Research with Vulnerable Māori

Marginalisation Project

Protocols for Research with Vulnerable and Marginalised Māori

Katoa Ltd

Funder: Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga

Timeframe: 2003-04

Individuals with particular expertise in varying fields were invited to prepare papers that critically examined what notions of marginalisation, exclusion and inclusion might mean for Māori. These papers then initiated and stimulated further discussion amongst researchers, key informants and agencies, who believed they work with ‘marginalised’ groups. The hui that were held provided advice and guidelines for Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga and other research entities about how to proceed in an ethical and appropriate manner when establishing relationships with marginalised groups. This is crucial to the development of any subsequent programme/s seeking to address the research needs of these groups. The papers that were written were:

Researching in the margins: Issues for Māori researchers - A discussion paper  Linda Tuhiwai Smith

Opening paragraph There is a general acceptance of the view that today—in the early part of the 21st century— Māori people experience diverse realities and live complicated lives that interact with or are formed out of a set of material, cultural, historical and discursive conditions, understood in its short form as colonisation. Diversity of realities does not mean equal realities in the sense of cultural, social and economic equity. There is continuing evidence that, as a minority indigenous group, Māori people are socially and economically disadvantaged in New Zealand and as a people are constantly vulnerable to the attitudes, perceptions, judgements and moral panic of the Pākehā majority. Challenging, resisting, mediating and negotiating the unequal relations of power in society have an impact on the ways in which Māori communities and Māori institutions—such as the marae or the whānau— function, develop and envision themselves. 

Talking ourselves up  Fiona Cram

Opening paragraph The purpose of this paper is to examine the nature of talk and its place within Kaupapa Māori research. Just as many Māori occasions rely on talkto define context and kaupapa, so do research and principles often seek to represent the talk of participants as defining their context and their kaupapa. Within these research processes there are ample opportunities for participants to be both marginalised and/or (re)victimised. The care taken within what has become a popular way of gathering research data, talking to people, rests on a researcher’s skills as an interviewer as well as their intrinsic interest in people. This paper therefore examines some of the issues both researchers and participants need to be aware of, with a particular focus on qualitative research that is conducted within a kaupapa Māori framework. 

Theorizing marginality and the processes of marginalisation  Tracey McIntosh 

Opening paragraph This paper sets out to theorise marginality and to map the processes of marginalisation. In doing this, it is not looking specifically at the way that this process is experienced by Māori in Aotearoa, but rather describes the processes and sees whether this is a useful way of understanding our particular situation and if it lends itself to forming responses to these processes. 

He muka no te taura whiri  Lyn Waymouth

Opening paragraph The above proverb refers to the many strands that make up one rope. When the rope is tightly bound, it symbolises unity and strength. When the rope starts to unravel, however, it threatens stability and weakens the effectiveness of the rope to function as it was intended. The whakataukï is a metaphor for iwi (tribe) unity and the importance of maintaining strong relationships between all its members. If the unity is not there, relationships that have existed between members of the iwi community become strained and unworkable. The whakapapa, or kinship connections, will become weakened. The purpose of this paper is to examine how changes to Māori social structures have affected the whakapapa relationships between the members of iwi. The relationships to be examined are those between the members of the group who maintain residence in the group’s traditional territories—the hau kāinga—and the members who, through varying circumstances, have moved away from their hau kāinga—the taura here. 

Being Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa in the 21st Century  Cherryl Smith

Opening paragraph The above pepeha makes reference to the journey of Hau, a tupuna known on the West Coast of the North Island for his travels and descent lines. Recalling Hau’s journeys is one of the ways that whanaungatanga and connection is affirmed for iwi along the West Coast, down to Te Upoko o Te Ika and also over to the Wairarapa. In current Crown Treaty settlement processes, relationships with neighbours can provoke tensions as iwi or hapū are forced to define clear, agreed boundaries. The process is similar to trying to unravel the individual property rights and identity rights of each member of a family who all live in the same house, use the same bathroom, the same kitchen, the same garden and mostly descend from the same ancestry. Of course, a family is also creating new ancestry. The complexity of relationships goes beyond only ‘rights’, beyond ‘property’. Relationships cover shared and changing histories, shared memories and storytelling, shared fights, grief, laughter and whakapapa. This paper looks at whanaungatanga (kinships) in the sense of affirming connections and relationships to whānau, hapū and iwi and looks at some of the exclusions and marginalisations that interrupt or disrupt whanaungatanga. By looking at the barriers and constraints to whanaungatanga, researchers might better understand some of the complexities to the relationships that they are engaged in as outsiders or insiders. 

Who determines what story is told? – Narratives of marginalisation  Adreanne Ormond

Opening paragraph This paper focuses upon the marginalisation of young Māori people within contemporary New Zealand society. This is done by discussing the perspectives of Māori youth who live upon Māhia Peninsula.The paper explores how these youth are marginalised by discussing how practices of domination, suppression, and exploitation produce key dominant and marginalised discourses that significantly influence their voices and silences. This paper highlights the marginalisation process and how it impacts upon their lives by showing how certain discourses produce dominant narratives that feed off and shut down marginalised ones. These discourses are examined in accordance with how the dominant Pākehā (New Zealanders of predominantly European decent) social group shapes and moulds ways of thinking and knowing, possibilities for practice, and understandings about being a young Māori living in rural New Zealand today. 

From kaitiaki to branch officers: The bureaucratisation of whakapapa  Eileen Clarke

Opening paragraph Recently, my husband, my mother-in-law and I were sharing lunch at her home (the family homestead) in Ngāwhā, which is located in the Bay of Islands in the Northern Tai Tokerau area of Aotearoa/New Zealand. The conversation had become centred on the proposed extensions to the family urupā (burial ground),which has basically reached its carrying capacity. A decision has been made unilaterally by an older family member, as is his usual custom, to make available to the wider community more of the adjacent whānau land. The site itself is now designated as a national historic site, being as it is the locale for one of the most significant battles of the Northern Wars of the 1840s: the battle of Ohaeawai in which the British Imperial troops suffered a resounding defeat. It is now the site of St. Michael’s Church and graveyard. 

Researching our relations: Reflections on ethics and marginalisation  Adreanne Ormond, Fiona Cram & Lyn Carter

Abstract Marginalisation occurs when a group of people are pushed to the periphery of a society. Many Māori reside at the margins of ‘mainstream’ society, while others are at the margins of Māori society. The present paper explores how ‘by Māori, for Māori’ research and evaluation can create spaces for voices from the margins to be heard. The paper arose out of a series of hui in which papers on the notion of marginalisation and Māori were presented and discussed, along with the broader topic of research ethics and protocols. Three themes that emerged from these hui are considered in this paper: relationships between researchers and participants/communities, researchers knowing themselves, and the safety aspects inherent within tikanga. The discussion of these themes draws upon the papers that were written for this project, the feedback from hui participants (researchers, students, health professionals, government workers, community providers), and local and international literature on research ‘by and with’ indigenous peoples. In making the ‘knowing’ we hold about these issues more explicit, this paper aims to generate more discussion as well as providing some small guidance for those who may be new to this thing called ‘research’.

These papers were published in a 2006 Special edition of Alternative, An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples. Contact Fiona ( if you'd like more information.