Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Is Io a pre-European tradition?

From time to time, I am asked whether I believe Io to be a pre-European tradition or not. Here are my thoughts:
  • I am open to the idea that the Io tradition does have a history prior to the arrival of the European to Aotearoa-New Zealand. Given the multiplicity of atua in the traditional Māori pantheon, it is likely that someone, somewhere was inspired enough to conceive of one, overall and superior atua. 
  • My question, however, is this: can we be finally conclusive and definitive about it? Is it possible to finally prove that Io is pre-European? In my view, I don't think so. As I say, I am open to the possibility. I am just doubtful whether we can prove the Io tradition to be pre-European - it could be, it might not be.
  • I have found that evidence asserting Io as a pre-European tradition is unconvincing and occasionally disappointing. For example, Michael Shirres (who I met and knew) relied solely on the work and evidence of my granduncle Māori Marsden in his book He Tangata. He does provide examples of Io literature from other iwi traditions but none point directly to a pre-European history for Io. He relies solely upon Uncle Māori’s assertion that it is and no other corroborating evidence is provided. (See note below as to what I think Uncle Māori's real interest was.)
  • It’s also notable to discover that references to Io begin to appear in the written record later in the 19th century rather than earlier. For example, Io does not appear in the numerous whakapapa books of authorities such as Te Rangikāheke of Te Arawa and Mātene Te Whiwhi of Ngāti Toa. Whakapapa dictated by my tupuna Te Ahukaramū of Ngāti Raukawa in 1856 does not include Io, however, whakapapa written by his grandson Kipa Roera in 1915 does include Io. I do not think it correct to assert that because Kipa includes Io in his whakapapa that his grandfather knew Io too. As I say, it is possible that Te Ahukaramū did know Io but it is difficult to conclusively say he did.
  • There is also the explanation offered by some (often very reputable people such as Pei Te Hurinui) that Io was never shared publicly and was known only by those initiated in the tradition. It is asserted that Io was a secret cult and this accounts for the absence of Io in whakapapa books written in the early 19th century. This is possible. The problem with this, however, is that just as we can say that Io was secret, was not written down and this accounts for the absence of Io in the written record, we can also equally say that because we have no written evidence we can not conclusively say that Io is pre-European.
  • The other problem is the lack of evidence from other parts of Polynesia. There is very little literature found in Te Moananui-a-Kiwa that is akin to Io in the same way that we can find similarities throughout Polynesia for Tāne, Hine, Ranginui, Papa and particularly Tangaroa. Additionally, if there is a Polynesian claim for a supreme being it is more likely for Tangaroa, for obvious reasons.
  • Hence, in my view, it is difficult to be finally conclusive on the pre-European provenance for Io. As I say, I am open to the possibility. I just think it is difficult for us to prove it today.
  • I also ask, does it matter anyway? Does it really matter that we can prove Io to be pre-European? For me, I think, in the end, no. What is more important (and more interesting) is the meaning, value and significance of the Io tradition rather than its history, as interesting as this might be. I find now that it is more important to ask, what does the tradition hold for us today and going forward?
  • I suggest that it is this question that lies at the heart of Māori Marsden’s enthusiasm for the Io tradition. He wrote about it on various occasions and I was present at a number of wānanga where he spoke about Io (he gave me some Io whakapapa too and the Ngā Puhi version of Tāne's ascent). As I say, I suspect that his real interest in Io was not because of its historical provenance but rather because of the value he saw in the tradition for young Māori like myself. Uncle Māori, as a Minister, was more interested in the spiritual welfare of his people than their history (although he knew a lot about this too!) and this led him to think about the value of the tradition rather than its history. 
  • I believe that the preoccupation with proving a pre-European history for Io really comes from a lack of confidence in our Māoritanga. At least, this was my experience - for I look back now and see that my concern to discover proof for pre-European Io was really about 'feeling authentic', trying to get in touch with some true or real experience and knowledge of Māoritanga. In doing so, I idealised the past and overlooked the richness of the present. When I began to ask myself what mātauranga Māori was all about anyway - when I began to look into the meaning and significance of the Io tradition - I found that my anxiety to 'prove' the authenticity of the Io tradition diminished.
  • As I spent more time exploring what the tradition actually represents - its core wisdom - I began to see that it is not Christianity dressed up in Māori symbols and ideas, as some would have it. I see the Io tradition as a profound meditation on the nature of life and existence based upon the idea that there is one source for all things and to which all things return in a perennial and unending cycle. I also see that it contains ideas of growth and maturation, that the world is birthed from Io and is equivalent to Io, an idea that contrasts with the Old Testament idea that the world was 'created' by God, is a manifestation of God's creative power and is not, therefore, equivalent to God.
  • We see, therefore, that there are similarities and differences between the Io and Christian traditions.  However, they are not exactly the same. I believe, also, that interest in the Io tradition grew in our iwi communities in the face of the rise of Christianity. There was an intensification of interest in the Io tradition, there were even attempts to build bridges between the Io tradition and Christian. This is found in Kipa Roera's whakapapa books (in my possession) as well as in the letters of Rev Paora Temuera of Ōtaki to Eric Ramsden.

