Tino Rangatiratanga: What’s it got to do with Pākehā?

grant brookes

Talk by Grant Brookes, 7 April 2014 – No.4 in Fightback’s weekly “Introduction to Marxism” series

Perhaps more than the first three topics in Fightback’s “Introduction to Marxism” series, this one is loaded with questions.

Most people probably had some idea about why a socialist group like Fightback supports trade unions, for instance, or what capitalism and socialism are. But what has Tino Rangatiratanga got to do with Pākehā? Nothing? Something? What? It’s a bit less obvious.

For this reason, I’d like to start a discussion on this topic through an FAQ format, with an initial set of questions and some answers. After this, people may feel free to open up with their own questions, and their own answers.


Question 1: What exactly is Tino Rangatiratanga?

Before I answer this question, I’d like to point out the obvious. We are conversing today almost exclusively in English, i Te Reo Pākehā. This is a conscious decision on my part, to enable communication with you.

But as well as enabling communication, this choice also impairs communication. Meaning is always lost in translation. I’ll come back to this point later. But for now, we will discuss Tino Rangatiratanga in English.

“Rangatira” is usually translated into English as “Chief”, or head of a tribe. Rangatiratanga is said to be the quality of being a chief. The term “rangatiratanga” appears in writing in the 1835 Declaration by the United Tribes of New Zealand, where it is normally translated to mean “sovereign independence”.

Tino is an intensifier. “Tino rangatiratanga”, as “absolute Chieftainship”, or “unconditional sovereignty”, appears in the document signed at Waitangi in 1840.

It is now fairly well known that there are two versions of that document, one in English and one in Māori, and that The Treaty of Waitangi and Te Tiriti ō Waitangi are not exactly the same. “Tino Rangatiratanga” is mentioned in article two of the Māori version. Translated into English, that part of Te Tiriti says: “The Queen of England agrees to protect the Chiefs, the subtribes and all the people of New Zealand in the unqualified exercise of their tino rangatiratanga (or absolute chieftainship) over their lands, villages and all their treasures”.

In the Māori World, Te Ao Māori, the meaning of “absolute chieftainship over treasures” is made clear through lived experience. Rangatiratanga, for example, would be represented by a known person. Stories, waiata and proverbs, passed down from the ancestors, also carry meaning of rangatiratanga. Meaning is further sustained within Te Reo Māori by the association of this word with others, such as “mana”, “ihi”, “tapu” and “ariki”. Likewise, the meaning of “treasures” is clear though the things which are spoken of as tāonga.

Professor Sir Hugh Kawhuru of the Waitangi Tribunal has observed that “chieftainship… has to be understood in the context of Māori social and political organisation as at 1840”. In particular, this was a world where the idea that land, villages and tāonga were saleable commodities with a monetary value for individual owners was simply inconceivable. “The accepted approximation today”, he says, “is ‘trusteeship’.”

As a living kaupapa, the contemporary meaning of Tino Rangatiratanga has also been shaped by the Māori activists and thinkers who have been part of the revival of struggle which started in the late 1960s, through organisations like Te Hokioi, the Maori Organisation On Human Rights and Ngā Tamatoa.

In 1971, Te Hokioi described the resurgent Māori struggles as “movements of Maori rights to run Maori affairs”. The following year, Ngā Tamatoa staged a Tent Embassy protest at Parliament, calling for “Maori control of Maori things”.

These groups added new layers of meaning to the understanding of Tino Rangatiratanga, as they connected their struggles with others. According to Ranginui Walker, Te Hokioi “aligned the Maori struggle against oppression with the ideology of the class struggle”. Another academic, Evan Te Ahu Poata-Smith, has commented: “members of Tamatoa were influenced by the revolutionary wing of the Black Power movement in the United States”.

More recently, Maria Bargh has highlighted a connection with decolonisation and national independence movements on the world stage: “Tino Rangatiratanga is often understood as a translation for the term ‘self-determination’”, she says. “According to Māori understandings, tino rangatiratanga has particular connotations and rules attached to it, relating to mana whenua, mana moana, mana tangata and Te Tiriti. Self-determination also has specific rules attached to it, particularly in the framework of the United Nations.”

