Are you a real Māori?

What it means to be Māori is different to everyone but I'm sure there are similar features surrounding concepts like how much of the language we speak, how often we visit the marae and our general perceptions of affiliations (which in my opinion is the most important). This doesn't just apply to Māoritanga by the way, feel free to substitute Māori with Iranian, Japanese, anything.

 

 
  It's where your heart resides

It's where your heart resides

 

 

I do some work with tamariki in primary schools and I was surprised when I found out that in this one particular class of 18 there were 2 Pākehā kids, one Samoan and the remaining 15 identified as being Māori. Even the whakablonde as ones. I was surprised by the super whakablonde looking ones and it prompted me to question what it means to be Māori.

On that note who am I to even question a person's affiliations and where their heart sits. It's happened to me and I don't even look particularly non-Pākehā (mmm to be fair I do get the occasional Indian, Middle-Eastern, Italian and ruthless Isis references).

 

I've been on the receiving end of the 'he's not a true Māori' call . Haha although when I look back it was said by a particularly Tihei 15 year old girl and if a 15 year old girl said that to me now I wouldn't bat an eye. I have to admit though that it has stuck with me this past decade and I'm sure I'm not the only one to get this sort of attitude. Either way it does raise a few topics.  I have drawn value from it like raising important questions about personal and national Identity and prompting some necessary introspection.

 

What does it mean to be Māori?

 

 Although it may seem extreme there are varying degrees of this that we have all felt. Some people that don't want to apply for scholarships because they feel like they are too 'white' to get hooked up. I suppose they have this idea in their head about the 'ideal' candidate and they don't fit the bill. But what level of Te Reo Māori is ideal for us to consider ourselves Māori. Do we need to have kapahaka as an extra curricular, or know how to make kete out of paperclips, a rubber band and gladwrap? Do we need to eat fermented cabbage or rate that yuk as looking corn that Nana is keen as on and hits you with that "don't waste kai moko" guilt trip.

 

On two occasions I've unfortunately had to forsake my education in Te Reo Māori for less Māori endeavours if you can call them that. In college I had to drop Māori because I was doing maths a year ahead and it clashed. In my defense I picked up Te Reo again at uni but then had to drop it a year later because it clashed with core psychology papers in my degree. The point is that while our relationship with Te Ao Māori may be tested the important thing is our commitment to its endeavours. If you've had to put particularly Māori endeavours by the wayside for other pursuits you shouldn't feel like you don't value Te Ao Maori. There are so many factors and Māoridom is quite forgiving. She is an understanding mother and I don't hesitate to say that you are always welcome to return.

 

I've since resigned myself to an identity that I'm happy with. Not to get too philosophical but I have this theory. I consider myself Māori so anything that I choose to do is a demonstration of that Māoritanga, even Chinese. To put plainly anything I put my hand to is my version, my Māori, multi-racial looking, Mediterranean buzzy dude version of it. Which sounds fair to me.

 

Have you had any crazy run-ins? What are your thoughts? 

Luke EganComment