Maori Double Consiousness

Sept. 9th, 2017

During our short time here in Wellington, I have attained multitudes of valuable knowledge. One specific topic that I correlated very well with, is the concept of “double consciousness”. Double consciousness is a concept that W.E.B. Du Bois (African-American activist) explored in the 1900’s. Double consciousness is a feeling of a divided identity, making it difficult to have one unified identity. This concept was widely understood by many African-Americans during the late 1800’s-early 1900’s when Du Bois first introduced the idea.

Professor and Chair of American Indian Studies, Chris Teuton, related this concept of double consciousness to Maori experiences during one of our class sessions on the Matiu/Somes Islands. This concept of double consciousness is easy for anyone to associate themselves with. An example would be an employee versus a company. An employee has this double consciousness and is aware of his/her behaviors due to the expectations of the company. Specific examples relating to the Maori culture in relation to double consciousness would be, Te Reo Maori language versus the English language, or Maori participation in government versus the New Zealand government. In turn, this prevents the Maori from having a unified identity. Viewing this entire experience through an indigenous lens, I am able to relate extremely well with this concept of double consciousness, mainly because I myself have had my fair share of double consciousness experiences. As an indigenous female within a University setting, I am constantly fighting between two separate identities.

Meka Whaitiri and I after touring Parliament.

I have been able to observe and become aware of this double consciousness concept actively occurring when speaking, listening, and engaging with Maoris, specifically Maoris working for the government, or in other words, The Crown. It’s especially been an eye-opening experience speaking to the Maori Waitangi Tribunal members and Maori Parliament members. Fortunately for our group, we had the privilege of meeting and speaking with members of the Waitangi Tribunal and a Maori representative, Meka Whaitiri from Parliament. Speaking to the Maori Waitangi Tribunal members and Parliament member was a rich experience. Meka Whaitiri, shared a lot of insight on what it is like being a Maori working in Parliament. To begin with, I questioned these Maori’s intentions, motives, and genuineness solely because I was confused as to why they were working for the government in the first place. After speaking to the Maori members of the Tribunal, and listening to Meka speak about her work within Parliament, I came to the realization that Maori’s must master how the government system works, and from that, learn how to work the system in order to help their people. I am proud of the Maori representatives working under the government. Without Maori representatives in the government, Maori’s would not have a voice. As hard as it may be to work for the government while staying true to their Maori culture (double consciousness concept), I know that these Maori representatives are doing the right thing in order to keep their identity alive.

-Seni Lavulavu




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