Story: Ngā tuakiri hōu – new Māori identities

Page 4. Cultural revival

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In response to Māori activist protests of the 1970s and 1980s successive governments made changes to accommodate Māori expectations. The Waitangi Tribunal was established in 1975, the investigation of historical land claims began in 1985, and settlements of those claims began in the late 1980s. The principles of the Treaty of Waitangi made their way into legislation.

Māori education

Māori-language immersion teaching began in the mid-1980s with kōhanga reo (pre-school), kura kaupapa (primary schools), tikanga reo rua (bilingual units), whare kura (secondary schools) and wānanga (tertiary institutes such as universities). Young Māori educated in these systems were known as ‘kōhanga kids’.

Māori language

The revitalisation of the Māori language also found expression in Te Taura Whiri i te Reo (the Māori Language Commission, set up in 1987), a national network of Māori radio stations and Māori Television (established in 2004; since 2022 officially named Whakaata Māori). Te Panekiretanga was set up as an academy for advanced use of Māori language. Leaders such as Katerina Mataira, Pou Temara, Wharehuia Milroy, Timoti Karetu and Taiarahia Black have been prominent in this movement.

No Nazis


The Māori MP John Tamihere used the term ‘language Nazis’ when celebrating the launch of Māori Television in March 2004. ‘Māori television will be a bilingual channel with subtitles, and therefore not held hostage by the language Nazis. That is hugely important because the vast majority of Māori are not fluent Māori speakers, and a Māori language-only channel would have shut them out.’1


The revival of te reo Māori has sometimes created tensions between Māori who emphasise the use of their language and those who work primarily in other areas of Māori advancement and may not be able to speak or understand the language. This tension has given rise to the pejorative labels ‘language fascists’ and ‘language Nazis for those who are particularly militant and uncompromising about the importance of the language.

Reviving traditional roles

The revival of Māoridom has brought with it clearer recognition of traditional roles. Kaumātua (elders), koroua (male elders) and kuia (female elders) are respected for their wisdom, pakeke (adults) are acknowledged for their work, and rangatahi (youth) and mokopuna (grandchildren) are cherished because they are the future. The term ‘rangatakapu’ refers to new generations of young adults emerging from schools with a good understanding of te reo, tikanga and personal identity. 

Corporate warriors

The growing number of young Māori professionals gave rise to the term ‘muppies’ – the Māori equivalent of yuppies (young urban professionals). The term ‘brown middle class’ also came into use in the 1990s.

Treaty land settlements saw an increase in the size and scope of tribal organisations, which developed and employed a new generation of young leaders. They were often rich in worldly experience but new to Māori leadership, and were sometimes known as ‘corporate warriors’. Typical corporate warriors were Tau Henare, Tukuroirangi Morgan and Tuariki Delamere, all elected to represent New Zealand First in 1996.

The ‘Wellington brigade’ are Māori civil servants working in Wellington and advising the government on Māori culture and policy. ‘Ngāti Hutu’ (the shoe brigade) refers to these people’s ability to change political allegiances, while winning contracts and consultancies.


Radical Māori were often critical of Māori in business or government who appeared to be enriching themselves by acting against the interests of Māori in general, and revived the old term ‘kūpapa’ to refer to them. This term was used to describe Māori who allied themselves with the government during the New Zealand Wars of the 19th century. It came to be regarded as deeply insulting.

  1. ‘A window on a Māori world.’ (last accessed 1 October 2010). Back
How to cite this page:

Rawiri Taonui, 'Ngā tuakiri hōu – new Māori identities - Cultural revival', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 July 2024)

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