Weaving whakapapa and narrative in the management of contemporary Ngai Tahu identities.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Ngai Tahu Whanui claims most of the South Island as its takiwa (territory) and is one of the largest Maori iwi (tribe) of Aotearoa New Zealand. In 1996 Ngai Tahu Whanui became the first tribal group to have its identity recognised in legislation. The basis for membership in the legal-political identity, Ngai Tahu Whanui, is registration of whakapapa (genealogy) to a South Island kaumatua (elder) listed in the 'Blue Book', a list compiled in negotiation with the Crown in 1925. I argue that the management of whakapapa by the contemporary leadership Te Runanga 0 Ngai Tahu - constitutes the adhesive that holds together the individual members, who have historically been geographically, politically and culturally dispersed. This management is carried out through the Ngai Tahu Whanui roll of members and is legitimated by a supporting public narrative. The Ngai Tahu Whanui public narrative relies on the potency of whakapapa as metanarrative and three meta-themes about time, place and 'The Claim' Ngai Tahu have made against Crown violations of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. This management privileges the new legal-political identities of 'Ngai Tahu Whanui' by silencing or excluding other historic South Island Maori identities. Research for this dissertation includes participant observation in a range of Ngai Tahu settings and a series of recorded life histories and face to face interviews with Ngai Tahu individuals over the period from 1996 to 2000. Through investigation of political events over this period, within a context of historical events since 1840, and the personal narratives of Ngai Tahu individuals, the complexities of contemporary South Island Maori identities are examined. The dissertation does not adopt a 'body of theory' as such but uses a range of theorists from various disciplines. Anthony Giddens is relied on for consideration of whakapapa as cultural resource. Margaret Somers, Ken Plummer and Nigel Rapport are followed in their consideration of the role of personal and public narratives in the constitution of identity. Somers' concept of 'metanarrative', the most potent form of cultural resource, is used to analyse whakapapa. It is because of its metanarrative properties, including its role as narrative and a range of metaphoric associations and the interweaving of the meta-themes in whakapapa, that its strategic uses by Ngai Tahu Whanui leadership are consented to both by the Crown and by South Island Maori. While other political practices by the contemporary leadership are often challenged in counternarratives by Ngai Tahu individuals and by non-Ngai Tahu, the management and use of whakapapa as a resource is never challenged. I also consider Russell Bishop  for his autobiographical contribution to account of the role of whakapapa as narrative. I have also used Corrine Kratz's typology of 'rhetorical techniques' to investigate aspects of tradition in my analysis of the Ngai Tahu public narrative. The dissertation includes an argument about the framing in narrative and supporting management of a national ethnic identity, borrowing from Margaret Somers, Craig Calhoun, Charles Tilly and Benedict Anderson. To my knowledge, this dissertation is the first in the study of contemporary identities for Maori to consider whakapapa for both its metanarrative qualities and for its uses as political resource.