Ashleigh Putt-Fallows (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Ngai Tūhoe) examines the risks and difficulties of being Māori in predominantly Pākehā environments.
As Ash puts it, it is not your job as the only Māori in these spaces to be the illumniative voice for your people but unfortunately, this can be a hard stereotype to escape and should this evasion even be our responsibility?
CW: Mentions of Racism.
Illustrations by Mason Lawlor (Ngāti Pahauwera, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Manu)
This feature was originally published by Salient magazine, the student magazine of Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University of Wellington in both English and Te Reo Māori.
The Te Reo Māori version was kindly written by Mason Lawlor (Ngāti Pahauwera, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Manu), who is also the illustrator for this piece
I ngā tau tata nei he nui te waimarie kua riro i a au kia rangona taku reo i ngā tini kaupapa. Pēnei i ngā kaupapa: whakahaere, tohutohu, ngā tika tangata tōrangapū, rangatahi me ngā kaupapa hautū. He nui taku māharahara ki te tokoiti o ngā Māori i ēnei wāhi, me te aha, kāhore i te kitea, i te rangona ngā whakaaro Māori. He nui hoki te rawekehia kinotia o ō mātou whakaaro, tō mātou ahurea me ā mātau tikanga. Kua kitea nuitia e au tēnei kino. I mua i taku tomo i tēnei whare kōrero me mātua whakamārama au ko wai rā ahau.
He wahine Māori ahau. Nō Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi me Tūhoe ahau. He rangatahi Māori ahau. He Pākehā hoki ahau, he kiritea. Kei Pōneke me Murihiku ōku kāinga.
Ki a au nei, he whanokē te kore i kitea te Māori i ēnei wāhi nā runga noa i taku mōhio he aroha nui nō te Māori ki ēnei momo mahi me ōna tini mata mō te hapori, mō te ahurea me te iwi nui tonu. He mōhio nōku ehara ēnei wāhi i te wāhi haumaru mō te Māori.
Inā taku tumeke i taku rongotanga ake ko te titiro noa ki runga i a Kūkara te mahi nui ka oti i te tangata ki te whakatutuki i ngā mahi whakataurite me te whakakanorau. Kua kore hoki e warewaretia te kaha tūkinotia o ngā karakia pēnei i a Whakataka te hau he rite tonu takina kia tuwhera, kia whakakapi hoki i ngā hui ahakoa te kore hoki nō te Māori i paku uru mai ki te kaupapa. Kua rāwekehia kinotia aku kupu ānō nei ko au te mana nui o ngā rangatahi Māori, ā, e kī ana ahau ko mea wāhi e pokea nuitia ana e te Pākehā he wāhi pai (tēnā pōhēhē tēnā), ā, kua rahi ā rātou mahi ki te whakatutuki i ngā mahi whakataurite, ki te whakamāori rānei i te āhua o te wāhi.
He mate nō roto i te tokoiti o ngā Māori i ēnei wāhi. Waihoki, ka whanokē te tirohia o te tokoiti o ngā Māori me ngā tāngata Pasifika i ēnei wāhi. Kāore i te paku tautokona ēnei tangata me ō rātau whakaaro, me te aha, ka uaua ake te noho o te tangata i ēnei wāhi ki te tuku i ō rātou reo kia rere noa.
He wā ōna ka riri mai te tangata ki te noho māori noa o te Māori me te tuku i tana reo. Ka kitea nuitia tēnei i ngā wāhi pakeke engari e tumeke ana ahau kei te ora tonu ana ēnei āhuatanga. He wā tōna i riri mai te tangata ki a au mōku i paku kōrero Māori. Nōku kē tēnei reo, kua whakamanahia ā-turehia hoki i tēnei whenua.