The Value of Te Reo Māori

Every language is a temple, in which the soul of those who speak it is enshrined.
Oliver Wendall-Holmes, American Jurist
The value of the Māori language is not so that we say in Māori precisely what we would say in English anyway; but rather that the Māori language is the vehicle of or an avenue into a distinctive way of thinking about, explaining and ultimately experiencing life.
For, after all, this is the value of any language – a distinctive way of experiencing, responding to and explaining life[i].
Languages share things with each other and they also differ in significant ways – and it is this ‘significant difference’ that we ultimately seek to give expression to as we foster, grow, and advance Te Reo Māori today.
Of course, it is important to acknowledge that the Māori language is a taonga, a treasure of inestimable value. We should, therefore, act to ensure its future.
We should also remind ourselves that New Zealand has certain obligations and responsibilities to the Māori language and we should meet them.
However, we should be equally motivated and inspired (and perhaps, in time, finally so) by the tremendous enrichment and opportunity that the Māori language represents for modern day life in Aotearoa New Zealand – for this is where its value truly resides.
The Māori language has been spoken in this country for hundreds of years. We do not know when exactly it was created (given its ancient Polynesian origins), but we do know that it came here in approximately 1350 (a ‘limb’ of the tree of Polynesian languages).
Over the next four centuries, and prior to European arrival, what came to be known as ‘the Māori language’ changed and grew according to life in these islands.
As these Polynesian pioneers encountered new species of flora and fauna, new climactic conditions (including a type of cold they would never have experienced in central Polynesia), a new landscape and waterways, so their language changed and adapted accordingly.
Eventually, the entire country became ‘clothed’ in the Māori language and this remains the case today.
They also had to learn new ways of harvesting resources, they had to learn how to garden and grow crops, they had to learn how to erect buildings and other structures, they had to create new kinds of clothing and so much more.
While learning how to live successfully in this new environment, they also had to update ways of organising community, ways of making decisions, ways of resolving conflict and so much more. All of this took place in ‘te reo Māori’.
The first time a baby was born in this country, te reo Māori was the language; the first time lovers fell in love, and fell out of love, te reo Māori was the language; the first time conflict occurred and was resolved, the first time something was lost and found again, the first time failure was endured and success was finally achieved, the first time anyone sang a song, or danced, played games and so much more, all of this was done first in the Māori language – it was the language through which humanity first came to voice in this part of the world.
When Europeans arrived and brought a profoundly different worldview and experience, many aspects were enthusiastically adopted by Māori of the time. This included literacy, technologies, methods of local and national organisation and, of course, the Biblical worldview.
Consequently, a tremendous amount of change and creativity took place and again the language changed and grew in response to these experiences.
As we know, Māori creativity was seriously undermined in the colonial period and much was lost. However, it is vitally important to acknowledge that despite the assault upon it, the Māori language did in fact survive (perhaps miraculously so) and it remains with us today.
All this history and creativity – first created, explained, and experienced in the Māori language – awaits real expression in Aotearoa today.
A language is a ‘lens’ through which our entire reality is experienced and understood, a ‘way’ of encountering the world around us.
The Māori language, therefore, provides us with a valuable lens, a distinctive way of ‘seeing’ our world – and the more we become familiar and fluent in the language and are exposed to the particular ways by which it describes life, the more this ‘lens’ becomes a part of us, changing us, transforming us and our world in important ways.
The Māori language, therefore, represents a deep and profound opportunity to our country – a vitally important contributor to the process by which we as a nation can find own distinctive voice, our own way of thinking, articulating and being in this world.
[i] C. Scott Littleton writes: ‘Thus, language, or, more properly, the logic embedded in language, is by definition a prime factor in achieving an agreement as to the nature of the world. And as languages and their attendant logics differ substantially in time and space, it is impossible to understand the nature of a given ‘agreement’ without reference to the structure of the language spoken by those who share it.’ Introduction Lucien Levy-Bruhl: 'How Natives Think', Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey , 1985, p. xxix.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Mātauranga Māori and moving into new workspaces

