Story: Māori Studies – ngā tari Māori

Page 5. Teachers’ colleges and wānanga

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Auckland Teachers’ College

The struggle to establish Māori studies in universities was matched by a similar struggle in teachers’ colleges. The first to make a move was Auckland Teachers’ College, with the appointment of Harry Lambert in 1961. After he left in 1962, his successors strengthened the curriculum and increased student enrolments over the next five years. Māori studies then became a department in its own right under Vernon Penfold.

Wellington Teachers’ College

In 1963 Wellington Teachers’ College took a more staged approach to the introduction of Māori studies by appointing Barry Mitcalfe to teach Polynesian studies in the Department of Social Studies. Five years later that position was supplemented by the appointment of Tipene O’Regan to teach New Zealand studies. Mitcalfe and O’Regan shared the Māori-Polynesian studies portfolio between them. When Mitcalfe left in 1972, O’Regan redesigned the Māori studies programme and was appointed senior lecturer in Māori studies and social studies.

Palmerston North Teachers’ College

Palmerston North Teachers’ College did not see any need to appoint a lecturer in Māori studies until late in the 1960s. The catalyst for change was young teachers trained at the college who found themselves teaching Māori children in South Auckland schools. They complained that their training had not equipped them to teach in a multi-cultural school.

Christchurch Teachers’ College

The principal of Christchurch Teachers’ College, Colin Knight, resisted appointing a lecturer in Māori studies until well into the 1980s because he believed that Māori and non-Maori New Zealanders should be regarded as one people.

The difference of wānanga

In 1999 the Waitangi Tribunal ruled on a claim that the Crown had failed to properly fund the three tertiary education wānanga then operating. The claim argued that the wānanga provided a form of education that differed from that available in Māori studies departments at other tertiary institutions. The tribunal found that ‘Māori studies focuses on studying Māori society from a Pākehā perspective, while mātauranga Māori is about studying the universe from a Māori perspective.’1 It recommended that the Crown make a one-off payment to each of the wānanga.

Tribal wānanga

Opposition to the establishment of Māori studies in the academy was circumvented by the strategy of sheltering it within anthropology. Māori academic Mason Durie thought that locating Māori studies within the confines of established disciplinary boundaries was academically unsound. It was also politically untenable, so separation was inevitable.

Despite that separation, Māori studies became caught in a dilemma that it is neither a traditional wānanga (school of learning) nor an exclusively Western-oriented school of learning. For this reason, Durie argued, it was not the business of Māori studies to teach students how to be Māori. That was the prerogative of tribal wānanga such as Te Wānanga o Raukawa at Ōtaki, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi at Whakatāne and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, based in Te Awamutu.

  1. The Wānanga capital establishment report (Wai 718). Wellington: Waitangi Tribunal, 1999, p. 21. Back
How to cite this page:

Ranginui Walker, 'Māori Studies – ngā tari Māori - Teachers’ colleges and wānanga', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 3 October 2023)

Story by Ranginui Walker, published 22 Oct 2014