“Our Māori Connection”: The Impact of Colonisation on One Southland Whānau
This research includes an exploration of my whānau in Aotearoa reconnecting with their lost and regained whākapapa. The purpose of the study is an examination of the impact of colonisation on the cultural identity of members of a specific Māori whānau who have become disconnected from the tūrangawaewae of their ancestors, and their cultural roots.
This work examines the history of colonisation in the area of Ōraka-Aparima and the southern most part of Te Waipounamu. It employs the pūrākau method of research within kaupapa Māori research framework to gather stories from a Southland whānau. In keeping with the kauapapa of kaupapa Māori research, the pūrākau will be included in the body of the research, to ensure that the voices of the whānau members are heard. I wish to treat the pūrākau from my whānau with the deepest respect and for this reason, it is important that their voices and stories appear in the first part of this dissertation.
Many themes have emerged from the pūrākau of my whānau. The themes explored include grief and loss through death and separation as well as assimilatory processes that resulted in the loss of such things as te reo and tikanga Māori within this whānau. This work also examines the healing and strengthening of identity that has occurred for whānau members through the process of reconnecting with the indigenous parts of themselves.
Colonisation has both formed and devastated this Southland whānau in terms of cultural connection with their Māori identity. The assimilatory policies at the end of the eighteenth century and beginning of the nineteenth century prioritised European cultural practices over traditional tikanga Māori. In addition the lighter skin tone of many Ngāi Tahu Māori in the Southland area and a desire to conform to Pākehā society, led to a denial and disconnection with their Māoriness for many whānau members (Dacker, 1994; Anderson, 1998). In the later twentieth century my whānau have rediscovered their Māori ancestry and many members have taken steps towards reconnecting with their Māori identity. This process provides the clues towards greater integration and better outcomes for the individuals within whānau as well as whānau as a group. When the different parts of our identities can be celebrated and experienced in a non-hierachical way, it provides a way for those of mixed-descent within Aotearoa to honour their ancestors and themselves.
The experience of colonisation informs the identities of all people of Aotearoa. Our society includes many peoples of mixed-descent who have unique as well as shared experiences in relation to the process of colonisation. By exploring the experiences of one whānau and some of its members in particular, it is hoped that the complex, rich and personal stories of encounter between Māori and Pākehā can add to the perspectives of colonial experience in Aotearoa.