MM recognises that workplaces are not just physical - rather they are spiritual, emotional, intellectual, social spaces.

The goal is to create the best circumstances whereby people can do their best work.

According to mm, attention needs to be paid to the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, social dimensions of the space so that the best circumstances are achieved.

(This is what is meant by 'one has to use the right kete for the right contents' or 'the tikanga/kawa for one house is not right for another'.)

There are a number of ways of achieving this:
  • clarity of kaupapa (attention paid to the name of the space, communicates kaupapa and intention)
  • Clarity concerning who is the space for? (Hence the question 'mō wai tēnei whare? in karakia for opening a whare)
  • Placing of a mauri stone is about intentions and setting the energy conditions for the intentions to be achieved
  • Opening blessing is about directly addressing the physical structure as the site or vessels in which the intended mana is planned to flow (mana used here to mean the authority and creativity of the group using the space)
  • Ongoing hui is about continually revisiting kaupapa, intentions and who the building is for - this is done in regular mihi each time visitors come, meetings are held etc to keep the fundamental kaupapa alive.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Peak Experience by Abraham Maslow

'A peak experience is a moment accompanied by a euphoric mental state often achieved by self-actualizing individuals. The concept was originally developed by Abraham Maslow in 1964, who describes peak experiences as "rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter."[ There are several unique characteristics of a peak experience, but each element is perceived together in a holistic manner that creates the moment of reaching one’s full potential. Peak experiences can range from simple activities to intense events; however, it is not necessarily about what the activity is, but the ecstatic, blissful feeling that is being experienced during it.'

(Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_experience)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Insulting column by Bob Jones

Far out Bob Jones is insulting! The idea that any gains or improvements that Māori have made since the 19th century are entirely as a result of Pākehā generosity is ignorant. And the idea that Māori exist today because of their Pākehā whakapapa (when clearly both is the case) is offensive. 

The old hackneyed argument that ‘there are no pure Māori in the world today’ is used (yet again) here by Jones as the reason why Māori ought to feel grateful to Pākehā. We only exist because of Pākehā - a view also promulgated by Hobson’s Choice. 

This is deeply offensive as - we can infer from Jones's comments - that he believes there is nothing of value to be found in a person’s Māori identity, history, culture and experience. The only thing of value, that modern Māori ought to be grateful for, is what the Pākehā world has given him/her - language, culture, values, prosperity, their very existence.

I really hate this kind of veiled (and not so veiled) racism because as I respond to it, I see that my words may make me look like I’m jumping to the defence of my Māori identity and that I do not value my Pākehā identity. I want to make clear - I am not like Bob Jones. I love my Māori and Pākehā identity equally, I love both sides of my family equally. There are things about the Māori world which I love and there are things in the Māori world which drive me nuts. Equally, there are things about the Pākehā world I adore and there are things that are infuriating!

I find it remarkable when wealthy, privileged people (like Jones) feel upset about the world, that they are somehow ‘hard done by’, that the world is not going as they would wish. Given their wealth, their privilege, their enormous and numerous opportunities to influence the world, I find it remarkable that they think they are the victim somehow.