Margaret Mutu adds that rangatiratanga is “high-order leadership, the ability to keep the people together, that is an essential quality in a rangatira. The exercise of such leadership in order to maintain and enhance the mana of the people is rangatiratanga.”

Ani Mikaere comments that the origin of the word rangatira “provides a clear indication that Māori leadership has nothing to do with the assertion of power by one (or some) over others. With ‘ranga’ coming from the word ‘raranga’ which means ‘to weave’ and ‘tira’ referring to a group, it is apparent that the task of the rangatira is literally to weave the people together.”

And as Moana Jackson points out, this leadership through weaving people together is also about power: “John Rangihau used to say that the power vested in tino rangatiratanga was people bestowed. The people could grant it, and the people could take it away in the most fundamental sense. That seems to me to be the essence of democracy defined in Maori terms.”

Finally, a very influential statement of Tino Rangatiratanga, as sovereignty, was developed by Donna Awatere in the early 1980s. “Maori sovereignty”, she said, “is the Maori ability to determine our own destiny and to do so from the basis of our lands and fisheries. In essence, Maori sovereignty seeks nothing less than the acknowledgement that New Zealand is Maori land, and further seeks the return of this land.”

Question 2: Why would Pākehā support the Struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga?

So if the pursuit of Tino Rangatiratanga is above all a struggle by Māori, for Māori, what’s it got to do with Pākehā? Why would Pākehā support, or even join the struggle?

One answer goes something like this: “I think it’s truly dreadful what happened to the Maoris during colonisation. It’s only right that we do what we can to help our less fortunate friends.”

As we start to unpack the meaning of this answer, it is important to acknowledge that it contains an essential truth. What happened to Māori during the 19th and 20th centuries is “dreadful”.

Between 1840 and 1890, Māori lost control of 95 percent of their land, taken largely  through force and fraud. To accomplish this dispossession, colonisation involved the forcible suppression of tikanga and Te Reo Māori, wounding the wairua of the people. The population was devastated by war, economic destruction and European diseases, falling from around 100,000 in 1800 to 40,000 a century later. This can only be called genocide.

But unpacking this answer further, we start to strike problems.

Colonisation is not just something that “happened”, in the past. It is still happening today. Confiscation of tāonga continues – not only in the well-known recent cases of the foreshore and seabed or water rights. This year, the government has attempted to forcibly acquire ancestral lands of Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai, currently occupied by novelist Patricia Grace, for the Kapiti Expressway. And colonisation is reflected daily in Māori imprisonment rates six times higher than others, twice as much child poverty and unemployment, lifespans 10 percent shorter, and a median income 20 percent lower than the general population.

This answer for why Pākehā would want to support the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga is also a moral argument, about the “right” thing to do. It appeals to guilt, which is not the strongest of motivations.

It’s also based on the assumption that “we” (Pākehā) are “fortunate”. It is true that Pākehā, on average, are more fortunate and have benefitted from colonisation.

But this average conceals how the benefits have been distributed very unevenly.

By 1890, over 80 percent of the land in New Zealand was in European hands. But of that, more than 60% of the freehold acres were held by just 600 individuals or companies. Today, the wealth which has been generated from the land and natural resources taken from Māori is largely in the hands of the top 1 percent. They now own more than three times as much as the poorer half of the population put together. The poorer half includes many Pākehā, as well as most Māori. An argument to support Tino Rangatiratanga based on the assumption that Pākehā are “fortunate” is unlikely to convince many of these struggling people.

This reason to support Tino Rangatiratanga also tends to assign Pākehā to a particular role in the struggle – namely, cheering Māori from the sidelines and educating fellow Pākehā about colonisation. This is valuable work, as far as it goes, but it’s also limited.

And finally, it subtly insinuates that Pākehā support is conditional upon Māori remaining “our friends”. What happens if, and when, Māori target “fortunate”, affluent whites in their struggle for liberation?

