8. Re-Assert knowledge - Kia Māori ngā mātauranga

This section on re-asserting knowledge continues our journey of exploring the lens or mirror we bring to our research work to help ensure that we are on a good pathway. By finding out something through our Kaupapa Māori research work we are adding to the pool of knowledge about it means to be Māori. The reassertion of this knowledge, this mātauranga, is about us being able to stand our ground and be strong in what we know. In this section we again look first at the definitions of these terms before describing more of what they mean for Kaupapa Maori researchers.


Assert is defined by Dictionary.com in three ways: '1. to state with assurance, confidence, or force; state strongly or positively; affirm; aver. 2. to maintain or defend (claims, rights, etc.). 3. to state as having existence; affirm; postulate'.

Reassert is to assert again. It is defined by the Oxford Learner's Dictionary as '1. to make other people recognize again your right or authority to do something, after a period when this has been in doubt. 2. to start to have an effect again, after a period of not having any effect. 3. to state again, clearly and firmly, that something is true'.


There is a saying that 'knowledge is power'. Another way of looking at this is that those in power are able to decide whose knowledge counts. The language of paradigms can help unpackage the philosophical assumption behind a claim that one nation's knowledge is more valid and legitimate than other nations' knowledge.

How do we come to have knowledge? How do we know we know something? These are the questions Shawn Wilson (2008) asks when he's defining epistemology. He writes that "epistemology is the study of the nature of thinking or knowing" (p. 33). Donna Mertens and Amy Wilson (2012, p. 170) write that epistemology

'...is constructed within the context of power and privilege with consequences attached to which version of knowledge is given privilege."

This is why Indigenous peoples "constantly collide with dominant views while we're attempting to transform our lives on a larger scale than our own localized circumstances" (Smith, 1999, p. 39), and why the recovery of our own epistemologies is an essential foundation for the achievement of transformation and decolonisation. This recovery of our own epistemology should be a collaborative endeavour between researchers and communities as it is the lived realities of communities that will best inform knowledge. The whole approach within this Kaupapa Māori research guide has been about mentorship, consultation, collaboration and joint sense making.

The twofold knowledge task of Kaupapa Māori research is "struggling to make sense of our own world while also attempting to transform what counts as important in the world of the powerful" (Smith, 1999, p. 39). We are therefore gazing inwards, often as members of our own communities, and outwards, as citizens of this country. In doing so we are re-asserting knowledge - allowing others to recognise it again and enabling it to have an effect again. We cannot, and should not, tackle this task alone as it is the voices and input of others that will guide and support us as well as ensuring that what we do is true and right.

We also cannot be insular - or solely 'Māori' - in our re-assertion of the knowledge that comes from the research we do.

'Decolonization, however, does not mean and has not meant a total rejection of all theory or research or Western knowledge. Rather, it is about centring our concerns and world views and then coming to know and understand theory and research from our own perspectives for our own purposes" (Smith, 1999, p. 39).

We need to know how this knowledge connects with the Māori world as well as with the wider society in Aotearoa New Zealand. We need the re-assertion of Māori knowledge that speaks to our needs, informs our prioritising, and feeds our dreams and aspirations.

Our task is therefore to find advocates for mātauranga Māori - Māori knowledge - within all walks of life. In this way many voices can be brought to bear to change the versions of Māori 'realities' that are privileged, to challenge versions of 'non-Māori' realities that maintain Māori marginalisation, to gain new knowledge that can fuel Māori innovation and development, and to speak new discourses about the knowledges (Māori and tauiwi/non-Māori) that need to inform the future of this country.


Mertens, D. M., & Wilson, A. T. (2012). Program evaluation theory and practice. A comprehensive guide. New York: The Guilford Press.

Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples.New York & Dunedin: Zed Books & Otago University Press.

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is ceremony. Indigenous research methods. Black Point, Nova Scotia, Canada: Fernwood Publishing.

Linking to Other Pages

7. Re-Claim knowing - Kia mau ki ngā mohiotanga

9. Re-Member people - Kia maumahara ngā tangata


From: Cram, F. (2013). He Rangahau Kaupapa Māori: A guide to undertaking a Kaupapa Māori research project. Auckland: Katoa Ltd. Available from www.katoa.net.nz.