Story: Ngā tuakiri hōu – new Māori identities

Page 3. Māori renaissance

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Towards the end of the 20th century gains in education, a higher profile for the Treaty of Waitangi and other new social opportunities led to a Māori renaissance. A new range of identities and terms appeared as Māori defined their lives in new ways. For example, in 1992 the Department of Māori Affairs was again renamed and became Te Puni Kōkiri – the Ministry of Māori Development. This change reflected Māori determination to have more control over the institutions that directly affected them, and a wider move to give public institutions Māori as well as English names.

Māori radicals

While urban Māori were often marginalised in poor housing areas, those new communities also gave rise to new opportunities. In the 1960s and 1970s Māori were exposed to ideas about the US black civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam War movement. Widespread protests at the exclusion of Māori team members from rugby tours to South Africa introduced Māori to the anti-apartheid movement. A new political consciousness gave birth to protest movements including the Māori land march (1975) and the occupations of Raglan golf course (1978) and Bastion Point (1977–78), where Māori land had been claimed by the government for public works. Violence erupted at Auckland University in 1978 when a Māori group called He Taua prevented engineering students from staging a mock haka that belittled Māori culture. Waitangi Day celebrations in the Bay of Islands became the site of annual large-scale protests.

Māori protesters, radicals and activists became part of the terminology of Māori identity. These terms could have negative or positive connotations, depending on whether people supported or opposed their views. The young Māori who led the protest movements of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s became known as the ‘rangatiratanga generations’, from a term used in the Treaty of Waitangi and translated as ‘sovereignty’.

Mana wahine

Māori women such as Whina Cooper, Eva Rickard, Ripeka Evans and Donna Awatere were prominent in the protest movement. Their contribution and that of other women role models and leaders such as Georgina Te Heuheu (the first Māori woman lawyer), Whetū Tirikātene-Sullivan (the first Māori woman to become a cabinet minister) and Ngapare Hopa (the first Māori woman to obtain a PhD) gave rise to the term ‘mana wahine’, referring to the power, dignity and importance of women in Māori society, and ‘wahine toa’, meaning brave women or women leaders and warriors.

The resurgence of Māori cultural identity has seen the revival of traditional tattooing, including chin tattooing of Māori women. The terms ‘moko kauae’ (jaw tattoo), ‘moko wahine’ (female tattoo) and ‘kuia moko’ (tattooed female elder) have also been revived, recognising the contribution of influential and distinguished women and renewing the traditional status attributed to them in earlier times. More pejoratively, some Māori without tattoos refer to the moko of others as ‘scribbles’.

How to cite this page:

Rawiri Taonui, 'Ngā tuakiri hōu – new Māori identities - Māori renaissance', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 February 2024)

Story by Rawiri Taonui, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Jun 2017