It begins with the land we live on, Aotearoa. Just as every person has an identity, so does the land. People who live on the land should represent this identity, which means, in New Zealand, we must reflect Māori culture and Aotearoa history.
This is the belief of 17-year-old Kaanihi Butler-Hare, a student at a Māori immersion kura, Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Kōhanga Reo o Te Awa Kairangi, in Lower Hutt. In particular, there are two aspects of our shared history that New Zealanders need to understand better, he says.
“The Anzacs and World War I and II, those were big wars; however, not many know about the wars that happened here in New Zealand with the Ōrākau Wars and all those up in the North Island.”
The other topic of particular significance is the historical relationship between Māori and Pākehā, and the impact this has in the present day, Kaanihi says.
“I believe that colonisation has been a big part of our history. The Treaty of Waitangi, it’s out there; however, if you ask a secondary school student about the Treaty of Waitangi, all they know is it’s a partnership between the Crown and Māori, but they don’t know anything else that went with it.”
To help students on their journey to understanding and representing New Zealand’s shared cultural identity, teachers need to be aware of local and national history. While all teachers and learners have a responsibility to address these topics, Kaanihi says early childhood teachers might be able to make the greatest impact.
“I think the teachers have to engage more about the history or about these topics and actually reach out to understand what these mean and then bring them back into the schools and be able to make it understandable to the children in the classrooms,” he says.
“When you start it at a younger age it will become more normalised within their life, their lifestyle and also at home as well.”
Kaanihi has been immersed in te reo Māori, Aotearoa history, and Māori rituals, history and protocols for as long as he can remember. Attending a kura kaupapa Māori has enabled him to further connect to these values and knowledge.
However, all students need to have an understanding of te reo Māori and Aotearoa history, regardless of which school they attend or which language they predominantly learn in.
“Through Māoritanga and my culture, I have been able to succeed in my educational pathway. There are many avenues Māoridom can take you through, from having knowledge of te reo Māori to understanding the natural history of Aotearoa,” Kaanihi says.
“Māori culture has received enough discrimination… I believe te reo Māori should be embedded in all Aotearoa Citizens, as well as the natural history of Aotearoa, because it will definitely enhance the partnership between both parties and also ensure we adhere to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”
In ancient times, Māori culture was not explicitly taught but was instead embedded from generation to generation.
“Embedded culture or culture that has been embedded into a person means you have been taught from birth. Māori culture has been embedded within me, I’ve been under my elders, they’ve taught me different things about the culture. Learning the culture is quite different because it’s a whole new thing. However, if it’s a culture that belongs to that land, then it should be learnt, regardless,” he says.
“At kura, it is the relationship the teachers have with the student which makes the biggest difference. Within our kura, our school, our teachers have the kind of relationship where they are approachable and they continue learning what they’re teaching. That’s pretty much how Māori culture has been embedded within us at the kura, the teacher has that professional relationship with the students which makes them more understanding and allows teachers to learn from students and vice versa. Teachers show what they want out of the students, but there could be things that the youth or children could give too.”
Māori History and our national curricula
Our national curricula empower schools and kura to teach and learn our historical past in a broader context and encourages them to also look into opportunities to use local community and iwi based history. Māori history and New Zealand land wars have an important role in defining the unique identity and culture of Aotearoa New Zealand.
A 2018 report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner found that Māori students are experiencing instances of racism at school, including implicitly and explicitly negative expectations from their teachers and peers. Many tamariki and rangatahi are not seeing themselves or their culture reflected in mainstream schooling.
Evidence suggests that student well-being is strongly influenced by a clear sense of identity, and access and exposure to their own language and culture. All students do better in education when what and how they learn reflects and positively reinforces where they come from, what they value.
For example, within the principles of our national curriculum, local curriculum is expected to:
- reflect the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand (Treaty of Waitangi)
- value the histories and traditions of all New Zealand people (Cultural Diversity)
- be non-sexist, non-racist and non-discriminatory; ensuring all students identities, languages, abilities and talents are recognised and affirmed (Inclusion).
Te Takanga o te Wā (Māori History Guidelines) are the guidelines developed to support schools and kura to include a deliberate focus on Māori history and New Zealand land wars in their learning programmes.
Source: Education Gazette