So in summary, it should be seen by now that this answer for why Pākehā would want to support Tino Rangatiratanga – while containing some important truths – is essentially an answer provided by, and for, the liberal middle class.

But there are other reasons why Pākehā New Zealanders of European descent, or tauiwi from non-European ethnic groups, get involved. Some do so on the basis of their own experience of colonisation and racism.

Unite Union leader Joe Carolan has explained why he joined the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga:

“I first came to Aotearoa [from Ireland] a few days before the Battle of Seattle in November 1999… Less than three months later… I had the first of many korero with Maori comrades about the similarities of the Irish and Maori struggles for freedom and liberation… Irish and Maori have long histories of resistance to draw from, and that is why I am proud to be a member of Mana – a party of struggle, a party of the working class, a party that fights for true Tino rangatiratanga – self government and independence for us all.”

Mengzhu Fu meanwhile has given a New Zealand Chinese perspective, as a member of Young Asian Feminists Aotearoa:

“While many of us have certain privileges as settlers here, racism and xenophobia can make it hard to access appropriate housing, employment and allows the mainstream to treat us as secondary citizens…

There are different kinds of racisms that are specific to each of our different ethnicities… Migrants of colour and Māori get pitted against each other…

[But] there are tau iwi people of colour supporting tino rangatiratanga despite the barriers… We were there on the hikoi against the Foreshore and Seabed bill, we were there in solidarity when the anti-terror raids happened on October 15th 2007… supported the protests against the deletion of Māori seats in the creation of the supercity, marched against asset sales despite the xenophobia and fears of foreign (i.e. Chinese) ownership as if land in this country isn’t already in non-Māori ownership.

Beyond having a common oppressor, I think it’s important for tau iwi people of colour… to tautoko the movement for tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake from our own cultural frameworks. By… seeing through the divide and rule tactics of the colonial settler system, as tau iwi people of colour, we can seek strategies to disrupt and resist settler colonialism, because there can be no justice for anyone on stolen land including migrants without achieving tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake for tangata whenua.”

As a socialist and member of Fightback, I support these reasons and add some more. In our statement of what Fightback is about, we say:

“Under our current system, democracy consists of a vote every 3 years. Most of our lives are lived under dictatorship, the dictatorship of bosses and WINZ case managers. Fightback stands for a system in which our workplaces, our schools, our universities are run democratically, for social need rather than private profit.

Fightback participates in the MANA Movement, whose stated mission is to bring ‘rangatiratanga to the poor, the powerless and the dispossessed.’ Capitalism was imposed in Aotearoa through colonisation, and the fight for indigenous self-determination is intimately connected with the fight for an egalitarian society. We also maintain an independent Marxist organisation outside of parliament, to offer a vision of a world beyond the parliamentary capitalist system… Fightback stands for struggle, solidarity and socialism.”

As a Pākehā socialist, therefore, my involvement in the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga is based on what I am against, and what I am for.

I am against capitalism and the destruction it is wreaking on people and our ecology. To effectively work against this requires unity across ethnic divisions, and that means supporting each other’s struggles.

This is more than a pious principle. Time and again, it has proved to be a practical necessity. Analysing the workers’ movement for an 8 hour day in the United States, Karl Marx observed, “every independent movement of the workers was paralysed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded. But out of the death of slavery a new life at once arose. The first fruit of the Civil War was the eight hours’ agitation.”

Or as Hone Harawira has put it, paraphrasing the slogan of the American Civil Rights Movement: “no-one is free until everyone is free”.

Marx and Engels also explained that “the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself”. Despite the unquestioned assumptions of many Pākehā leftists, the working classes of the world are mostly non-European. The emancipation struggles of indigenous people should not only be seen as part of our struggle against capitalism, it should also be recognised that in many places (including Aotearoa) they are leading the struggle for people and planet. As Noam Chomsky pointed out last year: “There is resistance: in Canada it’s coming from First Nations. But it’s worth remembering that that’s a world-wide phenomenon. Throughout the world, the indigenous populations are in the lead.”

