Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Indigenous Development Research: Why 'high Māori involvement?'

The purpose of Indigenous Development Research is to enable transformation and positive change in Māori communities. The reason that there needs to be 'high Māori involvement' in this research is so that Māori communities themselves may identify issues for research and craft research questions. It is so that approaches to knowledge creation drawn from those communities (approaches suggested by traditional knowledge and the identity, history, experiences and circumstances of those communities) may be uplifted, and it is so that answers to research questions may be fashioned within the context of the particular community for whom the research is ultimately conducted. Finally, the reason for high involvement of Māori (i.e. the community) in the research is so that the outcomes and benefits of research may move quickly into the hands who enable change in our communities. We wish to empower change agents with high quality and reputable knowledge that enables the very best decisions to be made leading to positive change in our communities. There are a host of other benefits too when quality relationships are achieved between research and our communities. These include the opportunity to increase the number of Māori individuals undertaking research training through involvement in these kinds of research projects and it includes increasing the knowledge and understanding held generally in a community about the nature, methods and value of research. A key outcome of Indigenous Development Research is the fostering of a culture of critique, information gathering, analysis, questioning and ultimately creativity within Māori communities. This increases confidence, empowerment and a sense of being in control of one's destiny. What about non-Māori, non-community members and their involvement in Indigenous Development Research? Indigenous Development Research calls for 'high Māori involvement'. It does not call for 'Māori only' for there is great value in making use of the skills, knowledge and goodwill of people drawn from outside of those communities particularly where a important and relevant knowledge, skills and expertise is not present in the community for whom the research is conducted (but is required for the success of proposed research). Ultimately, Indigenous Development research seeks to foster the sense that Māori communities are in control of research which is conducted for their benefit and concerning their needs and opportunities.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Value of Knowing Two Cultural and Intellectual Traditions

One of the most important things about knowing two cultural and intellectual traditions is the understanding that there are alternative ways of seeing and explaining things. It's value lies not just in having two ways of seeing and explaining things, but it lies also in the understanding that there are different ways of seeing things. For someone like this, it is not too much for them to then imagine that perhaps there might also be three ways or four or more ways to look at something. This appreciation that there are diverse ways of seeing things is extraordinarily important in the multicultural world we live in today. The chief problem with the monocultural person is the absence of this appreciation, the absence of an experience of diverse ways of seeing and explaining things. This is the person who having never known anything else but the one way of seeing things makes the mistake that there is only one way, their way.

Grounding Māori creativity in tangata whenuatanga

The goal of Māori/indigenous development is not merely to achieve participation in a range of existing activities in our nation. It is also innovate them somehow, to innovate the nation, and in positive ways, to bring about new possibilities and opportunities arising from the circumstances, knowledge and intelligence of our communities. Valuable and distinctive innovations of NZ society, economy and culture by Māori communities are already here! Māori medium education (kōhanga reo to whare wānanga) is an extensive example; Māori broadcasting (radio, tv, internet) is another. Māori health providers and iwi/hapū approaches to sustainability are further examples. Innovations in legal vehicles, approaches to justice and much, much more. I haven't even mentioned the arts yet (tā moko, taonga pūoro, whare tapere etc etc)! Māori creativity and innovation is extensive, dynamic, valuable and distinctive. Many of the innovations (not all) initiated by Māori communities in recent decades were done so in pursuit of social justice and cultural/language revitalisation. That is to say, these developments have taken place in response to colonisation. The task now is to ground and deepen these developments further in the ongoing tangata whenua continuum. Deepening and grounding contemporary Māori creativity and innovation in the ongoing tangata whenua continuum moves us from a preoccupation with the events of the last two centuries (colonisation) to seeing ourselves and our efforts in an ongoing continuum (tangata whenua) with historical origins in Polynesia, arrival in Aotearoa in approx 1200AD, all the way to the present day. It moves us through and beyond grievance to the deep possibilities of indigeneity (tangata whenuatanga) whilst retaining an understandable concern for social justice (the equitable distribution of the prosperity of the nation) and cultural revitalisation. Here is a brief example of the significance of grounding our efforts in tangata whenuatanga, in addition to goals of social justice and cultural revitalisation. Social justice says "I lost the Māori language and it is my right for it to be returned to me." Cultural revitalisation says "The Māori language is essential to my identity as a Māori person." Tangata whenuatanga says "The reo is the way in which the universe comes to voice in me. It does not belong to me but to the universe. The ocean has a reo, the forest does too. Birds and animals have reo, and so I do too. The universe wishes to find voice (reo) in me, in you, in all life."

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Value of the Māori Language and Mātauranga Māori

The value of the Mori language is not so much that we can say the same things in Mori that we may say in English but because the Mori language is a vehicle into a distinctive way of thinking and experiencing life (worldview). 

Similarly our desire for mtauranga Mori and Mori cultural knowledge is not so that we may distinguish ourselves from 'Pkeh' but rather to be able to enjoy a vision and experience of life that was first imagined by our forebears and related by them in their language, their knowledge, their songs, their stories, their genealogies and much more. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Arts Based Research

Here are some quotes taken from a Harvard University website concerning arts based research:

Arts-Based Research (ABR) is an emerging set of methods that are extremely diverse, but united by their ambitions to blur the lines between “science” and “art.” These methods tap into the artistic process as a primary mode of inquiry, creating various forms of art as a way to collect data, conduct analysis, and/or represent social science research (Leavy, 2009)...

...Today ABR practitioners, including many in the field of education, utilize diverse and sometimes very personal combinations of arts and research methods. Two forms that have become more common in recent years are Poetry-based research, which uses collected data as a basis for original poetry, and Ethnodrama, which brings together ethnographic research with theatrical writing and performance....

