Being Pakeha

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Last week’s comment from Susan Guthrie highlighted one of the differences between Pakeha and Maori culture – Pakeha struggling with discussions that don’t stick to a strict meeting schedule. This week’s from Dave Armstrong highlights one of commonalities that have emerged over the 175 years of our cohabitation.

In this video, Dave points out that Pakeha culture is certainly not a facsimile of British or European, that it has taken on aspects of Maori culture without really knowing it – he gives one example, the communality or sharing thing.

The two examples from Susan and Dave illustrate that while we’re all New Zealanders, we are same, we are different too – and as our time sharing this land continues, we can expect more and more of this ‘same but different’ across our multicultural society. Who would ever have thought that sushi would be a popular takeaway food in Tokoroa for instance?

We cannot help but be open to influencing each other, we may insist at any one time that we are who we are and only who we are, but the reality is over time we change and we share more and more commonality – or as the academics would say, “social connectedness”.

To say instead that we are all one and so that’s the only level upon which we should think, is just some sort of denial at work. We are not – we are all New Zealanders but we all have our own – sometimes weaker, sometimes stronger – ethnic identity as well. As Sir Tipene O’Regan once put it,

“Sport, education, language, the arts, literature, the media, natural resource use, environment- all these already manifest a measure of Maori distinctiveness. This distinctiveness is not separatist. It is not something distinct from our national culture – it is a distinctiveness contained within that national culture. It is what makes it distinctive.”

“On this issue of identity, I think we get far too precious about coming to a conclusion as towhether we’re one thing or the other: Maori or New Zealanders, Maori or Pakeha, Pacifica or New Zealander. Actually we’re more than either-or; we are both: we are in fact all sorts of things in different situations. I am Maori but I am also Pakeha. I am Ngai Tahu, which makes me Maori. My roots are in Te Waipounamu which makes me southern. I am a citizen, which makes me a New Zealander. On almost any issue I will, at different times, call on one or more of these ‘identities’ and emphasise one or more to the exclusion of others.” 

Our cultural silos are not so insular as at times we might like to think.

Dave Armstrong: Being Pakeha from Treaty Project on Vimeo.

Being Pakeha was last modified: December 15th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan
About the Author
Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

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Gareth Morgan is a New Zealand economist and commentator on public policy who in previous lives has been in business as an economic consultant, funds manager, and professional company director. He is also a motorcycle adventurer and philanthropist. Gareth and his wife Joanne have a charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation, which has three main stands of philanthropic endeavour – public interest research, conservation and social investment.