As well as being against capitalism, as a member of Fightback I am also for socialism.

What might this “socialism” mean in Aotearoa in the 21st century? Here are a couple of suggestions.

In 1880, Friedrich Engels explained it as follows: “The proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this transforms the socialized means of production, slipping from the hands of the bourgeoisie, into public property. By this act, the proletariat frees the means of production from the character of capital… Socialized production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible. The development of production makes the existence of different classes of society thenceforth an anachronism… [T]he political authority of the State dies out. Man, at last… becomes… his own master — free… This is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, scientific Socialism.”

Based on the earlier discussion, meanwhile, we could sum up the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga, as expressed in Te Tiriti, as “weaving together the people” in a collective struggle for “the essence of democracy”, to reassert “trusteeship” over commonly-owned resources and treasures “to maintain and enhance the mana [power] of the people”.

Now I ask you – which one of these two describes the indigenous socialism that we are fighting for?

To some Pākehā leftists, this would be a ridiculous question. They could not imagine that Māori might come up with an advanced political philosophy, like socialism, aiming at complete social and economic transformation for all. Their blinkered vision leads them to reject Tino Rangatiratanga, using words like “separatism” and “reverse racism”.

Yet Pākehā politicians of the 19th century saw it differently. Liberal prime minister Dick Seddon saw “communism” at Parihaka and vowed to destroy it. The first minister of native affairs, Christopher Richmond, defended the march to war in 1860 because it was “putting an end to the state of beastly communism in which the natives were living”.

And when you look at it without prejudice, a democratic struggle for trusteeship over commonly-owned resources to enhance people power certainly sounds like socialism – even more so in the mind of activist Teanau Tuiono:

“Tino Rangatiratanga should be a radically democratic alternative to capitalism in which the flaxroots, local community would be constantly and actively involved in making the key decisions about the allocation of societies resources in a collective, co-operative and open manner rather than behind the closed boardroom doors of large corporations (be they tribal or otherwise). It would involve communities making these important decisions and running the economy and society as a whole on a day-to-day basis. Tino Rangatiratanga should embrace a system in which our entire economy is geared up to satisfy the needs of human beings – our tikanga, cultural values and aspirations – not the profit margins of a tiny elite. (i.e. human need, not greed!) It would encapsulate our role as kaitiaki, guardians of the earth and the eco-system. It would be based on a vision of society free of racism, class exploitation, women’s oppression, homo-phobia and the oppression of indigenous peoples.”

And yet, as Evan Te Ahu Poata-Smith points out, “agreement on the vision of tino rangatiratanga is far from unanimous. It can simultaneously be identified with Maori capitalism, Maori electoral power, cultural nationalism or revolutionary activity.”

So at present, Tino Rangatiratanga cannot be identified with the socialism we are fighting for.

Engels, meanwhile, is still revered as an authority on socialism. But I don’t think his account is the socialism we’re fighting for in Aotearoa today, either. This is because, as Karl Marx pointed out, “the working class… have no ready-made utopias to introduce… They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant.”

The “elements of the new society” which were present for Engels in England in 1880 are different from those present in Aotearoa today.

Our own indigenous socialism is yet to be developed. What I think we can say, however, is that any new socialist society in Aotearoa will be born out of the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga.

Other Pākehā socialists agree. As Dougal McNeill of the International Socialist Organisation puts it: “Throughout the history of capitalism on these islands the two struggles – for Maori rights and for the working class more generally – have been intimately interconnected… In a country founded on land dispossession and theft, it’s impossible to imagine a socialism that doesn’t champion Tino Rangatiratanga.”

These are the reasons why I seek to participate in that struggle.

maori sovereignty

Question 3: Why would Māori allow Pākehā to participate in the Struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga?

As a Pākehā, I won’t attempt to answer this question.

But what I can do is report what Māori activists have said about it over the years. It is important to recognise that there is no universally agreed answer on why – or whether – Māori might want Pākehā participation.

