9. Re-Member people - Kia maumahara ngā tangata

This final section of our guide for those beginning their journey in research is about the role research can play in supporting people's identity as Māori. It can do this in a number of ways, including by documenting what it means to be Māori and by informing people's analysis of the structural barriers people might face to live as and be Māori in today's society. We start first with some dictionary definitions of the terms used here, and then move on to a description of how others have been thinking about these terms in more philosophical or organic ways. Like the previous two sections, the purpose of this section is to be a sort of test of whether you have conducted your research, analysed your findings, and reported on and discussed your results in a way that upholds the mana (status) of those you've involved in your research and the wider group of people you want your research to be able to represent.


A member is defined by Dictionary.com as 'a person, animal, plant, group, etc., that is part of a society, party, community, taxon, or other body' (noun), and as 'being a member of or having membership in an association, organization, etc.: "member countries of the United Nations'' (adjective).

Remember is defined by the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary as 'to have or keep an image or idea in your mind of (something or someone from the past) : to think of (something or someone from the past) again; to cause (something) to come back into your mind; to keep (information) in your mind : to not forget (something)'.

Maumahara is defined by the Māori Dictionary Online as 'to remember, recall, recollect, reminisce.'


I first came across the notion of re-membering when I read Parker Palmer's 1998 book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher's life. This book encourages teachers to teach well by getting back in touch with their true vocational identity and reconnecting with students. It is about teachers and their teaching journey rather than about any tools or techniques for teaching. Parker's mission is to give teachers back their heart so that they can reconnect with their students in heart-felt ways that facilitate students' learning journeys. Of re-membering he says

'Re-membering involves putting ourselves back together, recovering identity and integrity, reclaiming the wholeness of our lives. When we forget who we are we do not merely drop some data. We dis-member ourselves, with unhappy consequences for our politics, our work, our hearts' (p.20).

Re-membering is therefore about reconnecting with our truth, our passions and our heart as well as with others within our community. In this way people are reinforced as, or they may become, members of their own community. From Palmer's writing about re-membering we learn that our task as Kaupapa Māori researchers is twofold:
  1. To maintain our own connectedness and selves as members of whānau (family), hapū (sub-tribe) and Iwi (tribe) so that we hold true to our vocation as researchers, and
  2. To strive within our research to enable others to see themselves within our representations of our participants so that our research might contribute, if even in a small way, to their own identity, membership and wholeness.

The second of these tasks has been described earlier (Re-Claim and Re-Assert) as part of one of the two central aspects of Kaupapa Maori and Kaupapa Māori research (namely, Māori self-development, with the other aspect being structural analysis of the social order). The first task Parker reminds us of - maintaining our own connectedness - is not often talked about within Kaupapa Māori research. It is however an essential component of ensuring that as researchers we have a "shared lived experience" (Frierson, et al, 2010) of the Māori communities we are aiming to represent so that we are able to be culturally responsive within our research.

Parker goes on to talk about the pain of dis-memberance: of being alienated from caring relationships, and 'disconnected from our own truth' (p.21). A large chunk of this dis-memberance for Indigenous peoples has been brought about by colonisation - a process that turns truths about what is Indigenous and normal into a marginalised reality within a colonised society (Reid & Cram, 2004).

Linda Smith (2012), in her book Decolonizing Methodologies, described the task of decolonisation as making Māori human again, as colonisation can only happen when a nation is seen as less than human. An aspect of decolonisation is therefore the wholeness that comes when people remember their identity and are reinforced in their membership of the Māori nation.

Merita Mita has spoken about what this colonised society means for Māori women.

'The way I see it, if you're a Māori woman..that alone will put you on a collision course with the rest of society and its expectations. And if you flatly refuse to give up your Māori value system for an easier way of life, and you live in a society which is supposed to be bicultural and multiracial but isn't - that's a lie - then you'll be in constant conflict with how that society is run and how it sees itself' (Mita, 1986).

From Merita Mita we learn that even if we hold firm to Māori values - our membership and our identity - a colonised society conspires to sideline these are invalid and illegitimate. Our third task as Kaupapa Māori researchers is therefore to provide an analysis and critique of this colonised society and the structural barriers that work to prevent Māori being Māori. A question for ourselves can be something like, Has my research - my questions, my analysis and my reporting - helped people view their lives using a structural lens? Those looking at our research should have the opportunity to gain a new perspective about how, for example, society constrains their choices or dampens their success.

For example, I was at a hui talking about the determinants of Māori educational success and described how a common myth or discourse about Māori and education is that Māori fail at school. We don't often hear politicians or the media talk about 'schools failing Māori', or about 'schools privileging whiteness' - yet a structural analysis of Māori educational (non)achievement has to consider these explanations as barriers to Māori educational success. A young woman at the hui put her hand up after I'd finished this explanation and thanked me as she now understood why she and the young people she now worked with had been excluded from schooling. This is what it means to give someone another way of looking at their world that takes the lens and blame off them. Even if people already understand this, reading it again in a research report can reinforce their understanding and strengthen their identity as Māori. This is what re-membering is all about. 

Concluding Remarks

Bringing a lens of reclaiming, re-asserting and re-membering to our Kaupapa Māori research reminds us that Kaupapa Māori is about the validity and legitimacy of Māori culture and language. Our task as researchers is to strive to add to this kaupapa (agenda). There are many other English or Māori words that could be added to these last sections (e.g., define, ignite, miramira (give prominence to)). You may want to think of your own words - ones that define the values and heart you bring to Kaupapa Māori research and that spark your reflections on your mahi (work). When you write or talk about your research use these words to describe what you as a researcher bring and what you hope to achieve.

Kia kaha - be courageous in your research journey, find others who can support you and be your critical friends - because success comes with the support of others, and strive to learn by doing.

Ehara taku toa, he takitahi, he toa takitini

My success should not be bestowed upon me alone as it was not individual success but success of a collective [source]


Frierson, H.T., Hood, S., Hughes, G.B. & Thomas, V.G. (2010). A guide to conducting culturally responsive evaluations. In J. Frechtling (Ed.), The 2010 user-friendly handbook of programme evaluation. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation.

Mita, M. (1986). Head and shoulders. Interviews by Virginia Were. Auckland: Penguin.

Palmer, P.J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher's life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Reid, P. & Cram, F. (2004). Connecting health, people and county in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In K. Dew & P. Davis (Eds.), Health and society in Aotearoa New Zealand. 2nd Edition. Auckland: Oxford University Press. pp.33-48.

Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies - Research and Indigenous peoples (2nd Edition ed.). London & New York: Zed Books.

Linking to Other Pages

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

8. Re-Assert knowledge - Kia Māori ngā mātauranga


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.