...In many ways still in its formative stages, writers in the field of Arts-Based Research have been working to document its diversity and to engage in important questions around methodology and epistemology such as: What are the strengths and weaknesses of using art as a mode of inquiry? What research topics and questions could benefit most from being addressed through ABR? What constitutes quality in ABR and how can such quality be judged?

Leavy, P. (2009). Method meets art: Arts-based research practice. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Traditional Knowledge and the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership

Last Monday (3 Dec 2012), thanks to Prof Jane Kelsey, I had the opportunity to present some ideas on mātauranga Māori/indigenous knowledge to negotiators who were meeting all this week in Auckland to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership. It was a very brief opportunity which took place at Waipapa Marae, University of Auckland. Here are some of the things I said:

  • Our vision is for the indigenous dimension of New Zealand society to be positive, dynamic, creative force in our nation’s life, economy and culture, something that all New Zealand can be proud of. We seek to turn colonisation and its deleterious effects on its head. 
  • The contribution of indigenous peoples is not merely to gain participation in existing arrangements in New Zealand society, but also to bring distinctive aspects and creativity to our nation, to improve it according to indigenous vision, experience and action
  • We remain concerned with matters of social justice – we are alert to ways in which indigenous peoples were and are marginalised
  • We remain concerned with cultural revitalisation - to uplift our language, our knowledge, our customary lifestyles
  • We are also inspired by our own ‘creative potential’ - to be inspired by what we have rather than what we have lost
  • Traditional Knowledge is a critically important dimension within the creative potential of indigenous communities
  • This knowledge belongs to our communities and it is deeply important to the ongoing realisation of our potential
  • We do not regard it as ‘museum pieces’ but rather a dynamic living tradition of memory, experience, an understanding of life.
  • We wish to repatriate this knowledge to our people and enable it to be utilised by our people in new and creative ways and for their benefit.
  • If we are strengthened in our own knowledge, we are more likely to be open, to share, to engage in positive relationships. Conversely, if we feel our rights to our own knowledge are compromised, we are less likely to engage, to be open.
Carwyn Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu) from Victoria University of Wellington also spoke on the Wai262 Flora and Fauna claim brought before the Waitangi Tribunal. 

Information on the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership can be found at these websites:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Māori and māori

Māori is a term used primarily as a cultural/ethnic identifier. That is to say, it is used to label a group of people, the descendents of the aboirginal inhabitants of New Zealand at the time of European arrival. It's meaning is constructed and expressed in the context of other ethnic/cultural signifiers particularly Pākehā (European New Zealanders) and, later, Pasifika, Asian and more.

There is another way, however, of thinking about 'Māori'. Originally the word 'māori' meant 'natural'. This referred to something that lacked impurities, something that naturally and organically appeared in the world. An example is 'waimāori' or pure water.

Historically when children were considered for entry into the whare wānanga (institution of higher learning), the elders would sit and study each child to understand the qualities that were naturally appearing in each child, prior to any teaching. The elders were concerned to understand what energies and qualities naturally, spontaneously and organically manifested and expressed themselves in a child. They would debate with each other about the qualities they saw. Essentially, they were debating the 'māoritanga' of the child, what was naturally appearing in the child. When they had decided what qualities they believed were expressing themselves in a child, it was their view that an atua (deity, god) was drawing the child, the child was naturally the pathway for that atua to express itself. This was it is also meant (among other things) by the terms 'atua māori'. The elders would then dedicate (tohi) that child to that atua and impart to him/her all the knowledge pertaining to that atua.

Now in thinking about this idea, I find it liberating when thinking about my own 'Māoriness'. When one initially begins to learn one's 'Māoritanga' we gather information and knowledge which helps us feel, act and think like a 'Māori'. However, now that I am a little older, I find myself thinking about what naturally and organically springs within me without the aid of any learning or teaching. I find this a deeper way of thinking about my 'māoritanga'. I also find that this a journey toward authenticity, finding my own authentic centre (Māori Marsden uses the term 'authentic being), recovering it, understanding it and letting it flow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Value of Te Reo Māori

In our recent deliberations regarding research and the Māori language, we identified three major questions facing the life of the language. The first concerns "how do we increase the number of people speaking the Māori language?". The second question is 'how do increase our understanding of fluency in the Māori language and increase the number of people achieving fluency?" The final question, and the one that is less well researched is "what is the value of the Māori language?" This is vitally important question which, if addressed properly I feel, will bring even more energy into the revitalisation of our language. As a response to this question of the value of the Māori language, I offer the following ideas: - The contribution of the Māori language to the construction and articulation of identity. This leads to feelings of empowerment and mana leading to social cohesion. This is the case for the individual Māori person who is building a sense of their own identity. It is also the case for general New Zealand society/culture which seeks distinctive 'identity markers' which distinguish us on the world stage from other nations, peoples and communities. (eg Pōkarekare ana, haka, placenames, Aotearoa etc) - The value of the Māori language expressed through the benefits of bilingualism. These include increased cognitive abilities and attributes, increased memory capability, increased qualities of articulation and expressiveness and increased dimensionality of meaning. Bilingualism and multilingualism is a worldwide phenomenona. Unfortunately we have inherited a stoic monolingualism from our British forebears. The ability to express oneself in two languages significantly broadens a person's perception and understanding of life. This leads to the third value I suggest: - The value of the Māori language expressed as a vehicle of worldview, an avenue into a way of thinking, explaining and experiencing life which offers benefits. I feel that this is ultimately the value of the Māori language to us today. The point of bilingualism is not so that we may say precisely the same thing in two languages but that we may possess a variety of 'lenses' by which to view our world, to understand life, alternative ways of thinking about issues and opportunities presented by life.