Māori activist groups like Te Hokioi and the Māori Organisation On Human Rights consciously sought to involve Pākehā in their struggle. According to Evan Te Ahu Poata-Smith, “A close working relationship was forged between Pākehā anti-racist groups and what eventually evolved into the Māori protest movements of the late 1960s”.

In 1975, the historic Land March to Parliament built on this relationship. The organising group, Te Rōpū Matakite, took out newspaper advertisements appealing for Pākehā support. These advertisements explained why they wanted Pākehā involvement: “We see no difference between the aspirations of Maori people and the desire of workers in their struggles. We seek the support of workers and organisations, as the only viable bodies which have sympathy and understanding of the Maori people and their desires. The people who are oppressing the workers are the same who are exploiting the Maori today.”

Whina Cooper, as a leader of the March, wrote to trade unions asking for their active participation: “We call on all members of the working class to support us by marching with us through your areas”. Her letter explained that, “as there is a need for buses for our elders and children, food and accommodation, first aid etc, along the road, we would be very grateful for your financial support also”.

Yet other Māori voices for Tino Rangatiratanga have cast doubt on this view. Ranginui Walker, for instance, argued that “because race conflict was a primary element… it is not of the same order as class conflict. The cleavage is more fundamental… Proletarianisation of the Maori by expropriation of their resources did not necessarily… make the Maori natural allies of the working class”.

Donna Awatere went further. Her book on Maori Sovereignty questioned whether “alliances” and “unity” with Pākehā are even possible in the struggle.

On the one hand, she wrote: “These alliances are necessary because changes cannot occur with the Maori on our own”.

But on the other hand: “White people deny that they are aligned together. White women cite their differences with white men, homosexual from heterosexual, the working class from the capitalist class. Yet… All white people share in the benefits of the alienation of Maori land, in the imposition of European cultural values of individualism, materialism, in the imposition of their concepts of spirituality and in the imposition of the English language…

The first loyalty of white women is always to the White Culture and the White Way. This is true as much for those who define themselves as feminists as for any other white woman… white workers, while they are in one way opposed to the boss class, are in another way locked tight with the boss in racial hegemony. This is the crux of it; whites stick together, whatever their class… Left wing groups aim to harness the revolutionary potential of the working classes to… put aside the capitalist classes’ power… This, however, will still not assure Maori sovereignty since ‘the (white) people’ who will replace this power are still as much intruders as the bosses.”

Donna Awatere concluded: “I’ve spent a good 16 years snooping around the country looking for alliances. Friends among the ‘enemy’. This search has taken me into the feminist movement, the trade unions, around the left and into the Pacific Island communities… These groups will not align themselves with us. All white people are captives of their own culture. And they don’t know they’re captives. They therefore ignore the door of the cage we hold open for them.”

There is some ambiguity in her book. But many readers of Maori Sovereignty concluded that there is no place for Pākehā in the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga.

I might not fully accept all her arguments – for example, that all white people benefit more from the alienation of Maori land than by fighting for a socialist society which recognises Māori sovereignty, or that European culture is inherently individualistic, regardless of class.

But it is not for me to say that Pākehā are allowed to participate in any struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga when we are not invited.

More recently, however, Evan Te Ahu Poata-Smith has given other answers to why Māori would allow Pākehā to participate in the Struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga:

“Firstly… the perception that the struggle for tino rangatiratanga is primarily a Maori versus Pakeha struggle forces Maori to struggle against the entire Pakeha population. In essence this isolates the Maori struggle forcing it to rely entirely on its own resources. Given the fact that these resources are meagre, the struggle is very unequal to say the least.

Secondly, movements consisting of Maori alone have no real social power to fundamentally transform their oppression. Historical evidence shows that political movements based solely on the ‘identity ‘of the participant tend to lurch from left to right of the political spectrum precisely because they have no real means to achieve their political aims…

Any fight against Maori oppression must be based upon building the strongest possible liberation movement by uniting different oppressed groups into a common struggle. This is essential because true liberation for Maori will not occur without a fundamental transformation of capitalist society and the creation of a classless society in which there is real women’s liberation, gay and lesbian liberation, and freedom from racism. It is not necessary to actually experience a particular form of oppression in order to fight against it, any more than it is necessary to be destitute in order to fight poverty (Smith 1994: 4). All those struggling for a better society can learn to recognise and identify with those facing particular oppressions and can be enlisted as common allies in the struggle.”

Today, the MANA Movement has opened the door for Pākehā and other tauiwi to join the struggle. The statement of “Our Principles” in 2011 said:

“The MANA Movement strives for tino rangatiratanga and caring for others so whanau and communities can uplift themselves.

The path to self-determination, physical, social and spiritual wellbeing will require long-term fundamental change. Until that is achieved, the state and the MANA Movement have a responsibility to ensure whanau can live with dignity and live in accordance with te Tiriti o Waitangi.

To achieve this goal, MANA embraces the following principles:

• Tino rangatiratanga – as expressed through He Whakaputanga me Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is the basis of the modern Aotearoa NZ state.

• Social change – MANA will work with anyone to transform our world: to redistribute the wealth, to eliminate poverty, and to guarantee people’s rights to shelter, health, culture, identity and decent livelihoods.

• Kaupapa Maori – those basic principles which guarantee social justice, economic fairness and physical and spiritual wellbeing, embracing diversity and mutual respect.

• Advocacy – MANA will speak up and where necessary stand up for the poor, the sick, the marginalised, the exploited and the vulnerable.

MANA is a movement of the people, led by the people, and fighting for the people.”

Question 4: How should Pākehā engage with the Struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga?

Given that some Māori activists do not see a place for Pākehā in their struggle, we should stop and ask why. Does it have something to do with how we engage?

According to Evan Te Ahu Poata-Smith: “Awatere’s account of the Pākehā left had such a powerful political impact precisely because it highlighted many of the inherent weaknesses and real shortcomings of the ideas that existed on the left.”

It follows that if Pākehā leftists wish to participate, then we need to address our own collective weaknesses and shortcomings in relation to the Māori struggle. I will conclude with a few ideas on what this might entail.

Firstly, for Pākehā socialists, we can apply the theoretical lessons from the current debates on intersectionality. What does this mean? “Intersectionality says three core things. First: we should fight all manifestations of oppression. Second: the experiences under capitalism of one person differ from that of another person because of one’s place across material lines of oppression and exploitation… third… that one form of oppression can be shaped by and can shape other forms of oppression. Racism, for example, can be sexualised, or women’s oppression can be racialised – and this happens in such a way that it becomes impossible to view different oppressions as separate. We already know that all oppressions are connected by having material roots in capitalism… But intersectionality makes the further claim that… the experiences of oppression can differ depending on who you are.” (An older generation of activists might find here a solution to the problems of the flawed “tripod theory” from the 1980s).

Theoretical insights alone, of course, are not enough. We need to engage better on a personal level, as well.

Personally, I believe that Pākehā wanting to participate in the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga should learn Te Reo Māori. In February, my Māori language class at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa received our certificates at a graduation ceremony. Conducted largely in Te Reo Māori, Te Puāwaitanga celebrated “Te Reo me ōna tikanga”. There isn’t a short, easy translation of what this means. But it implies that the right ways of thinking and acting in Te Ao Māori belong – in a specific way – to the language. We certainly need to understand the right ways of thinking and acting, as seen by Māori, if we want to participate in the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga.


Secondly, as the decolonisation movement of the 1980s and 1990s understood, Pākehā need to learn their own history, learn where we come from, if we want to understand Māori. This reflects the truth of the feminist slogan (used as a title for the Annette Sykes interview in Maria Bargh’s book) that “the personal is political”. And it also reflects the dialectical movement of knowing and accepting who you are, in order to change who you are. We each need to understand how we came to be here, as descendants of colonists, if we want to comprehensively undo colonisation.


Nō reira, tēnei te mihi.


Ko wai āhau?

