destruction. This is well documented in Aotearoa. The theft of lands, the confiscations of our lands through colonial imposed governmental systems is referred to directly by our people as raupatu, which translates not solely as confiscation but as the experiencing of ‘hundreds (rau) of beatings (patu)’. The intense pain of that concept gives us a much more realistic and deep understanding of the trauma experienced by our ancestors as they were ripped from them lands, and as they watched (and we continue to watch) the colonial forces rape our lands and violently abuse our women and children.

Colonial systems of Mission schools, Native schools and legislative impositions, relative to our lands and rights as Indigenous nations, deliberately and systematically removed our relationships to our lands and reconstituted our relationships to ourselves. The domestication of whānau through the ideologies and practices of the colonial heterosexual nuclear family unit was instrumental in breaking down the collective relationships that sustained our responsibilities, accountabilities, obligations and fundamental care of each other as whānau, hapū and iwi. Violence against each other is not only enabled in this context but is actively supported through the disconnection of our relationships to each other that provided cultural prevention and intervention mechanisms to ensure collective wellbeing. That includes the denial of Māori knowledge, practices, values and behaviours through which our ancestors saw any form of violence within whānau as an act against the entire collective that required swift and immediate response. Higgins and Meredith (2013) state that rape and incest were abhorrent to traditional Māori values. Tikanga Māori did not tolerate sexual violence and the collective dealt directly with these transgressions (Balzer 1997).

Understanding the ways in which our tupuna viewed sexual violences is critical (Pihama 2016). Denise Wilson (n.d.) indicates that sexual violence is a “violation of te whare tangata (that is the house of the people)” (p. 5), which has not only physical and psychological impacts but also causes cultural and spiritual distress. Such abuse is considered, in Māori terms, to be a violation of not only the woman herself but also of past and future generations. This aligns with the concepts discussed by Norman (1992) who highlighted the sanctity of ‘te whare tangata’ and the prioritising of the protection of the life force and spiritual essence the womb of Māori women.

Mereana Pitman (1996) provides a Māori view of abuse that provides one of the few clearly Kaupapa Māori definitions:
“Māori saw rape and especially incest as transgressing the mana, the status, the dignity and the future birth right of not only the victim but also the abuser and his people. Shame was seen, lain, address, actioned and put in its place. People still remember today, in tikanga, the transgressions of sexual violence dating back 1,200 years.” (1996, p. 45)

Sexual violence is not only a transgression against the individual person but is an attack on the persons entire being and mana (Sykes 1996). For Māori women this includes an attack on Māori Wahine as passed down to us from Hine Ahuone. Furthermore, Sykes (1996) makes the following point in regards to Hineahuone and the relationship of her legacy to the position of Māori women:
“She is depicted in our stories of creation with all the obligations of nurturing the health of human kind: Te Whare Tangata; of having the primary responsibility for ensuring the survival of her whakatipuranga, her uri, her descendants, of possessing both power over life and over death as well as being vulnerable to abuse by evil forces and being powerless to protect her eldest daughter from the most evil of those forces, sexual violence, sexual abuse. From her comes the ethos that women are to be protected at all costs.” (p. 64)

Takirirangi Smith (2015) highlights that notions of tapu and mana are central to understanding the impact of sexual violence.
“Both male and female genitalia were considered sacred and perceived of as organs that could influence life and death. The ritual use of genitalia and references in incantations and chants highlight the degree of sanctity attached to sexual organs. Sexual violence, or any other type of physical or psychological assault where a powerful individual violated and/or humiliated a less powerful or powerless victim, was initially responded to with whakamā.” (p. 256-257)

If we are to ensure the wellbeing of our people we must ensure the safety and wellbeing of all Māori women and children. In the regeneration of our relationships we must work to decolonise those misogynist colonial beliefs systems both within Māori society and more broadly that deny the trauma and pain of sexual violence against Māori women and children. That means dealing directly to the ongoing state condoned violence that is perpetuated upon our people daily through the racist colonial heteronomative society that operates upon our lands that consider our women and children as inherently rapable, in the same way that white supremacy considers our lands and people as commodities for sale and trade within their capitalist systems. That includes challenging and decolonising those ideologies and oppressive behaviours that are internalised by our own. It must also include looking to those tikanga and traditional knowledge forms that provide guidance and templates for prevention of violence within our whānau. This is a critical project in the wider regeneration of Māori knowledge, language and culture.

