Fostering a healthy sense of identity

Josie Scott of Ngāti Whakaue -, describes how stories told on the marae by kaumātua are important in shaping identity and a sense of belonging. The sharing of oral histories helps young people to connect with their local areas.

Key idea

Māori knowledge and stories from before the arrival of Europeans is relevant today. 

Professional Learning Conversations

  1. How can you design a teaching programme around personal history?

  2. Place-based programmes often mean working with local people, sometimes your school community and whānau and sometimes other people. What protocols, conventions and systems could you set up in your school to make this process part of your teaching programmes?

  3. Co-constructing a teaching programme with students is a great way to gain engagement. In a Māori history context this could be a bigger whānau/iwi initiative where many members of the local community contribute. Consider the networks and relationships you already have and the ones you may want to establish to make this a feature of your teaching programmes.

Māori history to me, that's a hard question because it encapsulates so many generations, but Māori history that interests me at the moment is probably when, from the arrival of the European. Up to then, I think you have to be taught a lot of the old ways or research the old ways or be told by some of the old people what the actual history is. Which is what the wānanga do down here. I don't go to the wānanga because I haven't got time in my life at the moment and as I say my history to me is from when the European arrived.

I've always had a sense of identity because I've lived in the marae. I was born in the marae. I live here now. I went away while I was having my children because we had to do it outside of the marae, but I have been lucky enough to come back and build on the property that was available in the marae.

I got married when I was 20, so I had 20 years of living here before I’ve come back. So that was a good grounding in history to me, not because it was taught to me through a book or anything like that, but we lived with the people who talked about the history.

If anything came up, they would talk about how they may have viewed that in the old days and how they view it today. They drop names about some of the chiefs who are around at that time and what they may have decided to do that particular time. How we've now encompassed some of those decisions that they made, the wise decisions that they made all those years ago to bring us to where we are today.

They were wonderful fore thinkers, thank goodness. And they really paved the way for the lives that we live here today and I'm talking about the, we say the intermarriage between the Pākehā and the Māori and they were always open to anybody who came here, to live here. They shared whatever resources they had openly, and I think that that's given me my concept of history and the way I live my life now.

But I've always had the knowledge that our Māori people knew all that sort of stuff long before we had the European here, and long before they researched it and did all their scientific testing, et cetera. Because it's not only just a geothermal. It's like, the lake here, Rotorua for example, with Mokoia Island. There are different channels in this lake that the old Māori people knew about. They knew what time to go across there because if you got on this particular channel, it took you directly there. They knew if anybody got lost in the lake or drowned in the lake, they’d look at the lake and they'd know exactly where they could go and find that person. So all of that stuff is interesting but where do you start and where do you stop? That's the hardest part, and it's like learning to live with the geothermal here.

When I was a child I was told that the Oruawhata Geyser or the pit, was where they used to throw bones in.  Of course so the enemy couldn’t get those back. But the steam that was emitted was from that actual tomo was high enough to become a weather vane here in Rotorua. So people didn't have to worry where the weather came from or what wind was blowing, they would look to the steam that came out of the Oruawhata hole or tomo, and they would know which way the wind was blowing. Because that's see, little things like that, I don't think Europeans would even look at that. I don't think we've ever spoken about that but it was something that I knew as a child, little things like that. And I think that history’s important because it makes, I think today it would make our tauira feel more confident about themselves, knowing this sort of stuff. I know that I always felt comfortable in my own skin because of what I knew, not that I would spout it at school, but it made me feel comfortable. It made me walk tall and I think if our kids knew some of this history they would walk taller than what they may be walking today.