Ko Cornwall te waka

Nō Koterana ōku tūpuna

I tae atu rātou ki Ōtepoti i te tau 1849 Nō Ōtepoti āhau

Ko Kapukataumahaka tōku maunga teitei Ko Owheo tōku awa pāpaku

Ko Saint Kilda tōku marae

Ko ngā kaimahi ō te Ao tōku iwi

Ko Helen tōku mama

Ko Don tōku papa

Ko Grant Brookes tōku ingoa

My ancestors first arrived in Dunedin in 1849. They arrived as dissident supporters of the Free Church of Scotland, and became farmers. Through the generations, there was a pattern of my land-owning forbears marrying working class labourers, much to the disapproval of their parents. In 1890, as students of New Zealand history will know, there was a famous Royal Commission into “sweated labour”, in response to union agitation focused on Dunedin. (See also “The Sin of Cheapness”: Harriet Morison and the Tailoresses’ Union).

Two teenage farm workers, known to the historical record only by their initials, gave evidence to the Commission against my farming ancestor, William Sanderson: “We rise in the morning at 3.30., feed the horses, and start milking. There are thirty eight cows to milk, and we milk six each. After receiving the milk into the carts we proceed to Dunedin to deliver it to the customers about 5 o’clock a.m. We breakfast about 4.30, and are only allowed five minutes to take it, being hurried away to the city. After returning we are set to do any jobs about the place until 4.30 p.m., when we resume milking. We take supper about 6.30 p.m., and after feeding the horses we can go to bed. We generally do so about 8 p.m. We complain of the long hours, and that the wages paid to us are not equivalent. The wages we are paid are 17s. 6d. and 15s. respectively, and found.”

William Sanderson is my great-great-great-grandfather. But I also recognise these two young men as ancestral members of my iwi, Ngā Kaimahi o Te Ao.

As a child, I learned the traditional family names handed down from the early settlers. But our children have received names which reflect my iwi. So my son is Tama Antonio, after the many tāngata whenua bearing this first name all the way back to Te Arawa waka, and after Antonio Gramsci, revolutionary leader of the Italian working class. And my daughter is Rosa Mārama, for enlightenment and in honour of our tūpuna rangatira, Rosa Luxemburg and Rosa Parks. Their surname is different  from the one given to me, and different from the one given to their mother. We are undoing colonisation in our family in the hope our children will be equipped for a new society, free from the shackles of the old.

Lastly, here are a few practical tips of how Pākehā might think and act as we engage in the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga.

Listen more than you talk. And as you listen, bear in mind the mana tangata of every person – including those who might be considered “political opponents” in Te Ao Pākehā. Respect in particular the mana of your elders, the kaumātua and kuia, and the mana of the rangatira. Some of the things that Pākehā members of the MANA Movement have written about Hone on facebook over the last 2 weeks make me ashamed for them. To whakaiti like that is to betray ignorance of what mana means. The right ways of thinking and acting in Te Ao Māori are more than about having the right ideas, or the evidence, or the arguments. Ask questions, don’t impose answers.

When getting on in Te Ao Pākehā, some say “it’s who you know, not what you know, that counts”. Others, who seek to replace the system of class privilege with meritocracy, say: “what you know should matter more than who you know”.

Put aside all these Western ideas. For Māori, what matters is how you relate, and how you are related. Acknowledge shared ancestry – founded on blood ties, yes, but also on the other ties that bind. We are all related to each other, and to every living thing, as descendants of Tāne Mahuta. Bonds of solidarity forged in struggle can pass from generation to generation. Whanaungatanga guides all things.

And appreciate the different understanding of time in Te Ao Māori. The present is not the be-all and end-all. The struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga has been going on long before you arrived, and it will go on without you. Do not expect sudden change here and now. Be patient.

So that’s all from me. The questions and answers are now for you to continue.


  1. I enjoyed reading this article on the on going struggles for Tino Rangatiratanga, I fully tautoko the mana movement…

  2. Inspiring work Grant. I don’t agree with everything (naturally) have have been thinking along generally similar lines myself for some time, but haven’t found a way to express those thoughts yet. Maybe a language class would help!

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