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Te karanga tūturu o maieke: Ngāti Kuri women’s taiao geographies

This research examines the relationships, identities and sense of belonging of Māori women of within the Ngāti Kuri iwi (tribe) and te taiao (the natural world, environment, nature, country) in Te Hiku o te Ika, Far North, Aotearoa New Zealand. It shows how Ngāti Kuri women and te taiao are embedded in - yet also resist - colonial and patriarchal discourses. The Kaupapa Māori and Mana Wahine theoretical framework decolonises and transforms the ways in which Māori women have been represented and marginalised. Pūrākau (storywork) as a theory and methodology ensures Ngāti Kuri women’s stories are told by them and for them. Indigenous relational geography is woven into the theoretical framework to further understand Indigenous relationships to place and diverse feelings of belonging and responsibility. Whakawhiti kōrero (research conversations), wānanga (workshops) and tipi haere (mobile wānanga) were carried out with 19 Ngāti Kuri women. Approximately 40 people from the iwi and / or scientific communities contribute to the thesis through the initiatives of the Ngāti Kuri Relationship Working Group (NKRWG), the Auckland War Memorial Museum and other research partners and as conservationists. Findings are organised around three themes: identities; relationships; and a sense of belonging. The first theme introduces Ngāti Kuri women’s identities as leaders and drivers of change, disrupting and dismantling the intersection of patriarchal and colonial discourse. The pūrākau of Maieke, a founding ancestress of Ngāti Kuri, brings to light the reclamation and transformation of Māori women’s identities and geographies, as defined by participants. Pre-colonisation Ngāti Kuri women had the capacity and authority to become a governing force in the daily lives of the iwi. The second theme highlights colonial and patriarchal naming of our world. Ngāti Kuri women are reconfiguring relationships and representation through the scientific naming of taonga (culturally valuable objects and species). Values and principles of kaitiakitanga (inherited guardianship) and whakawhanaugatanga (relating well to others) guide the naming process. The third theme focuses on participants’ reflections and understandings of the ways in which they sense place and feelings of belonging. Participants’ engagement with te taiao - through singing, storying and sensing place – highlights the way te taiao re-centres and transforms Ngāti Kuri women’s relationships and experiences of belonging to iwi homelands. Importantly, the thesis concludes with a discussion of the challenges, successes and actions of Ngāti Kuri women as they continue to strive for tino rangatiratanga (self-determination), social and environmental well-being. I conceptualise new geographies that account for, and celebrate, uniquely Ngāti Kuri understandings of identities, relationships and feelings of belonging. Finally, a short creative story ends the thesis in order to show the transformative power of Ngāti Kuri women’s te taiao experiences.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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