Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: A little known story of the Māori seats

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  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Sacha,

    not comfortable with the term Pakeha. Do wish StatsNZ would show some leadership.

    Agreed. It frustrates me that one of the persistant Pakeha myths is that Pakeha is a dirty word. It never was, is not, and will only be if us Pakeha buy into the myth. Me, I'm Pakeha and proud. The word Pakeha describes where I come from far more precisely than any other and so I ain't giving it up.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2190 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    It frustrates me that one of the persistant Pakeha myths is that Pakeha is a dirty word.

    It is a little frustrating, but if people take offense at a word, then using the word for them is offensive. There's no way around that, other than letting people label themselves.

    It's much like letting people decide if they want to tick a box saying they are Maori. If they don't want to, they don't have to.

    It is of course possible that someone may answer the Māori descent question on the census differently from the Māori descent question on the enrolment form (although lying on either is an offence).

    I guess the question of whether you're lying comes down to:
    1. Is the question about something objective in the first place? Objective facts need much clearer criterion than seems to be the case for belonging to the set of Maori.
    2. Did you know the actual facts? Again, this one is very hard to be sure of, because the knowing itself is not objective either.

    In other words, good luck prosecuting someone for lying about not being Maori, or about not knowing they are Maori at a particular time. You might get some success catching people claiming to be Maori who aren't, although mostly by putting the burden of proof on them. To prove they aren't you would need to establish beyond reasonable doubt who all their ancestors are for quite a long way back. This is no easy feat at all. My Dad's been doing this for himself for the last year, and it's very difficult to find complete evidence from pre-20th century data. He's been working on it as a pet project for months and months. Even still there are huge holes, and a number of the conclusions about who people are or where they came from are based on some pretty tenuous assumptions. So I really truly don't know that I don't have any Maori ancestry. This may change in the next few months. I can't know if it will.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to BenWilson,

    It is a little frustrating, but if people take offense at a word, then using the word for them is offensive.

    Pretty much. There are a lot of words that weren't offensive when first used, but which have taken on such a meaning. A number of words dealing with disability probably fit in this. And it's not just New Zealand with racial/ethnic words: a teacher I know had gasps from students when first using the word black in relation to the US civil rights movement.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to BenWilson,

    It is a little frustrating, but if people take offense at a word, then using the word for them is offensive. There’s no way around that, other than letting people label themselves.

    True, but in the case of Pakeha people are taking offense because they heard and believed a bunch of stories about the word's original meanings that simply have no basis in reality. Language change is inevitable and fascinating, but this is a silly reason for change.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2190 posts Report Reply

  • Bevan Shortridge, in reply to BenWilson,

    So I really truly don't know that I don't have any Maori ancestry. This may change in the next few months. I can't know if it will.

    When I enrolled to vote and filled out my first censuses I would have answered "No" to Maori ancestry and been quite sure of the answer. I knew my lot fairly well, or most of them well enough to know, I thought. In 1996 we found my grandmother's generation had decided it was better not to acknowledge their mother's Maori ancestry. My father's generation mostly knew nothing of it at all until about the last decade or so.

    So there would have been a time between a re-enrolment and census filing where I would have had rather different answers to that question.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 117 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Bevan Shortridge,

    So there would have been a time between a re-enrolment and census filing where I would have had rather different answers to that question.

    I'm sure you're not the only one, but I suspect there won't be many.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    a time between a re-enrolment and census filing

    The period could be up to 20 or so years in the case of a child born (like Bevan) whose parents didn't know their ancestry at the time, but found out by the time of the child's first Maori option (or indeed were unwilling to acknowledge their ancestry but the child was). They could honestly answer "don't know" on four or five census forms but the child would be eligible for the Maori roll.

    Those might be some of the cases that go to make up Stats computation.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4501 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bevan Shortridge,

    There were quite a few guys in my school cohort who only found out that they had Maori ancestry when their parents realized they could possibly get into Law School on a slightly easier ticket. One was rather embarrassed in a Law School interview, when asked which iwi they claimed, to not even know what the word iwi meant.

    A boss I had as 20-something, a family friend, was one of the most overtly racist people I've ever met in NZ. Amusingly, he discovered that he had quite a deal of Maori in him, and had the equivalent of a conversion. He joked for years that he was a born-again-Maori, and had a great deal to do with his tribe from then on.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    The word Pakeha describes where I come from far more precisely than any other

    and where I belong

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

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