Indigenous self-determination within the liberal democratic state : Ngai Tahu rangatiratanga in the post-settlement era. (2004)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
Ngāi Tahu are an indigenous people who have utilised the tools of the liberal democratic state in order to sustain and grow their culture. Interview material from members of Ngāi Tahu, indigenous self-determination literature and liberal democratic theory are drawn upon in order to understand how contemporary Ngāi Tahu rangatiratanga operates. The literature indicates that there are aspects of indigenous self-determination that are incongruous with those of liberal democratic thought and this suggests that the practice of rangatiratanga within the liberal democratic state is not possible. The current position of Ngāi Tahu challenges this point reached within the literature; they claim to exercise rangatiratanga within a liberal democratic state through being economically independent.
This thesis proposes that Ngāi Tahu have responded to the clash between these two world views by practicing rangatiratanga in a way that is compatible with the existing state while continuing to understand rangatiratanga that in a way that reinforces their identity as tangata whenua. This proposal reflects the findings of interviews conducted with representatives from six Ngāi Tahu papatipu rūnaka; Wairewa, Taumutu, Tuahiwi, Rapaki, Koukourarata and Onuku as well as an interview conducted with Sir Tipene O'Regan.
The difficulty lies with resolving whether the theory is at fault or whether Ngāi Tahu have just become economically independent and are therefore not exercising rangatiratanga. This outcome heavily depends upon the ability of Ngāi Tahu to sustain an indigenous identity from within a state structure that is based upon individuals having and equal rights. This thesis is unable to conclusively comment on the outcome for two reasons. First, it is too soon after the Ngāi Tahu settlement to assess whether Ngāi Tahu have been able to sustain an indigenous identity while operating within a liberal democratic context. The interview material indicates that Ngāi Tahu arc presently resolving how to synthesise aspects of their culture with liberal democratic principles. Secondly, the theory is ill equipped for assessing a scenario that appears to have aspects of both indigenous self-determination and liberal democratic principles. If Ngāi Tahu claim to exercise rangatiratanga from within a liberal democratic state then this demands the development of a new theoretical framework that is flexible enough to assess this position.