237.131 Independent Study Week #2

Week 2: Mana Whenua

Task 1 (5 minutes)

REFLECT: Have a look at your responses to the independent study from last week, how did this weeks class discussion deepen or help develop and expand your initial understanding? You could write about this in a sentence or two, or you could go back and add to your original notes.

Sorry to say that reflecting on last week’s independent study and on whether the work in class as groups deepened my initial understanding didn’t really help. Honestly, I don’t think we got any deeper into the concepts working as a group than I’d done independently.

Task 2 (3 hours – 2 hours reading, 1 hour writing)

READ: Mere Roberts (Ngāti Apakura, Ngāti Hikairo). et al. "Whakapapa as a Māori mental construct: Some implications for the debate over genetic modification of organisms.".  

WRITE: a short definition of your understanding of whakapapa after reading the article, include a key quote from the reading to support your discussion.

This was an interesting article to review in detail.

I would now define whakapapa as the description of the lineage that a person or a thing has, and its connection to its source or origin. As a folk taxonomy, wakapapa establishes the person or thing’s nomenclature, and defines a place in a network of relationships, dependencies, and history. It also provides a narrative framework so that this information can be remembered and passed between people, even down through the generations.

The use of whakapapa by New Zealand Māori is most commonly understood in reference to human descent lines and relationships, where it functions as a family tree or genealogy. But it also refers to an epistemological framework in which perceived patterns and relationships in nature are located. These nonhuman whakapapa contain information concerning an organism’s theorized origins from supernatural beings, inferred descent lines, and morphological and ecological relationships. In this context whakapapa appear to function at one level as a “folk taxonomy,” in which morphology, utility, and cultural considerations all play an important role. Such whakapapa also function as ecosystem maps of culturally important resources. More information and meaning is provided by accompanying narratives, which contain explanations for why things came to be the way they are, as well as moral guidelines for correct conduct.

Mere Roberts, Brad Haami, Richard Benton, Terre Satterfield, Melissa L Finucane, Mark Henare, and Manuka Henare. ‘Whakapapa as a Māori Mental Construct: Some Implications for the Debate over Genetic Modification of Organisms’. The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 16, no. 1, Spring 2004, pp. 28.

Task 3 (30 minutes )

WRITE, DRAW or SKETCH: Choose ONE of the following:

either a.) Huhana Smith describes the relationship of the stream to the whenua around it.  She also discusses the holistic effect of harakeke on the land, humans and other animals.  Make a visual representation of the ways that harakeke acts as a "whole of environment healer" (Smith), this could be as an exploded parts drawing, diagram, flowchart, comic strip etc.

or b.) watch the video The tohorā and the kauri which considers kauri dieback through a whakapapa based approach. Using Roberts et al. and the information from the video, draw a whakapapa chart that includes the tohorā and the kāuri.

a.) whakapapa chart

I tried to do this – I honestly did – but just couldn’t get there. It just felt too contrived and no matter how many times I tried to draw the relationships, it just just doesn’t work. There is no sensible connection I can force between tohorā – whales – and kāuri, a kind of tree.

Interestingly, I did also come across a number of articles that have sought to treat kāuri dieback disease using whale-derived items such as whale oil[1]https://www.teaomaori.news/potential-whakapapa-maori-solution-kauri-dieback-outbreak and whale bone[2]https://www.teaomaori.news/iwi-research-whalebone-treatment-kauri-dieback. I am yet to find any peer-reviewed, scientifically validated sources that confirm the efficacy of this.

There may well be substances present in these whale-derived items that can have positive effects in the treatment of kāuri dieback disease. There are many complex chemicals in these substances that have no doubt not been properly studied. If referencing the shared whakapapa of these two species has opened up investigation into a treatment that works, then that can only be a good thing. One does not need to be a believer in traditional Māori medicine to be grateful for that. It is important, however, to bring science and traditional Māori approaches together and validate these findings carefully if they are not to be seen as fringe science like homeopathy.

b.) a visual representation of the ways that harakeke acts as a “whole of environment healer”

I originally started working on this one, however, there is little evidence I can find to support the assertion that Harakeke is a “whole of environment healer”.

Saying that, Harakeke is an amazingly useful plant!

There is evidence that harakeke can act as a help in wetland restoration, which is what’s at the core of the Huhana Smith video. So, let’s focus on that, see where it leads, then try to illustrate it.

Key point in this task is “whole of environment“. Environment means the surroundings or conditions in which person, animal, or plant lives or operates. So, I’m going to read that as meaning any environment, not just the wetland landscape in the video. In general then, how can flax help people, plants or animals?

Let’s look at the manifold uses of harakeke:


Task 4 (30 minutes)

WATCH: This exercise asks you to focus on just thinking and watching, rather than writing. Watch Bruce Pascoe (Yuin, Boonwurrung) explain the construction of Australia's 'standard story' used to justify colonisation and imagine Australia as terra nullius. Some questions you might like to think about while watching: How does Bruce Pascoe challenge the 'standard story'? What other accounts do you know from here (Aotearoa/New Zealand) or other colonised contexts which might be similar? How might these also be challenged?

