He tirohanga a Ngāti Awa uri taone mo ngā ahuatanga Māori: An urban Ngāti Awa perspective on identity and culture
Tribal traditions and practices are integral to iwi identity. From the past to the present, the biggest impact on iwi identity was colonisation and subsequent urbanisation. Urbanisation changed the foundation of identity largely due to the demographic rural-urban shift, effectively creating a distance physically and spiritually for Māori between their place of residence and their traditional tribal turangawaewae. Today a larger proportion of tribal members reside in the main urban centres of New Zealand and Australia. This phenomenon provides an ideal opportunity to explore how iwi identity is maintained in an urban setting – away from the traditional sites of cultural practice. The study, which focuses on Ngāti Awa members residing in Auckland, provided evidence that the foundation of an iwi identity is still heavily reliant on strong iwi-based whānau. The corollary is that, strengthening the tribal knowledge base of whānau residing in urban centres may require new or increased active participation in the customs and practices of their iwi. Regrettably, only three of the ten research participants had an in-depth knowledge of their whakapapa, histories and traditions. However, all the participants indicated the need to become more pro-active in creating and expanding on their knowledge base of iwitanga (including te reo). There was also acknowledgement that urban-based iwi marae and whānau wānanga can provide individuals with the opportunities to learn more about their iwi traditions (and thereby reinforce their sense of tribal identity). Encouragingly, each participant confirmed that identifying as Ngāti Awa was important to them, largely due to the sense of belonging and identity. The study concluded that the sustainability of iwi is reliant on iwi members supporting their iwi regardless of the location of their upbringing.