He kaikiri rawa hoki te āhuatanga o te aro ki ngā tikanga Māori, Poronīhia anō hoki, ehara i te kupu kaikiri rawa te momo, he kairiri paku nei te āhua. He rite tonu tā rātou karo i ō mātou whakaaro me te kī atu “ka ngana tonu mātou kia whakamana i Te Tiriti”, “ākene ka pai tō taki cAr-A-kE-yA kia whakatutukihia taua wāhi.” Ka pēnei hoki rātou mō ngā kaupapa taurite, me te pōhēhe ka pīrangi nuitia tēnei kaupapa e te Māori, kei te pīrangi hoki te Māori ki te taki i te kaupapa.
Ko tērā atu mata e aro ana ki te kaikiri me ngā whakaaro horapa ka kaha whaiwhai i te Māori pēnā me te kakara haunga. E hāngai ana ki te kaiwhakatautangata me te kawatau o te pukumahi. Ko te kawatau mō te Māori i ēnei wāhi kia mōhio ai ia ki te reo, ki ngā tikanga me te ao Māori. Me mātua tangata whenua tō noho i te ao Māori, ao te pō, pō te ao. Ka kaha tonoa hoki koe ki te whakaoti i ngā mahi mō te whakataurite me te whakakanorau, ā, ka noho motuhake koe i ngā mema māori noa iho. Me rite hoki te tangata ki ngā kawatau Pākehā, mō ngā kākahu, mō te āhua o te tuku i te kōrero, mō te nui o ngā whakatutukitanga. Ko te Pākehā e tautuhi ana i ngā mea katoa, nā, he rerekē tēnei i tō te Māori whakatautuhi, anō nei ko te hiahia kia hinga rawa te Māori. Kia tirohia tonutia ngā whakaaro horapa, he rite tonu te kaikiri, ka kaha pīrangitia ngā Māori kiritea (ko ēnei he tata ake ki ngā kawatau Pākehā). Ko te hua ia ko tētahi ahurea whakamōrea ka tūkino i te tangata, ka kaha pēhi i a ia, nā wai rā, kua pīrangi ia ki te puta. Nā, haere huri rauna tēnei āhuatanga.
Anei tāku e pīrangi ana kia mātua mōhiotia e ngā tangata i te ao whakahaere/tika tangata rānei. Ka tahi, he pōhēhē nui te whakaaro ko te iwi Māori katoa e whakatata atu ana ki tō rātou Māoritanga, ā, e mōhio hoki ana ki te reo me ngā tikanga. Ka rua, he oranga kē tō te Māori i waho atu i te taki i ēnei momo kaupapa whakatairanga i te iwi Māori, kia noho māori noa rātou. He hāngai tēnei ki te kaiūkui i te tuakiritanga. Nōku ka noho ki ēnei wāhi, ka whakatautangatahia ahau. Ehara au a Ash, he Māori kē ahau. Koinā noa iho taku hua ki a rātau, ahakoa te tini o āku pūkenga. He rite tonu te pāngia ōku, o tangata kē atu e tēnei āhuatanga. He mamae taku kai. Ka whakatautangatahia ahau, nā, ka noho au hei karetao hei aha atu rānei mō rātou kia kitea rātou anō nei he wāhi haumaru he wāhi kanorau hoki. Ahakoa tō mātau mōhio he pōhēhē nui tēnā, ā, kua kore hoki e rangona ō mātou reo. Ka pai pea ake tō mātau noho hei whārangi Wikipedia. I te mutunga iho he wāhiwhakamōrea ēnei wāhi mō te Māori.
He aha rā te rongoā? Ākene pea ka rerekē mō ia tangata. He Māori koe? Ehara nā mātou te haepapa ki te whakatika i tēnei raru. Ki te iwi nui tonu: kia pono te whakaritea, kia pono hoki te ākona.
Where Are The Māori?
Illustrations by Mason Lawlor (Ngāti Pahauwera, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Manu)
For a few years now, I’ve had amazing opportunities to have my voice heard in a variety of different governance, advisory, politics, civics, youth voice, and leadership spaces. The lack of Māori in these spaces is worrying. It means Māori voices are not being represented or heard. Our perspectives are often misused and misrepresented, as are aspects of our culture like tikanga Māori. This is an issue I have personally experienced this exact issue many times.
One of the most important things for me when entering kōrero like this is to acknowledge who I am and what makes up my identity.
