Maori Leadership in New Zealand

Topics: New Zealand, Māori, Leadership Pages: 6 (1804 words) Published: April 24, 2012
Maori Leadership in Aotearoa/New Zealand
Every generation needs a new revolution-Thomas Jefferson
The Maori people are the indigenous race of New Zealand (King, 2003). The word Maori is derived from `tangata Maori`, which means ordinary people and it was first used by Maori to differentiate themselves from the early European settlers (Ranford, n.d.). The main characteristic of Maori society is communal living, with social groupings based on extended families. The British colonists arrived in New Zealand in the 1800s, and the interaction of the Maoris with the colonists resulted in changes to the Maori culture. The traditional Maori leadership system is still in place but there are a number of non-traditional bodies where leaders are both appointed and elected (Nga Tuara, 1992). Traditional Maori Leadership

The traditional Maori leadership included key positions such as ariki, rangatira, tohunga and kaumatua (Winiata, 1967). The traditional Maori leadership was largely chieftainship, based on matamua (primogeniture), whakapapa, and seniority (Mahuika, 1992). The family’s first born male in any generation was the ariki (paramount chief) who was the leader of the iwi (Mahuika, 1992). The ariki had authority to direct war expeditions, resolve disputes, administer the tribe, allocate land and manage communal projects (Winiata, 1967). Every hapu (sub-tribe) was headed by a rangatira (chief) and performed similar functions as the ariki but at the hapu level (Winiata, 1967). The literal meaning of rangatira is `to weave people togather` (Kennedy, 2000). The ariki and rangatira discussed important issues and made decisions on behalf of the iwi (Mead, 1992). The tohunga (ritual leader) was a person who was an expert in some field of knowledge and expertise and provided religious, literary and technical expertise (Winiata, 1956). The kaumatua (elder) headed each whanau. Their leadership was based on age, experience and wisdom (Winiata, 1967). The kaumatua’s role included the proper control and use of the family, rearing and educating children, whanau administration, representing the whanuau in all iwi and hapu discussions and keeping rites and lore (Winiata, 1967). In the Maori society, leaders received their mandates by the people’s confirmation (Firth, 1959). The leaders are expected to have knowledge in areas such as food cultivation, managing people and mediation, settling disputes, wood carving, building houses and fortified sites, war strategy and hospitality (Mead, 1992). Maori leaders, at times, used power to influence the people; however major decisions on important matters were discussed by the leaders at public assemblies where decisions were made collectively (Love, 1992). The traditional Maori society had a well-established leadership structure. Whanau, hapu and iwi all had leaders to guide and to take decisions about the day to day life in the tribe. In the 1800s, the arrival of the Europeans had a great impact on the Maori society. Changes in Maori leadership

The arrival of the colonist in New Zealand resulted in changes to the traditional Maori leadership structure. The colonists brought missionaries and capitalism with them (Nga Tuara, 1992). The missionaries converted many Maori to Christianity. The missionaries converted many chiefs to religious teachers and advocates of the western way of life (Winiata, 1967). The missionaries began to condemn traditional Maori cultural aspects like warfare, slavery and polygamy. This reduced the chief’s power to sustain the loyalty of his followers (Walker, 1996). The colonists also introduced western education. Chiefs had trained boys in traditional leadership skills such as carving, oratory, and whakapapa (Mahuika, 1992). Many Maori boys of chiefly lineage were sent to educational institutions set by the colonist. This reduced the chief’s role as educators. The colonists introduced musket as trading commodity, which had an adverse effect...

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