Finally, I have never understood the 'there are no pure Māori in the world anymore' argument. I find it amusing that those who continue to assert this view feel that they have some kind of 'trump card' which successfully invalidates  Māori initiatives, such as Treaty of Waitangi claims. The fact that my Mum is Pākehā (and who I love very much) does not erase the fact that I am also a descendant of Marutūahu, of Tamaterā and Whanaunga, of Raukawa, of Ngā Puhi etc, that I am a product of that heritage just as much as I am a product of my mother's heritage (I am named after my French great-grandfather). 

PS Dear Bob - I saw that your response to the criticism was to say that you intended your column to be regarded as satire and that people are too sensitive, they take offence too easily. Well Bob, a key ingredient of satire, I am sure you are aware, is humour. Satire is usually clever too and I have to say that I didn't find your column funny or clever. I suspect that you didn't either.

See here:


Friday, June 9, 2017


Ko te korero tara tenei mo Rona. I tetahi po atarau ka haere a Rona ki te
utu wai; e mau ana i te ringa, te kete, he taha i roto. I te haerenga atu ki te
wai ka taka te marama ki tua ki te kapua, rokohanga iho he ara kino, a, tutuki
noa te wae ki nga rakau. No konei, ka riri ia, a, e anga ana ka kanga ki te ma-
rama, ka mea ake, "Pokohua marama te puta mai koe kia marama." Ka riri i
konei te marama ki te mahi a Rona ka rere iho ia ki raro ka mau ki a Rona. Ka
pupuri a Rona ki te rakau e tupu ana i te taha o te awa, otiia, hutia ana te rakau
haere katoa nga pakiaka, kahaki tonu atu i a Rona, te rakau, me tana taha wai.
Ka taria nei te hokinga o Rona ki te kainga ka haere ki te whakatau. Rapu
nei, rapu nei, ka pa te karanga, "E Rona, e Rona keihea koe?" Ka kara nga
iho tera, "E! tenei au te kake nei i roto i te marama, i te whetu."

Taken from 'Maori Mementos; being a series of Addresses, presented by the native people to His Excellency Sir George Grey, Governor of the Cape of Good Hope and late Governor of New Zealand; with introductory remarks and explanatory notes, to which is added a small collection of Laments, etc' by Charles Oliver Davis, Williamson and Wilson 1885, p. 167. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Marking Vowel Length on Māori language texts

A friend has raised (on Facebook) a number of questions about marking vowel length in Māori language texts. Particularly she asked whether vowel length should be marked when quoting the texts of other writers. Here are some responses:

Firstly, the author of the text decides how the text ought to be written. Hence, the author decides whether to mark vowel length in Māori language texts or when using Māori words or phrases in English texts.  

Having said that, however, it is important that vowel length is correctly marked in Māori language texts. The reason for this is that vowel length changes the meaning of words. For example, tāua is not the same as taua; kāinga is not the same as kainga, and so on.

Vowel length should also be marked when indicating singular or plural forms. For example, te tangata (singular), ngā tāngata (plural); te kuia, ngā kūia, and so on.

My preferred method of marking vowel length is by use of the macron (not double vowel). 

There is another reason to mark vowel length in Māori texts (or when using Māori in English). This reason relates to the endangered nature of our language. The number of fluent speakers is at an all time low and there are more learners of Māori than fluent speakers. For this reason, it is important to mark vowel length and in a disciplined and consistent fashion so that learners receive as much guidance as possible as to the correct way to pronounce words and the meanings of those words.

Secondly, with respect to quoting the work of others, the principle here is that quotes ought to follow precisely what was written in the original. Hence, if vowel length is marked in the original, then it should also appear in the quote. If it is not marked, then it should not be introduced into the quote. 

(My approach to writing in Te Reo Māori was developed over a 20 year period. It began when working with the Dr Mīria Simpson of Ngāti Awa and on projects such as Bateman NZ Historical Atlas, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Te Ara Online Encyclopaedia. It developed further through six book projects, masterate and doctoral dissertations, and while convening the Master of Mātauranga Māori at Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa. See www.charles-royal.nz)