The Second Great Migration

Jennifer Lee '99 (English 27, Spring '97)

When World War II broke out in 1945, the Maori began in earnest to participate in the Pakeha way of life. They were heavily recruited into battle and related industries, and by the end of the war, propelled by the lack of economic resources and housing in traditional Maori communities, the trickle of urban migration that had existed prior to the war had generated a considerable population shift. For the most part, new migrants were employed in low-skilled, low paying jobs and both Pakeha city dwellers and rural Maori were concerned about the "ėfootlooseness,' absenteeism in employment, thriftlessness, marital instability, crime and delinquency" which that situation engendered. Indeed, many of the same problems exist today.

From the traditional Maori perspective, these problems were not so much economic as they were cultural. Outside of their traditional lands and beyond the reach of tribal authority, the newly urban Maori were without the structure and support that the tribe and kin and tradition provided, and were surrounded, instead, by a foreign culture which was often unaccepting. Maori identity, and especially tribal identity, was at risk. First of all, the system of kinship that was the foundation of rural society did not exist in the city. In its place, the Maori found "a cold-as-steel world and one which they are not geared to live in because they have come from a community where everybody knows what everybody else is doing, where there's warmth." Inevitably, when relations are longer neighbors, some aspects of the relationship are lost. So, rather than kinship, Maoriness became the main factor of association. Metge found that in Auckland, the lines between "real" kin and "attached" kin had become blurred while interest in whakapapa had declined as well.

In addition, the relative scarcity of maraes in the city as compared to the countryside, was also a factor in the weakening of Maori identification. In 1971, for instance, there were six marae in Auckland and 44,300 Maori. In contrast, there were 70 marae for about 8,000 people in the total East Coast district. And because of work schedules, most hui were scheduled on weekends. With crowded conditions and such a poor ration of marae to individual, it is understandable, then, why Auckland Maori did not visit the marae as often as they might have. In addition, in 1971, 70% of the population was under 25 and that age group was generally not as active regardless of location. The marae is the total immersion in Maori culture at a place where the native language is spoken, where "Maori is exalted to the first rank and Pakeha to second place," and where thousands of other Maori gather and have gathered in the past - the real loss is that this experience has been lost to practically a whole generation of Maori youth. Even as the demand for marae increases with the population, marae are extremely expensive to build and maintain. Whereas they are traditionally owned by tribal groups, marae in the cities are run by churches, inter-tribal, and even inter-racial groups. Similarly, whereas urban Maori still keep tribal affiliations, their tribal ties no longer translate into cohesive action. According to Metge, "In any given tribe, members were too widely scattered over the city, too numerous or too heterogeneous in other ways to co-operate satisfactorily for any length of time. None of them recognised a single chief or even elder among their number, who could have served as a rallying point. Moreover, they lacked any territorial base in the city." Similarly, Van Meijl concludes that "the signifier ėtribe' has been disconnected from its historical signifeds."

But the relative powerlessness of the tribe has not kept the Maori from asserting its importance in terms of personal value. According to Andrew Sharp, "What constituted Maori was as much a matter of ėmaking' as ėbeing'. Its construction occurred in the face of not only admixture with the Pakeha but also detribalization on the one hand, and on the other, a continued, distinct, and rebuilding tribal identity." If this is the case, then detribalization can be seen in such pan-Maori movements as Maoritanga as well as the development of Maori gangs where tribal identity, and indeed, Maori identity was so diluted that members no longer maintained their ethnic ties, "rather thinking of themselves as black, and victims of white rule, like blacks in the USA." Acting simultaneously and contrarily, however, is the emphasis on tribal identity rather than an umbrella Maori identity.

Despite the commonalties that bind the Maori together, it is extremely misleading to regard them as a homogenous group, one in their Maoriness. Each tribe has its unique history, ancestors, dialect, and peculiarities; each tribe has also adapted differently to changing times. John Rangihau, whose tribe migrated to the city later than most, believes that Maoritanga glosses over the complexity of the Maori people by denying diversity in tribal heritage:

I can't go round saying because I'm a Maori that Maoritanga means this and all Maoris have to follow me. That's a lot of hooey. I have a faint suspicion that Maoritanga is a term coined by the Pakeha to bring the tribes together. Because if you cannot divide and rule, then for tribal people all you can do is unite them and rule. Because then they lose everything by losing their own tribal histories and traditions that give them their identity.

Today, the Maori are in familiar territory, straddling that line between tradition and modernity, tribal and metropolitan, Maori and Pakeha. New Zealand is the Pakeha way - capitalism, liberalism, democracy, rationalism. Antorea is the Maori way - aroha (love), whanaugatanga (kinship), manaakitanga (sharing and caring), mana (power and prestige), taonga-tuku-iho (cultural heritage). The battle is over now - the land appropriated and society institutionalized - but in another sense it is only just beginning. How will the Maori survive and live and prosper in a Pakeha world without losing hold of that which makes them Maori?

It is the same question that faces all other indigenous peoples who find themselves suddenly in a world which does not accept them, in a land which no longer belongs to them. In this context, the Maori are in a uniquely favorable situation. In New Zealand, the Maori are not an underclass, they are not oppressed by law, and they are not an insignificant minority. On the other hand, they have obtained the status of citizenship, they have created a widespread appreciation of their culture, and they have found space for it to evolve. And evolve it has. The Maori have extracted from their Pakeha neighbors the essence of their new identity, turned it upside down, and rebuilt their history and traditions in opposition to it. Aroha is infused with new life and the marae and hui with new sprituality. Kinship is a labor of love and the tribe a fundamental fact. Choice portions of the spectrum are carved out and reserved for Maori practices, personalities, and beliefs.

But the Maori have not gone in with their eyes closed. The Maori language is no longer common knowledge. Families fall apart as often as they don't. And rampant alcoholism has tainted a proud tribal legacy. Politics is different than real life and that has not gone unnoticed. Maori community, awareness, and pride aims to be part of the solution, but the road to success is a bumpy unpaved path. Who are these Maori anyway, and what are they trying to acheive? The reality is that the Maori are both marginalized and deeply immersed in the Pakeha world and any explanation of who they are today must take into account these inherently antagonistic forces.

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