I watched Bruce Pascoe (Yuin, Boonwurrung) explain the construction of Australia’s ‘standard story’ used to justify colonisation and imagine Australia as terra nullius.

I had heard a little of this before, as I’d read “Deep Time Dreaming” by Billy Griffiths, a book on ancient Australia and the extremely long timescales that humans have occupied the continent. Aboriginal peoples have lived in Australia for 65,000 years. They had a rich and complex society, including practicing agriculture and what we might term “landscape engineering”. Much of the archaeological evidence of early occupation is under water due to ancient climate change, but very recent digs are point to a radically different past to what most Australians have been brought up believing, and to a degree are comfortable with.

I recall being particularly moved by parts of the book, so I went back and looked for a particularly memorable quote from it. Turns out it’s a quote that dates back to 1989. This has obvious parallels to New Zealand, albeit over shorter (but no less transformational) timescales.

My expectation of a good Australia is when white people would be proud to speak an Aboriginal language, when they realise that Aboriginal culture and all that goes with it, philosophy, art, language, morality and kinship, is all part of our heritage. And that’s the most unbelievable thing of all, that it’s all there waiting for us all. White people can inherit 40,000 or 60,000 years of culture, and all they have to do is reach out and ask for it.

Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins, 1989, taken from Griffiths, Billy. Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia. Black Inc, 2018.

Task 5 (2 hours)

WRITE: Self-directed work on your assignment. Begin drafting your definition of the key term you have decided to focus on, using resources from the course and the Massey library databases.

Make sure you cite your sources as you go, so you don't have to back-track to finds these again when you have finished writing.

FIND: 2 or 3 examples of art or design works that relate to the ideas you are discussing in your definition.

I choose Doctrine of Discovery.

Initial definition

A basic definition derived from Wikipedia, as a placeholder until I’ve read the articles I’ve found on the subject:

European Christian governments could lay title to non-European Christian territory on the basis that the colonisers travelled and “discovered” said territory. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of modern governments.


Examples of art or design works

I found an exhibition that takes this on directly, and some of the work resonated with me:


dismantlingthedoctrineofdiscovery wordpress blog

Resolution, by Tane Mā

Resolution, digital still from moving image, 2018 by Tane Mā

Artist Tane Ma’s interactive digital piece, Resolution, is based on Nathaniel Dance’s 1776 portrait of Cook. As the viewer approaches it the portrait increasingly pixellates into a pattern suggestive of a tukutuku panel design.

The title is a play on the name of the ship Cook captained on his second and third voyages of exploration in the Pacific. It also refers to the struggle towards reconciliation as previously unheard stories are incorporated into recorded history. This is why the homonyms “rewriting” and “re-righting” interest the artist.

“Revisionism is a default position of hurt,” says Friend.

“What does resolution look like. What does the future look like in the post-resolution era?”

Peters, Mark. A View from the Shore. https://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/entertainment/20181205/a-view-from-the-shore/. Accessed 28 July 2021.

6th Sense, by Steve Gibbs

Steve Gibbs, 6th Sense, https://www.aucklandartgallery.com/explore-art-and-ideas/artwork/31361/6th-sense

Steve Gibbs’ paintings here recall the arrival of Captain James Cook in Turanganui-a-Kiwa on 7 October 1769. When Cook made land he named it Poverty Bay as he was unable to gain vital supplies needed while there. For Steve Gibbs and his iwi (tribe), they recall Pāoa who co-captained the Horouta waka (canoe), which made landfall at Tūranganui-a-Kiwa as the origin of their arrival in the region.

6th Sense, 2017 considers both histories from the perspective of Pāoa’s pet dog, Marewaiteao. The headland Te Kuri a Pāoa (the dog of Pāoa) become known as Young Nicks Head. The depiction of Pāoa’s white dog in this painting is a metaphor for the people who occupied the region to the south of Turanganui a Kiwa down to Mahia. The title, 6th Sense, suggests the inevitability of the changes that British colonisation would bring to the region and to the country.

‘6th Sense’. Auckland Art Gallery, https://www.aucklandartgallery.com/explore-art-and-ideas/artwork/31361/6th-sense. Accessed 28 July 2021.

Some other useful links:

James Cook and the Doctrine of Discovery – 5 Things to Know

My Definition

The Discovery Doctrine allowed European government to take ownership of lands that they encountered for the first time, in spite of them being already occupied by indigenous peoples.


1 https://www.teaomaori.news/potential-whakapapa-maori-solution-kauri-dieback-outbreak
2 https://www.teaomaori.news/iwi-research-whalebone-treatment-kauri-dieback
Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner