Wednesday, December 08, 2021
   
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NON—MĀORI SEEKING WHAKAPAPA

Nau mai, Are you a non-Māori wanting to research whakapapa records?  Are you hesitant to pursue this for fear of causing offence?  It is true that most Māori consider whakapapa a taonga or treasure, that it should be valued and treated with respect. 
However, if you empathise with the whanau concerned and take the right approach it is likely you will be encouraged in your research.
 
Some Māori believe that whakapapa should not be shared with others outside the whanau.  The reasons are that whakapapa records are closely connected with the land and rights of inheritance.  By sharing information inheritance rights could become skewed or even lost.  Māori have long memories of the confiscations of their lands.  Some fear that non-Māori might not respect their whakapapa, be careless with it or even use it for commercial gain.
 
Your role is firstly to gain the confidence and trust of the people who could give you the information you are seeking.  Don’t rush things, take it slowly and gently.  Get to know the whanau, listen to family talk and discussions, take a serious interest but don’t try to dominate. From this you will be able to identify those people you have a deep interest in the subject and who are the most knowledgeable. Ask a few short, easy to answer questions e.g. who was that person’s mother or was A the brother of B?  
 
Never just ask for the whole known whakapapa.
 
Whenever possible attend events on your family’s marae.  This will further establish the people’s trust in you and further increase your knowledge of the tikanga.  These are Māori customary practices or behaviours. The concept is derived from the Māori word 'tika' which means 'right' or 'correct' so, in Māori terms, to act in accordance with tikanga is to behave in a way that is culturally proper or appropriate.
 
Te Reo.  It is not essential to be fluent in the language though it is a great advantage to be so.  However, you will need a working knowledge of the Māori words commonly used when speaking of whakapapa e.g. tāne, hine, whanau, whenua.  Practise using te reo words.  Most importantly make a determined effort to get the pronouncement correct.
 
Whakapapa is handed down as memory and in later years written.  Māori are less likely than Pākehā to go to archives or public repositories but when they realise you are confident in using these resources it is possible you will be asked to do some research on their behalf.  You may find the results are in conflict with the information the whanau has given you.  Don’t highlight these differences to them but do further research to resolve the difference.  Remember that in most cases whakapapa is the result of handed down memories and that people can mis-remember.
 
Whakapapa.  An introduction to researching Māori and Pākehā-Māori families, their history, heritage and culture.  This guide is detailed at the end of this publication and will help you carry out further research.
 
All good wishes for your research.  Kia kaha.
Brenda JOYCEA