- Māori Issues
Before considering how decolonization manifests itself for Māori, we must pause to remember those we have lost over the past year. Among our leaders we bade farewell to were three who left important legacies. In September 2013, we lost Denis Hansen of the iwi (tribal nations) of Ngāti Kahu and Ngāpuhi. He had worked tirelessly for the Māori community and was a loveable rogue who lit up any gathering he walked into. Thousands of people had attended his eightieth birthday celebration in June.
In February 2014, we lost Nin Tomas of the Ngāti Kahu and Te Rarawa nations. As an associate professor of law, Nin had trained a generation of Māori lawyers, some of whom are now judges. They turned up in large numbers for her tangihanga (funerary ceremony) at the University of Auckland’s Waipapa marae. She had fought for recognition of the first law of New Zealand, tikanga Māori (Māori law), and its application to environmental issues.
In May 2014, Morvin Simon of Te Ātihaunui a Pāpārangi iwi passed away. He was a leading music composer and had dedicated his life to tutoring kapa haka (dance), composing songs, and preserving the language and customs of his people of the Whanganui.
For Māori, decolonization is about [End Page 273] removing the oppression and marginalization visited on us by British colonizers and repairing the resultant damage. The devastating effects and systemic injustices that Māori have suffered are the same as those that European colonization visited on almost all indigenous peoples. The colonization strategies employed by the British in Aotearoa/New Zealand have been extensively documented: genocide; land and other resource theft; usurpation of our authority, power, and sovereignty; marginalization; banning and denial of our language, institutions, and intellectual prowess; and social and cultural dislocation through the systematic ripping apart of our communities, urbanization, incarceration, and relocation offshore to Australia (Jackson 2004, 104; Smith 2012, 147; Mutu 2011; Webb 2012). The diseases of poverty that reduce our quality of life and shorten our life expectancy, the internalized violence born of oppression, and the despair among young Māori shaped by an unemployment rate almost four times higher than the general population rate are all products of the dispossession wrought by colonization (Jackson 2004, 104). And this is all in violation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the 1840 treaty between Māori and the British Crown that confirmed Māori sovereignty and control of the country and guaranteed to the Crown control of her hitherto “lawless” subjects.
Decolonization in Aotearoa/New Zealand has therefore focused on honoring, upholding, and implementing the treaty. It is about surviving as Māori and recovering from the devastation of colonization: recovering our lands, resources, and territories, our language, our social and spiritual practices, our history and traditions, our identity and rights, our wealth and prosperity, our self-determination and sovereignty (Smith 2012, 121; Mutu 2011). It is about deconstructing the myths of colonization, breaking free of the Pākehā (European) state, reconstructing our Māori reality through our own laws and culture, and reclaiming effective sovereignty. This includes remedying the numerous breaches of Te Tiriti and restoring the balance between Māori as the indigenous owners and paramount authority of the country and British immigrants, who are here at our invitation and under our authority (Jackson 2004, 101). In the face of the often-ruthless exercise of unilateral Crown power, Māori have engaged in peaceful protest. We also organize and run decolonization programs to empower our communities to take back control of their lives and their territories. And we continue to fight the government through its own tribunal and courts, ever hopeful that it will eventually take heed of Māori and international pressure to do what is right and uphold widely recognized international indigenous human rights instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (unga 2014), which it had endorsed in 2010.
Decolonization in New Zealand has been painfully slow. Pākehā have fought to retain unilateral power and privilege, to continue to assert White supremacy, and to recreate and readjust...