I am a wahine Māori.
I whakapapa to Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, and Tūhoe.
I’m a rangatahi Māori.
I am also Pākehā and white-passing.
My kāinga are Pōneke and Murihiku.
I know why Māori are absent from civics or advocacy spaces. They aren’t safe or culturally comfortable places for us. This is extremely sad, considering the amount of Māori who are capable of doing this type of mahi, and representing our community, culture, and people. That is, in both a general and “Māori” consulting capacity.
From my experience, it’s astounding how many people in civic spaces consider a quick Google search to be the pinnacle of “doing the mahi” when it comes to equity and diversity. There is also always a butchered karakia, likely ‘Whakataka Te Hau’, used for opening and closing despite no Māori even being present or involved in the kaupapa. My voice is constantly misused so insert Pākehā dominated space here can come off as diverse, excuse themselves from working on equity, and promote the “we had Māori” type of vibe.
There are risks that come with a lack of representation. In spaces where there are little to no Māori or Pasifika, the one or two people who do whakapapa in the space are often treated very differently. There is a stand-out lack of support for the tangata and the perspectives they bring. This can make it really hard to be confident in these spaces, and means Māori will be more hesitant to voice their opinions in the first place.
Sometimes the very existence of Māori in the space sets off a trigger in people’s minds to push back against literally anything. It’s like Māori representation or a seat set aside for Māori means the space is now too “woke”, or the Māori perspective is seen as lesser-than. While I mainly find this in adult-dominated spaces, it is still insane that it happens at all.
One time, someone complained about me speaking basic te reo Māori. It’s not like it’s MY reo and an official language of Aotearoa. No big deal or anything.
The way tikanga and MPI practices are approached is also very racist; not in a ‘big slur racism’ kind of way, but a microaggressions kind of way. This is evident in the way civics spaces so quickly dismiss the Māori perspective with “we will work on being good treaty partners” or “maybe you can do a cAr-A-kE-yA for us if it's that important”. This also extends to how they approach equity projects, assuming all Māori will want and be able to lead that kind of thing.
The other side to the problem is more about racism: the stereotyping that follows Māori like a bad smell in these spaces. It links with an identity eraser and the expectation of extra mahi. These spaces expect Māori to have knowledge of tikanga, te reo Māori, and te ao Māori. It’s not enough to simply be Māori, you basically have to live and breathe the culture. You are also expected to do all the mahi for equity and diversity, segregating you from the “normal” members. If that wasn’t enough already, we also have to conform to Pākehā standards, like dressing Pākehā-appropriate, being well-spoken and articulate, and being a ‘high achieving’ person. All of these standards are defined by Pākehā and are vastly different from how Māori define them. We are being set up to fail. Furthermore, these spaces are often bluntly racist, preferring the involvement of white-passing Māori (who are often perceived as fitting Pākehā standards easier). This all creates a culture that contributes to an unsafe space and slowly breaks down people until they no longer want to be in the space. This in turn starts the cycle over again.
Here is what I wish people in these spaces knew. Firstly, not everyone who is Māori engages in their Māoritanga and knows te reo Māori or tikanga. That’s a stupid assumption. Second, Māori are not just Māori, they are people who can have lives outside of Māori kaupapa, or may not be the equity or leadership type. Every time, every damn time I am in a space like this, it seems like I am not Ash, but I am Māori and that is all I am. That being Māori is the only value they see in me, despite everything else I have to offer. I see this happen to me and others. It hurts. It erases our identities and makes it feel like we are only there to make these spaces seem safe, diverse, and well-rounded when they actually aren’t, because they will use us but not listen to us. We might as well be a Wikipedia page. This all creates extremely unsafe spaces for Māori, spaces that can be harmful.
So how do we fix it? Depends on who you are. Are you Māori? If yes, Then it isn’t really our job or problem to fix. To everyone else though, genuine representation of Māori and purposeful education of others in these spaces are essential to ensure that these spaces are safer for us.
Nā Ashleigh Putt-Fallows (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Ngai Tūhoe)