Author Archives: slavulav

Growth of Maori Sovereignty

Sept. 12th, 2017

Today we had the privilege of speaking to Josh Te Kane, a member of the Hairini Marae iwi. Josh shared his knowledge about Maori sovereignty. Maori sovereignty is a topic we are constantly exploring, researching, and trying to understand. Sovereignty is defined as a supreme power or authority. This leads us to a question I consistently wrestled with, do Maori’s have true sovereignty? Up until this point in time, I didn’t view Maori sovereignty as true sovereignty. Maori’s have sovereignty in specific areas such as within marae’s, kapa haka classes (song and dance classes), and Te Reo (Maori Language) week. It is within these areas that Maori’s are able to experience true Maori sovereignty. As far as a true self-governing state goes, I did not view Maori’s as having true sovereignty.

However, once Josh Te Kane shared his insight on Maori Sovereignty, this quickly changed. Josh explained the history of Maori’s up to present-day in a way that helped me to understand sovereignty through his eyes. Europeans arrived in New Zealand in the early 1800’s, which was a time of great turmoil. From the very beginning, Maori’s had a great relationship with the Colonials. They were great tradings of items such as flax, kumara, animals, etc. which were all very beneficial for the Maori tribes. As time went on, missionaries arrived on the island introducing Christianity. Christianity was very similar with the Maori beliefs and faiths. More and more Europeans began to move on New Zealand land, which eventually led up to the land wars.

In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was officialized. Unfortunately, the English and Maori versions of the Treaty were translated differently amongst the Maori community and European community.  There was a large misunderstanding. In 1852, Chief Tamihana Te Rauparaha visited England. He learned about the England monarchy system and wanted to incorporate the same system amongst Aotearoa. Once Chief Tamihana established that there would be an Aotearoa Monarchy system, the hunt for a king began. Chief Tamihana searched from the north to the southern islands, and from the east to the western islands. He asked many different chiefs if they were to take the duties of being King, but many would reply saying, “My waters are too shallow to take care of the masses”. Once Chief Tamihana finally found a King, there was a separation amongst the Maori people. Some Maori’s favored the Queen of England, whereas others favored the Maori King. Since then, many wars between Maori’s and Colonials occurred, as well as wars between different Maori tribes. Up to present day, Maori’s are still coming to terms with all the history that’s happened. Although The Crown rules over Aotearoa, there is still a Maori King. The Maori King doesn’t have governmental powers, however, he is a figure of sovereignty for Maori people. The number of Maori’s who have high beliefs in the King has risen greatly. The King is the glue that has kept Maori’s together.

Maori sovereignty is present. It is not lost. The Maori King kept Maori sovereignty alive, but the Maori youth today is what keeps Maori sovereignty growing. In 2013, three high school girls started a petition to teach Maori history in schools. Thousands and thousands of people supported this petition. Maori history is now taught in schools. The young generations of Maori’s are the back bone of keeping Maori’s united as one people. Maori children are able to learn about their history. They are learning and retaining information through their traditional song and dances. Slowly but surely, Maori’s are able to talk about the past and share stories. They are now strong enough to take action towards a better future. Although it is a time of mourning, it’s a time of strong restoration for Maori’s. Maori sovereignty may not be as easily detected, but it is surely alive and growing.

Josh Te Kane and I in Hairini Marae.

-Seni Lavulavu

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




Senita Lavulavu

A photo taken during my study abroad trip in Papeete, Tahiti.

A Tongan American senior at the University of Washington, I am majoring in Medical Anthropology and Global Health. My academic interests revolve mainly around indigenous culture studies along with health research studies. My most recent studies have been involved within the South Pacific region, specifically within the Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian islands. For the past few years, I have been involved with Research Sisters with Professor Holly Barker at the University of Washington, doing extensive research on indigenous artifacts within the Burke Museum. During my years at the University of Washington, I have also been a member of the Polynesian Student Alliance Club on campus. Polynesian Student Alliance (PSA) has become my tight knit community within University of Washington’s large campus. Overall, I am excited to use the knowledge I’ve gained at the University of Washington to give back to those who have given so much of themselves to others.

My first study abroad trip consisted of studying abroad to Papeete, Tahiti. During this study abroad trip, we compared and contrasted indigenous Tahitian knowledge about medicine with Western ways of medicine. This New Zealand study abroad trip focuses on sovereignty, environment, and representation within Maori culture.  I hope to learn a lot more about the environment from the indigenous Maori culture perspective versus the Western society perspective. The land is a very important aspect amongst all of Oceania. Although most of our Pacific Islands have been colonized, the mana amongst Oceania remains constant and strong.  The land and ocean make up a large piece of what Oceania is as an identity. Thus far, we have already learned so much during this trip. We have already been exposed to so many traditional Maori customs and traditions. I’m excited to see what the rest of this trip has in store. I know this experience will be life changing for each and every one of us students. I am honored to have this privilege!