Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Tu Maori Mai: Maori Cultural Embeddeness Improves Adaptive Coping and Wellbeing for Maori Adolescents

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Tu Maori Mai: Maori Cultural Embeddeness Improves Adaptive Coping and Wellbeing for Maori Adolescents

Article excerpt

Identity of Maori People

Maori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand). However, prior to the arrival of Pakeha (non-Maori settlers), there were no labels for the collection of indigenous peoples in Aotearoa (Atkinson, 1892; Walker, 2004). Instead, Maori were, and are still, gathered within iwi (tribal), hapu (sub-tribal) and whanau (familial) groups. Each iwi has their own protocols, each hapu their own traditions and each whanau their own history. Although these separate groups can differentially shape a person's worldview, they exist together in an interconnected set of embedded systems (Doherty, 2012), such that an extensive amount of shared understanding exists among Maori people. For example, Harrington and Liu (2002) found that Maori students are oriented strongly towards the collective group. Maori would therefore be considered collectivistic (Hofstede, 1980), with a greater emphasis on group identity over individualism. However, the depth of shared knowledge and understanding will vary between group members (Durie, 2001; Houkamau & Sibley, 2015; Stevenson, 2004), particularly since Maori now live in a colonised society.

Today, te ao Maori (the Maori world) is enveloped by non-Maori concepts, making it difficult to maintain traditional Maori tikanga (Maori customs; Mead, 2016). This situation is a consequence of the assimilatory attitude of the Crown and the New Zealand government. In 1840, representatives of the British Crown drafted a treaty between the Crown and Maori, who were represented by a large gathering of Maori chiefs (Orange, 1990). In English, this treaty states that Maori would cede sovereignty to the Crown in exchange for protection. The treaty, however, was hastily translated into Maori and the translated version stipulates that Maori were only ceding governance to the Crown, allowing Maori to maintain their lands and possessions. Had they been provided with the correct translation, it is highly unlikely that the this treaty (called the Treaty of Waitangi) would have been signed (Walker, 2004).

Within 20 years of the signing of the treaty, Maori had become outnumbered by Pakeha (non-Maori). Treaty promises were ignored and Maori land was unjustly confiscated through government legislation (Walker, 2004). The displacement of whanau from their home lands was a near-lethal blow to Maori identity, as connection to the land is of vital cultural importance (Durie, 2001). Furthermore, te reo Maori (the Maori language) was banned in schools and Maori cultural perspectives were excluded from school curricula (Durie, 1998). Rev. Maori Marsden described this process as "Cultural Genocide" (Marsden & Royal, 2003, p. 88). With the suppression of Maori language and culture, the intergenerational transmission of cultural beliefs and practices became increasingly difficult (Marsden & Royal, 2003; Mead, 2016). Over time, some Maori came to believe and internalise Pakeha perceptions of what it means to be Maori (Haenga-Collins & Gibbs, 2015; Webber, 2012).

This issue is particularly salient for rangatahi Maori (Maori youth) today. Adolescence is an important time for identity development (Erikson, 1968) and Maori youth may struggle to form a cohesive identity, with at least two competing ways of understanding the world (Maori and Pakeha). Furthermore, being Maori is most often portrayed negatively (i.e. by the media; Gregory et al., 2011) and so, without a secure base of understanding, these young people may internalise negative perceptions or avoid their Maori identity altogether (Houkamau, 2010). This problem can be exacerbated if the individual has only a basic understanding of te reo Maori. The Maori language is a window to the culture, it is complex and metaphoric, reflecting the nature of a Maori worldview (Doherty, 2012). Competency in speaking and understanding te reo Maori is an important measure of cultural fluency (Stevenson, 2004).

As a collectivistic culture, Maori see the world as inherently interconnected (Harmsworth & Awatere, 2013; Marsden & Royal, 2003) and interpersonal connections are particularly crucial. …

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