A research ethic for studying Maori and iwi provider success.

AuthorPipi, Kataraina


Kaupapa Maori is an emancipatory theory that has grown up alongside the theories of other groups who have sought a better deal from mainstream society; for example, feminist, African-American and worldwide indigenous theories. At a high level, these theories have commonalities and similar concerns, including the displacement of oppressive knowledges and a social change agenda. At a local level, Kaupapa Maori addresses Maori concerns in our own land. Kaupapa Maori research operates out of this philosophical base and is guided by practices that reflect a Maori "code of conduct". This paper explores how these practices were operationalised within the Maori and Iwi Provider Success research project. This project examined the practices of successful

Maori and iwi (tribal) providers of services and/or programmes across six sectors (housing, social services, education, employment and training, justice, health) and five regions in Aotearoa New Zealand (Taitokerau, Tamaki Makaurau, Taranaki, Tairawhiti and Te Waipounamu). The role of the researchers was to listen to and give voice to the kaupapa, aspirations and day-to-day realities of these providers. Critically reflecting on the Kaupapa Maori research practices for achieving this helps us to make the subconscious become conscious. The lessons we learn from doing so can then be added to the pool of knowledge about how research with Maori might be respectfully conducted. INTRODUCTION

In his reflections on the tikanga of research, Hirini Moko Mead writes that:

Processes, procedures and consultation need to be correct so that in the end everyone who is connected with the research project is enriched, empowered, enlightened and glad to have been a part of it. (2003:318) No distinctions are made about who experiences these impacts, with the inference that if research is tika, or right, then all--the participants, their whanau (extended family), the researchers, the community--will be left in a better place because of the research project in which they have been involved.

The expression of this desire is not unique to Maori. Emancipatory approaches to research (e.g., many feminist researchers, African-American researchers and action researchers) have similar goals (Robson 2002). In addition, many disciplines and professional bodies now have respectful research practices embedded in their codes of research conduct (Cram 1997, Te Awekotuku 1991). This extends to a commitment by many to find better and more respectful ways of doing research with Maori (e.g., Health Research Council 1998).

These moves are also reflected at the international level with the production of guidelines and protocols for non-indigenous researchers wanting to do research with indigenous groups (e.g., ACUNS 1997, NAHO 2003). The development of these guidelines and protocols has largely been prompted by a growing intolerance among indigenous groups to being researched (Harry 2001). Now, more collaborative, partnering relationships are being sought by all parties (e.g., Harmsworth 2001).

In Aotearoa New Zealand the past 30 years have also seen the growth of Maori understanding and appreciation of research (Cram 2001). As in the international context, this development was prefaced by Maori dissatisfaction with both the processes and outcomes of much of the research conducted by non-Maori researchers (Cram 1997, Smith 1999). The change itself has occurred for at least three reasons. The first is the Maori education movement that created pre-school Maori language nests, Te Kohanga Reo, and Maori immersion schooling options (Smith 1999). This gathering together of Maori whanau was also an effective consciousness-raising exercise as adults became aware that their own educational "failure' was systemic rather than personal (Smith 1997). The second reason is the development of research capability among iwi, prompted by their desires to document their own histories in order to achieve redress before the Waitangi Tribunal (Cram 2001). Third is the general revitalisation of Maori culture that has occurred over the past 30 years (Bishop 1996).

Over this time some Maori and non-Maori academics, universities, wananga (institutions of learning) and funding agencies have also demonstrated a commitment, alongside whanau, hapu (subtribes) and iwi (tribes), to the development of Maori research capacity. This, in turn, has facilitated the fulfillment of both a Treaty-based right and a yearning by Maori to be able to tell and document our own stories and examine our own lives (Jackson 1996, Smith 1999). Much of the resulting research falls within the boundaries of emancipatory research in that it seeks a better deal from mainstream society, including the displacement of oppressive knowledges and a social change agenda (Pihama 1993). One approach for doing this research is encapsulated within Kaupapa Maori, and this is discussed next.


Tuakana Nepe (1991:17) describes Kaupapa Maori as the "conceptualisation of Maori knowledge". Maori knowledge is not to be confused with Pakeha knowledge or general knowledge that has been translated into Maori. Maori knowledge has its origin in a metaphysical base that is distinctly Maori and, as Nepe states, this influences the way Maori people think, understand, interact and interpret the world. Other writers also remind us that traditionally certain knowledge was not universally available. Rather, it was entrusted to chosen individuals who then ensured its accurate transmission and appropriate use for the good of the people (Makareti 1986, Mead 2003, Smith 1999).

A key element in the discussion of Kaupapa Maori is the centrality of "te reo Maori me ona tikanga" (Maori language and philosophies). Graham Hingangaroa Smith (1996) writes that Kaupapa Maori presupposes:

* the legitimacy and validity of being Maori

* the importance of ensuring the survival and revival of Maori language and culture

* the centrality of self-determination to Maori cultural wellbeing.

To put it succinctly, at the core of Kaupapa Maori is the catch-cry, "To be Maori is normal". Kaupapa Maori is therefore about the creation of spaces for Maori realities within wider society. This also involves an analysis of existing power structures and social inequalities so that we can be astute about the difficulties and repercussions of attempting to create such spaces (cf. Pihama 1993).

Kaupapa Maori research operates out of this philosophical base (Smith and Cram 1997). As researchers we seek ways of operating that are tika, from the inception of a research project through to its completion (Cram 2001). In other words, the Maori world leads and the research world follows (Irwin 1994).

Linda Smith (1999:120) lists seven Kaupapa Maori practices that guide Maori researchers:

* aroha ki te tangata (a respect for people)

* kanohi kitea (the seen face; that is, present yourself to people face to face)


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