Decolonizing Indigenous Burial Practices in Aotearoa, New Zealand: A Tribal Case Study

McNeill, HN
Buckley, HL
Pouwhare, RMI
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Journal Article
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SAGE Publications

Before European contact, Māori disposed of the dead in environmentally sustainable ways. Revitalizing pre-colonial burial practices presents an opportunity for Māori to evaluate current practices and reconnect with their ancient tribal customs and practices. The research question asks: What is the decolonizing potential of urupā tautaiao (natural burials)? Paradoxically, environmentally unsustainable modern tangihanga (funerals) retain the ethos of customary funerary traditions. Urupā tautaiao presents an opportunity for iwi (tribes) to retain cultural integrity in the death space, without compromising Papatūānuku (earthmother). Methodologically, a Māori worldview frames an action research mindset. The study captures a tribal community’s exploratory journey into urupā tautaiao.

customs , environmental , indigenous , natural burials , sustainability , 52 Psychology , 5203 Clinical and Health Psychology , 5201 Applied and Developmental Psychology , 1701 Psychology , 5201 Applied and developmental psychology , 5203 Clinical and health psychology
Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, ISSN: 0030-2228 (Print); 1541-3764 (Online), SAGE Publications, 89(1), 207-221. doi: 10.1177/00302228211070153
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© The Author(s) 2022. Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC 4.0). This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (