Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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He mana taonga, he mana tangata: Māori taonga and the politics of Māori tribal identity and development

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posted on 2021-11-14, 12:12 authored by Hakiwai, Arapata Tamati

In museum studies, museums have been examined in terms of their historical role in collecting and exhibiting the culture of colonized peoples, and their contemporary participation in identity politics, repatriation and relationships with source communities, but their role in indigenous tribal development has never been the focus of a major study. This thesis sets out to examine this phenomenon and thereby address a major gap in the literature. In New Zealand, Māori tribes are actively pursuing social, cultural and economic development initiatives as an expression of their mana motuhake or self-determination. The development ethos that is guiding many of these tribes has at its core the wellbeing of their people and the importance of their culture and tribal identity to social and economic development.  The research into this extraordinary politics of Māori tribal identity and development seeks to understand the role Māori taonga play both historically and within contemporary Māori communities as part of tribal self-determination and the advancement of Māori development and identity. The questions framing the study include the following: What is the nature of Māori taonga and what is their relationship with the politics of Māori tribal identity and development? What value are museums, collections of taonga or other cultural heritage in the process of iwi development which is taking place during the Waitangi claims process and Post Settlement phase?  Using a research methodology that incorporates a Kaupapa Māori paradigm, as well as methodologies used in museum studies and related fields, this research investigates the experiences of a number of Māori tribes with regard to their tribal taonga and cultural heritage projects including tribal exhibitions. Major case studies include Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou along with an examination of secondary sources such, as tribal websites, tribal visions and strategic plans, and other published materials.  The research findings demonstrate that taonga are important and enduring symbols of Māori identity, which are often used in the assertion and promotion of tribal self-determination and development. Māori tribal values such as mana, whakapapa, manaakitanga, tikanga, kōrero, whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga along with taonga related kupu (words) shape and influence many tribal development strategies. The literature and interviews from tribal members confirm the enduring significance of taonga to whānau, hapū and iwi. The research demonstrates the role taonga play in sustaining the inter-generational continuity of tribal culture and the ‘connectedness’ of taonga to the wider culture, including the pivotal role they play in informing and shaping tribal development futures.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Museum and Heritage Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


McCarthy, Conal; Butts, David