Māori history increases perspectives and a sense of identity

Victor Manawatu discusses the ideas leading to the Māori history project incorporating field trips for history teachers, where they visit sites of significance for Māori history and hear the stories of these places told by local people. He talks about who needs to be involved in setting this up and why this is so important.


Key Ideas

Professional learning conversations

  1. Much of the history we teach as New Zealand history is concerned with the big ideas and themes. The Māori history project is designed to hear local stories from local people. What do we need to do in our schools to set up a Māori history programme? How will Māori be involved in this?

  2. How will Māori be included in this programme? In what ways does this project impact on Māori? Is this appropriate and respectful?  Do I need to consult with Māori for this project? If so, how do I do that?

  3. How can teachers negotiate the ownership or stewardship of these stories so that they become part of a teaching programme?

  4. How important are field trips to the Māori history project?  What about visits from local kaumātua, how important are these to the programme?  Are there systems and protocols a school could put in place to make field trips a natural part of the teaching programme?

  5. The Māori history programme is important for all students. However there is an expectation that many Māori students will gain an extra dimension from hearing about their ancestors and possibly visiting places that are of significance to their own whānau. Do we need to think about the impact our programme may have on students and everyone involved, both Māori and non-Māori, and plan for this?

How this came about was how can we actually get our history out there, how can we get what our opinion is about what our history is out there with the history teachers. But it's also about building those relationships between the marae, between schools, and thankfully the ministry have come on board to push that along a lot.

So it is, we are changing mindsets. We are changing the way people are thinking.

And I think with the rūnanga coming on board, with iwi coming on board, we're able to put that understanding across to the teachers. We're not here trying to recreate history. We're here trying to put a new perspective on it, particularly around New Zealand history, and what that looks like for us.

We have a very rich history down here, which a lot of our families here actually whakapapa to and to be able to raise identity and culture within Murihiku, we need all the families to be aware of where they came from. So we're not only looking at their Māori side. We're looking at their Scottish side, their Irish side. So we're trying to raise that identity. By raising identity and well-being, we're raising their self-esteem.

At the moment our education system is pretty much contextualized within a Westminster model of education, so it came over with the colonists and it's been here ever since. And they had their way of doing things over there in England or Europe, but it really shows little relevance to us here within Aotearoa. So for us to actually be able to teach our children their history, we need to contextualise it here. So within the project we're doing now, that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to make it relevant to the children living here in Aotearoa, living here in Murihiku, so they take more of an interest and more of an ownership about what those stories were all about.

One other thing we're worried about before we started is, what are we actually going to talk to them about? You know, what do we think will pique their interest? But we found just talking about the settlements, the people, parts in history like the influenza, the arrival of the whalers, the bartering between the northern half of the South island and the southern half of the South Island, even the bartering between Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Porou, who are close relations of ours, and how they used to traverse the waterways, to do a lot of that.

I took heart in the way the teachers reacted to a lot of what we're telling them. And even seeing the middens at Omaui and they used to run over there and play around that area, and not know. We look at it as an opportunity of what we can do to move forward together. So a lot of division back then – we're trying to mend that up. We co-construct that for the future, and we'll talk about what they're thinking, how they're viewing that, and how we can have input into that, which is why we are co-constructing with them.

We'll sit down, we'll go through the writing with them and once they come up with a unit plan that we're both happy with, then they'll incorporate that into their curriculum and trial that through the schools. One of the things I 'm hoping to see is that it really takes off with our children, particularly when they start learning about who they are. So it's all part of that raising Identity and language and culture.

It also normalises language. A lot of our research shows that children are proud to be who they are. It's their identity. They can go into a classroom proud to be Māori, proud to be Samoan, proud to be Russian, and that's all part of a maths programme, which by the way started off in history and social sciences, and we're moving that and that's all part of that inquiry teaching and learning.

One of the things that the Ngāi Tahu settlement was, we will look after all Ngāi Tahu in our rohe. The next clause – we will look after all Māori in our rohe.

So the beautiful thing about this history project , the maths projects, the reading-together projects, it doesn't matter if you're Ngāi Tahu or not. Because Ngāi Tahu have made a commitment to look after all students. So and that's what I mean by once we learn about the place, we get children to learn about their whakapapa. The learners can then trace where their grandparents were.

With Ngāi Tahu itself, a lot of our history was written by families, and they kept those manuscripts internally to them. So a lot of our Ngāi Tahu history was held within house.

One thing we found by doing this project, is we want to give those stories out now. We want that whakapapa to be given out. The beautiful thing about working with Waihopai is they're keen to see that happen. It's probably why we're starting down here actually, because they were the first runanga to put their hand up and say, “Yes, we would like that.” Now we’re getting, we're being watched by the rest of Ngāi Tahu, so how this pans out will be where we take it next.