Erana Cooper (2008) has clearly stated the need for us to work take on this issue directly and to take responsibility for addressing violence.
“There is no mistaking that whanau violence is a critical issue for Maori, and there is often a strong deficit approach to the topic. I think it is critical that we are able to determine and describe the positive things we already do and can do in the future, as Maori, taking responsibility for addressing this issue.” (p.130)

What we know is that our tikanga provides us with ancestral knowledge and practices about our relationships. Those understandings within whānau in traditional times were based within collective accountabilities, obligations and responsibilities. Tikanga provides us with parameters of engagement and behaviour. The challenge is about how it is enacted, what it might look like, and figuring out how to maintain critical aspects of tikanga.

For Māori, the marae is a space that we control in terms of how roles and responsibilities and community obligations are fulfilled. It is one of those few spaces where we as whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori determine how things play out within ritual and who takes on critical roles for our people.

Chanz Mikaere is a new generation of young Māori women who is taking on that role of speaking out against the perpetuation of violence within our own spaces. The marae, she is clear, provides us all as Māori one of those last bastions where we must be empowered to practice our tikanga without the fear of abuse and violence. This includes having marae as spaces where those that have survived violence and their whānau, to not experience re-traumatisation through seeing the perpetuator of that abuse sit honoured and privileged within our ceremonies. What Chanz is saying to us all is that for many of our people the marae as a safe, affirming and validating space becomes nullified through not ensuring the wellbeing and safety of all, in particular our women and children. It is a stark reminder that even within our cultural spaces misogyny and abuse often goes unchallenged and that those that reproduce those forms of violence often do so through a manipulated definition of kawa or tikanga.

We need to be clear that abuse is not traditional.

We need to be clear that sexual violence is not and was never acceptable within Māori society.

We need to be clear that the sexist and misogynist manipulations that we hear within our own cultural spaces is not Māori, it is not tikanga, it is not and was never acceptable.

We need to be clear that in giving privileged positions on our marae to those who have perpetuated violence against their own whānau, against our women and children reproduces the trauma for our people, and embeds fear within many.

We need to be clear that any forms of abuse within whānau and hapū are considered a transgression of mana, tapu and whakapapa and was not tolerated by our tupuna and it must not be tolerated by us ever.


Cooper, E. (2008) Mokopuna Rising: Developing a Best Practice for Early Intervention in Whanau Violence, Levy, M., Nikora, L.W., Masters‐Awatere, B., Rua, M.R., Waitoki, W. (2008). Claiming Spaces: Proceedings of the 2007 National Maori and Pacific Psychologies Symposium, 23‐24 November, Hamilton. Hamilton: Maori and Psychology Research Unit. (pp48-51)

Duran, E. (2006). Healing the soul wound: Counseling with American Indians and other Native peoples. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Higgins, R. & Meredith, P. (2013). Ngā tamariki: Māori childhoods: Māori childhood changes. Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Available from:āori-childhoods/page-4

Kruger, T., Pitman, M., Grennel, D., McDonald, T., Mariu, D., Pomare, A., Mita, T., Matahaere, M. & Lawson-Te Aho, K. (2004). Transforming whānau violence: A conceptual framework: An updated version of the report from the former Second Māori taskforce on Whānau Violence, 2nd Edition.

Norman, W, (1992) He Aha Te Mea Nui in Smith, L.T. (ed) Te Pua, Vol. 1. No. 1, The Journal of Te Puawaitanga, Auckland: University of Auckland, pp1-9

Pihama, L., Te Nana, R., Cameron, N., Smith, C., Reid, J., Southey, K. (2016) ‘Māori cultural definitions of sexual violence. Cultural and Indigenous Issues In Sex Abuse Practice and Research: Sexual Abuse in Australia and New Zealand: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

Pitman, M. (1996). ‘The Māori Experience’. In J. Broadmore, C. Shand, T. J. Warburton & Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (N.Z.) (Eds.), The proceedings of rape : ten years’ progress? : an interdisciplinary conference (pp. 301 p.). Wellington, New Zealand: DSAC.

Sykes, A. (1996). ‘Getting The Case to Trial: Me Aro Koe Ki Te Haa o Hineahuone’. In J. Broadmore, C. Shand, T. J. Warburton & Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (N.Z.) (Eds.), The proceedings of rape : ten years’ progress? : an interdisciplinary conference Wellington, New Zealand: DSAC.

Wilson, D. (n/d) Family Violence Intervention Guidelines: Māori and Family Violence, On behalf of Māori Advisory Committee, Ministry of Health, Family Violence Project, School of Health Studies, Wellington: Massey University