Aka Kaupapa: The Trajectories of Kaupapa Māori as Lived Experience

Heta-Lensen, Yolanda Lillian Theresa
Devine, Nesta
Ka'ai, Tania
Begg, Andy
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Doctor of Education
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Auckland University of Technology

Kaupapa Māori expresses a worldview that is uniquely Māori. It is based on an ontological view that recognises the inseparable interconnectivity between people, geographies and resources of the Earth and beyond. It forms part of a wider Indigenous struggle for emancipation and sovereignty, challenging racist constructs, neo-liberal economic policies and global capitalism that continue to exert a colonising influence on Indigenous peoples. Early assertions of Kaupapa Māori as a political force first emerged in Aotearoa in the 1980s. The development of Kaupapa Māori as a theory of transformative praxis by Graham Hingangaroa Smith in 1997 was a direct intervention into the failure of the mainstreamed education system to support Māori aspirations. It mobilised Māori to take action against colonising practices and assimilation policies that had been deliberately designed to alienate Māori from their languages and culture, suppressing Māori knowledge for over one hundred years. Varying perspectives between ‘Kaupapa Māori approaches’ and ‘Kaupapa Māori theory and praxis approaches’ are now coming to the fore in mainstreamed education and need to be understood within the socio-historic context of education in Aotearoa. There is persistent debate and confusion within mainstreamed education about what constitutes Kaupapa Māori and who should be involved in Kaupapa Māori initiatives. This study is a personal account of lived experience of Kaupapa Māori in my own life. It reflects on how Kaupapa Māori theory and praxis have informed my work to date as a teacher and continues to shape my own subjectivity as a wahine Māori. It is hoped that the issues raised will stimulate further discussion and debate about the future direction and liberatory possibilities of Kaupapa Māori within the context of mainstreamed education in the 21st Century and make a contribution to the evolution of Kaupapa Māori theory and praxis in education. Whilst it is a personal account, I bring my whole whakapapa with me to enable the story of Kaupapa Māori as lived experience to be shared from multiple perspectives.

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