Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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“Even though I am Māori sometimes I feel like a bit of a fraud”: Mixed-Race Māori Identity and The Influence of Legislation and Legal Administration c. 1850-1950

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posted on 2021-12-08, 12:35 authored by Haze, Kiriana

In 1910, Āpirana Ngata stated that both he and the Young Maori Party were proponents for children born from a Māori – Pākehā mix. Ngata believed the children would then have the prime characteristics of each parent. This thesis explores how such rhetoric about mixed-race children was a consequence of the symbiotic influence Pākehā legislation and legal administration had on Māori identity. This influence was relevant to both mixed-race Māori historically, and today.  Too often, mixed-race people are questioned for their lack of authenticity. This questioning began the moment Pākehā people first came to New Zealand and courted interracial relations with Māori. Therefore, the period of 1850 to 1950 is where this thesis’ substantive research and analysis lies as here the construction of legislation and legal administration to do with mixed-race Māori was most visible.  The themes this timeframe is considered through are ‘marriage and land’, ‘native schools’ and ‘enumeration.’ These themes are the best mechanism to display the ways in which the law has worked and continues to work to maintain a mixed-race dichotomy of privilege and disadvantage. This thesis draws on a wide range of legislative and administrative sources, to demonstrate the mentioned dichotomy crafted into the law. It contextualises these sources through consideration of existing literature, and oral interviews with self-identifying mixed- race Māori today. This work tracks Māori reclamation of the control to self-identify and the recurring indicators of colourism and dehumanisation which contributed to the speed bumps along this journey.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Arts

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


McAloon, Jim; Loader, Arini