- Māori as “Warriors” and “Locals” in the Private Military Industry
The private military industry has expanded rapidly since the 1980s and traverses many countries, governments, and peoples. Unlike other peoples described as “warrior peoples” or “martial races,” Māori are not predominantly seen and do not predominantly speak about themselves as “warriors” in the private military industry, which has expanded since the 1990s. Is this a result of the image of Māori as warriors being historically qualified by the accompanying image of Māori as “noble savages” who were allegedly capable of being civilized and assimilated? We suggest that Māori do not describe themselves as a warrior or martial race in the industry because there are other peoples in the industry who are labeled, and who label themselves, in that way, and we investigate the reasons Māori may want to differentiate themselves.
Second, we examine the idea of Māori being experts at engaging with “locals” (Indigenous peoples) in other countries. The perception of Māori in the New Zealand Defence Force is that they have a particular expertise at engaging with the Indigenous peoples of countries outside New Zealand. In the private military industry, where people of many nationalities are contracted to provide military activities in countries such as Iraq, non–New Zealanders view the ability to engage well with Indigenous peoples as a Kiwi (New Zealander) trait and not specifically a Māori trait.1 Māori in the private military industry describe their abilities to engage well with locals as both a Kiwi trait that they share with some of their Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent) [End Page 102] compatriots and as a uniquely Māori way of conducting themselves. We suggest that the sense of being good at engaging with locals as a Kiwi trait may be a result of the Māori influences on Pākehā who have served together in the New Zealand Defence Force. Māori perceptions of their own engagement with locals are bound up with Māori values of fostering successful diplomatic and working relationships through actively making connections with other peoples.
The unique methodology of this project has been significant in the way the material has been compiled, analyzed, and presented in this article. While conducting interviews for a book project about Māori in the private military industry, I (Maria Bargh) noted that a number of interviewees made reference to long-standing assumptions about Māori as warriors and as easily able to engage with local peoples of other ethnicities. I began to wonder if these references were being used in the same way as they had been in colonial times by early British colonizers. I also wondered if the references were being used in the same way by Māori as they were by non-Māori in the private military industry. Were these comments a product of their common use in the New Zealand Defence Force and due to the fact that the interviewees trained in the New Zealand Defence Force? Or were they partially a result of that but also a reflection of rhetoric and thinking in the private military industry?
Very little is written about Māori in the private military industry beyond newspaper articles.2 With my background in researching politics, international relations, and Māori studies I knew that answering questions about Māori sentiments of their involvement in the private military industry would require collaboration with someone who had worked in that industry. In order to work through the complexity of this issue, I began a dialogue with Quentin Whanau, who is Māori, has a background in the New Zealand Defence Force, has taught New Zealand Defence Force doctrine, and has worked in the private military industry. This article is in part an illustration of the ways that the two of us read the articulations of Māori in the New Zealand Defence Force and private military industry. Our project to bring two different perspectives together necessarily involved trying to engage and mediate between different ways of thinking about being Māori. We found a way to...