Working together to begin teaching Māori history

Dean Whaanga discusses the importance of Māori history and how much of this history is traditional knowledge still held in local Māori communities. Hearing these stories from local people means establishing relationships between schools and communities, based on trust and respect. The Māori history project is helping schools to develop these local resources by connecting schools with local people who can tell the stories. Sharing of stories benefits the schools and local people who want their stories to be told in an authentic context.


Key Ideas 


Professional learning conversations

  1. How can we construct a relevant and authentic Māori history programme? Who should be responsible for this?

  2. There is a huge level of trust when whānau and iwi share stories from the past. How do we ensure that there is respect given to these stories from the past?

  3. Sometimes these stories are difficult to hear. They tell of injustices and are often a window into the way people behaved during a period from the past. How do we confront this, while maintaining respect for the people who own the stories. How do we challenge local history?

I believe Māori history is very important to be taught within our education system. Especially the histories within the area of teaching.

Down here in Southland have a lot of history but not a lot of it’s known. For example, when we as children were being brought up in the education system we didn't learn a hell of a lot about our Kupes and those sorts of travellers, but they were quite broader Māori traditions. If you look at Southland traditions and stories, there’s a lot and that's really nice histories and really important for us as Ngāi Tahu to get those stories across. So if we can deliver them out of our schools and secondary schools like that and have our project like this one, where we’re teaching authentic stories. We want authentic stories. We are keen to see teachers in the education system telling our stories on the ground – stories that we've got here, in Murihiku – that would be fantastic.

Te Pae Kōrako is a Māori leaders’ group that look at the authenticity of stories of whakapapa, genealogy, and our histories throughout the claim, and the way that Ngāi Tahu have lived upon this land and how those stories are expressed. There's a lot of our leaders on that group that have been through the claim process and they know our histories and they know it well. And we have access to our academics as well.

We also look at the ways that we store our information within libraries and how we’re going to get that information out to our people, with all the new modern methods or technology, like the internet, of course, and how we present that information on maybe GOS layers. That's another thing we want to share our information and how we share that is another issue that we have. How much do we share it with our own people? Some of the information is family-orientated information that the families say we need to come to us before we allow that information to go out. There will be information there that we would like to share with the teachers and schools to present to their students and that information will be like ticked off as authentic, that’s the one that we wish to share.

I think there is a lot of trust in giving the stories out and sharing the stories and that’s what we want to do and we just love that the stories get delivered and by our teachers and correctly. The trust bit of our information is that we give out information and that it’s delivered appropriately and correctly. And shared for us and our children, our mokopuna to follow us and that's what it's all about.

I think that sharing of stories, it's a bit like the Treaty of Waitangi really, it was done as a partnership, signed up and the founding documents signed as a partnership and sharing. When people come onto our marae we want to share our stories with them, but we also want to share their stories that they bring to the marae, so that our house stands stronger. We say that when we share things, when you come onto our marae, we give you something and you give us something in return by being there, by sharing your stories. So it might be minimal, what you think you are bringing, but it isn’t, in effect, cos it makes us, as hosts, very proud that you bring your stories with you, because we say it makes our house stand stronger by the sharing of stories. You bring your energy and your stories and the walls of our house hear the stories as well so therefore our house stands stronger with all the stories that help maintain its foundations.

I think at the moment we've got a lot of Māori resources in schools, but they are very generic. Maybe in other areas they talk about their areas a bit more, but maybe the resources within our schools down here in Southland talk about the wider Māori stories. And that’s a good thing and we want those resources in there, but it’s a case of building up our own resource within the Southland area. And I think teachers probably get more of us a buzz teaching something that’s quite local. And we probably as locals too seeing that being delivered toward the tamariki at the schools gives us a bit of a buzz too. So we have to build up those local resources, that the teachers can teach to the local kids. So I think that's part of this project and it’s a great gain and it’s what this project’s all about – in my mind, anyhow.