A test for Pākeha who want to know if they are empowering Māori.

It seems like every day I’m reading blogs and social media comments by Māori, (especially our wahine), who are giving well-meaning intentioned Pākeha woman a whiplashing for when they say ‘I’m only just trying to empower Māori’. This seems to be happening across many spheres – academia, politics, events and the arts.

I have some pretty amazing Pākeha woman who empower me. One of those Pākeha woman supervised me through my PhD. My boss is also a Pākeha woman who opens many doors for me. Another one of my female Pākeha mentors has become one of the most influential people in life. I ring her for advice regularly on nearly all aspects and topics in my life – even Māori topics.

I’ll say it again, these Pākeha woman are amazing and have empowered me – a Māori woman. But that is my right to say that. They themselves do not claim to have made me who I am. They do not claim to have found me and they never claim to have discovered my inherent mana. None of these woman have tried to paint images of me to sell, or to tell and write the story of me. They do not claim responsibility for my success.

So if you are Pākeha wondering if you are empowering Māori here is short test you can do.

If you are fronting media, conferences and other speaking opportunities for how you are empowering Māori – you probably need to check yourself.

If you’re actively developing your profile as a wonderful and amazing person who empowers Māori – you probably need to check yourself.

If you feel you have been responsible for Māori success – you probably need to check yourself.

If you are choosing and selecting who are the best at being Māori – you probably need to check yourself.

If you are depicting us, writing about us, painting us without engaging with us – you probably need to check yourself.

I know that you have probably done some very wonderful and nice things for Maori, and please continue to help connect us, share with us, collaborate with us.  But I am personally tired of Indigenous people being the platform from which non-Indigenous people can grandstand themselves on. Every time you do that, you take up space which does not belong to you in front of an indigenous who needs to be heard.

So if you replied yes to any of these, I challenge you to carefully consider this – if you look deep, you will find that you are actually on a journey that needs to learn about your own lack of power in your own life.

16 thoughts on “A test for Pākeha who want to know if they are empowering Māori.

  1. It’s a patronizing valance that is self serving, a harmonic of a long dead royalist culture. “ look what I’m doing for those poor peasants”, “I’m so wonderful”. “I’m so loved by them”
    Clearly an abberation, clearly done for self inflation.


  2. Nga mihi Kiri, I recently read an article written by a black woman who connected white women to white supremacy very tidily through use of examples a little similar to those you have given here for people to consider checking themselves against.

    Powerful reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a challenge I struggle with daily. I am Pakeha. My daughter is part Maori. I’ve watched her struggle and rise to become her own powerful woman. I take no credit for that. What I allow myself some space for is the pride I feel whenever I think of her because she has done it pretty much on her own with support from people other than me. I admire and love her deeply. I am grateful for the love and support I have received from strong Maori women. So in a way I have been empowered by Maori women, not the other way around.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No doubt you have had a massive influence around your daughters amazingness. Where we all need to be careful is when we use people as trophies to try validate our own self worth. Sounds like you are conscious of this. Good work mama.


  4. For years I have been involved as a tauiwi in te Ao Māori, starting with Te Rēo and continuing with waka and mau rakau. I’ve paddled and sailed oceans with my brothers and sisters, and been a kapene and kaiurungi for years. I’m constantly walking a very fine line, between ‘honouring’ and ‘appropriating’. In the end, i know where my heart is, and people always have opinions. I’ve most definitely ‘gone to the blanket’. I’m not here to ’empower’ anyone…just to lie down and hopefully be a good bridge. Mauri waka, mauri taiao, mauri ora. Ngā manākitanga.


  5. Love. This! Even as a Maori woman in London, I come across this from members in the nz community and those from home that have an interest in Maori culture.

    Thanks for such a great article Kiri!


    1. This week we watched an amazing video which featured James Baldwin’s writing called, I am Not your Negro. It followed the history of Americans of colour and I heard for the first time the true Black American voice and how they viewed the American Dream. There were echoes of Kiri’s post in what he said. What a heart shaking, head shaking experience.


  6. I see this regularly in organisations that pursue funding for the likes of “strengthening families” then spend token amounts on gestures to Maori and hold up hard won Maori success stories as outcomes of the organisation’s efforts?! Investment in Maori solutions would put these organisations out of work

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your article is an important one and one that not only relates to the Maori Pakeha dichotomy. As a emerging designer I too had pakeha women claiming me as their prodogy, like they had discovered me and made me, as I had designed the furniture to match her architecturally designed home. She was a wealthy pakeha I was a young pakeha student. So I see this no only as a race related issue but a power issue and an inherent human trait of those who feel they own the power. I left Aukland soon after to raise my children in the country, so they could feel the connection to the land, and allow them to grow humble and respectful of all life on this planet away from the self proclaimed privileged. Best decision I ever made. I heart hurts every time I hear people deride others due to their race or lack of wealth.


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